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The 2003 Detroit Tigers had the worst record out of any team in American League history and came within one loss of tying the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in modern major league history. The Tigers failed at trying to improve on their 55-106 record from the previous season with their 107th loss and become the first time they have done so since they did in 1996 when they went 53-109. The team had the worst start in Major League Baseball since the Orioles in 1988 who went 54-107. With their 84th loss to the Minnesota Twins on August 9, they were eliminated from the playoff race. The Tigers also failed to win any of their series against American League teams.

2003 Detroit Tigers
Major League affiliations
Location
Results
Record43–119 (.265)
Divisional place5th
Other information
Owner(s)Mike Ilitch
General manager(s)Dave Dombrowski
Manager(s)Alan Trammell
Local televisionWKBD
(Frank Beckmann, Jack Morris)
FSN Detroit
(Mario Impemba, Rod Allen)
Local radioWXYT (AM)
(Jim Price, Dan Dickerson)
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The team's 43-119 record broke the Philadelphia Athletics' 1916 American League record of 117 losses, this was ensured with their 118th loss to the Kansas City Royals. They were outscored by 337 runs over the course of the season (928 to 591) and finished 47 games behind the Minnesota Twins. Blame for the dismal season was shared by both the pitching staff, which had an ERA of 5.30, and the batters, who finished with a team batting average of .240, 19 points below the American League's .259 batting average. The season was the Tigers' 103rd since they entered the AL in 1901.

Season overviewEdit

Reeling off yet another losing season in 2002, management found themselves in a big hole: a farm system that wasn't producing, a big-league club with major deficiencies, and contracts being paid to veterans not playing to expectations; those who did produce - Juan Acevedo, Randall Simon, and Robert Fick, did not return for 2003. Piloting the team was first-year manager and longtime Tiger favorite, Alan Trammell, who had a dilemma nearly everywhere on the roster, particularly the starting rotation. Gary Knotts, who had pitched mostly in relief in his career,[1] was to be converted to a starting role; Detroit area native Steve Avery was looking to make a comeback after not pitching in two years; two untested rookies, Jeremy Bonderman - drafted straight out of high school - and Nate Robertson - acquired in a trade for Mark Redman to the Florida Marlins - also vied for their chances to make the big-league rotation.

Results were nothing short of disastrous. The Tigers lost their first nine games, won their first against Chicago on April 12, then proceeded to drop eight in a row to fall to 1-17. An almost non-existant offense accounted for most of the team's early season woes, batting a paltry .228 as a team in the first half.[2] To the surprise of many, their young corps of pitchers were performing better than expected and remained durable as the team struggled to score runs and the losses continued to pile up - 18 in May, 22 in June - with no reason to expect any change in fortune.

On August 30, after a 5-2 loss to the White Sox, the Tigers had lost 100 games for the second straight season; furthermore, they were gaining nationwide attention as they seemed a sure bet to break the infamous 1962 Mets' record for most losses in a season. Looking for a spark from the farm system, players were constantly being shuffled back and forth between Detroit and nearby Toledo, where the team's Triple-AAA affiliate Toledo Mud Hens played. Unfortunately, the Mud Hens' were not well-stocked, either, compounding frustrations for a team already in complete disarray. Meanwhile, the pitching staff, which had remained remarkably intact through the first half, finally collapsed; Mike Maroth lost 21 games, the first MLB pitcher to lose 20 games in a season since Brian Kingman lost 20 for the 1980 Oakland Athletics[3], while Jeremy Bonderman lost 19 before Trammell mercifully pulled him from the rotation with two weeks remaining.[4] Tigers' starters Maroth, Bonderman and Cornejo were the top three pitchers in losses for the 2003 season, the only time in Major League history that one team had the top three losers in a season.[5] Franklyn German had the most saves on the team, with five in limited opportunities.[6]

On September 22, the Tigers had lost ten straight and 118 on the season, but just as they appeared likely to go into the record books for futility, the toothless Tigers roared back to life and won five of their last six games to finish a remarkably terrible 43-119, one loss short of the all-time record of 120 held by the 1962 Mets. The final series of the season was particularly memorable against the division champion Minnesota Twins, 48 games ahead of Detroit. The Twins sat their starters for almost all of the series in order to keep players rested for the playoffs.[7] On September 27, in their next-to-last game, the Tigers came back from an 8-0 deficit to beat the Twins, 9-8 - on a strikeout wild pitch, an appropriate finish to a team that had struggled mightily all summer long.[8] The Tigers then won the season finale, 9-4, to avoid tying the record and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

While the 2003 Tigers rank as the third worst team in major league history based on loss total (behind the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and 1962 Mets), they fare slightly better based on winning percentage. As shown in the chart below, the 2003 Tigers rank only as the 9th worst team in history based on winning percentage.

Year Franchise Lg W L Percentage
1899 Cleveland Spiders NL 20 134 .130
1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys NL 23 113 .169
1916 Philadelphia Athletics AL 36 117 .235
1935 Boston Braves NL 38 115 .248
1962 New York Mets NL 40 120 .250
1904 Washington Senators AL 38 113 .252
1898 St. Louis Browns NL 39 111 .260
1919 Philadelphia Athletics AL 36 104 .257
2003 Detroit Tigers AL 43 119 .265

Unlike the 2003 Tigers, most of the other teams usually described as the worst of all time were plagued by significant off-field troubles. The 1899 Spiders and 1916 A's had essentially been reduced to minor-league status after unloading their best players. The 1890 Alleghenys had also been reduced to minor-league status after practically their entire roster bolted to the Players' League. The 1935 Braves were plagued by underfinanced ownership that didn't even finish out the season. The 1962 Mets were a first-year expansion team. For this reason, the 2003 Tigers have been described as possibly "the worst team of all time without a good excuse."[9][10]

Designated hitter/left fielder Dmitri Young was the one member of the 2003 Tigers to have a truly good year, with a .297 batting average, 29 home runs, and .537 slugging percentage. According to Win Shares, the Tigers would have had about six fewer wins without him.[9]

On the pitching staff, Jamie Walker stands out as the one pitcher who had a good season. Walker appeared in 78 games (2nd most in the AL) and had an ERA of 3.32 (Adjusted ERA+ of 130).

Some blamed first-year manager Alan Trammell for the team's performance. However, the 2002 team was 55-106 under manager Luis Pujols and in short, Trammell inherited a team in shambles. The Tigers did not sign any significant new talent in 2003 and lost several key players from the 2002 team, including the team's best starter, Jeff Weaver, closer Juan Acevedo, second baseman Damion Easley, right fielder Robert Fick, and designated hitter Randall Simon. Dean Palmer, who had 275 career home runs, tried to resuscitate an injury-plagued career, and could not succeed at that; his career came to an end. Even with fellow 1984 teammates Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish on the coaching staff, Trammell could not turn the team around in 2003.

After the 2003 season, the Tigers acquired Iván Rodríguez, Carlos Guillén, Ugueth Urbina, and Rondell White. With the infusion of new talent, Trammell was able to lead the start of the franchise's turnaround, as the team improved to 72-90 in 2004, a 29-game improvement over the 2003 season which was the largest single-season improvement in the American League since Baltimore's 33-game improvement from 1988 to 1989.

Three years after losing 119 games, the Tigers went 95-67 and made it to the 2006 World Series. The 2006 pennant winners featured 10 players from the 2003 team: Brandon Inge, Ramón Santiago (who spent 2004 and 2005 with the Seattle Mariners), Craig Monroe, Omar Infante, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Jamie Walker, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Fernando Rodney. (Dmitri Young was released in September 2006 following off-field issues)

Season standingsEdit

AL Central W L Pct. GB Home Road
Minnesota Twins 90 72 0.556 48–33 42–39
Chicago White Sox 86 76 0.531 4 51–30 35–46
Kansas City Royals 83 79 0.512 7 40–40 43–39
Cleveland Indians 68 94 0.420 22 38–43 30–51
Detroit Tigers 43 119 0.265 47 23–58 20–61


Record vs. opponentsEdit

2003 American League Records

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]
Team ANA BAL BOS CWS CLE DET KC MIN NYY OAK SEA TB TEX TOR NL 
Anaheim 1–8 3–6 3–4 6–3 6–1 6–3 5–4 3–6 8–12 8–11 6–3 9–10 2–7 11–7
Baltimore 8–1 9–10 2–4 3–3 3–3 3–4 3–4 6–13–1 2–7 4–5 8–11 7–2 8–11 5–13
Boston 6–3 10–9 5–4 4–2 8–1 5–1 2–4 9–10 3–4 5–2 12–7 5–4 10–9 11–7
Chicago 4–3 4–2 4–5 11–8 11–8 11–8 9–10 4–2 4–5 2–7 3–3 3–4 6–3 10–8
Cleveland 3–6 3–3 2–4 8–11 12–7 6–13 9–10 2–5 3–6 3–6 5–2 4–5 2–4 6–12
Detroit 1–6 3–3 1–8 8–11 7–12 5–14 4–15 1–5 3–6 1–8 2–4 1–6 2–7 4–14
Kansas City 3–6 4–3 1–5 8–11 13–6 14–5 11–8 2–4 2–7 4–5 4–3 7–2 1–5 9–9
Minnesota 4–5 4–3 4–2 10–9 10–9 15–4 8–11 0–7 8–1 3–6 6–0 5–4 3–3 10–8
New York 6–3 13–6–1 10–9 2–4 5–2 5–1 4–2 7–0 3–6 5–4 14–5 4–5 10–9 13–5
Oakland 12–8 7–2 4–3 5–4 6–3 6–3 7–2 1–8 6–3 7–12 6–3 15–4 5–2 9–9
Seattle 11–8 5–4 2–5 7–2 6–3 8–1 5–4 6–3 4–5 12–7 4–5 10–10 3–4 10–8
Tampa Bay 3–6 11–8 7–12 3–3 2–5 4–2 3–4 0–6 5–14 3–6 5–4 3–6 11–8 3–15
Texas 10–9 2–7 4–5 4–3 5–4 6–1 2–7 4–5 5–4 4–15 10–10 6–3 5–4 4–14
Toronto 7–2 11–8 9–10 3–6 4–2 7–2 5–1 3–3 9–10 2–5 4–3 8–11 4–5 10–8


RosterEdit

2003 Detroit Tigers
Roster
Pitchers Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Other batters

Manager

Coaches

TransactionsEdit

  • November 25, 2002: Randall Simon was traded by the Detroit Tigers to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later and Adrian Burnside (minors). The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Roberto Novoa (December 16, 2002) to the Detroit Tigers to complete the trade.[11]
  • November 29, 2002: Ernie Young was signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.[12]
  • January 20, 2003: Bill Haselman was signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.[13]
  • January 23, 2003: Steve Avery was signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.[14]
  • March 27, 2003: Bill Haselman was released by the Detroit Tigers.[13]
  • March 29, 2003: AJ Hinch was purchased by the Detroit Tigers from the Cleveland Indians.[15]

Game LogEdit

2003 Game Log: 43–119 (Home: 23–58; Away: 20–61)

Detailed RecordsEdit

Player statsEdit

BattingEdit

Note: G = Games played; AB = At Bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting Average; HR = Home Runs; RBI = Runs Batted In

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Brandon Inge 104 330 67 .203 8 30
Carlos Peña 131 452 112 .248 18 50
Warren Morris 97 346 94 .272 6 37
Eric Munson 99 313 75 .240 18 50
Ramón Santiago 141 444 100 .225 2 29
Craig Monroe 128 425 102 .240 23 70
Alex Sánchez 101 394 114 .289 1 22
Bobby Higginson 130 469 110 .235 14 52
Dmitri Young 155 562 167 .297 29 85
Shane Halter 114 360 78 .217 12 30
Kevin Witt 93 270 71 .263 10 26
Omar Infante 69 221 49 .222 0 8
Andrés Torres 59 168 37 .220 1 9
Matt Walbeck 59 138 24 .174 1 6

Note: pitchers' batting statistics not included

Starting pitchersEdit

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Mike Maroth 33 193.3 9 21 5.73 87
Nate Cornejo 32 194.7 6 17 4.67 46
Jeremy Bonderman 33 162 6 19 5.56 108
Gary Knotts 20 95.3 3 8 6.04 51
Adam Bernero 18 100.7 1 12 6.08 54
Nate Robertson 8 44.7 1 2 5.44 33

Relief pitchersEdit

Note: G = Games pitched; W= Wins; L= Losses; SV = Saves; GF= Games Finished; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G W L SV GF ERA SO
Matt Roney 45 1 9 0 12 5.45 47
Steve Sparks 42 0 6 2 24 4.72 49
Wilfredo Ledezma 34 3 7 0 8 5.79 49
Chris Spurling 66 1 3 3 18 4.68 38
Jamie Walker 78 4 3 3 19 3.32 45
Fernando Rodney 27 1 3 3 11 6.07 33
Franklyn Germán 45 2 4 5 15 6.04 41

League Leaders and AwardsEdit

Worst seasons in Detroit Tigers historyEdit

Worst Seasons in Detroit Tigers History
Rank Year Wins Losses Win %
1 2003 43 119 .265
2 1952 50 104 .325
3 1996 53 109 .327
4 2002 55 106 .342
5 1975 57 102 .358

Farm systemEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Gary Knotts Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "2003 Detroit Tigers Batting Log". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "20 Game Losers". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "2003 Jeremy Bonderman Pitching Game Logs". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  5. ^ "2003 American League Starting Pitching". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  6. ^ "Franklyn German Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  7. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/29/sports/baseball-the-tigers-are-happy-to-avoid-making-history.html
  8. ^ "Sep 27, 2003, Twins at Tigers Play by Play and Box Score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  9. ^ a b "2003 Detroit Tigers Baseball Graphs Review". BaseballGraphs.com. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  10. ^ "The worst teams in NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL history". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  11. ^ Randall Simon Statistics Baseball-Reference.com
  12. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/y/younger02.shtml
  13. ^ a b https://www.baseball-reference.com/h/haselbi01.shtml
  14. ^ Steve Avery Statistics Baseball-Reference.com
  15. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/h/hincha.01.shtml
  16. ^ Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, ed., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 3rd edition. Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 2007

External linksEdit