2003 Detroit Tigers season
|2003 Detroit Tigers|
|Major League affiliations|
|General manager(s)||Dave Dombrowski|
(Frank Beckmann, Jack Morris)
(Mario Impemba, Rod Allen)
(Jim Price, Dan Dickerson)
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The 2003 Detroit Tigers lost more games than any other 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 team's record was 43-119, giving them a .265 winning percentage, and broke the Philadelphia Athletics' 1916 American League record of 117 losses. 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.
The 2003 Tigers seemed like a sure bet to break the 1962 Mets' record for most losses when they stood at 38-118 after 156 games, but they won five of their last six to avoid ignominy. On September 27, in their next-to-last game, the Tigers came back from an 8-0 deficit to beat the Minnesota Twins 9-8. Then the Tigers won the season finale to avoid tying the record and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Mike Maroth went 9-21 for the 2003 Tigers and became the first pitcher to lose 20 games in more than 20 years. Tigers' pitchers Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman (6-19), and Nate Cornejo (6-17) were #1, #2, and #3 in the major leagues in losses for 2003—the only time in major league history that one team has had the top three losers.
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.
|1962||New York Mets||NL||40||120||.250|
|1898||St. Louis Browns||NL||39||111||.260|
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."
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.
Some blamed first-year manager Alan Trammell for the performance of the 2003 Tigers. However, the 2002 team was 55-106 under manager Luis Pujols. Also in Trammell's defense, the Tigers did not sign any significant new talent in 2003 and actually 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. In short, Trammell inherited a team in shambles—an already bad team made worse by the departure of its best performers. 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 turn-around, as the team improved to 72-90 in 2004, a 29-game improvement over the 2003 season—the largest 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. Players common to the 2003 and 2006 Tigers teams included Brandon Inge, Ramón Santiago (who spent 2004 and 2005 with the Seattle Mariners), Craig Monroe, Dmitri Young (released in September 2006), Omar Infante, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Jamie Walker, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Fernando Rodney.
The improvement from 2003 to 2004 was actually more substantial than the 24-game improvement from 2005 (71-91) to 2006 (95-67).
|Chicago White Sox||86||76||0.531||4||51–30||35–46|
|Kansas City Royals||83||79||0.512||7||40–40||43–39|
Record vs. opponents
2003 American League Records
|2003 Detroit Tigers|
- 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.
- November 29, 2002: Ernie Young was signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.
- January 20, 2003: Bill Haselman was signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.
- January 23, 2003: Steve Avery was signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.
- March 27, 2003: Bill Haselman was released by the Detroit Tigers.
- March 29, 2003: AJ Hinch was purchased by the Detroit Tigers from the Cleveland Indians.
Note: G = Games played; AB = At Bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting Average; HR = Home Runs; RBI = Runs Batted In
Note: pitchers' batting statistics not included
Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts
Note: G = Games pitched; W= Wins; L= Losses; SV = Saves; GF= Games Finished; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts
League Leaders and Awards
- Jeremy Bonderman: #2 in MLB in losses (19)
- Jeremy Bonderman: #2 in AL in wild pitches (12)
- Jeremy Bonderman: second youngest player in AL (20)
- Nate Cornejo: #5 in AL in hits allowed (236)
- Nate Cornejo: #3 in MLB in losses (17)
- Brandon Inge: AL leader in baserunners caught stealing (40)
- Brandon Inge: AL leader in double plays by a catcher (11)
- Mike Maroth: AL leader in home runs allowed (34)
- Mike Maroth: MLB leader in losses (21)
- Mike Maroth: MLB leader in earned runs allowed (123)
- Mike Maroth: AL leader in baserunners caught stealing (11)
- Mike Maroth: AL leader in baserunners picked off (7)
- Carlos Peña: AL leader in errors by a first baseman (13)
- Alex Sánchez: #2 in AL in stolen bases (44)
- Alex Sánchez: MLB leader in times caught stealing (18)
- Ramón Santiago: MLB leader in sacrifice hits (18)
- Jamie Walker: #2 in AL in games by a pitcher (78)
- Dmitri Young: Tiger of the Year Award
- Dmitri Young: #5 in AL in strikeouts (130)
- Dmitri Young: #4 in AL in intentional walks (16)
Worst seasons in Detroit Tigers history
- "Sep 27, 2003, Twins at Tigers Play by Play and Box Score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- "Pitchers With 20 or More Losses in a Season". Baseball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- "2003 Detroit Tigers Baseball Graphs Review". BaseballGraphs.com. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- Randall Simon Statistics Baseball-Reference.com
- Steve Avery Statistics Baseball-Reference.com
- Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, ed., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 3rd edition. Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 2007