Detroit Tigers need 16 wins to avoid baseball infamy: Our prediction
The Detroit Tigers kick off the second half of the MLB season in Kansas City on Friday night. It was a rough first half, with injuries decimating the starting rotation and a power outage at nearly every position. All the losses — including 25 of their past 28 games at Comerica Park — were enough to have folks wondering if maybe, just maybe, the Tigers could make a run (or is that a fall) at their American League record of 119 losses, set back in 2003.
After all, the Tigers have been slightly better than their runs scored and allowed suggest — sabermetrician Bill James’ time-tested formula suggests the Tigers should have been 27-58, rather than 28-57 — and they’re likely to get worse as proven vets such as Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene are dealt away and replaced by prospects who may not be fully developed.
The Tigers' .329 winning percentage isn’t good, but it’s far better than the 2003 Tigers’ .265 clip. Of course, to be that bad, you also have to be “lucky;” and James’ formula suggests the ’03 Tigers should have had a .305 winning percentage, which would have resulted in a 49-113 record; bad, but not historically bad.
Perhaps you'd like to go with an arbitrary starting point to discover the true talent level of the Tigers? They were 12-10 after sweeping a doubleheader in Boston on April 23. That's good! They are 15-48 since then — a .238 winning percentage. That is not good!
All of this brings us to the big question: Can the 2019 Tigers win 16 more games to get to 44 wins and avoid setting (or tying) the AL's losses record? We’re not going to break down the remaining 77 games, day-by-day; that would be almost as bad as actually watching them. Instead, let’s break down the schedule by looking at each of the 23 series remaining on the books, and take a guess at how many wins they can get.
(All team records entering Friday.)
July 12-14 — at Royals
The Royals are a tick better than the Tigers, record-wise, at 30-61, and the Tigers are set to start ace Matthew Boyd on Saturday. But Boyd has a career 7.91 ERA in K.C. — barbecue is apparently not his friend — so we’ll be jerks and pencil this series in as a sweep.
July 15-18 — at Indians
The Tigers are 7-24 in Cleveland since the start of the 2016 season. Plus, the Indians are surging; this, too, feels like a sweep.
July 19-21 — Blue Jays
Boy, remember when the Tigers opened the season 2-2 in Toronto? That was a while ago, so long ago that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was still in Triple-A. But we’ll give them a win, just from home-field advantage.
July 23-24 — Phillies
The preseason favorites to win the NL East have struggled to a 47-43 record so far, but, yeah, they can take two from the Tigers in Detroit.
July 25-28 — at Mariners
Seattle started the season at 13-2; the M’s are 26-53 since, which is basically Tigers-level futility. The Tigers get one, but the M’s still take the series, 3-1.
July 29-31 — at Angels
You thought the Tigers were bad in Cleveland? They’re 4-20 in Anaheim since the start of 2012. Call this one a sweep as well, and just three wins in all of July for the Tigers
Aug. 2-4 — at Rangers
Between the Texas heat and the likely trade deadline deals, the Tigers will sweat their way to another three-game sweep.
Aug. 5-7 (four games) — White Sox
The kids are all right! The Tigers split Aug. 6’s doubleheader, squeak out another win, and hey, that’s two more wins!
Aug. 8-11 — Royals
But seriously, the Royals are bad, so we’ll give the Tigers three wins in four tries here. They’re rolling.
Aug. 13-15 — Mariners
As much as we’d like to give the Tigers two straight series wins, this is probably where the makeshift rotation/bullpen starts to grind down. Just one win for the Tigers.
Aug. 16-18 — at Rays
OK, there’s not much home-field advantage when Tampa Bay is averaging just 15,483 fans a game. (No wonder Montreal seems like an appealing destination.) But the Rays, at 52-39, are much, much better than the Tigers. Sweep.
Aug. 19-22 — at Astros
Houston’ sweep of the Tigers in May kickstarted the team’s collapse; it’s not gonna get any better in the Lone Star State. Sweep.
Aug. 23-25 — at Twins
Minnesota isn’t quite running away with the Central, but the Tigers aren’t likely to put up much of a fight. Still, everybody wins sometimes, so we’ll give the Tigers a lone win.
Aug. 27-29 — Indians
Likewise, Cleveland is fighting for a wild-card spot in the AL. This series is in Detroit, so the Tigers avoid another sweep. Barely.
Aug. 30-Sept. 2 — Twins
Here we go into the final month, and the Tigers have already locked down 10 of the 16 wins they need. But they won’t pick up any more in this series.
Sept. 3-5 — at Royals
MLB’s second-worst team vs. MLB’s third-worst team. Truly, the only winners here will be the folks who skip the series for their fantasy football drafts. (Oh, and the Tigers; they’ll take two out of three.)
Sept. 6-8 (four-ish games) — at Athletics
We’ll finally get the conclusion to the game that was suspended in the seventh inning on May 19. Pretty sure it’ll be a loss, as will two of the three other games in this series.
Sept. 10-12 — Yankees
The Yankees are averaging 5.7 runs a game, and the Tigers are allowing 5.5 a game. Take the over, and the Yankees, in all three of these games.
Sept. 13-16 — Orioles
Not only is 119 losses in play, so too is the No. 1 overall pick; The Orioles are on pace for 113 losses entering the second half. They, at least, won't be doing much at the trade deadline. The Tigers took two of three in Baltimore in May, so let’s give the Tigers two of four here in Detroit.
Sept. 17-19 — at Indians
Mistakes by the Lake? Oh, the Tigers will have a few, as Cleveland sweeps. (Again.)
Sept. 20-22 — White Sox
The White Sox won’t be playing for much by the time this series rolls around, so let’s give the Tigers two more wins here.
Sept. 24-26 — Twins
Minnesota, on the other hand, should still be fighting for playoff positioning at least. Another Twins sweep.
Sept. 27-29 (four games) — at White Sox
If you’ve been counting along, you’ll note that the Tigers picked up their 17th win of the second half at home against the White Sox a couple of paragraphs or so. And now, with the pressure off, the Tigers will ding their draft position, too, taking three of four to finish with 20 wins in the second half and a brutal 48-114 record, good for the second-most losses in franchise history.
Of course, this is hardly set in stone; we ended up with a lot of series sweeps — 11 of them, in 23 series. If they can pick up just one win in a few of those series, the Tigers’ second half might look a lot like their second half last season, when they went 23-41 to finish the year 64-98. Heck, Fangraphs has the Tigers projected to finish the season 31-45, though that appears to be based on the offense being merely bad, and not historically so. (Also, that pesky suspended game in May is messing with everyone.)
Hmm. “The 2019 Tigers: Bad, but not historically so!” Has a ring to it, eh?