DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are the worst team in Major League Baseball.
There are plenty of statistics to back that up. The Tigers have the fewest wins in baseball, trailing the Baltimore Orioles by two and every other team by at least seven. The Tigers have a minus 190 run differential, eight runs worse than the Orioles and at least 80 runs worse than every other team.
No team has scored fewer runs than the Tigers, even though half of them regularly have to bat a pitcher. Only the Marlins have a lower OPS. Detroit is among the league leaders for highest ERA and most errors committed on defense.
So there's really no debate that the Tigers are the worst team in the league right now, but could they actually do the unthinkable?
Could these Detroit Tigers challenge the ineptitude of the 2003 team? The team that finished a historically bad 43-119?
It's unlikely but, amazingly, not altogether out of the question. The Tigers would have to finish the season 12-54 in their final 66 games, which would be one of the worst stretches for any MLB team in the modern era, but the Tigers are already in the midst of one of those epic losing stretches.
The most likely scenario is that the Tigers finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 wins. But it's possible to imagine a second half that goes much, much worse.
Here's how it would have to play out.
1. Matt Boyd, Nicholas Castellanos, Shane Greene get traded
As bad as the Tigers have been, there's no denying they have three very good players in Matt Boyd, Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene.
Boyd is the most coveted starting pitcher available at the trade deadline, Castellanos is the league leader in doubles and Greene has been a shutdown closer.
The Tigers have the worst record in baseball with these three players on the roster, but imagine taking away the best starter, hitter and reliever. It could get even uglier.
When the Tigers have had to replace starting pitchers this season, the results have been disastrous. Ryan Carpenter has allowed 42 earned runs in 40.2 innings. Gregory Soto has allowed 28 earned runs in 29 innings.
Spencer Turnbull has only made two starts in the last month and is on the injured list for the second time. Without him, the starting rotation could look something like this for the second half:
Without Castellanos in the starting lineup, Tigers fans could see more of Victor Reyes or Dawel Lugo. Every single player in the starting lineup without have an OPS below .775. Only two would be above .725.
And on the rare occasions when the Tigers get to the final inning with a lead, the replacement closer probably won't convert 88% of the save chances like Greene has. That doesn't even take into account the times Greene has kept the Tigers in games that were tied or still within reach.
There aren't enough yikes (yikeses?) in the world.
2. Lose to playoff contenders
One of the few reasons for last-place teams to get excited in the second half is the opportunity to play spoiler. Remember when the Orioles beat the Red Sox on the final day of the season in 2011? Then the Rays came back from down 7-0 to beat the Yankees and eliminate Boston from the postseason? That was an awesome moment for Baltimore fans, even though the team was awful.
The Tigers will have plenty of opportunities to play spoiler over the final 66 games, with 37 of those games coming against teams with a winning record as of Wednesday (this includes an in-progress game against the Oakland Athletics in which the Tigers are trailing 5-3 in the seventh inning).
Here's a breakdown of the remaining games against contenders:
- One game vs. Philadelphia Phillies
- Three games vs. Los Angeles Angels
- Three games vs. Texas Rangers
- Three games vs. Tampa Bay Rays
- Four games vs. Houston Astros
- 10 games vs. Minnesota Twins
- Six games vs. Cleveland Indians
- Four games vs. Oakland Athletics (including in-progress game)
- Three games vs. New York Yankees
The Astros, Twins, Indians, Athletics and Yankees (27 games against Tigers) would all be in the playoffs if they began Wednesday. The Rays are two games out of a wildcard spot and the Phillies are a half-game out of a wildcard spot.
The Angels and Rangers are both still in contention, just five and 6.5 games out of a wildcard spot, respectively.
It's a tough schedule down the stretch, and the Tigers would have to lose a vast majority of these games to come within shouting distance of the 2003 team's record.
3. Continue Comerica Park struggles
Nearly half of the Tigers' remaining games -- 32, to be exact -- will come at home, where the Tigers are 13-35 on the season.
Home struggles have been the story of the season for Detroit. The team was once 18-20 before a winless 10-game home stand sent them spiraling downward.
The Tigers still have some very winnable games at home this season, and that could be the difference between finishing with around 40 wins or around 50 wins.
Here's a look at the 29 games remaining against teams with losing records:
- Seven games vs. Seattle Mariners
- 11 games vs. Chicago White Sox
- Seven games vs. Kansas City Royals
- Four games vs. Baltimore Orioles
Of those 29 games, 18 will come in Comerica Park, including an 11-game home stand in August featuring four games each against the White Sox and Royals and a three-game series with the Mariners.
If the Tigers can manage to win five or six of those 11 games, they'll set a safe course ahead of the 2003 team.
4. Keep doing what they're doing
What this really boils down to is whether the Tigers continue to play like they've been playing for the better part of two months or see some improvement.
Since June 1, the Tigers are 8-34, which equates to a .190 winning percentage. They would need to have a .182 winning percentage to lose 120 games, so that's less than a half-game off the necessary pace.
Since June 18, the Tigers are 4-27, good for a .148 winning percentage. That pace would put them at roughly 10-56 for the final 66 games, and a 40-122 record.
Detroit has had losing streaks of eight, three, five and six between its last four wins, so the recent pace would certainly but the Tigers on track to finish with a worse record than the 2003 team.
The most likely scenario is that they turn this around to some extent and pick up enough wins against the Mariners, Royals, White Sox and Orioles to finish with more than 42 wins.
But with recent series losses to the Royals, White Sox and Blue Jays, nothing is a given.
Welcome to the low point of a rebuild.