The Detroit Tigers 2015 season has come to its end. With the MLB playoffs now in full swing, it is unusual not to see Detroit among the contenders. Finishing last in the American League Central Division was a steep tumble for the Tigers after four straight years at the division’s summit.
Few, if any, expected this dismal fate. Entering the season, the Tigers maintained a strong nucleus of players including former AL MVP’s Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, as well as last year’s runner up, Victor Martinez. Detroit had been in win-now mode for a while, and intended on resuming normal service.
Things began on a positive note, too. A couple of weeks into the season they stood in familiar territory atop their division with an 11-2 record. Another run at the postseason was seemingly a foregone conclusion. But, things didn’t pan out that way—far from it.
Crushing defeats, big names like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes being traded away, and players being absent due to long-term injuries were among the major happenings that led to the team’s demise this year. These will feature prominently in the list below.
There are, however, silver linings in the dark Detroit skies. The July trades yielded some bright talent who promise to be strong contributors in the years to come. Verlander’s return to dominance during the season’s second half was another positive, as was the blockbuster season for slugger J.D. Martinez. So not everything was bleak.
It’s now time to go back and take a back at those monumental moments which made Detroit’s season. Tiger’s fans will need to take a deep breath or two before stepping into the time machine.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Ready now?
*Note that the moments are chronological and not in order of significance.
Justin Verlander Begins The Season On the Disabled List
The first DL stint of Verlander’s career was a lengthy one. Two-and-a-half months of the season had already passed before the veteran made it back to the bump.
Verlander’s absence was deeply felt. In the nine seasons preceding this one, nobody in the majors had as many wins as
—an average of 16.8 per season. His time on the DL, in addition to a patchy form upon his return, meant Verlander eked out just five wins in 2015. Yep, five.
A dozen more wins would have produced an average season for Detroit’s former No. 1 pick. With 12 more victories in the bank, the Tigers would definitely not have finished last in the Central. They may have also extended their season for the fifth year in a row.
J.D. Martinez hits three home runs at Yankee Stadium
Told you it wasn’t all doom and gloom. This was a career day for Martinez in what was a career season for the Tigers outfielder.
Martinez homered thrice against New York—one each to left, center and right field on June 21 (Father’s Day) in a 12-4 Tigers victory.
“It was just one of those days where you take swings and you’re actually hitting the ball how you want to hit it…There’s not too many of those days, so you’ve just got to take advantage of them,” said Martinez per
This was the beginning of a long-ball binge for Martinez who swotted 11 big flies in 13 days. That hot stretch led to him being rewarded with his first All-Star Game selection.
It was also a crucial win at the time for Detroit. It put the team back above .500 (35-34) after a dreadful run of 14 defeats in their previous 20 games.
Martinez ended the season with
: .282, 38 HR, 102 RBI. Right field looks solid in the Motor City for a good few years to come.
Brian Dozier Hits A Walk-Off Homer Against Detroit on July 10
Detroit’s defeat to Minnesota just before the All-Star Break was not just another loss.
Leading 6-0 in the 8th inning and with Justin Verlander in control of the game, the Tigers seemed on the verge of penciling in another W. But the Twins had other ideas. A seven-run ninth inning capped by Dozier’s shot off Joakim Soria sent the Metrodome crowd into delirium, and the Tigers home stunned.
This was the second game of a four-game set preceding the Midsummer Classic. The Tigers came into it on a mini run of five wins in their previous seven. This heartbreaking defeat was then compounded by two more to close out the series. Just when Detroit seemed to be catching fire, Minnesota extinguished their flames with one huge splash.
When reflecting on the Tiger’s season in September, Manager Brad Ausmus told
of the Detroit Free Press: “It’s definitely the one loss that stands out in my mind.”
That single defeat felt more like 10.
David Price Is Traded to Toronto
The day that Detroit traded their ace Price (July 30), they officially waved the white flag.
Any chance of a Tigers resurrection after a 49-52 start disappeared with this deal, which brought Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt in return.
It had to be done, though. The Tigers were underachieving even with Price and they needed to re-stock a bare prospect cupboard. Boyd and Norris showed enough in the final two months to demonstrate they may offer the club plenty in the future. Free-agent Price was a goner at the end of the season, anyway.
With all their season’s hopes now dissolved, the Tigers then exchanged Cespedes and Soria the following day for a few more prospects. It stung a bit at the time, but the future should vindicate the decisions of since departed Tiger’s president/general manager Dave Dombrowski.
Verlander One-Hits the Los Angeles Angels
By late August, the Tigers were already looking ahead to 2016. They got a major positive moving forward on August 26 when Verlander came just three outs shy of twirling the third no-hitter of his career.
This outing was part of a major resurgence for Verlander during the second half of the season. In his final 14 starts he was 5-5 with a 2.27 ERA and an impressive 91-20 K-BB ratio.
Another telling number was his velocity. In his final start of the season, one of his pitches whistled into the catcher’s mitt at 99 miles per hour.
“Things are coming back to me. I’m feeling a lot like my old self,” Verlander told
late in the year.
It had not been pretty upon his initial return from the DL. In his first six starts, Verlander was winless and posted a 6.62 ERA.
The return of a nearly vintage Verlander—beard, tight pants and all—bodes well for the Tigers in 2016.
Stats in this article are courtesy of