Ralph Houk entered his second season as Tigers manager with high hopes. The transformation from the roster core that led the team to the 1968 World Series title and the 1972 AL East flag, to the youth movement that the Tigers were introducing, had been mostly complete.
The retirement of Al Kaline, the release of Norm Cash and the trade of Jim Northrup the year before meant that Willie Horton, Gates Brown, Bill Freehan, Mickey Stanley and Mickey Lolich were pretty much the only key components left from those glory years.
The Tigers were going to go with young guys like Ron LeFlore, Danny Meyer and Leon Roberts in the outfield, Tom Veryzer and Jack Pierce in the infield, and pitchers Vern Ruhle, Lerrin LaGrow and Ray Bare.
The Tigers did add a couple of veterans in the off-season: slugging 1B Nate Colbert from San Diego and slick fielding shortstop Gene Michael from the Yankees.
The new-look Tigers actually played pretty well---for about three weeks. The team got off to a 10-5 start and even led the division briefly. Then the Tigers could no longer hide their warts with makeup.
The lack of hitting, fielding and reliable starting pitching all combined to expose the 1975 Tigers as one of the worst teams in all of baseball.
The Tigers did their best to hang around .500, but by July the wheels started to fall off. Finally, they came off completely starting on July 29, with a loss to the Yankees in New York.
Eighteen games later---and eighteen losses later---the Tigers were without question the worst team in the league. A 19-game losing streak that didn't end until August 16 in Anaheim confirmed that.
Ironically, Horton, who had suffered through some injury-plagued years when the Tigers were still competitive, spent the horrific 1975 season as the team's first-ever full-time designated hitter and played in every game, healthy as a horse. Horton finished with 25 home runs, 92 RBI, and a .275 BA.
LeFlore provided some excitement with 28 stolen bases, but Ron was also caught 20 times, not a great percentage of success.
Veteran pitchers Lolich and Joe Coleman struggled, reflective of the team's performance. Lolich went 12-18 and Coleman was 10-18 with a 5.55 ERA, highest among regular league starters.
Colbert, by the way, was a complete bust and was sold to the Montreal Expos on June 15, with a grisly .147 BA in 156 brutal at-bats, a third of which resulted in a strikeout.
Houk's bunch finished 57-102, dead last in the AL East, the Tigers' first basement finish in over 20 years.By GregEno
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- Bill Freehan, Dan Meyer, Detroit Tigers, Gates Brown, Gene Michael, Jack Pierce, Jim Northrup, Joe Coleman, Leon Roberts, Mickey Lolich, Mickey Stanley, Nate Colbert, Norm Cash, Ralph Houk, Ray Bare, Ron LeFlore, Tom Veryzer, Vern Ruhle, Willie Horton