Ranking the Top 5 Detroit Tigers Pitchers of All Time
Much of this success can be attributed to the iconic pitchers that have donned the "Olde English D" during their careers.
Guys like Hal Newhouser, Mickey Lolich, Jack Morris and Justin Verlander have demonstrated their mound excellence for fans of almost every generation since World War II and provided the foundation for many of the great Tiger teams.
In this article, we'll look at the best Tiger hurlers of all time by using three specific criteria.
Most importantly, we'll consider each candidate's regular-season performance. Second, we'll take into account each pitcher's consistency. In other words, one-year wonders need not apply. Finally, we'll assess how each pitcher has fared in the postseason, when the heat is on and the pressure to perform is at its greatest.
Honorable Mention: Max Scherzer
It's hard to believe, but Max Scherzer is already in his fifth season in Detroit. During his tenure in the Motor City, Scherzer has posted a sterling .691 winning percentage (76-34).
The two-time All-Star also has a Cy Young Award to his credit while shining in the postseason. He's been at his best in the American League Division Series, where he's 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.
Honorable Mention: Denny McLain
Denny McLain is best known for his 31-win season in 1968, an accomplishment that earned him a Cy Young Award. However, in parts of eight seasons in Detroit, he compiled an excellent 117-62 record and won at least 20 games on three separate occasions.
During that magical 1968 world championship season, McLain pulled his weight in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals by rebounding from a poor performance in Game 4 to throw a gem in Game 6.
Honorable Mention: Jim Bunning
Some may know Jim Bunning as a six-time Republican congressman and two-term senator from Kentucky, while others think of Bunning as a Hall of Famer and Tigers great.
Bunning pitched for Detroit from 1955 through 1963, compiling a 118-87 record and 3.45 ERA for multiple sub-.500 teams. He twice led the AL in strikeouts and was a five-time All-Star selection with the Tigers. Detroit's inability to make the playoffs during Bunning's time with the club hurts him in our rankings.
5. Tommy Bridges
Many don't know who Tommy Bridges is, but he was the linchpin behind Detroit's first World Series championship in 1935. The Tennessee native won 21 games that season and led the AL with 161 strikeouts.
Bridges spent his entire 16-year career with the Tigers, posting a 194-138 record—including three seasons with at least 20 wins—and making six All-Star teams.
He also went 4-1 in seven playoff appearances, including a perfect 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA during the 1935 World Series.
4. Mickey Lolich
Mickey Lolich played second fiddle to McLain during the 1968 regular season, but he beats his old teammate in our rankings because of his longevity and World Series heroics.
The portly southpaw accumulated a 207-175 mark and 3.45 ERA in 13 seasons on Woodward Avenue and is probably best known for winning three games during the 1968 World Series, including the pivotal Game 7 against Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
3. Hal Newhouser
Like Bridges, many probably haven't heard of Hal Newhouser, but that doesn't mean the Michigan native shouldn't be on this list.
The 6'2" lefty amassed a 200-148 record in 15 seasons with Detroit, including an astonishing 80-27 mark from 1944 to 1946. Just as incredible was his 1.99 ERA during this period.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Newhouser was the AL MVP in 1944 and 1945 and the runner-up in 1946. In the 1945 World Series, Newhouser earned two complete-game wins, including a 10-strikeout effort in the deciding Game 7.
2. Jack Morris
Google Jack Morris' name and you're bound to come across the word "ace." Morris started a Tigers record 11 consecutive Opening Day games for former manager Sparky Anderson and earned more wins (162) in the 1980s than any other pitcher.
He also finished what he started, reaching double digits in complete games every year during the 1980s except 1984, when he "only" had nine.
Although Morris is most famous for his Herculean effort as a Twin in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, he was money for the Tigers in the 1984 postseason, winning all three of his starts and posting a 1.80 ERA.
1. Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander's utter dominance allows him to beat out Morris by a hair for the top spot on this list. From 2010 to 2012, Verlander was arguably the best pitcher in baseball, boasting a 59-22 record and 2.79 ERA.
During his career, he's pitched in six All-Star Games, was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2006 and AL Cy Young winner and MVP in 2011. On four other occasions, he finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young voting.
Finally, the Virginia native has been outstanding in October—especially in the ALDS, where he's gone 4-0 with a 1.79 ERA and averaged almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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