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The Detroit Tigers Top 5 Best Starting Pitchers Of All Time


Tigers Pitchers Have A History of Dominance

The modern era Detroit Tigers were more known for their offensive prowess than pitching dominance. But a review of Detroit Tigers statistics shows a rich history of starting pitching success.

At the turn of the 20th century, it was Detroit Tiger pitching that was the hallmark of the franchise. Tigers hurlers were among the league leaders year in and year out for close to fifty years of baseball history.

The following list of Detroit Tigers Top 5 Best Staring Pitchers of All-time was complied using the criteria of statistical dominance, post season performance, and time spent in a Detroit Tiger uniform. A top five list is far more diificult to compile than a list of ten or twenty-five. A top five list truly represents the best of the best. Those familiar with Tigers history will notice some significant ommissions from the top five. Those omissions were not taken lightly and were recognized in the honorable mentions section of this article.

Prince Hal was arguably one of the best of his era!

Prince Hal was arguably one of the best of his era!

Hal Newhouser #1

Newhouser's name adorns the brick wall in left center field for a reason. You could argue that Newhouser was one of top five pitchers of his era, much less tigers history. Newhouser won the league MVP twice in 1944 and 1945 and finished second in 1946 MVP voting. He did that during a span of winning over twenty games for 4 out of five seasons ('44 to '48).

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, Newhouser's 200 wins as a Tiger ranks him fourth on the all time wins list behind Hooks Daus, George Mullin and Mickey Lolich. Newhouser struck-out 1770 batters in his Tigers career and leading the league with 212 in his MVP year of 1945. His 29 win season during the 1944 campaign is bested only by Denny McClains magical total of 31 in 1968.

Prince Hal's star burned brightest during a 6-year stretch in his career when he lead the league in wins 4 times (1944-46, 48), strikeouts twice (1944, 45) , era twice (1945, 46) and complete games twice (1945, 47) while winning back MVP's and making 5 All-star appearances. In 1945, Newhouser was the ace of the staff leading them to a world series championship in with including 2 wins with a decisive game seven victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Mickey Put Up Zeros and Made Donuts

Mickey Lolich in 1968

Mickey Lolich in 1968

Mickey in his donut shop.

Mickey in his donut shop.

Mickey Lolich # 2

Mickey Lolich was a popular pitcher from the 1968 World Series championship team. Mickey had 17 wins that year and played a pivitol role during the series as the Tigers defeated the cardinals in one for one of the most iconic champioships in Tigers history. During his career the three time all-star finshed in the top 5 Cy Young voting twice. His 207 wins is good for third all time in tigers history and his 2679 career strikeouts makes him the Tigers career leader.

Lolich dominated the 1968 world series going 3 - 0 with a 1.67 ERA and pitching 3 complete games on his way to earning the World series MVP. That performance is the best world series performance by a Tiger in franchise history. You could argue that without Mickey, the Detroit Tigers lose that series. The Cardinals offense battered the other tigers pitchers throughout the series with the exception of Denny McClain's game 6 performance.

Lolich remained in Michigan, living in Oakland county while running a doughnut shop that became a breakfast staple for the the Lake Orion/Oxford Area. That reminds me of all the doughnuts he put up during his career 41 in fact 39 of which came while wearing the Old English D.

Could JV be the Best of All-time?

Could JV be the Best of All-time?

Justin Verlander # 3

The most recent star pitcher to wear the old English D has quickly become one of the Tigers All-time greats and could become the next pitcher to go to Cooperstown.

In 2011, JV went 24-5 leading the league in wins, ERA, games started, innings pitched strikeouts, and WHIP. The historic performance won him the CY Young and MVP awards adding to his Rookie of the Year accolades in 2006.

During his 13 year Detroit Tiger career, Justin Verlander has thrown 2 no-hitters and finished top ten in Cy Young voting 5 times. He has also lead the American League in Strike-outs 4 times ('09, '11, '12,,'16) and WHIP twice ('11,'16). His Tiger's strike-out total of 2,373 is second all time behind Mickey Lolich.

His season stats are as remarkable as his career numbers. J.V. occupies many positions on Tigers all-time statistical lists. Strikeouts (2nd, 2,373) Wins (7th, 183), WHIP (2nd, 1.191) and WAR (2nd, 56.0).

Since leaving the Tigers for Houston, J.V. has an mixed bag of dominance and injury. Don't rule out Verlander return to Detroit, if that happens we could see him surge to the top of the lists.

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Deal was always dealing in the clutch.

Deal was always dealing in the clutch.

Jack Morris # 4

Over his 14 years in a Tigers uniform, Jack was one of the franchises best, amassing over 198 wins while pitching at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Jack was drafted in 1976 in the 5th round and put together a tigers career that ranks 5th in wins, 2nd in Strikeouts (1980), 2nd in starts (408), 8th in complete games (154) and 8th in shut-outs (24).

During his Tiger career, Morris finished top ten in Cy Young voting 5 times. His best year in 1986 was good enough to win him the Cy Young but he was eclipsed by Roger Clemens who won both the Cy Young and MVP award. In '86 Morris was 21-8 recording a career high in wins and his second best season ERA (3.27).

Jack Morris is probably best remembered for the 1984 postseason. That fall, Morris went 3-0 and posted just a 1.80 ERA. It was the '84 World Series performances, where he through two complete games, that were the foundation of Jack's reputation as a big game pitcher. It is postseason performances like this and later with the Twins and Blue Jays that led to Jack's Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hooks Daus Circa 1916

Hooks Daus Circa 1916

Hooks Daus # 5

Born George August Daus, Hooks is the franchise career leader for wins at 223. During his career he also complied 39 saves good for 10th on the all time list. Hooks was the definition of a workhorse regularly starting over 30 games and finishing a hand-full every year of his career. His best year came in 1915 when he won 24 games behind 27 complete games.

Hooks could sit 'em down amassing 1201 K's in his career, a number good for 8th on the franchise career list. Hooks was also consistent finishing in the top ten in wins multiple times throughout his career and won 20+ games three times. The understated and frail looking Hooks Daus was one of the franchises first star pitchers and still one of the best.

Jim Bunning


"Wabash" George Mullin


Honorable Mentions

As stated before making a top five list is difficult. I evaluated the pitchers for inclusion based on there performances in a Tiger uniform. Hall of Famer Jim Bunning was obviously one of the best but not worthy of top five because his stellar seasons came more as a Philidelphia Philly than a Tiger. Although Bunning's 8 tigers seasons were outstanding, his Tiger career numbers only rank him in the top ten in Strikeouts (6th).

Another hurler that was considered for the top five was George Mullin. George Mullin in his year career as a Tiger Mullin was truly a workhorse He ranks #2 in wins (209) and shut-outs (34) and is the franchise leader in inniings pitched (3394) and complete games (336). In 1909, "Washash" George lead the league in wins with (29) which was the best of his 14 years Tigers career that included four other 20-win seasons.

And then there is two-time Cy Young Award winner Denny McClain. Denny was the star of the 1968 championship team winning 31 which still stands as a Tiger's season best. He also won the MVP in 1968.

McClain followed a super '68 with another Cy Young in 1969 and he seemed and was the biggest star of the time. But Denny played by his own rules and what followed was one of the biggest falls in Detroit Sports history. Coupled with his post career business dealings McClain's sports legacy remains forever tarnished. Still his back to back Cy Yound awards deserve mention hear but his short career and epic collapse leaves him off of the top five list.

Jack Morris Hall of Fame

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© 2013 Tony Fischer


Duane Townsend from Detroit on November 29, 2015:

Denny Mclain is missing... nice article though.

CJ Kelly from the PNW on January 09, 2014:

I learned a lot from this article. But Morris should be in the Hall of Fame. It's criminal that he's not. I don't understand these writers, I really don't. What is their problem. 154 complete games in the modern era? Wow. And I know baseball purists will scold me for this, but the postseason should count when voting. Performing under pressure is the true measure of a professional athlete. Voted up.

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