Best Five: Greatest Starting Pitchers in Detroit Tigers History

#5 Justin Verlander (2005-present)

Though he’s still young and maturing as a big league starter, Justin Verlander will most likely win his 100th game later in the 2011 season. Under contract for at least three more years as a Tiger, the hard throwing righty has a chance to approach the all-time mark for wins in franchise history, held by Hooks Dauss with 223. Verlander already has two no-hitters, and is poised to crack the top ten in strikeouts by a Tiger pitcher. He’s the only Tiger to average as many as eight K’s per nine innings pitched. If he keeps progressing and he stays a Tiger, he could be #1 on this list someday.

#4 Tommy Bridges (1930-1943, 1945-1946)

Whereas Verlander is tall and intimidating, Bridges was short and unassuming on the mound. He won 20 games three times for the Tigers and is one of only two players to play in four World Series for the team. He won 194 games in a Detroit uniform.

#3 Mickey Lolich (1963-1975)

Though he’ll forever be remembered as the pitcher who started and won three games in the 1968 World Series (and deservedly so), Lolich was no one-trick pony. The hard-throwing lefty struck out 2,679 batters as a member of the Tigers, by far the most in franchise history. No other southpaw has ever struck out more batters in American league history. Lolich was a workhorse, completing more than 40% of his starts. He logged 300 or more innings in four consecutive seasons, including an incredible 376 in 1971 when he won 25 games and struck out 308 batters. The Tigers should do the right thing and retire Lolich’s #29 while he’s still very much akive to enjoy the ceremony. He won 207 games as a Tiger, third all-time.

#2 Hal Newhouser (1939-1953)

Allow me to take a moment to explain why neither of the pitchers who rank first and second all-time in wins for the Tigers made this list. Both Hooks Dauss and George Mullin pitched for the Tigers more than 100 years ago, when starters got 45 plus starts a season. As a result they often won 20 games a season, on their way to 223 and 209 wins respectively. But though they were very good pitchers, neither of them match the five listed here for quality. Dauss and Mullin were good pitchers on very good Tiger teams in an era when it was easier to rack up victories.

Now, a word about Newhouser. He was a great pitcher, one of the best of the 1940s, right up there with Bob Feller, who he frequently battled head to head with much success. Newhouser won two MVP Awards, and then finished second in a three-year stretch that was as good as any three years any pitcher ever had. He went 80-27 over those three seasons (1944-1946) with a 1.99 ERA. He was the best player on the 1945 World Series winning team, and he was deservedly elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992. He won an even 200 games as a Tiger.

#1 Jack Morris (1977-1990)

Our dream five-man rotation has a real ace at the top. Morris was a fiery competitor for his entire career, winning 254 games, 198 of them for Detroit. He won more games, started more games, pitched more innings, struck out more batters, and completed more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s. He was the #1 starter on three World Series winning teams, including the ’84 Tigers. He was at his best in the Fall Classic, winning four games and posting a 2.96 ERA. He is slowly gaining ground in Hall of Fame voting and should achieve that honor by the time his eligibility runs out in 2014. If not, Hall of Fame voters have made a serious mistake.

Up next: Five Greatest Relief Pitchers in Tiger history

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He was formerly the Web Producer for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @twebman or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.