It is hard to believe that the Detroit Tigers have only one Hall of Fame starting pitcher on their all-time roster. The Veteran’s Committee welcomed “Prince Hal” Newhouser to Cooperstown in 1992. (Jim Bunning entered the Hall as a Phillie and Jack Morris has yet to be elected.) Despite this, the Tigers have often boasted strong starting pitching. From Wild Bill Donovan to Schoolboy Rowe to Jim Bunning to Mark Fidrych to Max Scherzer, the Tigers have had their fill of aces. The following are the top five starting pitchers in Tiger history in alphabetical order.
Tommy Bridges (1930-1946): Bridges was a major sports star in the thirties. The ace led the Tigers to four pennants in a decade and played on two championship squads. He led the league in wins, starts, shutouts, and strikeouts at various points. Bridges’ signature moment came in Game Six of the 1935 World Series against the Cubs. Stan Hack tripled in the ninth with the score tied at 3. Jurges struck out, French grounded out to pitcher, and Galan flew to Goose Goslin in left. The Tigers paid Bridges back with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth. Bridges won 194 games with a 3.57 ERA for the Tigers in 16 seasons.
Mickey Lolich (1963-1975): Mickey Lolich won 207 games for the Tigers in the regular season. However, his three World Series victories in 1968 made him a Detroit legend. The Tigers fell behind the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in the World Series and roared back to win behind Lolich’s rubber arm. He won three games against the Cards and even homered in the series. The success accentuated Lolich’s value to Detroit. He won 12 or more games 12 times in 13 seasons and topped 20 twice. In 1971, he became the only man to win 25 or more games and not win the Cy Young Award. The workhorse pitched 3,361.2 innings for the Tigers, threw 190 complete games, and struck out 2832 batters. His numbers are borderline Hall of Fame.
Jack Morris (1977-1990): Jack Morris has inched closer to Cooperstown immortality each year since 2007. He fell just short of enshrinement in 2013. Morris pitched 14 seasons in Detroit and led the Tigers to two postseason appearances and the 1984 title. He won 14 or more games every year except 1989. He was the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 1981, won 20 games in 1983 and 1986, led the league in innings (293.2) and strikeouts (232) in 1983, wins (14) in 1981, and the Babe Ruth Award in 1984. Morris won 198 of his 254 career victories with the Tigers, threw 24 shutouts and 154 complete games, and contrary to the sabermetrics crowd erroneous propaganda, pitched to score. He won more games than any pitcher in the 1980s by a wide margin.
Hal Newhouser (1939-1953): Hal Newhouser is the greatest pitcher in Tigers’ history to date. He won two Most Valuable Player Awards, the 1945 Triple Crown, Game 7 of the 1945 World Series, and 200 regular season contests for Detroit. Newhouser led the league in wins in four of five seasons from 1944-1948. He surpassed 20 wins four times, 25 wins three times, and topped out with 29 wins in 1944. He also led the league in ERA twice, strikeouts twice, and completed 20 or more games five times. Hal Newhouser was the greatest pitcher of the wartime era.
Justin Verlander (2005-present): Like Newhouser, Justin Verlander is the greatest of his era. He could have three Cy Youngs instead of one. However, there is time to add to his hardware. So far, Verlander has the 2011 Cy Young and MVP, the 2006 Rookie of the Year, and the 2011 Triple Crown. He also won the Sporting News MLB player of the Year in 2011 and Pitcher of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Verlander has won 17 or more games every year from 2006-2012, with the exception of 2008. The righty led the AL in innings and strikeouts three times, wins twice, ERA and WHIP once, and complete games once. The Old Dominion alum has 136 career wins in seven full, and two partial, seasons. Verlander has even thrown two no-hitters. In time, he might be the greatest in Tiger history.