The Detroit Tigers played their first season of Major League Baseball in 1901. During that inaugural season which saw the Tigers finish third in the American League with a 74-61 record, their best pitcher was Roscoe Miller who was 23-13 with a 2.95 ERA. Though Miller or any of the other Tigers starting pitchers from that season have mostly been forgotten, there have certainly been some outstanding starting pitchers in team history.
Let’s face it, most fans love to talk about the greatest of all-time for just about anything and that is exactly what I did with this list. When considering the greatest Detroit Tigers pitchers of all-time, I ran into a few roadblocks. Should I include relief pitchers such as Willie Hernandez in the conversation? After all, he did win both the American League MVP and Cy Young Award for his amazing 1984 season. What about a guy like Max Scherzer who had a 2-year stretch where he went 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA? Well, relief pitchers are not included on this list, nor are pitchers who did not pitch at least 10 seasons for the Tigers. Heck, longevity has to count for something, right?
Anyway, without further ado, here is a countdown of the top 10 pitchers in Detroit Tigers history. If you agree, awesome! But if you have a different opinion, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, after all, these are just my 2 cents.
10 – Earl Whitehill (1923-1932)
In 10 seasons with the Tigers, Earl Whitehill had an overall record of 133-119 while posting a 4.16 ERA. The 133 wins place the lefty No. 10 on the Tigers all-time wins list. Whitehill’s best season with the Tigers came in 1927 when he went 16-14 with a 3.36 ERA. After pitching for the Bengals in 1932, he was traded to the Washington Senators where he spent four seasons before playing two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. His final season in Major League Baseball came in 1939 with the Chicago Cubs.
9 – Bill Donovan (1903-1912, 1918)
During his time with Detroit, Bill Donovan had an overall record of 140-96 and an ERA of 2.49 which places him No. 3 on the Tigers all-time list behind only Harry Coveleski (2.34) and Ed Killian (2.38). Donovan’s most impressive campaign came in 1907 when he went 25-4 with a 2.19 ERA as the Tigers made their first World Series appearance in team history. In Game 1, Donovan pitched well against the Chicago Cubs but the game was called due to darkness and ended in a 3-3 tie. He went on to pitch a complete game in Game 4, giving up just three earned runs, but the Tigers fell to the Cubs and they eventually lost the series.
8 – George Mullin (1902-1913)
With 209, George Mullin ranks No. 2 on the Detroit Tigers all-time list for wins. During his time with the Tigers, he had a career ERA of 2.76, which places him No. 6 on the all-time list. Mullin’s greatest individual season in Detroit came in 1909 when he posted a 29-8 record with a 2.22 ERA. On July 4, 1912, his 32nd birthday, Mullin tossed the first no-hitter in Detroit Tigers history. Though he was never able to help the Tigers win their first World Series title, he was able to help lead them to the American League Championship from 1907-1909.
7 – Hooks Dauss (1912-1926)
Though Hooks Dauss was not one of the most dominant pitchers in Tigers history, he has to be included on this list because he has the most wins in team history with 223. After making just two starts in 1912, Dauss went on to record double-digit` victories in each season from 1913-1926. His most dominant campaign came in 1915 when he posted a 24-13 record with a 2.50 ERA in 35 starts. Dauss was able to win double-digit games in each of his final 14 seasons in the Old English ‘D’ before hanging up his cleats.
6 – Jack Morris (1977-1990)
During his 14 seasons in a Tigers uniform, Jack Morris was one of the most consistent and durable pitchers in team history. Overall, with the Tigers, Morris compiled 198 victories which places him No. 5 on the all-time list. In 1984, he went 19-11 and helped lead the Tigers to their fourth and most recent World Series title. Morris’ best season with the Tigers, statistically speaking, came in 1986 when he went 21-8 with a 3.27 ERA in 35 starts. During that season, he had a league-best six shutouts and he finished fifth in the Cy Young voting.
5 – Dizzy Trout (1939-1952)
In 14 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Dizzy Trout went 161-153 with a 3.20 ERA. In 1944, he had one of the best individual pitching seasons in team history when he posted a 27-14 record with a league-best 2.12 ERA. For his efforts during that season, Trout finished No. 2 in the MVP voting behind his teammate Hal Newhouser, despite having more first-place votes. During the World Series Championship run in 1945, Trout was nothing special in the regular season (18-15) but in the World Series, he was outstanding as he went 1-1 with a 0.66 ERA as the Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs.
4 – Mickey Lolich (1963-1975)
Mickey Lolich is best known for his amazing performance in the 1968 World Series when he went 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA but he also had a stellar overall career in Detroit. In 13 seasons in the Motor City, Lolich racked up 207 victories while posting a 3.45 ERA. In 1971, in which was his best overall season, Mickey tossed an amazing 29 complete games on way to a 25-14 record with a 2.92 ERA. Because of the way he presented himself both on and off the field, Lolich will always be considered one of the most beloved players in Tigers history.
3 – Tommy Bridges (1930-1943, 1945-1946)
During his 16 seasons in Detroit, Tommy Bridges went 194-138 and was an All-Star on six occasions. In 1935 Bridges helped lead the Tigers to their first World Championship as he posted a 21-10 regular season record. In the World Series, the right-hander was 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA as the Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs. Bridges was one of the first big-time strikeout pitchers in Detroit and he currently sits at No. 5 on the Tigers all-time list with 1,674.
2 – Justin Verlander (2005-2017)
When ranking the top pitchers in Detroit Tigers history, the only question is whether or not Justin Verlander is No. 1 or No. 2 on the list. After looking closely at the data, I’ve decided to slot Verlander at No. 2. During his 13 years in the Tigers organization, JV was stellar, racking up an overall record of 183-114 while striking out 2,373 batters. Verlander earned plenty of honors while pitching in the Motor City, including winning Rookie of the Year and being selected to six All-Star teams. His greatest season in Detroit came in 2011 when he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and was named both the Cy Young Award winner and American League Most Valuable Player. Verlander was traded to the Houston in 2017 where he went on to lead the Astros to the World Series Championship but he will always be known as a Tiger.
1 – Hal Newhouser (1939-1953)
Coming in at No. 1 on this prestigious list is Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser, who spent 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers. During his time in the Old English ‘D’, Newhouser posted a record of 200-148 and he helped lead the Tigers a World Series Championship in 1945. During that 1945 season, Hal won the pitching Triple Crown as he went 25-9 with a 1.81 ERA while recording 212 strikeouts. For his efforts during that magical season, Newhouser was named American League MVP for the second consecutive season. From 1944 to 1946 he was an amazing 80-27 with a 1.99 ERA as he was considered to be the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball.