Tiger pitching victory leaders by decade

So far in the 2010s, Justin Verlander has 54 victories (as of August 22), by far the most of any Detroit pitcher. We have another seven full seasons before we learn if any other pitcher can win more games than JV in the 2010s as a Tiger.

But we can look back and see the Tigers pitchers who led the franchise in victories for each decade. Verlander seems to have a good chance to become the second Detroit hurler to lead the team in wins in two decades. Hooks Dauss did so in the 1910s and the 1920s.

Justin Verlander …. 54
Max Scherzer … 40
Rick Porcello … 33

There’s always Drew Smyly to keep an eye on, he’s just 23 and has four wins in his rookie season. He should be in a Tiger uniform for five more seasons. Who knows if JV or Max or Porcello will still be in Detroit by the late 2010s?

Justin Verlander …. 65
Jeremy Bonderman … 59
Nate Robertson … 51

Good to see “Rally Gum” Nate on the list, he was always a battler who got the most out of the talent he had. Bonderman suffered from unrealistic expectations – he was heralded as a 19-20 year old prospect who was acquired from the A’s in the three-team blockbuster that sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees and brought Carlos Pena to Detroit.

Bill Gullickson … 51
Justin Thompson … 36
Brian Moehler … 35
Frank Tanana … 35

Blech. What a dismal decade, huh? Gullickson was in his 30s and well past his prime in the 1990s, but he was at the top of the rotation for 3+ years and won more than enough games to outdistance the motley crew of Detroit starters in that lost decade. Thompson was the most talented and promising of the Tigers homegrown pitchers in the 90s, and he had one phenomenal season. David Wells was the best pitcher the Tigers had in this decade, but he only stuck around for 2 1/2 seasons and the players strikes in ’94 and ’95 cost him some wins.

Jack Morris … 162
Dan Petry … 101
Milt Wilcox … 66

Not only did Morris lead the Tigers in wins, he paced all of baseball for the 1980s. These three formed the core of the Detroit rotation from 1980-1984 and rival the best pitching trios in franchise history.

Mickey Lolich … 105
Joe Coleman … 88
John Hiller … 69

How many fans remember how good Coleman was for a few seasons?  The right averaged 21 wins, 13 complete games, and 220 strikeouts from 1971-1973. The deal that brought him, Aurelio Rodriguez, and Eddie Brinkman to Detroit for Denny McLain and some throw-ins is one of the best in franchise history.

Denny McLain … 114
Mickey Lolich … 102
Hank Aguirre … 61

Bunning was the best pitcher the Tigers had in the 1960s, but he was traded after the ’63 season after winning 59 games for Detroit in the decade. There’s no telling if Bunning could have been a key part of the ’68 World Championship team had he remained a Tiger. He would have been 36 and with the Phillies that year he had the second highest ERA of his career while going 4-14 in 26 starts after suffering some shoulder problems.

Frank Lary … 79
Billy Hoeft … 74
Jim Bunning … 59

Lary, Hoeft, Bunning, and Paul Foytack gave the Tigers a really good four-man rotation in the lase 1950s, but the team muddled along as a .500 club because the offense was mediocre. Lefty Hoeft had a great fastball and eventually became a good reliever, which is probably what he would end up doing if he pitched today – a closer.

Hal Newhouser … 170
Dizzy Trout … 129
Virgil Trucks … 87

Prince Hal’s 170 were far and away the most wins in the 1940s in all of baseball. Of course he was 4F and couldn’t fight in World War II, so he played all 10 seasons. He and Trout and Trucks formed the best trio in a Detroit rotation ever, from 1946-1948. Add in Fred Hutchinson and the quartet was the best the franchise has ever had at one time.

Tommy Bridges … 150
Schoolboy Rowe … 80
Elden Auker … 77

If you ever look at the pitching stats from the 1930s you have to understand that ERA’s were at an all-time high. A 3.50 ERA was good during that era when run scoring was at an outrageous level. Rowe was more talented than Bridges, but he was hurt a lot.

Hooks Dauss … 97
Earl Whitehill … 87
Ken Holloway … 57

Holloway was sort of the Milt Wilcox of his era – a solid but unspectacular #3 starter who could keep you in games and chew up innings for a few years. Unfortunately, Holloway never got to play on a great team like Milt did.

Hooks Dauss … 125
Jean Dubuc … 72
Harry Coveleskie … 69

Coveleskie was the older brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Stan Coveleskie, who starred primarily for the Indians and Senators. Dubuc was a well-educated French-speaking righty from the northeast who roomed with Ty Cobb on road trips. He chewed up innings while pitching fairly modestly for Detroit for five seasons.

1900s (1901-1909)
George Mullin … 157
Wild Bill Donovan … 112
Ed Killian … 95

There are those who think that Mullin is the best pitcher the Tigers ever had, but they are mistaken. Wabash George had two really good seasons in a Detroit uniform, but otherwise he was an average pitcher who won 20 games five times because in that era starters toed the rubber 38-45 times per season. He did win some big games for the Tigers, and he had a lot of trouble finding the strike zone (he led the AL in walks four straight seasons).