Verlander will continue to climb Tigers all-time lists in 2013

In only seven seasons, Justin Verlander has already placed himself among the top 10 in almost every pitching category for the Detroit Tigers.

At some point this next season, Justin Verlander will pitch in his 250th game for the Detroit Tigers (probably in early August). He’s started every game he’s ever pitched as a Tiger, and finished more than is expected in this era of relief specialists.

The 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Winner, and the runner-up by an eyelash for the AL Cy Young in ’12, JV is a stallion. As he continues what is probably the prime of his career, the tall right-hander from Virginia will further his climb up the all-time pitching lists for Detroit hurlers.

Verlander enters 2013 with 124 wins, just nine fewer than Earl Whitehill, who was Detroit’s ace for nearly a decade in the 1920s and early 1930s. Whitehill had to deal with manager Ty Cobb, who never cared much for pitchers (if they were so smart, why did he hit them so well?), while Verlander has it much easier with Jim Leyland handing him the ball.

Verlander will pass Whitehill, and most likely vault past Wild Bill Donovan as well. With 140 victories, Donovan is 16 in front of Verlander. Given his tallies of 24 and 17 wins the last two season, and the fact that Justin has won at least 17 games in six of his seven full seasons, it seems likely that JV will move into 8th place on Detroit’s all-time wins list. Next on the list ahead of him for 2014 would be Dizzy Trout (161 wins as a Tiger). After that, Verlander would need some time to catch up to five Tiger pitchers who have between 194 and 209 wins for the Tigs (see list below).

For those “sophisticated” fans who embrace the modern Sabrmetric evaluations, Verlander is poised to put his name among the great Tiger hurlers there too. According to WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Verlander at 34.2 is just a tick behind Jack Morris (34.4). That’s right, in just seven full seasons, “Must-See JV” has already accumulated as much value as Morris did in all his years on the hill for the Tigers. The all-time leader in WAR for Tiger pitchers is Hal Newhouser with 54.5, which means Verlander would probably need 5-6 more years of All-Star quality performance to assume the #1 slot.

Barring injury, by the end of the 2014 season, Verlander will become the 11th pitcher Detroit pitcher to log at least 2,000 innings. But most impressively, in fewer than 1,600 innings, Verlander already ranks 5th all-time in strikeouts for the Tigers. His 1,454 punch-outs trail only Tommy Bridges, Newhouser, Morris, and the all-time leader – Mickey Lolich. Verlander could conceivably pass four of them by the end of 2014, but Lolich is way off in the distance with 2,679 K’s for Detroit. Ol’ Mick fanned nearly 700 more batters than any other pitcher in franchise history. That pot belly, as Mick liked to say, was made of muscle.

Even though his 14 complete games over the last three seasons are more than any other pitcher in baseball, Verlander will never rank among the top pitchers in that category for the Tigers. In today’s game some teams go an entire season without a complete game, and with his 4-6 per year JV will never catch Wabash George Mullin, who completed 336 games (of the 395 he started) for the Tigers.

A stat where the current Tiger ace is already in the #1 spot is winning percentage. Through seven full seasons, Verlander’s mark stands at 124-65, for a .656 winning percentage. That’s better than any other Tiger starter, including Denny McLain, who pitched a similar number of innings for Detroit as JV has so far. In fact, Verlander has won more than 2 out of every 3 in each of the last four years, something no other Tiger starting pitcher has ever done – not McLain, not Newhouser, not Schoolboy Rowe, who posted a .629 mark in a Tiger uniform.

Of course, Verlander has another impressive statistic on his ledger – two – as in two no-hitters. Only one other Detroit hurler has that many – Virgil “Fire” Trucks, who tossed both of his during the ’52 campaign. Verlander has come tantalizingly close to throwing another no-hitter on a couple of occasions, and if anyone can join the small list of pitchers in MLB history to have thrown three no-hit games, it’s Justin.

Verlander has done much in his career before the age of 30 (he’ll reach that age on February 20), enough to place him among the greatest to ever toe the rubber for the Detroit Tigers. The next few seasons, and hopefully many more after that (if Mr. Ilitch is wise enough to ink him to a contract) will allow him the chance to become the greatest pitcher in franchise history, if not only by numbers, but also by deed.

Detroit Tigers All-Time Win Leaders

Rank Pitcher Wins
1. Hooks Dauss 223
2. George Mullin 209
3. Mickey Lolich 207
4. Hal Newhouser 200
5. Jack Morris 198
6. Tommy Bridges 194
7. Dizzy Trout 161
8. Bill Donovan 140
9. Earl Whitehill 133
10. Justin Verlander 124

2 replies on “Verlander will continue to climb Tigers all-time lists in 2013

  • Gary Steinke

    Verlander is one of the best (if not THE best) pitchers the Tigers ever had. 99 wins away to tie for most wins. If he plays here another 7 years here, he should break that record. GO VERLANDER!!!

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