Justin Verlander will likely retire the greatest starting pitcher in Detroit Tiger history. He is the best pitcher in today’s game. Likewise, Hal Newhouser dominated baseball during World War II. Currently, Newhouser rates the Tigers greatest pitcher. However, the Hall of Famer’s position is in jeopardy. Verlander’s work ethic, talent, and ability have challenged Newhouser’s 70 year hold.
Hal Newhouser played 15 seasons with Detroit winning 200 games. He averaged 16 wins a season over the course of his career. The lefty won 15 or more games seven consecutive seasons and 20 games four times. He won 25 or more games on three occasions and topped 200 innings seven times. Newhouser also won the 1944 Triple Crown and two strikeout titles. The Cy Young Award had not been introduced yet, so the Hall of Famer settled with back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards in 1944 and 1945. Detroit won two pennants and the 1945 World Series during his tenure. Newhouser defeated the Chicago Cubs in 1945’s Game 7.
Justin Verlander made his major league debut 60 years after the 1945 world title and became a rotation mainstay in 2006. Verlander has won 17 or more games in six of seven seasons and the 2006 Rookie of the Year. The game is different today than in Newhouser’s day, so that is comparable to the left-hander’s run from 1944-50. Verlander has led the league in strikeouts and innings three times, has topped 200 innings six times, and won a Triple Crown. The right-hander won the Cy Young and MVP Awards in 2011. Verlander’s success helped Detroit to pennants in 2006 and 2012, but the team has yet to win a World Series.
Newhouser has the slight edge on Verlander as the greatest Tiger starting pitcher. The two are close, and Verlander is tracking to surpass Newhouser’s career totals and accomplishments, but the wartime ace has a championship ring. Newhouser beat the Cubs twice in the 1945 World Series, including Game 7. His overall ERA in the series, 6.10, was not impressive, but he lost Game 1 9-0, which inflated the statistic. Verlander’s overall postseason ERA is a pedestrian 4.22 and he’s been lit up in World Series play to a tune of 7.20. The Cardinals defeated him twice in 2006 and the Giants behind Pablo Sandoval’s three home run game walloped Detroit’s ace in 2012. The true separation between the two, however slight, occurs in the postseason. However, Verlander will have additional opportunities to prove himself in the playoffs and best Newhouser’s career numbers.
Justin Verlander is the greatest right-handed pitcher in Tiger history. Hal Newhouser is the greatest pitcher in Tiger history. This will change as time passes. Verlander is in his prime and will top 200 wins and 3000 strikeouts if he remains healthy. He has an outside shot at 300 wins with some luck and a solid bullpen. These numbers should result in a plaque at Cooperstown and universal acclaim as the greatest starting pitcher in Detroit Tiger franchise history. Meanwhile, Newhouser will remain the greatest Tiger left-handed pitcher ever and the dominant wartime ace.