Who is the greatest Tiger’s pitcher ever: Verlander or McLain?


1968 is a year Detroit Tiger fans know well, but it also had a sweeping significance for MLB in general. In what came to be known as the Year of the Pitcher, both ERA (a sparkling 1.12, achieved by Bob Gibson of St. Louis) and league champion batting average (.301, by Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski) saw all-time lows. Hurlers were so dominant that rules were changed to level the playing field (literally, in the case of the lowered pitching mound).

2011 saw another Year of the (Tiger) Pitcher, when Justin Verlander received both the Cy Young and MVP awards for the American League, just as his Detroit counterpart Denny McLain did back in that hallowed year. Just how closely did their seasons stack up?

Wins:  In that year of gaudy statistics, McLain possessed the crown jewel: 31 wins, a threshold that hadn’t been seen in 34 years. Verlander didn’t quite reach those heights, but in a day when 25 is the new 30, you have to go back nine years (to Randy Johnson in 2002) to match JV’s 24 wins.

Earned Run Average:  At 1.96, McLain’s ERA was just over a full point lower than the league average of 2.98. Impressive, but consider Verlander’s ERA: at 2.40, nearly a point-and-a-half lower than the league average of 4.08, he would have been in the top tier even back in that golden year.

Walks/Hits per Inning:  Many consider this a more efficient gauge of a pitcher’s performance. No surprise that McLain’s was a microscopic 0.90. Verlander’s? 0.92. ‘Nuff said.

Innings Pitched:  Relievers were a rare and exotic species in 1968, so no pitcher will ever approach the staggering total of 28 complete games pitched by McLain that year. However, Verlander’s 7.3 innings per start, compared to McLain’s 8.1, demonstrates equal levels of stamina and durability.

Years from now fans will still be debating whether or not Justin Verlander deserved both the Cy Young and MVP awards. Not only did he earn them in 2011, he would have been a worthy recipient in 1968, the vaunted Year of the Pitcher. But, either way,  both players definitely have put up Hall of Fame numbers.



Written by: Beth Kostecki

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