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Detroit Tigers Fan Favorite: Justin Verlander

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There have been many all-time great names to wear a Detroit Tigers uniform over the past 120+ years, and depending on which generation you ask, many players come to mind: Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, “Mr. Tiger” Al Kaline, Jack Morris, Alan Trammel, “Sweet Lou” Whitaker, and Kirk Gibson just to name a few. With all of those all-time great names, one name is synonymous with the Detroit Tigers over the past 20 years: Justin Verlander.

METEORIC RISE

Justin Verlander was drafted by the Detroit Tigers with the second pick of the 2004 MLB Draft out of Old Dominion, after three successful years and setting numerous school and conference records. Once he made his professional debut in 2005, JV quickly rose through the system, making his MLB debut on July 4, 2005. While he only made two starts during the 2005 season, Verlander made a huge impact in his first full season in 2006.

Verlander earned American League (AL) Rookie of the Year honors after becoming the first rookie pitcher in the history of baseball to win 10 games before the end of June, en route to 17 wins (tied for fourth-most in the AL & tied for the team-best with Kenny Rogers), a 3.63 ERA (seventh-lowest in the AL), and 124 strikeouts. His performance propelled the Tigers to 95 wins (first 90+ win Tigers team since 98 wins in 1987) and their first World Series appearance since 1984.

DECADE OF DOMINANCE

JV carried over his dominance on the mound into his next ten seasons in Detroit. He made six All-Star appearances from 2007-2013 (2007, 2009-2013), led the American League in Win-Loss % twice (2007 & 2011), led the major leagues in wins twice (19 wins in 2009 & a career-high 24 wins in 2011), led the AL in strikeouts four times (2009, 2011, 2012, 2016) with three of those seasons leading all of MLB in strikeouts (2009, 2011, 2012), finished in the top-5 of the AL Cy Young voting six times (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017), winning the AL Cy Young and AL MVP awards in 2011, and throwing no-hitters in 2007 & 2011.

Justin Verlander led the Tigers and the pitching staff to AL Central titles in four straight years from 2011-2014 and led the team to the playoffs five times from 2006-2014, a tremendous feat in the history of the Detroit Tigers franchise. To put that in perspective, before 2011, the last time the Tigers won their division was in 1987 and the Tigers had only made the playoffs five times total since 1945: 1945, 1968, 1972, 1984, 1987. While the Tigers did win the World Series in 1945, 1968, & 1984, this stretch of Tigers history brought a lot of attention back to Detroit and the Tigers had the opportunity to compete for World Series crowns in 2006 and 2012.

TIGERS HISTORY RANKS

Verlander played 11 full seasons in Detroit (2006-2016) and from his debut in 2005 to his departure in 2017 as the focal point in a trade to the Houston Astros, he cemented himself as one of the best players to ever suit up for the Tigers. 

JV ranks second in strikeouts (2,373), second in WAR for pitchers (56), fifth in games started (380), seventh in wins (183), eighth in innings pitched (2,511), and ninth in overall WAR among all Tiger players.

He was the face of the franchise, put Tigers baseball back on the national map, and even though Justin Verlander signed a contract with the Astros before the lockout, the Detroit Tigers fanbase would love to see the future Hall-of-Famer don the Olde English D one more time.

Who is your Detroit Tigers fan favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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