Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where does Verlander Rank Among Tigers ERA+ Leaders?

In the previous post, the ERA+ statistic was defined and its interpretation clarified.  In this post, it will be used to rank the top Tigers pitchers of all time.  I believe I did something similar on this blog a few years ago, but that was before current ace Justin Verlander had enough innings to qualify and before he had his elite 2011 season. The table below lists the top 15 Detroit hurlers of all time, only including their years with the Tigers.

The first six columns of the table should be self explanatory.  If you read the previous ERA+ post linked above, you might remember that the interpretation of ERA+ is a bit tricky.  So, I've added another column to the table (%) which tells us how far below the league average the pitcher's ERA fell.  For example, Hall-of-Famer southpaw Hal Newhouser had a career ERA+ of 130 which which means his ERA was 23% better than the average pitcher over the course of his career.  In order to qualify, a pitcher needs 150 career starts.

Table 1: All-time Tigers ERA+ Leaders

Player
From
To
IP
ERA
ERA+
%
Hal Newhouser
1939
1953
2,944
3.07
130
23
Tommy Bridges
1930
1946
2,826
3.57
126
21
Dizzy Trout
1939
1952
2,591
3.20
125
20
Justin Verlander
2005
2011
1,315
3.54
124
19
Frank Lary
1954
1964
2,008
3.46
116
14
Jim Bunning
1955
1963
1,867
3.45
116
14
Schoolboy Rowe
1933
1942
1,445
4.01
114
12
Virgil Trucks
1941
1956
1,800
3.50
114
12
Fred Hutchinson
1939
1953
1,464
3.73
113
12
Denny McLain
1963
1970
1,593
3.13
110
9
Ed Killian
1904
1910
1,536
2.38
110
9
Bill Donovan
1903
1918
2,137
2.49
109
8
Jack Morris
1977
1990
3,042
3.73
108
7
Dan Petry
1979
1991
1,843
3.84
105
5
Mickey Lolich
1963
1975
3,361
3.45
105
5
Data source: Baseball-Reference.com

In his seven seasons with the Tigers. Verlander has an ERA+ of 124 which makes him 19% better than average.  He ranks fourth all time behind Newhouser, Tommy Bridges and Dizzy Trout.  Verlander's total includes his 2008 season where he had an ERA+ of 93.  In each of his other
seasons, he had ERA+ of at least 124.  We can't very well throw out his worst season, but he certainly has an excellent chance to raise his ERA+ in the future. 

One thing you might notice on the chart is that Jack Morris falls slightly below Denny McLain and Ed Killian in ERA+, but pitched almost twice as many innings.  So, Morris was very close to McLain and Killian in quality, but does not get credit for his much larger workload.  That is because ERA+ measures quality only and not quantity.  There are other measures which combine quality and quantity which will be covered later.

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