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Detroit Tigers Opening Day Countdown: 4 Days


15 Days: Number of Ryan Raburn Home Runs in 2010
14 Days: Number of Cards in 2003 Topps Base Set
13 Days: Number of Starts by Jacob Turner for Lakeland in 2010
12 Days: Number of Franchise Playoff Appearances
11 Days: Number of Tigers Rookie Debuts in 2010
10 Days: Number American League Pennants Won
9 Days: Number Consecutive Years With Only One All-Star
8 Days: All-time Rank in Interleague Play Win Percentage
7 Days: Number of Victories until Jim Leyland Reaches Career Win Number 1500
6 Days: Attendance Rank in 2010
5 Days: Number of Major League Starts Made By Andy Oliver in 2010

We’re down to only four days before opening day, and this countdown is really starting to make me feel like Dick Clark! But anyway, Justin Verlander will get the start for the Tigers on opening day; that’s four years in a row for Justin.

Earlier this month, Zac posted that he was grateful that the Tigers had a legitimate opening day starter. In that post he listed the pitchers to start the season for the Tigers in between Jack Morris in 1990 and Justin Verlander in 2008. The list is not awe-inspiring.

Here’s a few of my personal memories or gut reactions of just a few of these players:

Bill Gullickson (1992): I remember going to a game as a kid and Gullickson was pitching. I remember the game was against the Yankees, I remember it was a day game, I remember that the Tigers got crushed, and I remember the guy behind me yelling “GULLICKSON, YOU SUCK!” multiple times that day. I was probably only six or seven years old, so I don’t remember the exact game, but it could have been this one. That was my lone memory of Mr. Gullickson.

Mike Moore (1993, 1994, 1995): No memories whatsoever. And he started on opening day for three straight years. I don’t know if that’s shame on me or shame on him.

Jason Johnson (2004): He really was the best pitcher on the team, but that didn’t make him a good pitcher. Perhaps he was average. You weren’t really upset when his turn in the rotation came up, but you weren’t thrilled either. He was so unremarkable as a player that the thing that first jumps into my mind when I hear his name was that he wore an insulin pump while pitching.

But in Justin Verlander, we have a player that’s not only the best pitcher on the team, but one of the best pitchers in the league. In five years as a Major Leaguer, he’s earned a Rookie of the Year Award and three subsequent trips to the All-Star Game.

His career winning percentage (not that I’m an advocate of pitcher wins) of 0.615 would be equivalent to 100 wins in 162 games. Removing his only poor year, 2008, leaves him with a career winning percentage of 0.673.

We know he’s durable — he’s pitched at least 200 innings in every year since his rookie season. He’s well above average with his strikeout rate (21.5% compared to league average of 17.4%), walk rate (7.9% compared to 8.5%), and home run rate (2.1% compared to 2.7%). The only part of his game that’s a real negative is that he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher. That limits the number of double plays he gets, but he has been able to keep them in the park. He could also probably work on his pitch efficiency, but the player he is right now is outstanding, and anything better is just gravy on top.