(40) pitches in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park. Detroit won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Best of the Bullpen
A typical bullpen has at least six regular pitchers. Sadly, in the world of the Detroit Tigers there were not many outstanding bullpen pitchers from which to choose. These are the five best (and Phil Coke is not on the list):
John Hiller (LH Relief) He was one of the best relief pitchers ever to throw in the American League. He played on the 1968 World Series team. In 1971, he suffered a heart attack, but he returned to the mound where he recorded more saves than any other relief pitcher. In 1974, Hiller earned several accolades, including a spot on the All-Star team, several Cy Young votes, and MVP votes. In 1973, he played in 65 games and finished 60 of them. That is the sign of a great relief pitcher.
Mike Henneman (RH Relief) He was one of the best relief pitchers in the game. His career 3.21 ERA and 193 saves top many Tigers lists. He is still with the Tigers working with the Minor League Erie Seawolves. While it can be difficult to judge a relief pitcher by wins and losses, Henneman had several seasons with significant wins over losses, like 1987 (11-3), 1989 (11-4), and 1991 (10-2). In 1989, he earned a spot on the All-Star team.
Aurelio Lopez (LH Relief) In the 1980s, no one filled the setup role in Detroit quite like “Señor Smoke.” His career average ERA was 3.56 and win-loss record was 62 and 36. In 1983, he earned a spot on the All-Star roster, which was not common for relief pitchers. In the 1984 ALCS and World Series, he pitched six innings and did not allow a run at all. In 1979, he finished seventh in the Cy Young voting. He was a likable guy who sadly died too young in a car crash. Interesting, all three MLB players who were named Aurelio died in car crashes. The Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined him in 1993, the year after he died. He carries the record for pitching velocity from pitchers in Mexico.
Willie Hernandez (LH Relief) In 1984, Hernandez was the best pitcher in the American League and was therefore named the Cy Young winner and MVP with a 1.92 ERA and 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Only three other relief pitchers have ever won the Cy Young. He was in the All-Star game for three years in a row beginning in 1984. To leave him off of this list would be criminal.