The Starting Rotation
For those of you who don’t remember the Detroit Tigers of the 1990’s, you may have taken a look through that starting lineup and thought, “wow that team would be pretty good, why was Detroit so bad in the 1990’s?”. This slide should jog your memory.
Pitching was bad throughout the 1990’s with the steroid era in full reign. Still, Detroit’s rotation for the decade was particularly bad. Here are the five best starters to come out of an ugly, ugly era of Tigers pitching.
Thompson was Detroit’s first round pick back in 1991. He was expected to be the next great Tigers starter. While that did not come to fruition, he still finished as Detroit’s best pitcher of the 1990’s – a feat that says more about the state of Detroit’s pitching than anything.
Thompson made an 11 game cameo in 1996 but truly broke out in 1997. He went 15-11 with a 3.02 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a remarkable 152 ERA+. He was an All-Star at age 24 and looked like a future ace.
Thompson took a step backward in 1998 but was still solid, going 11-15 with a 4.05 ERA and a 116 ERA+. 1999 was ugly, with a 5.11 ERA which led to him getting dealt to the Rangers in a blockbuster that netted the Tigers Juan Gonzalez.
An unfortunate series of injuries meant that Thompson, at age 26 in 1999, would not pitch in the big leagues again until 2005, when he threw 1.2 innings before being done with pro ball for good.
Thompson’s 13.2 bWAR is the highest among Detroit starters from 1990’s.
Brian Moehler made 131 career starts for the Tigers, 98 of them in the 1990’s. His 4.50 ERA and 105 ERA+ were decidedly average, but that still makes Moehler the second-best starter of the decade for the Tigers.
His best season was 1998, when Moehler went 14-13 with a 3.90 ERA and a 121 ERA+.
Moehler ended up pitching until 2010, finishing his career with a 4.81 ERA and 84 wins.
David Wells made 64 starts for the Detroit Tigers and was their third most valuable pitcher. He posted a 3.78 ERA in the Motor City, with a 1.21 WHIP and a 122 ERA+.
Boomer went on to have a wildly long and successful big league career, throwing in 21 different seasons and going 239-157 with a 4.13 ERA, three All-Star nods and a perfect game in 1999.
The left-handed Tanana threw with the Tigers from 1985-1992. His best years were in the 1980’s, but Tanana still made 93 solid starts with the Tigers in the 90’s. He went 35-31 with a 4.44 ERA and was one of Detroit’s better starters in the early part of the decade.
Gullickson was the team’s only 20 game winner of the decade, going 20-9 with a 3.90 ERA in a league-leading 35 starts in 1991. He went 31-27 with a 5.04 ERA and an 85 ERA+ over the next few years however, and was out of baseball after 1994.