Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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Championship teams usually consist of a convergance between an improving core of young players with a handful of career years from a couple of your veterans. Milt Wilcox had a 16 year career in baseball, and he never won three games more then he lost in a season. Had it not been for his 17-8 campaign in 1984, he would have ended his career with a losing record. Simply put, in 1984, Milt Wilcox came out to pitch, and pitch he did.
He also saved his best for the end of the season. In game three of the ALCS against the Royals, Wilcox gave up only two hits in eight innings of shutout ball to put the Tigers into the World Series.
Let’s take a look at how he did in 1984:
Innings Pitched 193 2/3
Pitching Runs Above Average 37
If you take a look at the differences between Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and Milt Wilcox, you won’t many. Wilcox threw around 40 innings less then both of them, but when he was in there, he was equally effective. In fact, their strikeout rates are nearly identical, with the best (Petry) just .02 SO/9 better then the worst (Wilcox).
At first glance, I thought this one was going to be a lot tighter, but it’s really no contest. Billingham threw a few more innings, but that’s about all you can say.
Scorecard 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 5
Dan Petry had one of those typical 1980s career. He pitched a ton of innings at an early age, and went from looking like an ace to someone who’s just a little overmatched. From 1982 through 1985, he pitched no less 233 innings and won no less then 15 games. After that, he never pitched more then a 150 innings, and never won more then ten.
1984 was a great year for Petry. Coming off a 19-11 season the year before, Dan really picked up the slack when Jack Morris struggled. He had a career high 144 strikeouts during the season, and led all starters in ERA (3.24).
Dan Petry is now the television announcer here for UPN 50. He did a nice job last year in his first season, and I’m looking forward to him being back this year.
Anyway, here’s the numbers:
Pitching Runs above Replacement 65
This may be the toughest one yet. Petry threw more, had a better walk rate, and won more games. Don Gullett won 15 games in only 22 starts (so three less, but in a third of the of starts). Their Stuff is identical, and their SO/9 is nearly identical, but Gullett has a better ERA and WHIP, and gave up fewer homers.
I hate to hang Dan out to dry, but at least comparing these two seasons, Gullett has him beat.
Scorecard 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 4
At this point, Jack Morris thrives and starves on reputation, and it shows when the voting for the Hall of Fame comes out. He’s heralded as a clutch pitcher mostly for his 1991 World Series Game Seven ten inning shutout. He had a 4-2 record in the World Series, but he was 4-0 until his last World Series when he played for the Jays in 1992. And although he never won the Cy Young, he finished in the top five on five different occasions.
The general criticism is that his career numbers aren’t quite there. He has a career ERA of 3.90, and his career ERA+ is 105, so it’s a touch above average. And he never hit any of those magic marks like 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.
As far as his career, I’m right in the middle. I know he’s not quite as good as his best moments would indicate (similar to Kirk Gibson), but he’s not quite as bad as his numbers might show. As long as Bert Blyleven isn’t in the Hall of Fame, I can’t quite give him the nod, but barring that, Jack Morris was a very good pitcher for a very long time, and that’s worth something.
1984 was a tale of two seasons for Morris. by the end of May he stood 10-1, and people started throwing out the potential for 30 wins. When it was all said and done, he didn’t even win 20, but by the time he began to struggle, the Tigers already had a nice enough cushion to where it didn’t matter as much.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Innings Pitched 240 1/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 60
All pretty good numbers. He finished seventh in the Cy Young (behind two teammates) and that was all despite the horrible second half.
As Blade indicated, this was a lot closer then I first through it would be. Gary Nolan had a nice season in 1975, but in my eyes, it just didn’t stack up to the season Morris had. And Morris was better for 30 more innings.
Scoredboard – 1975 Reds 5, 1984 Tigers 4
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