Throughout the long and distinguished history of the Detroit Tigers baseball club, there have been a few great righty-lefty tandems in the starting rotation. Denny McLain dominated hitters in the 1960s while Mickey Lolich was the backbone of the rotation for over a decade. Jack Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s while Frank Tanana anchored the middle of the rotation late in his career. However, there was no tandem better than lefty Hal Newhouser -- the #9 player on our list -- and righty Dizzy Trout in the 1940s and '50s.
Paul Howard Trout was born on June 29th, 1915 in Sandcut, Indiana. He started his professional baseball career with the Terre Haute Tots in 1935 as a 20 year old. After a few years in the minor leagues, he debuted in April 1939 at the age of 23. He appeared in 33 games that season, totaling 162 innings with a 3.61 ERA. His 9-10 record was a bit misleading, considering his ERA- of 74 showed that his numbers were much better than the league average.
Despite a 4.47 ERA in 1940, Trout's ERA- once again suggested that he was an above average pitcher. Given the high run scoring environment of that era -- American League teams scored 4.97 runs per game in 1940 -- ERAs in the mid-fours were not unusual. Regardless, 1940 would be Trout's only full season with an ERA above 3.74 until 1951, his last full season with the Tigers.
Top Tigers countdown #24: Magglio Ordoñez
The Big Tilde is responsible for the biggest moment in the last 25 years of Tigers baseball and is now the #24 player on our countdown.
In 1941 and 1942, Trout's numbers improved as run scoring dipped across the American League. He still struggled to collect wins -- he was a combined 33-44 in his first four seasons -- but his ERA and WHIP approved in both seasons, and he topped the 200-inning barrier for the first time in 1942.
From 1943 to 1948, Trout established himself as one of the better pitchers in the American League. He was second in the AL in fWAR, wins, and innings pitched during that span, and third in strikeouts and ERA-. If that were not impressive enough, he trailed teammate Hal Newhouser in each of those five categories during that six year span. Newhouser and Trout finished first and second, respectively, in the 1944 MVP vote despite Trout besting Newhouser in WAR, ERA, and innings pitched that season. Trout also led the AL with seven shutouts that season.
Despite missing out on an MVP award to his teammate, Trout received a fair bit of recognition throughout his career. He made the All-Star team in 1944 and 1947, and finished in the top 25 of MVP voting on four separate occasions. He tossed a complete game in Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, allowing a single unearned run and just five hits.
As many remember, the designated hitter was not a part of baseball back in the 1940s and '50s. Trout was one of the better hitting pitchers of his era, hitting .213/.260/.319 for his career. He hit 20 home runs in 1047 career plate appearances, the best mark in Tigers' franchise history and 15th all-time among all MLB pitchers. He ranks third in franchise history in RBI, runs scored, and stolen bases, and his .108 ISO is fourth among Tigers' pitchers with 100 career plate appearances.
Unfortunately, Trout also has the dubious honor of being included in the 1952 trade that sent Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell to the Boston Red Sox for a package of players who didn't do much in their respective Tigers uniforms. Trout finished off the season by allowing a 3.64 ERA in 133 2/3 innings for the Red Sox, while Kell totaled more WAR in 235 games with the Red Sox than the five players the Tigers received contributed during their entire time with the team.
While Trout's career numbers are slightly inflated by the low run-scoring era in which he played -- run scoring dipped by 1.32 runs per game from 1939 to 1943 -- he was still among the very best pitchers in the American League during the prime of his career.