The Tigers had some pretty good pitchers this year. Jordan Zimmermann had his six weeks, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris each dominated for a couple of months, and Justin Verlander was incredible every five days. Given all of the individual bright spots, it may be hard to remember which one was the best.
Never fear, Bless You Boys has you covered. Today we will take a look back at the best individual pitching performances using the FanGraphs’ version of Game Score, which can be understood better by using this link. The basic premise: an average Game Score would be a little under 50. The longer and more effective a pitcher is in a game, the higher their score.
Now, the list itself is dominated by Verlander and Fulmer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some noteworthy performances not by those two studs.
Date: June 19 | Game Score: 82 | Opponent: Kansas City Royals
This may be a surprise to some, but Zimmermann’s best individual outing was not in the month of April. On June 19, Zimmermann shut down the Royals for eight innings, striking out five while allowing only one run and four baserunners. Unfortunately for him, the Tigers faced Chris Young and therefore lost in 12 innings.
Date: August 17 | Game Score: 84 | Opponent: Kansas City Royals
You may remember this as the game that Sanchez carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Royals. You may also remember this as the game where Shane Greene gave up a bajillion runs, and the Tigers did nothing off of Yordano Ventura. Still, this was Sanchez’s best effort of the year, as he allowed just one hit and two walks over seven frames while striking out eight.
Now, on to the list.
t-5. Michael Fulmer
Date: June 1 | Game Score: 86 | Opponent: Los Angeles Angels
There was a stretch this season that Fulmer was so good he could beat the Angels in Anaheim. He pitched deep into the game, taking a no-hitter into the seventh before allowing a hit to C.J. Cron, and the Tigers won 3-0. The rookie gave up just two hits and two walks before giving way to Francisco Rodriguez with two outs in the eighth. He also managed to strike out eight batters and keep Mike Trout hitless, which should count for bonus points.
t-5. Michael Fulmer
Date: July 1 | Game Score: 86 | Opponent: Tampa Bay Rays
Fulmer really likes pitching on the first day of the month. He carried that mojo into July, bullying the Rays over seven dominant innings. The Rays managed to get one runner in scoring position all afternoon against him, while Fulmer fanned 10 batters for the second time in his young career. The Tigers almost managed to shut the Rays out but Mark Lowe ended up pitching in the 10-2 victory.
The video for this outing is unavailable due to being NSFW.
4. Justin Verlander
Date: July 30 | Game Score: 87 | Opponent: Houston Astros
This was an absolutely electric game to be at. Verlander dominated the Astros from the start, retiring 16 batters in a row at one point and striking out 11. Detroit’s ace gave up two runs in the ninth as he pursued a shutout, but the offense picked him up in the bottom of the ninth in a walk-off 3-2 victory. Of all the statements that Verlander made this year, none spoke louder than this one to the entire baseball world that he was back.
t-2. Justin Verlander
Date: May 26 | Game Score: 88 | Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies
Remember the series against Philadelphia earlier this year? The Phillies are trying to forget it, especially after Verlander delivered eight spectacular shutout innings against them. He scattered five baserunners while fanning 10 hitters. It was a performance sorely needed by Tigers fans, as Verlander entered the contest with a 4.58 ERA and a 3-4 record.
t-2. Justin Verlander
Date: September 27 | Game Score: 88 | Opponent: Cleveland Indians
Verlander only got better throughout the year as the team desperately needed him to carry them into the postseason. His final outing against the Cleveland Indians was payback of sorts for the abuse they’d delivered to him earlier in the season. Although Verlander was unable to get the final out of the eighth, giving up a weak infield hit, he earned a standing ovation from the Comerica faithful for his 12-strikeout effort. The Indians managed just four hits and a walk all night.
The video of Verlander’s 10th strikeout to escape a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth wasn’t embeddable, so here’s the link if you want to relive the moment.
1. Michael Fulmer
Date: August 14 | Game Score: 95 | Opponent: Texas Rangeres
Fulmer was really good in his rookie year. Never was he (or any starter on the team) better than on an August afternoon in Arlington, where he locked up his first career complete game by owning the Rangers all afternoon. Texas managed four singles on the afternoon, and that about sums up their offensive output. Fulmer struck out nine batters in an effortless win.