Dodger fans have been very blessed when it comes to the pitching talent they have seen on the Dodgers. The best pitcher the organization has ever had is Sandy Koufax.
While Clayton Kershaw will undoubtedly go down as one of the best left-handed starting pitchers of all time, the crown will still belong to Sandy Koufax in all likelihood. Sandy’s career left many wondering what kind of incredible stats he could’ve put up had he been able to pitch well into his thirties. As it stands, even with retiring at thirty years old, Koufax had an unbelievable career.
The accomplishments for Koufax are quite the list, but they include the following:
- Seven-time NL All-Star
- Four-time World Series champion
- 1963 National League MVP
- Three-time NL CY Young award winner
- Two-time World Series MVP
- Four no-hitters and one perfect game
- 1972 hall of fame inductee
On top of all those accomplishments, Sandy Koufax won the NL pitching triple crown three times, led the major leagues in wins three times, led the NL in ERA five times, and led the majors in strikeouts a whopping five times. When looking at the careers of every starting pitcher in the hall of fame, not many have the kind of dominant accomplishments that Sandy has.
Despite an impressive career, things were not always easy for Sandy Koufax. Battling through injuries and almost quitting baseball at one point, it wasn’t until 1961, Koufax’s seventh big league season that he turned into the dominant pitcher he is known to be. In 1961, Koufax broke out going 18-13 with 3.52 ERA and 269 strikeouts. That was the first year Koufax made the all-star team and the beginning of his dominant stretch.
The pinnacle of Sandy Koufax’s career began in 1963 and ended in 1966 which was the last season that Koufax ever played. From 1963-1966 Sandy posted the following stat lines:
1963 – 25-5, 1.88 ERA, 306 K’s
1964 – 19-5, 1.74 ERA, 223 K’s
1965 – 26-8, 2.04 ERA, 382 K’s
1966 – 27-9, 1.73 ERA, 317 K’s
On top of the absurd win-loss records and strikeout numbers, Koufax was also an innings machine. In 1965 and 1966 he finished with twenty-seven complete games. Every season from 1963-1966 with the exception of 1964, Sandy threw over three hundred innings in each season. Today starting pitchers are lucky to hit half as many innings in one season. It goes to show how the game has changed and how special Sandy Koufax was.
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When it came to the post-season, Sandy Koufax only made seven starts but even those seven starts are dominant. For his playoff career, Sandy posted a 0.95 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. While his 4-3 record is not anything special, it just goes to show how wrong it is to judge a pitcher off his record. You could stack up Koufax’s seven playoff starts to any of the all time greats and you would be hard pressed to find a better playoff career than the one Sandy Koufax had.
Unfortunately back in Sandy’s era, there were none of the arm surgeries that are available today, so he had to retire on November 18, 1966. Koufax was diagnosed with arthritis in his left arm, and he feared he would suffer excruciating permanent damage if he continued pitching. Although it was a shortened career, the career of Sandy Koufax will forever be remembered as one of the most dominant careers ever including arguably the most dominant stretch any starting pitcher has ever had.
Today Sandy is still around the Dodgers, and he has been pictured helping out at spring training and talking to fellow Dodger great Clayton Kershaw in the clubhouse after playoff games. Sandy was one of the best people the game has ever seen on top of his stellar career. It’s a shame his career ended early because he would have put up even more historic stats if he kept going past the age of thirty. When it’s all said and done, Sandy Koufax is number two on our all-time list and the best pitcher in Dodger franchise history.