Kershaw or Koufax: Which one would you choose?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 04: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Washington Nationals in the first inning in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 04: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Washington Nationals in the first inning in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a rich history of starting pitching from Sandy Koufax to Clayton Kershaw, but if you could only have one, which one would you take?

They are both tall, left-handed pitchers. They both wore Dodger blue throughout their careers, one still going strong. They have both won Cy Young awards, MVP awards, ERA titles, Triple Crowns, and have appeared in numerous All-Star games.

Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw.

A Hall-of-Famer and a future Hall-of-Famer. But if you could choose only one pitcher to lead your rotation for an entire season, who would you take?

Before we make the case for each pitcher, it’s amazing to list the similarities.

While Kershaw still has time to add to his resume, at 32 years of age, he has now pitched in the same number of seasons that Koufax pitched with the Dodgers, twelve. Looking at their career totals side-by-side, the closeness between the two starters is striking.

Results
Rk Name W L GS CG SHO IP H SO ERA FIP K% BB% ERA+ BAbip
1 Sandy Koufax 165 87 314 137 40 2324.1 1754 2396 2.76 2.69 25.2% 8.6% 131 .259
2 Clayton Kershaw 169 74 344 25 15 2274.2 1715 2464 2.44 2.74 27.5% 6.4% 157 .275

Kershaw has pitched within 50 innings of Koufax’s final number when he retired. It is the perfect cut-off point to compare the two legendary hurlers. Of course, Koufax pitched during a generation when pitchers finished what they started, so while he started 30 less games, he has pitched more total innings. Nearly 45% of Koufax’s starts ended in a complete game, versus only 7% for Kershaw. But that’s where the major differences end.

The two southpaws are separated by four career wins. They are within 39 allowed hits of each other, and within 68 strikeouts. Kershaw’s career ERA of 2.44 is only 0.32 runs better than Koufax. Their fielding independent ERA is within 0.5 runs.

Koufax has won three Cy Young Awards, so has Kershaw. Koufax has earned the rare feat of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award as a pitcher, so has Kershaw. Koufax has won the ERA title five times, so has Kershaw. One is a seven-time All-Star, another is an eight-time All-Star.

Comparing these two pitchers is splitting hairs. But let’s make the case for each.

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