There is no surprise that one pitcher dominates the list of the greatest individual seasons by a starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
The key to baseball success begins and ends with the quality of a team’s starting pitching. Winners of six World Series titles, the Los Angeles Dodgers have had no shortage of great starting pitchers over the years.
Between a stable of local heroes and five Hall of Fame arms wearing Dodgers caps ( two with Brooklyn and three from the Los Angeles days), some of the best to even straddle the bump in baseball history have worn Dodger blue. Arms like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton helped to pave the way while Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, and Clayton Kershaw have carried the torch forward.
We all know about the career accolades laid upon some of the Dodgers’ greats. However, not all great seasons led to team greatness or a Hall of Fame induction. Some seasons simply stand out on their own and reflect just how dominant an arm can be when everything clicks.
With that in mind, we want to take a look at some of the most dominant, individual seasons in Dodgers’ history, starting with…well…starting pitchers.
Dodgers Top Individual Seasons by a Starting Pitcher – Honorable Mentions:
Clayton Kershaw – 2015
Clayton Kershaw’s dominance from 2011 through 2015 is certainly legendary among the annals of Dodgers’ history, and his 2015 is no different. While his final record of 16-7 likely held him back from winning the Cy Young award for the third straight season (he finished third), he was still outstanding. He led the league in FIP (1.99), while also posting a 2.13 ERA and a career-best 11.64 K/9 mark while throwing 232.2 innings on the season.
Don Sutton – 1972
For a pitcher to carve out a 23-year career on the mound, he has to show some level of dominance. In 1972, Don Sutton was likely at his best when he went 19-9 with a 2.08 ERA, a 2.24 FIP, a 6.8 fWAR, and hitters managed just a .224 BABIP against him on the season. Most impressive is that he threw 272.2 innings on the back of 18 complete games and 9 shutouts, the second-highest total in Dodgers’ history. He would make his first All-Star appearance and finish tied for 5th in the Cy Young voting in a season dominated by Steve Carlton.
Orel Hershiser – 1988
Orel Hershiser has a special place in the hearts of Dodgers fans worldwide and while he was solid for the four seasons leading up to it, his 1988 campaign carved his name into the team’s history in dominant fashion. He captured the 1988 Cy Young award on the back of a season where he went 23-8, had a 2.26 ERA, a 3.18 ERA, 15 complete games, eight shutouts, and even set the Major League record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched at 59. Oh, and he even threw in a save for good measure. The Bulldog would win the NL Cy Young award unanimously and would help to guide the Dodgers to the 1988 World Series title.
How does a pitcher set a record for consecutive scoreless innings and not make the top five seasons in team history? We’ll get to that in a minute.