Dodgers Top Individual Seasons by a Starting Pitcher: #3 Sandy Koufax – 1966
Sandy Koufax makes his first appearance on the list of best individual seasons with his 1966. That’s pretty impressive considering it almost didn’t happen at all.
Before the 1966 season, Koufax and fellow ace Don Drysdale were locked in a tense contract negotiation with Dodgers management, resulting in both starters holding out and refusing to report to Spring Training. At the same time, Koufax’s pitching arm was hanging on by a thread and the Dodgers’ team physician was urging him to retire. The pitchers finally came to a contract agreement with a week remaining before the start of the season and Koufax opted to pitch through the pain.
Despite arthritis in his elbow, Koufax went on to tie his career-high in starts (41) and complete games (27), both set the year prior. In 323 innings of work, the lefty went 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA, a 2.07 FIP, an 8.08 K/9, and a league-leading 5 shut-outs. Koufax’s 317 strikeouts outpaced all of baseball by 65 (Bunning – 252) and his 9.1 fWAR was nearly two wins above the next closest pitcher (Gaylord Perry – 7.3).
The Dodgers would win the National League pennant in 1966, but would ultimately be swept in the World Series by the Baltimore Orioles. However, Koufax would win his second-consecutive Cy Young award and third overall. For the second straight season, would finish as the runner-up in the NL MVP voting, missing out on sweeping both awards by finishing just 4% behind Roberto Clemente in the balloting despite having more first-place votes.
They say you should always go out on a high note, and that’s precisely what Dodgers legend Koufax did in 1966, retiring after the season.