Dodgers Top Individual Seasons by a Starting Pitcher: #1 Sandy Koufax – 1965
It seems almost unfair to discuss the top individual pitching seasons in a team’s history and have three of the five being authored by the same pitcher. Unfair, but pretty extraordinary to say the least.
Such is the case with Sandy Koufax, who makes his third appearance on this list, and holds all of the top-three seasons. It is hard to top the performances of 1966 and 1963, but then again Koufax enjoyed a run like few pitchers ever see and we have to pay props to what is arguably his greatest campaign.
By 1965, Koufax was still just 29-years-old, but he had ended his previous season after suffering traumatic arthritis in his pitching arm after sliding into second base in an August game. The injury continued to rear its ugly head early in the 1965 season when Koufax experienced hemorrhaging in his left arm after pitching a complete game in Spring Training. The team doctor told him to limit his throwing, but Koufax did what he always did and pitched when the Dodgers needed him instead.
The lefty would set career-highs in innings (335.2), games (43), complete games (27), and strikeouts (382). His strikeout mark was the highest total since the turn of the century and now sites second all-time (Nolan Ryan – 383 in 1973). That effort led to a 26-8 record, a 2.04 ERA, a 1.93 FIP, a 10.2 K/9, and 8 shut-outs. Koufax would also throw his only perfect game, marking the fourth no-hitter of his career.
Sandy would follow-up the stellar regular season with a brilliant turn in the World Series, going 2-1 with a 0.38 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 24 innings of work, including two complete-game shutouts to once again take home MVP honors. That would propel the Dodgers to the 1965 World Series title, the last one the team would win before the 1981 team broke through.
Koufax would finish the season with his second Cy Young award win, once again making it unanimous among voters. He would also finish second in the NL MVP ballot, behind Willie Mays.
This season stands out above the rest due to the pain that Koufax had to put himself through just to take the mound when his name was called. To do so and still put up the seventh-best fWAR by a pitcher since 1900, and will your team to the World Series title, shows just how much the Dodgers meant to Sandy Koufax and how much he meant to the game of baseball.