Dodgers: Ranking the Top 5 starting pitchers in franchise history

Clayton Kershaw (R) - Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Clayton Kershaw (R) - Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /
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LOS ANGELES – 1972. Don Sutton, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is about to make a delivery at Dodger Stadium during the season of 1972. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

4. Best Dodgers starters of all-time: Don Sutton

Although not an overpowering pitcher, Don Sutton was one of the most durable and dependable right-handed pitchers of the modern era.

Sutton had been mentored by Henry Roper, a schoolteacher who pitched in the Giants organization from an early age. Despite being one of the best high school pitchers in the state of Florida, Sutton had no professional offers and played at a local community college. He finally caught the Dodgers’ attention after transferring to Whittier and putting on an impressive showing.

Sutton made his big league debut April 14 1966, the same exact day fellow Hall of Fame hurler Greg Maddux was born. Sutton had no issues sliding into the already star-laden staff, finishing his rookie season with a 2.99 ERA. His 209 strikeouts were the most by a rookie since 1911, and were even more impressive next to just 52 walks.

Sutton showed great poise on the mound, and although he struggled at times during the next few seasons, he established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball by 1971. He made his first All-Star appearance, one of four in the decade, in 1972, and finished fifth in Cy Young voting with a 2.08 ERA, as well as leading the league in WHIP and shutouts. Sutton would finish in the top 5 in Cy Young voting the next four years, and developed a reputation as a workhorse, throwing as many as 276 innings in a season. He seemed like a lock to win the award in 1976 after ending the year on a 14-1 streak (he had a 1.62 ERA in that span), but ultimately finished third behind Randy Jones and Jerry Koosman.

Despite Sutton’s introverted personality sometimes clashing with the outspoken style of new manager Tommy Lasorda, he continued to pitch well and helped lead the Dodgers to back to back pennants in 1977 and ‘78. Sutton never won the World Series with the Dodgers, however, as he was granted free agency after the 1980 season despite leading the majors in ERA and WHIP.

He found his way back to the Dodgers at the end of his career for part of the 1988 season, but the then 43 year old Sutton’s arm gave out before the historic World Series run. Sutton still holds the Dodger records for wins (233), innings (3,816.2), strikeouts (2,486), and shutouts (52) and his number 20 was retired in 1998.

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