Dodgers: Ranking the Top 5 starting pitchers in franchise history
By Sean Kaufman
3. Best Dodgers starters of all-time: Don Drysdale
The Dodgers sure had a propensity for developing right-handed pitchers named Don. They signed a 17-year-old Don Drysdale out of high school despite him having just a year of pitching experience. The SoCal native grew up playing baseball and being coached by his dad, but didn’t try his hand at pitching until his senior year of high school. Despite his rawness, Drysdale was in the majors just two years later.
After getting some starts here and there during his rookie campaign, he made the rotation the following season in 1957. The 20-year-old quickly made a name for himself among the league’s elite, finishing third in ERA and garnering a handful of MVP votes. He also established himself as being one of the most uncomfortable at bats of all time. Drysdale coupled his already intimidating 6’6” frame and potent fastball with a propensity for throwing inside. He knocked down and hit a lot of batters, which bettered his ability to pitch outside as hitters were cautious about crowding the plate. This technique wasn’t always well received, as Drysdale was involved in many a scuffle and was disciplined by the league. His pitching results however were indisputable.
The Pride of Van Nuys was one of the most dominant pitchers in an era chock full of dominant pitchers. He took a bit of a step back during the team’s first year in LA but was lights out for much of the 1960’s. Drysdale won the Cy Young in 1962 after going 25-9 and leading the majors in strikeouts, the third time he had accomplished that feat (he led the league in hit batters five times). The three-time World Series champ also led the league in innings twice and in WHIP in 1960, and was a nine-time All-Star. Drysdale set the then record for consecutive scoreless innings with 58.2 in 1966, which stood until fellow Dodger Orel Hershiser twirled 59 shutout in 1988.
Unfortunately, rotator cuff issues ended Drysdale’s career at just age 32 after the 1969 season. Despite his short career, there weren’t a lot of pitchers that hitters feared more than Don Drysdale. Frank Robinson said he felt like he “had been wrestling a bear” after a duel with Drysdale.
Big D was an accomplished hitter as well, hitting seven homers in a season multiple times, and even pinch hit in a World Series game. He played his entire 14 year career with the Dodgers, compiling a 2.95 ERA, 209 wins, 49 shutouts, 2,486 strikeouts, and a 1.148 WHIP. The Dodgers retired his number 53 in 1985, the same year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.