At 23, Clayton Kershaw is already having one of the best pitching seasons in recent Dodger history. But where does he rank among the best lefthanders in team history?
Clayton Kershaw's remarkable 2011 season is over. Dodger fans can now sit back, reflect and realize that we have witnessed one of the greatest pitching seasons in recent team history.
You'd have to go back to maybe Hideo Nomo's 1995 rookie season to find a year that was as electric from start to finish as Kershaw's. It was a leap from being a No. 2 pitcher to a bonafide ace who is one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball.
It's been a while since the Dodgers saw a lefty this commanding. So let's take a trip down memory lane and see my picks for the best seven lefties in franchise history.
Most people think of John for the surgery that bears his name, but for six years, he was a solid lefthander for the Dodgers, going 87-42 with a 2.97 ERA.
After coming back from surgery where he missed the 1975 season, he was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1976, going 10-10. He went 20-7 in 1977 and was named the Cy Young runner-up. In his final year with the Dodgers (1978), he was named an All-Star.
John went on to greater success leaving the Dodgers but is still sixth all time in team history in ERA (2.97)
Going back to the old Brooklyn Dodger days with this one. Roe spent the last seven years of his career with the club but retired the year before the team finally won the World Series.
Roe was a four-time All-Star who finished in the top five for ERA in 1948 and 1949 and top 10 in strikeouts from 1948-1950. From 1951-53, he went an incredible 44-8 with a 3.42 ERA despite being 35-37 years old those years.
Best of all, he had a great nickname in Preacher. The mound was his pulpit, and he delivered with fire and brimstone in his day.
At only 23, Kershaw could eventually leap into the top three when all’s said and done. This season will be remembered as the year where he took a giant step forward toward fulfilling his promise.
He's bound to be the first NL pitching Triple Crown champion since Jake Peavy in 2007 and the youngest since Dwight Gooden won it at 20 in 1985. After showing his potential last year as a strikeout magnet, he's grown into a complete ace pitcher with power, control and durability. Perhaps his best stat? Going 5-0 against the Giants this year and beating Tim Lincecum four of those times.
If the voters do the right thing, he’ll be the first Dodger to win the Cy Young since Eric Gagne in 2003 and the first starter since Orel Hershisher in 1988. And we’ll remember 2011 as not just one of the best pitching seasons in recent Dodgers memory but the start of Kershaw’s dominance for the next decade.
Osteen spent eight years with the Dodgers (1965-1973) and was a workhorse, pitching the third-most innings of any L.A. Dodgers pitcher all time. In a short time, he racked up several impressive accomplishments.
None was bigger than winning Game 3 of the 1965 World Series. With the team down 0-2 to Minnesota, Osteen pitched a five-hit shutout to help the Dodgers regain momentum. Osteen may have lost Game 6, but his Game 3 win saved the Series and helped the Dodgers win in seven games.
Osteen was a three-time All-Star, three-time Opening Day starter and won over 15 games seven times, including two seasons with 20 wins. His 147 wins and 34 shutouts rank fourth all time in LA Dodger history.
Every Dodgers fan probably knows Podres for one thing. Winning the 1955 World Series with a Game 7 shutout against the New York Yankees to bring Brooklyn it’s only first and only title. But Podres also earned that World Series MVP with a clutch Game 3 win after the Dodgers lost the first two games.
Podres spent 13 years with the franchise and served as a bridge from the Brooklyn era to the early days of the Los Angeles era. He helped the team with two more World Series (1959 and 1963) and sat on the bench for the 1965 crown.
A four-time All-Star, Podres’ best season came in 1961 when he went 18-5. He led the NL in ERA (2.66) and shutouts (six out his 12 wins) in 1957. His career postseason record is 4-1 in six starts with a 2.11 ERA—the only loss coming in the 1953 Series.
For my money, no Dodger starter in the post-Koufax/Drysdale era was more electric than the screwball throwing, crowd-pleasing Valenzuela, whose 1981 arrival is still the stuff of legends. Thirty years later, he still could light up the Stadium as he did as a 20-year-old phenom.
Brief recap. Fernando won his first eight starts en route to the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, a trip to the All-Star game, a Silver Slugger for his hitting and winning the World Series. Like Osteen and Podres, he too won Game 3 of the World Series with his team trailing 0-2. Oh yeah, he became a cultural phenomenon to boot.
Fernando followed his rookie year going 19-13 in 1982, but in 1986, he rebounded to win 21 games, a Gold Glove and finish second in the Cy Young Award balloting. A six-time All-Star in the 1980’s, he had one great moment in 1990 when he pitched a no-hitter.
There’s only one Dodger southpaw worthy to be mentioned above Fernando. And there’s no surprise who he is.
Was there any surprise? Koufax is the lefty that Clayton Kershaw is compared to, and it’s his six-year stretch of dominance (1961-66) that helped make the Dodgers the toast of the city.
His list of stats are too numerous to name, but all you need to know from Koufax is the big ones. Four no-hitters (one perfect game), four World Series titles (and two WS MVPs), three Cy Young Awards (all unanimous), the 1963 NL MVP and seven All-Star appearances.
A win/strikeout machine with impeccable control, Koufax’s legacy was cut short at 30 due to arthritis. Yet, it’s left a long shadow at Chavez Ravine. One can only hope that Kershaw, who possesses similar gifts, comes close to matching at least half of what Koufax accomplished in his Hall of Fame career.