There are a lot of Dodger fans who regard me as a heretic when I try and say that Clayton Kershaw will go down in history as the LA Dodgers Greatest Of All Time as a pitcher. But, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! So, as we start, let’s get this over with:
- Sandy Koufax – 12 Seasons * 2,324 IP *2,396 K * 165 Wins * 87 Losses * 2.76 ERA * 1.106 WHIP * 204 HR * 131 ERA+
- Clayton Kershaw – 10 Seasons * 1,935 IP *2,120 K * 144 Wins * 64 Losses * 2.36 ERA * 1.002 WHIP * 128 HR * 161 ERA+
Don’t the Home Runs surprise you?
Kershaw stands to pass Koufax in wins and strikeouts next year. Both have been amazing pitchers, no matter how you slice it. Sandy pitched through age 30 while Clayton is coming up on age 30. Let me say something else: From 1963 to 1966, Sandy Koufax had the greatest run of any pitcher EVER in the history of man. Look at this:
- 1963 – 311 IP * 25-5 W-L* 1.88 ERA * 306 K * 0.875 WHIP
- 1964 – 223 IP * 19-5 W-L* 1.74 ERA * 223 K * 0.928 WHIP
- 1965 – 336 IP * 26-8 W-L* 2.04 ERA * 382 K * 0.855 WHIP
- 1966 – 323 IP * 27-9 W-L* 1.73 ERA * 317 K * 0.985 WHIP
- … and then he was gone after arguably the best season of his career!
No one will ever have a four year run like that…. NOBODY. But, it was only four years! Sandy was a finesse pitcher who could paint the corners (after age 25) but his repertoire was one of pure violence. His fastball and curve were among the most devastating the baseball world has ever seen. Yes, his delivery was smooth, but it was violent and it was no surprise that his arm fell off. But, man was it beautiful while it lasted!
Look at Sandy’s worst years:
- 4.01 ERA
- 3.88 ERA
- 4.48 ERA
- 4.05 ERA
- 3.91 ERA
- 3.52 ERA
… before he discovered he was Sandy “Freaking” Koufax! He was higher than the mountaintops, but his lows were also pretty low.
Clayton Kershaw is not the same type of pitcher. Clayton can dial it up at 97-98 MPH but he doesn’t, instead, operating in the 92 to 94 MPH range. Clayton Kershaw had a 4.26 ERA as a rookie and has never been below 2.91 since. Koufax had three years with a sub 2.00 ERA and so did Kershaw… he may have more in the future.
Some Dodger fans only remember Sandy’s last four years, not his struggles. You can talk about Koufax pitching 300 plus innings and say that Kershaw doesn’t do that, and that would be true… BUT NOBODY DOES! In 1963, eleven pitchers pitched over 250 innings. Three pitched over 300, including Koufax. In 1964, seven pitchers pitched more than 250 innings. In 1965, thirteen pitchers pitched over 250 innings and in 1966, the number was again eleven.
Back then, the top pitchers routinely pitched 250 to 300 innings. That doesn’t happen anymore and that’s a whole another conversation. It was a different time. We always remember “the good ole days” but were they always good… or just different?
Clayton does not put violent stress on his arm and I believe that he can become an even better pitcher in the future. Maybe Mark Prior is just what the Doctor ordered to get Clayton to change his patterns: Someone closer to his age and well respected. At any rate, Kershaw and Koufax compare favorably at this juncture. Greg Maddux won 228 games after his 29th birthday. He had 150 wins by age 29, Clayton has 144.
Time will tell, but I think Andrew Friedman, Stan Kasten and Guggs and Company will do everything in their power to have Clayton Kershaw finish his career in Blue and go into the Dodger Hall of Fame as the GOAT and Cooperstown as one of the all-time greats.