LOS ANGELES -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.
Here is our ranking of the top five right-handed starting pitchers in Dodgers history. Next week: left-handed starting pitchers.
1. Don Drysdale, 1956-69
Key fact: His record of 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings was broken by Orel Hershiser.
The top two Dodgers right-handed starters are so similar, they even have the same first name. The biggest difference in their Dodgers résumés is that Don Drysdale was a key member of three World Series winners. An intimidator with a sidearm delivery, Drysdale won a Cy Young Award and had two seasons with at least 23 wins. He was a National League leader in wins (once), shutouts (once), WHIP (once), strikeouts (three times), games started (four times) and hit batters (five times, if you like that sort of thing).
“The trick against Drysdale,” said Hall of Fame slugger Orlando Cepeda, “is to hit him before he hits you.”
Drysdale was a nine-time All-Star. He retired because of a shoulder injury at age 33.
"I hate all hitters,” Drysdale said. “I start a game mad, and I stay that way until it's over.”
1a. Don Sutton, 1966-80, ’88
Key fact: Pitched on five NL pennant winners for the Dodgers.
With two more Dodgers seasons (16) than Drysdale (14), Don Sutton is the all-time franchise leader in wins, starts, losses, strikeouts, innings pitched and shutouts. Although he never won a Cy Young Award, he was a top-five finisher five times. He led the league in ERA and shutouts once apiece. In a five-year stretch with the Dodgers (1972-76), he won 93 games with a 2.73 ERA. He led the NL in WHIP three times with the Dodgers, and he was an All-Star four times.
"When you gave him the ball, you knew one thing -- your pitcher was going to give you everything he had,” said former manager Tommy Lasorda.
3. Dazzy Vance, 1922-32, '35
Key fact: Charles Arthur Vance was nicknamed “Dazzy” for his dazzling fastball.
Before Don Newcombe, Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw, Dazzy Vance was the first Dodgers pitcher to win an MVP Award, in 1924, when he went 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts. That led the league in all three categories, the pitching Triple Crown. In 12 seasons with Brooklyn, Vance pitched 213 complete games. He led the NL in strikeouts seven (consecutive) times, shutouts four times, ERA three times and wins and complete games twice. Troubled by a sore arm early in his career, he pitched only 33 innings in his 20s.
4. Orel Hershiser, 1983-94, 2000
Key fact: He didn’t make his high school varsity team until his junior season.
Orel Hershiser was on a Hall of Fame trajectory until he blew out his shoulder in 1990. But in a six-year run, he was an All-Star three times and is best remembered for his NL Cy Young season of ’88, although he was nearly as good in ’85 (19-3). He not only broke Drysdale’s record for consecutive scoreless innings in ’88, he was Herculean in the postseason. He led the NL in innings pitched three times, in shutouts twice and in wins once.
5. Don Newcombe, 1949-51, ’54-58
Key fact: Newcombe was the first African American 20-game winner.
Arriving from the Negro Leagues as a polished pro, Don Newcombe won 56 games and was an All-Star his first three seasons with the Dodgers. Even after missing two seasons while in the Army, his best years followed in 1955 (All-Star again) and ’56 (Cy Young Award and NL MVP). He led the NL in wins, strikeouts and shutouts one season each. Until Justin Verlander in 2011, Newcombe was the only pitcher to have won an MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Award. He was traded away in 1958 at a time when Newcombe later admitted he struggled with alcoholism, which he said cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame.