The 5 greatest seasons for Dodgers pitchers

December 1st, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- Picking the top 5 seasons for a Dodgers position player got me in so much hot water, I figured I’d be a glutton for punishment and take a shot at the top 5 seasons for a Dodgers pitcher.

Here they are. Ready, aim, fire away:

1) , 1966
What Koufax did in 1963 was typically amazing, capped by a National League MVP, Cy Young Award and a World Series ring. But I’ll go with '66 as much for what he did after the season -- he retired, because he couldn’t stand pitching in pain any longer. And while pitching in pain, he won 27 games with a 1.73 ERA, 323 innings, 317 strikeouts and completed twenty-seven games a year after also completing twenty-seven games. Imagine what he’d have done if healthy. The entire Dodgers staff hasn’t combined for 27 complete games over the last seven years.

2) , 1988
Let’s go back in time to a day before analytics, to a team that was carried to a title by Kirk Gibson and this Bulldog, who was as dominant in September and October as anybody ever. In 1988, Hershiser led the National League in wins (23), complete games (15), shutouts (8), and innings (267). He won the Cy Young Award, The Sporting News' NL Pitcher of the Year, MVP of both the NL Championship Series and World Series, a Gold Glove Award, and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. He broke Don Drysdale’s consecutive scoreless innings streak, pitched on short rest, came out of the bullpen -- whatever had to be done.

3) , 1981
Baseball-Reference doesn’t show a column for “Fernandomania.” But he spawned it to save the strike season that began with an emergency start and ended with a World Series ring. In between, he was a baseball and cultural sensation, the O’Malley family’s long-sought Mexican superstar, an All-Star, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award winner all rolled into one. Had he not lost seven of his last 14 decisions, he’d rank higher. But who cares? There’s never been anyone quite like him.

4) , 2014
Compared to Sandy Koufax since his first Vero Beach bullpen session, this was the year those expectations were fulfilled. Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 239 strikeouts, earning the pitching Triple Crown and winning both NL MVP and third Cy Young Award. He no-hit the Rockies with 15 strikeouts in one of the most dominating performances ever. And he missed six weeks after sustaining an injury winning the season opener in Australia.

5) , 2003
OK, he’s tainted. So were the hitters he made look silly. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see 55 saves in 55 opportunities again. It really was "Game Over," and he did more to keep early-departing Dodgers fans in their seats than any player in franchise history. The numbers were ridiculous: 1.20 ERA, 0.692 WHIP, 137 strikeouts and 37 hits allowed in 82 1/3 innings pitched.

Honorable mentions:

, 1924
If WAR is your thing, Vance is your man. His 10.5 via Baseball-Reference in 1924 is the highest ever for a Dodgers pitcher not named Koufax, and he earned it with the first Dodgers pitching Triple Crown -- 28 wins, 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts, along with 30 complete games. Comparing different generations is a no-win proposition, especially eras prior to Jackie Robinson opening the Majors to Black players.

, 1956
A former Rookie of the Year in 1949 and a 20-game winner during the Dodgers’ first championship season of '55, Newcombe peaked in '56 at age 30 with 27 wins, a 0.989 WHIP, an MVP and the inaugural Cy Young Award (when only one was presented for both leagues combined).