Almost There With A Lot Of K’s Along The Way
Koufax came out smoking in 1960, but his control was not always there when he needed it.
After pitching primarily in relief in April (earning one save in his first relief stint), May brought about a regular spot in the rotation.
His strikeouts were there, but so were too many walks. To be fair, Sandy wasn’t getting the run support he needed either.
In his 5 starts that month, the Dodgers scored 12 runs. And walks aside, Koufax was far from bad. In fact, his one win was almost his first ever no-hitter.
But he walked 30 batters in 48 innings in that month. He only gave up 28 hits and 15 earned runs in that stretch, however. As mentioned he tossed a 1-hitter (but six walks!) and 10 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh on May 23.
But his other starts all resulted in losses, pushing his record to 1-5 on the season (he had lost a game earlier in relief). Most puzzling was his last May start. A good one. Koufax went 13 innings, and did walk 9, but gave up just 3 hits and fanned 15 in a 4-3 loss to the Chi Sox National League counterparts, the Cubs.
June, though, brought Koufax down even further. He lost his first three starts, although the run support was better. Sandy’s pitching was not, as he was shelled in those outings. His strikeouts remained.
He tossed a 5-hitter for a win in the middle of the month (the Dodgers even scored him 14 runs), then got rocked two more times before finishing the month on a good note with a 7 inning, 3-hitter (plus 10 Ks) for a win. But now his win-losses record was just 3-8.
July was not noteworthy as Koufax started just one game, but August is where I believe Koufax found it.
He had 6 starts and was good to great in half of them, plus he picked up a strong relief win. Among them were a 4-hitter, a 2-hit shutout, a six-hitter. The bad news is he got rocked in the other three. But suddenly the Ks are back in high gear, AND the walks are suddenly down for good. He fanned 11 in one game, 13 in another, plus 4 in his 2 1/3 relief outing. While he was knocked out early in some of his other games, his walk totals were low. In fact, the rest of the season (15 games) he would only walk more than three batters in a game once.
September was a month of more good pitching, although it would not always show up in the results column. He would get some relief work as well. The run support wasn’t always there.
Amazing thing? Koufax didn’t have one bad performance.
After losing 1-0 in his first start of the month, Sandy had a September 8th start against Cincinnati, which was a win. 8 hits, 3 walks over nine innings, with 10 Ks. Koufax walked just 2 batters his next start and gave up 5 hits and fanned another 11. Then he fanned 8 more in a loss to the Cubs again. That’s the 5 walk game. But in 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just 3 hits and whiffed 8 batters. His final start saw him walk 3 more over seven innings but surrender just 6 hits and fan 7 more. A no decision.
In the last two months of the season, Koufax made 15 appearances, 11 starts. Granted he was 5-5 in them, and one relief appearance resulted in a blown save.
But here’s the good part.
In those last 80 1/3 innings on the season he surrendered just 62 hits and 31 walks, 90 strikeouts, 3.14 ERA, and batters have hit just .211 against him. The opponent’s On Base Average is only .287.
The bad part?
The Dodgers only scored 38 runs for him in those 11 starts.
Maybe I should look more at Sandy’s 1960 overall season statistics, too. Indeed, it is better than it appears. For starters, he’s still pitching in a terrible ballpark. Secondly he gave up just 6.8 hits against per 9 innings, just behind Ernie Broglio for the National league lead in that category. Furthermore, three Dodger pitchers topped the league in K/9 innings. Here we go:
1. Koufax (LAD) 10.1
2. Drysdale (LAD) 8.2
3. Williams (LAD) 7.6
On top of that, Koufax, in just 175 innings, has fanned almost 200 batters (197). That’s second in the league behind Drysdale who has 246 strikeouts. Put it this way, the second highest strikeout total for a pitcher that season, with less than 200 innings, is Jim O’Toole, who is 15th (!) in the league in strikeouts with 124 K in 196 1/3 inning. And Drysdale needed 269 innings to accumulate HIS league leading strikeout total! Leveling the playing field and Koufax is ahead of everyone in Ks. As mentioned earlier, opponents didn’t hit Sandy much that year. He led the league lowest batting average against again with .207! With such a bad ballpark, is an ERA of 3.91 that bad? If it matters, the league ERA in the NL that year was 3.76. So Koufax is only a little worse for wear ERA wise than the average pitcher. Drysdale, despite an ERA of 2.84 was just 15-14 and gave up 7.2 H/9.
The downside is that he walked 100 batters for third most in the league. He tied Broglio. He also had 5.1 BB/9 to league the lead. Furthermore, Koufax was tied for forth in wild pitches with 9. But imagine those other kind of numbers despite all that? Pretty good, actually!
Want still more? Sandy had a K to BB ration of 1.97. 14 eligible pitchers (154 IP) topped that, but also, 14 eligible pitchers were below that!
Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 30 March 2011.
Total Baseball. 1994 Edition. CD-ROM. Chicago, Ill: Creative Media. 1994.