Monday, April 25, 2011

How Jim Maloney Nearly Had 4 No-No's In 1965, Part 1: Jim Overcomes A Brave New World!

Jim Maloney was known as a hard thrower. Some claimed he even threw harder than Koufax.

The big righthander was born in Fresno in 1940, and in 1959, The Cincinnati Redlegs (Their name from 1954 to 1959) signed him. By 1963 he was a twenty game winner (actually 23), and he went on to top that mark again in his famed 1965 season.

You can't be Juan Marichal, you can't be Bob Gibson and you can't be Sandy Koufax.

Yet there were four games in the 1965 season where Jim was every bit as good as them all combined!

He first start of that season was on April 19, 1965, ten days after the Houston Astros opened their brand new indoor stadium, the Astrodome. It was the Reds (now and forever their name) 6th game of the season.

He was opposed by the Milwakee Braves.

Maloney started out fast as he fanned Mack Jones and Ty Cline. Then the dangerous Eddie Mathews was retired on a fly ball to center field.

The Reds, meanwhile, wasted no time in getting him something to work with as they touched home twice in the top of the second. Could Jim make it stand up? It would be the only two runs the Reds would score.

Making the task somewhat easier, at least now, was that Hank Aaron was not in the lineup.

With that, Jimmy mowed 'em down in the second and third, although he managed just one strikeout in that time.

In the fourth, he faltered.

Jones was k'd and Cline went out on a fly to center.

Two away.

But then Mathews was walked and the batter was Joe Torre. Yes, that Joe Torre!

Wild pitch, Mathews to second.

Torre walked.

Lee Maye ended the inning by hitting a fly to left.

So the perfect game is gone, but the no-hitter is still intact!

The fifth inning was no problem, but then came the sixth.

It started out with Wade Blasingame, the opposing pitcher (himself an 8 inning 5-hitter on this day), striking out. However, back to the top of the order and back to another walk, this time to Mack Jones.

Further trouble was diverted when both Cline and Mathews were retired on a fly to right and a pop up to first.

Blasingame, despite some troubles of his own in the top of that inning, induced three grounders to third, short and second in the top of the 7th as this game was now a full fledged pitcher's duel.

In the bottom of the 7th, Torre popped out to second, Maye fanned and Felipe Alou fouled to the catcher.

Six more outs to go.

In the top of the eight, the Reds had a chance to put this game away. Pete Rose singled, and then with one out, Vada Pinson walked. However, Frank Robinson flied out and Deron Johnson forced Rose at third. So the score was still 2-0 Reds.

Dennis Menke led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. There goes the no-hitter at last!

Maloney, calmed down and perhaps a bit relieved, focused now on winning the game.

Pinch hitter!

Hank Aaron.

Aaron was the all-time leader in homeruns.

Now he's second to Bonds.

He was also the all time leader in grounding into double play.

Now he is third behind Ripken and Rodriguez.

Which would he do?

Grounder to Rose. Rose steps on second and fires to first. Double play!

Lou Klimchock batted for Blasingame and flew out to center.

In the top of the 9th, Dan Osinski took over on the mound. The Reds had a shot at him.

Tony Perez led off with a single, but was caught stealing. Don Pavletich, the team's second string catcher, then doubled. Maloney came to bat and no doubt got a standing ovation from the 2, 804 fans.

He couldn't help his own cause, however, as he grounded out to first. Still just 2-0.

Three outs to go, to still get the shutout.

Maloney wasted no time. Jones went down on strikes, as did Cline.

The Braves last hope was Mathews.

Rose took his grounder and fired to Perez at first to end the game.


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 25 April 2011.

Total Baseball. 1994 Edition. CD-ROM. Chicago, Ill: Creative Media. 1994.

"Jim Maloney." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baseball Playing Card Of The Day: Bob Gibson

Some time ago, dad gave me some playing cards, with baseball players on them. Why not play with you? Or at least show you? One a week.



Bob Gibson. Ace of Hearts? He's more like an ace of the Cardinals. But he did have a lot of heart.

During the 1960s he won seven straight games in the World Series. And in every one of the seven, he went the distance. Consider some of them:

A 13 Strikeout performance in game 5 of the 1964 World Series

A 3-hitter in game 7 of the 1967 World Series (he hit a homerun in that game, too)

A 17 strikeout performance in game 1 of the 1968 World Series

Gibson's ERA that regular season? 1.12!


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 20 April 2011.

Whiteford, Mike, and Taylor Jones. How To Talk Baseball. Revised ed. New York: Dembner, 1987. Print. P. 97

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011: Western Conference Round 1

Vancouver (1) vs Chicago (8)

So we have last year's winner versus what some, including myself, are calling this year's winner. Vancouver soared to the top of the entire NHL this year, courtesy of 54-19-9.

Offence

Vancouver

The deadly Sedin twins did it again this year.

Daniel finished with 104 points, while Henrik, despite just 19 goals, was ten back with 94 points.

And there were others, of course.

Ryan Kesler popped in 41 to tie Daniel for team lead in goals. Mikael Samuelsson had 50 points. Alexandre Burrows scored 26 goals for third on the team. Mason Raymond is the third most dangerous left winger on the team as he had 39 points in 70 games.

From behind the blue line, Christian Ehrhoff had 14 goals and 36 assists. Another defenceman, Alexander Edler had 33 points in only 51 games.

Injury-wise, the Canucks will have to make due without center Manny Maholtra, who suffered an eye injury and will miss the entire playoffs.

Overall, though, the Canucks lead the NHL in goals for with 262.

Chicago

So the defending champions slipped a bit. The most obvious is on offence as the team scored just 219 goals, tying Nashville for second fewest goals among April teams.

Jonathan Toews had 76 points to lead the team.

The offence did have a nice balance to it, as 10 players scored 36 or more points.

Patrick Kane averaged a point a game despite missing 9 games. And the other Patrick, Sharp, had 71 points and led the team with 34 goals. Marian Hossa, trying to make it 4 Stanley Cup finals in four years, had 57 points in 65 games. Another right winger, Thomas Kopecky, had 42 points.

The teams offence from the blueline featured Brent Seabrook (48 points) and Duncan Keith (45 points).

Other players to watch before we move on, just in case they catch fire and I forget:

Bryan Bickell (17 goals)

Dave Bolland (15 goals)

Troy Brouwer (17)

Edge: (Slight) Vancouver

Defence

Vancouver

Want evidence of Daniel’s play on defence this year? Check it out: a plus 30 for second on the team. His brother’s +26 isn’t bad either. That was also Burrow’s rating, as well.

As for defencemen, Ehrhoff was only plus 19, but Dan Hamhuis, a slightly less offensive player, was a plus 29 in only 64 games. The team leader was Kevin Bieksa with a plus 32.

Edler was a plus 13.

Chalk it all up and Vancouver also led the NHL in fewest goals surrendered, 185.

Chicago

Brian Campbell was a +28 in only 65 games. Toews showed some all around game as he notched a plus 25 to lead all forwards.

Nicklas Hjalmarsson was a plus 13. Another defenceman, Brent Seabrook, was a 0 in the plus minus, but his defence was better than that. Ducan Keith was a minus 1 despite his offence.

Chicago as a team, permitted 225 goals. That's more than Vancouver, but it should be noted, three other teams still playing, (Detroit, Anaheim, Phoenix) gave up more.

Edge: (Slight) Vancouver

Goaltending

Vancouver

Another typical season for Roberto Luongo.

League leader in wins (38), fantastic GAA (2.11 for second in the league), great S% (.928 for 4th in the league). Add to that, he won the Jennings trophy this year with backup Corey Schneider, for allowing the fewest goals.

Speaking of which, I don’t expect Cory to play much this postseason. Too bad, because he put up some good numbers. Of the 25 games he played, he won 16 of them and posted a 2.23 GAA. His save percentage was .929.

Chicago
 
The Blackhawks used another Cory, Corey Crawford this season. This will be his first NHL postseason experience. Okay, that’s one minus. Okay, he's played here before, happy? His postseason experience at the NHL consists of 16 minutes in Chicago's drive to the 2009 Final Four.

Now fore the good part: He had a great regular season this year. In just 57 games, he won 33 of them. His S% could have been better, .917, but his GAA was 8th (2.30).

But will they be enough against Vancouver? If his name is Dryden, Roy, and perhaps Halak…

In the offseason, the Hawks acquired Maty Turco, hoping he would lead the way, when he struggled (11-11-3, 3.02, .897), the Hawks decided to go with Crawford. Despite all that, Turco, with his postseason experience, might see some action.

Edge: (Wide) Vancouver

Prediction: Vancouver in six games

San Jose (2) vs Los Angeles (7)

Did you know, by the way, that there are more teams from sunny California in the postseason than from ALL of Canada? Somewhere, Gretzky, McNall and Pocklington are all smiling. There little parley of 23 years ago has taken the game that far. That far south!

Speaking of which, the Great One’s old team outscored the opposition on 46 occasions for the second straight year. This had, at one time, been a long time coming for the Kings. They won 46 games in 1990/91, with Gretzky there, and it took them until 2009/10 to get that total again.

Meanwhile, San Jose returns with a new goaltender (who happened to win the Cup last season) and look to build on their final four appearance a year ago.

Offence

San Jose

The Fierce Fish lit the red lamp 248 times this season, third among Western Conference teams kicking around this spring.

Let’s start with the experience of Joe Thornton. Hard to believe it, but he’s now 31 years old. But he had 70 points. Worse for LA, that didn't even lead the team.

That honour went to another 31 year old, Patrick Marleau

But no two players can do it all by themselves. Here's who also chipped in:

Joe Pavelski (66 points)

Dany Heatley (64 points)

Ryane Clowe (62 points)

Logan Coutler (56 points)

Devin Setoguchi (22 goals)

And from the point, Danny Boyle (41 points)

Los Angeles

The Kings, by contrast, netted just 219 goals, using a more defence oriented system in front of Jonathan Quick.

Justin Williams is a little banged up, and leading scorer Kopitar is out. So here is what the Crowned Ones must go with.

Williams had 57 points, as did Dustin Brown. Veteran Ryan Smyth played all 82 games and showed he's still got it by getting 47 points. Jarrett Stoll, now proabably the team's top center, scored 20 goals and got 43 points.

Two other forwards to look at: Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmons.

Jack Johnson led LA the defence in offense with 42 points. Also getting it done from the point is DD, Drew Doughty, with 11 goals and 40 points.

Edge: (Wide) San Jose

Defence

San Jose

Coutler lead all forwards with a plus 18, and Clowe's +13 isn't bad.

The team defence was lead by Jason Demers, who posted a +19.  Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a plus 14.

Ian White played with 3 teams and was a plus 3. However, it should be noted, he was a plus 9 in only 23 games with San Jose.

Los Angeles

The Kings were one of three teams to allow less than 200 goals in among spring teams in the Western Hemisphere this season.

Kopitar lead the team with +25, so this will be something they will have to work around. Two right wingers were both plus 17 and 14: Brown and Williams.

Doughty lead the defence with a plus minus of +13. Alec Martinez was a plus 11 in 60 games.

Willie Mitchell was a plus 4 in 57 games.

Edge: (Slight, due to Kopitar's absence) San Jose

Goaltending

San Jose

With the departure of Nabakov, the Sharks turned to the man who ended the 49 year drought for the Hawks, Antti Niemi.

Niemi has proven that his leading the Hawks to the Stanley Cup last year was no fluke, by posting the following numbers with his new team:

35 wins, .920 S%, 2.38 ERA

Okay, but remember how good he was last year in the playoffs? The Hawks wouldn't have done it without A.N.!

The backup is another A.N., Antero Nittymaki, whose numbers (12-7-3, 2.72, .896), weren’t that great. I imagine that San Jose will be reluctant, at best, to use him if Niemi falters.

Los Angeles

The quick hands of Jonathan Quick return for another postseason go around. I’m sure he wants to make it longer than six games, like last year against the Canucks.

He didn't play as much as he did in the 2009/10 season, but this year he really upped and dropped some of his numbers.

He dropped his GAA from 2.54 in 2009/10 to 2.24 this season. That was good enough for 5th in the league. His save percentage shot up 11 points from last year, for a .918 mark.

Now, his win total dropped because he played in 11 less games this year, but his 6 shutouts placed him 6th among league leaders.

The backup is another Jonathan, Bernier. He time in the twine was just 25. His S% wasn't bad .913 and his GAA 2.48 was good. A good sign was his 3 shutouts.

Edge: (Slight) San Jose

Prediction: San Jose in seven games (Slight every time!)

Detroit (3) vs Phoenix (6)

Last year, these to teams squared off in a fine seven gamer. This year they're back again. Can Detroit do it again without the Z man?

Offence

Detroit

The Red Wings were second among all teams in goals for (261). But having said that, Zetterberg had 80 points to lead the team. Fill in the void, the Motor City boys must!

Detroit comes in with the usual mix of a balanced attack. After Z, you have Pavel Datsyuk with 59 points, Johan Franzen with 55 points and Dan Cleary with 46 points.

And then there were more.

Todd Bertuzzi (45 points), center Valtteri Filppula (39 points), Jiri Hudler (37 points), Thomas Holdstrom (37 points), Darren Helm (32 points), Patrick Eaves (13 goals in 63 games) and Drew Miller (10 goals in 67 games).

And the defence did not rest on offence.

Nik Lidstrom was second on the team in points (62). Brian Rafalski had 48 points in only 63 games. Plus, another Nik, Kronwall, had 37 points.

Phoenix

The Coyotes scored 241 goals against as a team. That is exactly in the middle of the pack (15 out of 30).

Shane Doan had only 60 points, but it was enough to lead the way.

Ryan Whitney had 57 points from the left side of the attack.

Radim Vrbata chipped in with 48 points from the right.

The team had many players get above 26 points. Some were done in considerably less than 82 games, it should be noted.

Eric Belanger and Lauri Korpikoski each had 40 points. Former Leaf, Lee Stepniak had 38 points. Taylor Pyatt had 31 points.

Now for some players that had some injury woes.

Scottie Upshall and Martin Hanzal (16 goals in 61 games, each). Kyle Turris, (11 goals in 65 games).

The top defenceman was Keith Yandle with 59 points. And that was in 82 games.

Edge: (Slight, due to Zetterberg's absence) Detroit

Defence

Detroit

Lidstrom should get at least some votes for the Norris trophy, but strangely, he was a minus this year (-2).

It was Justin Abdelkader who led Detroit with a plus 15.

Datsyuk was a plus 11.

Rafalski led all defenceman with plus 11.

Jonathan Ericsson was second among the "stay-at-home" defenceman with a +8 rating.

Detroit's defence wasn't quite up to speed with what it had been in previous years, as they permitted 241 goals. That's the most of the top eight team in the Western Conference.

Phoenix

The Howling ones gave up 226 goals.

Adrian Aucion was a plus 17 to lead the team. In close second was Keith Yandle with a plus 12.

Some of the forwards +/- was pretty good. Mikkel Boedker and Pyatt were both a +11, as was Belanger.

Two other defenceman posted good +/-, albeit in limited duty. David Schlemko was a plus 8 in only 43 games and Sami Lepisto was a plus 7 in only 51 games.

Edge: (Slight, due to Lidstrom's strong postseason history) Detroit

Goaltending

Detroit

The Red Wings will go with Jamie Howard again, although they did use former Leaf, Joey McDonald and veteran Chris Osgood in some stretches.

Howard overcame a strong challenge from the ‘Yotes last postseason and can expect more of the same this time around.

His record was 37 wins, 17 losses, 5 ties. But his other numbers weren’t very good, and he has yet to prove himself in postseason.

Chris Osgood has proven himself in postseason, but that was two seasons ago. Actually, he led Detroit to Stanley Cups in 1998 and 2008. But this year, he didn’t play much, and it is doubtful that he can help in the postseason because of the rust.

Joey McDonald only played a little more than Osgood (15 games).

Phoenix

The Howl of the Hollow Iron Cage, Illya Bryzgalov, was 5th in the league in games played. He won 36 games for 8th, lost 20 and lost 10 in overtime or shootout. His 2.48 GAA wasn’t that great, but his shutouts (7) and S% .921 suggest he can steal games for you.

He’ll be backed up another 30 + year old, Jason LaBarbera. His record wasn't very good (7-6-3 in 17 games). His GAA was quite high, 3.26, and his S% was .909. I don't think he'll play unless Brygalov really get shelled.

But if Breezer plays the way I expect him too...

Edge: (Slight) Phoenix

Prediction: Detroit in six games

Anaheim (4) vs Nashville (5)

The two teams that both finished with 99 points (like Phoenix).  A series that may very well see the return to postseason of Ray Emery. That is enough to make this series one to watch. Not to mention you have Nashville, still looking for it's first ever playoff series win since coming into the league back in 1998/99.

Topping it off is the Rocket Richard trophy winner, Corey Perry.

Still, will we see Emery?

And what will we see of him?

Offence

Anaheim

Perry is the lone man to net 50, and he added 48 assists to lead the team in points.

Watch out for Temmu Selanne. This might be his last ever playoffs. Given his flare for the dramatic, this might be a curtain call to remember!

However, I doubt he'll hang 'em up. Wait 'till I tell you about his stats.

In only 73 games, the 40 year old Fin had 31 goals and 49 assists. That sound like a guy whose ready for retirement? Finnish Flash and not Finished Flash!

Ryan Getzlaf was the third Duck to average a point a game, as he led the team in assists (57) in only 67 games.

The big four is rounded out by Bobby Ryan, the left winger, who got 71 points.

Veteran forward Saku Koivu had 45 points, while former Leaf Jason Blake had 32.

As for the defenceman , we start with Lubomir Visnovsky, who recorded 68 points in 81 games, although only 18 of them were goals. But look out for newcomer Cam Fowler, who had 40 points in 76 games.

Nashville

They were a low scoring bunch, but they managed to score only 20 goals less as a team than Anaheim. The Predators don't have that "one guy" or "Big Three (or Four)", but they are sort of like Buffalo. A lot of guys that can shoot and move the puck!

Sergi Kostitsyn led the Preds with just 50 points. I really think he might end up being someone that Montreal regrets letting leave Les Habs.

Tying him for scoring lead was someone who only played 64 games, Martin Erat. He's played his entire career in Nashville, so he too, will hope to make it into round 2.

Then we have right winger Patric Horqvist with 21-26-47, Dave Legwand, 17-24-41. Colin Wilson scored 16 goals, while Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont added 10 each.

Shea Weber accumulated 48 points from the blueline and Ryan Suter added 39 in 70 games.

Edge: (Slight) Anaheim

Defence

Anaheim

Toni Lydman led the team with +32. Visnovsky was also a plus 18. Neither of these two defencman took many penalties, so they won't be riding the pine of the penalty box when they're scored on, either!

Ryan had the best +/- among forwards with a plus 15. Getzlaf was a plus 14.

Luca Sbisa, Andreas Lilja and Fowler were all minuses, however. As was Sheldon Brookbank and Francois Beauchemin.

Anaheim gave up 235 goals for second most in the Western Conference among postseason teams.

Nashville

The Preds gave up just 194 for second fewest in the entire NHL.

Erat was tops among forwards with +14. Legwand was a plus 13, while Hornqvist and Kostitsyn were plus 11 and 10, respectively.

Also at +10 was defensive center Marcel Goc, but he hasn't played a game since Feb 17. It looks doubtful that he will play, at least in this series.

Suter led defencemen (and the team) with a plus 20. Cody Franson was a plus 10 and KK, Kevin Kline, (not the actor!) was a plus 9. I guess they are going to use Jonathon Blum, who appeared in only 23 games. Even so, he was a plus 8. It will be interesting to see if he plays and how he plays!

Edge: (wide) Nashville

Goaltending

Anaheim 

From the looks of things, it will be Ray Emery, one of the games finest characters, in net for the Ducks. No, he’s no lame duck, but he must feel like a roasted turkey after all that surgery. The Ducks took a chance on him late in the season, and he went 7-2 in ten games. Actually, his numbers were better than even that. Low GAA: 2.28, high S% .926.

With regular John Hiller out, it will probably be Emery’s job throughout this entire series.

The other goalie they might go to however, is Dan Ellis. His numbers weren't far off Emery's. He played three more games than Ray, went 8-3-1 with a GAA of 2.39 and a S% .917.

Nashville

The Predators will go with Pekka Rinne. He's kind of like Ken Dryden: 6-5. This guy just gets better with every season.

As for his numbers, behold:

33 wins, .930 S%, 2.12 GAA.

Okay, can he keep it up in postseason? He played fairly good last season in the playoffs, but wasn't enough as the Preds bowed out to the eventual champs, Chicago, in six games.

Should he falter, there is Anders Lindback. A rookie. Like Rinne, he's tall (6-6). He was put out for 22 outings and acquitted himself quite admirably, 11-5-2, .915, 2.60 and even 2 shutouts for good measure. Of course, he has no postseason experience at the NHL level!

Edge: (Slight, because of Emery's postseason experience) Anaheim

Prediction: Anaheim in seven games

References

"Official Site of the National Hockey League." NHL.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 April 2011.

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011: Eastern Conference Round 1


Washington (1) VS New York (8)

So Washington did their best NOT to finish first in the East. But, alas, Philly and Boston slumped, so they did just that.

Their reward this year? A playoffs against the Rangers.

Good news: They HAVE beaten the Rangers before

Great news: Ryan Callahan is out

Bad news: It was in seven games after trailing 3-1! SEVEN GAMES? Oh no!

Offence

Washington

Washington got it from Ovi, but not quite as in the past.

Ovechkin had, for him, and off year offensively. Just 85 points, and 32 goals. The good news was he was more committed to two way play, which will help this time around. Center Nick Backstrom was second on the team with 65 points. Semin has 54 points, but that was in only 65 games. Plus Brooks Laich had 48 points.

As for the blueline offence, Mike Green was hurt and played in only 49 games. Still, he got 24 points. If anything it was two defencemen who picked up the slack. Dennis Wideman had 40 points and John Carlson had 37 more. If these guys stay healthy, don’t be shorthanded! Wideman is nursing an injury, however.

The whole Capitals team wasn’t as explosive as before. They ranked 19th in goals for per game (224).

New York

The Rangers themselves scored just 233 goals. Aside from the Caps, the only other Eastern Conference team (that qualified for postseason) to pot fewer this season was Montreal.

Add to that Ryan Callahan (Look, I'm not about to quote Clint Eastwood, okay?) is out. The Rangers will miss him, as he netted 23 goals and 48 points in just 60 games.

But picking up the slack, no doubt, as he has all year will be Duby, Brandon Dubinsky. He led the Rangers with 54 points in 77 games. And he wasn't alone. The always reliable Marian Gaborik had 48 points in just 62 games.

In addition to Dubinsky, there were three other pretty good centers:

Derek Stepan (45 points)

Artem Anisimov (44 points)

Brian Boyle (35 points)

Erik Christensen (27 points in only 63 games)

Great strength down the middle. Although, I'm not sure how much Christensen can help. No shootouts in the playoffs, remember.

Brandon Prust had 29 points from the port side of things. However, the Rangers acquired Polish Wojtek Wolski, who is the real threat from left, as he finished the year with 35 points in 73 games with the Rangers and Coyotes.

As for some blueline offence, another of the Staal brothers is here!

Marc Staal racked up 29 points in 77 games.

And there was the recently acquired Bryan McCabe 

Despite all that, I'm giving the edge to Washington because of Ovie's flare for the dramatic!

Edge: (slight) Washington

Defence

Washington

Conversely, the Capitals were fourth in the league in goals against per game (2.33).

Green is good at both ends of the ice despite a low +/- (6). Then there is Carlson, who was a plus 24. Wideman was a minus, but it should be noted he was the only defenceman on the Caps to play more than 33 games and post a minus. But, again, if he's not playing...

The stay at home corps consists of Karl Alzer, Scott Hannan, John Erskine, and probably the best of them, Jeff Schultz.

New York

The Blueshirt's blueline defence was led by Micheal Sauer, who posted a plus 20, which is good for a "stay-at-home" defenceman. Ryan McDonagh, despite injuries, posted a fine plus 16 in only 40 games.

Wolski was a plus 12 in his 37 games as a Ranger.

Edge: (slight) Washington

Goaltending

Washington

Ah, now for the Capitals real problem!

But I believe it has been corrected.

Washington sort of shuffled three goalies around. Here are their numbers:

GOALIE                               GP       GAA      W          L        OT

MICHAL NEUVIRTH              48         2.45      27         12         4               

SEMYON VARLAMOV            27         2.23      11           9         5              

BRADEN HOLTBY                 14         1.79      10            2         2          

Further:
                                                       SO     SV%

MICHAL NEUVIRTH                              4        .914

SEMYON VARLAMOV                            2        .924

BRADEN HOLTBY                                  2       .934

Okay, put ‘em all together, and that’s pretty good.

Problem is, by themselves, no one by themselves seems enough. Varlamov has some playoffs experience ands a good save percentage, but he didn’t play much. Skate rust. Holtby was very impressive in only 14 games but has never played in the playoffs before (at the NHL level, anyway).

So I guess it comes down to Neuvirth. But, Boudreau has a short tolerance. He could be ushered out and replaced with Semyon or Braden (remember Ken Dryden in ’71?) in a finger snap.

New York

Mr Lundqvist has been the man where "The Puck Stops Here!"

The Iron Man in front of the square iron notched his sixth straight 30 win season (All with New York). The negative?

He was forth in the league losses (27). Other than that, look out! 36 wins (6th in the league), 2.28 GAA (7th) .923 S% (7th) 11 SO (1st), 68 GP (5th).

Anything more need to be said?

And his backup, Biron, is no stranger to the playoffs if needs be. Three seasons ago, he led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals.

His W-L-OT record wasn't great (8-6-0), but he had a GAA of 2.13 and a S% of .923

Edge: (Neither Wide Nor Slight) New York

Prediction: Washington in six

Philadelphia (2) vs Buffalo (7)

Philly slipped a little and almost lost the division crown to Pittsburgh, while Buffalo surged at the end to hold off Carolina and Toronto from nudging in. They also kept the Rangers in eighth place.

Offence

Philadelphia

Nearly SEVEN Flyers scored 20 or more goals this season. What a balanced attack.

Claude Giroux paced all of them with 76 points, while Jeff Carter lit the lamp 36 times.

Curiously, it was the team’s two right wingers (Giroux and Danny Briere) then two centers (Carter and Mike Richards) who were the top four.

Then if you can believe it, two left wingers (Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell) who came in 5th and 6th. Some nice groupings. Actually, here’s where the, “Two wingers, two centers, two wingers”, pairings ends, as a third left winger James Van Riemsdyk, was seventh on the team in scoring.

If you’re wondering who among those didn’t score twenty, it’s Leino, the left winger. But what’s wrong with 54 points from the port side?

Two other players: Winger Nikolai Zherdev (16 goals) and Andres Nodl (11 goals in 67 games) should be watched. As should last year's Flyer killer, Chris Versteeg!

Then, amazingly, four defencemen round out the top ten (and 11) in team scoring.

Matt Carle, look at his stat line: 1 goal 39 assists, 40 points. You know, he must be kicking himself for scoring that one goal. He might have set a record for most points in a season without scoring a goal! In any case, he needn’t apologize. No Flyer defenceman scored more than 8 goals.

But note the consistency:

Kimmo Timonen: 6 goals, 31 assists

Andrej Meszaros: 8 goals, 24 assists

Chris Pronger: 4 goals, 21 assists (in only 50 games)

An offence to be reckoned with.

Buffalo

The Sabers were a little more defensive minded than Philly. Even so, 11 Sabers scored 10 or more goal. And the Flyers actually scored just 14 more goals than the Sabers (259 -245)

Thomas Vanek lead the Sabers with 32-41-73. Drew Stafford might have lead the team had he not missed 20 games. Even so, his 31 goals and 52 points is mighty good.

Center Derrek Roy also might have led the Sabers in scoring had he not been hurt in December. He’s kinda in the Crosby boat as there is talk of him returning. For what it is worth, he averaged a point a game, 35 points in 35 games before the injury.

But, like the Pens, they had found a way to fill the void, somewhat.

What I like about the Sabers is they had 5 players who can play center with good numbers. In addition to Roy, your have

Tim Connolly 13-29-42

Paul Gaustad 12-19-31

Nathan Gerbe 16-15-31 (64 games)

Jochem Hecht 12-17-29 (67 games)

Cody McCormick 8-12-20

What does that mean? It means Lindy Ruff (God! Is he STILL coaching Buffalo?) can mix and match with different line combos. Sure will be interesting to see!

Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Andrej Sekera and Steve Montador all recorded 26 or more points from the blueline.

Edge: (Slight) Philadelphia

Defence

Philadelphia

As a bonus, Jeff Carter was a plus 27.

I’m not 100% sure if Pronger is going to play in the first game, but it is a good bet than he’ll play game 2 onwards. He has experience galore! Think of him as today’s Larry Robinson.

And he’s got some nice pairings. Carle may have scored only one goal, but was a plus 30, as was Meszaros. Braydon Coburn, a stay-at-home defenceman was a plus 15.

Buffalo

A new guy to Buffalo was Mike Weber, as he set career marks in everything. This will be his first ever playoffs. But his defence was good this regular season.

The others have pretty much been to the playoffs before. Shaone Morrisonn is probably hoping to have better luck in the postseason with Buffalo than he did with Washington.

Montador led the team with a plus 16. Weber and Sekera were +11 and +13 respectively.

Edge (Slight) Philadelphia

Goaltending

Philadelphia

The Flyers unveiled a new kid this year: Sergi Bobrovsky. In 54 games, he performed admirably: 28-13-8 to go along with .915 and 2.59. Now might be a good time for him to do something he didn’t do this year. He didn’t record a shutout! This will, needless to say, be his first ever NHL playoffs.

Brain Boucher played a-plenty during the regular season. In 34 games, he posted 18 wins and 4 OT losses. His GAA and S% were actually lower than Bobrovsky, 2.42 and .916. He has been around a while. It is interesting to note that he has a losing record lifetime in the regular season (like Dwayne Rolson), with a 119-131-44 record. But strangely, he has a winning record in the playoffs, 17-14. I have a feeling that if Brobrovsky falters, he’ll be put in without a second thought.

Buffalo

The Sabers, meanwhile look like they have the second coming of Dominik Hasek in Ryan Miller. That Olympic performance in 2010 will never be forgotten. He followed it up with an early playoff loss to Boston, however, and now he gets his chance for redemption.

His record was not as good as in 2009/2010, but once again he was the war horse. Appearing in 66 games, he won 34 and only five goalies faced more shots. He is one of those goalies, statistics aside, that “gets in shooters heads”. You know you need to set up just right to get a goal on him. Otherwise, hope for a tip-in or a rebound. And he has some great playoff performances already in his career. Back in 2006, he took the Sabers to within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Edge (Wide) Buffalo

Prediction: Philadelphia in six.


Boston (3) vs Montreal (6)

Here we go again, is all I can say.

They’ve met 32 time in the playoffs with the Habs holding an edge of 24 to 8.

Montreal wants to win the series and kill Chara.

Neither will prove easy.

Offense

Boston

Again, we see a very balanced attack as the Bruins had TWELVE players with 10 or more goals. Having said  that, the Cubs only ended up with 246 goals. Far more than Montreal, though.

Two players, Milan Lucic and David Krejci tied for the team lead in points with 62.

The rest?

Patrice Bergeron (22-35-57)
Nathan Horton (26-27-53)
Mark Recchi (is he still playing?) (14-34-48)
Brad Marchand (21-20-41)
Michael Ryder (18-23-41)
Greg Campbell (13-16-29)
Blake Wheeler (11-16-27 in only 58 games)
Tyler Seguin (11-11-22)
Shawn Thornton (10-10-20)

For blueliners we have the guy Habs fans hate: Zedeno Chara. But the problem is, Montreal will hate him for other reasons. Namely, his offence (14-30-44), his defence. And he hits!

Dennis Seidenberg had 7 goals and 25 assists from the point.

The new guy, Thomas Kaberle, is finally back to the postseason. Acquired in trade from Toronto, he posted 47 points in 82 games. However, I left him for last because he tailed off a bit after the trade. Here:

2010/11

Toronto 58 GP 3G 35A 38 PTS

Boston 24 GP 1G 8A 9 PTS

Kabbi's gotta play like he did in Toronto.

Montreal

The Canadians scored just 216 goals this season, which is the lowest of any team that qualified for the postseason.

Even so (he we go again!) 8 of their players scored 11 or more goals and David Desharnais scored 8 in only 43 games.

Okay, ready?

Tomas Plekanec (22-35-57)
Michael Cammalleri (19-28-47)
Brain Gionta (29-17-46)
Andrei Kostitsyn (20-25-45)
PK Subban (14-24-38)
Benoit Pouliot (13-17-30)
Mathienu Darche (12-14-26)
Jeff Halpern (11-15-26)
Max Pacioretty (14-10-24)

Pacioretty, of course, was given a concussion by Zedeno Chara, and it is unknown when he will return. Still that will make an interesting subplot to this series. Max's numbers are impressive when you consider he played in only 37 games.

In addition to Subban, you have other defencemen that put up numbers for the Flying Frenchmen. Roman Hamrlik with 34 points and James Wisiewski with 30 in 43 games.

Edge: (Wide) Boston

Defence

Boston

Chara led the way with a +33. It's worth noting that Adam McQuaid was a plus 30 in only 67 games.

I should also mention, before going any further that some of the forwards were good on the +/-. Lucic, the team's (tied for) leader in points, posted a plus 28, which isn't even tops among forwards. Nope, that goes to Horton with +29.

Back to defencmen. Andrew Ference posted a fine +22 in only 70 games and Johnny Boychuk, always steady, was a plus 15 in 69 games.

Back to Kaberle.

He was a minus (-2) in Toronto, but he improved to plus 6 in 24 games. So I guess, give defence, take offense from Thomas!

Overall, Boston permitted just 195 goals.

Montreal

A notch below Boston, despite the numbers. Most importantly, Montreal allowed 209 goals against. That's fifth in the Eastern Conference among the eight that are competing for Lord Stanley's mug. But, how much more is that than Boston gave up?

Jaroslav Spacek led Montreal with a plus 9 rating in only 59 games.

I should bring up PK Subban, the young kid who had a great postseason last year. This year, he had a good season on offence, as mentioned earlier. His defence was a little erratic to say the least, as he finished with a minus (-8). Now, he is capable of playing good defence. It's just a question, which PK will show up? Consistent or erratic? They need the former.

Hamrik and Wisniewski are better than average. And of course, I should mention Hal Gill, who always seems to bring his best to the big stage in hockey. In the last three years, his teams have gone at least as far as the Conference Finals.

Edge: (Slight) Boston

Goaltending


Boston

Which do you prefer? Thomas or Rask? Both played often enough to be ready for the postseason. Two years ago, Boston went with Thomas in the postseason, and Rask didn't play a game. Last year, Raask played the postseason and Thomas didn't play in a game.

Tim Thomas had a breakout year as he led the NHL with a goals against average of 2.00. He led the league in S% with a .938 mark. He also won 35 games despite appearing in only 57 games, and was second in the league in shutouts with 9. In the 2009 playoffs, he played very, very well.

Then there is Tuuka Rask, who made it into 29 games himself, but posted a lossing record. It was a bit of a comedown from last season. But the amount of games played suggest that, if Thomas falters, we might just see him against the Habs. Here are his numbers: 

Montreal

If Carey Price isn't tired now, he'll never be. He's gotta feel stronger than the iron that's in the frame of the net. Appearing in 72 games, he won 38 to lead the league, faced the second most shots (2,147), posted a .923 S% and recorded 8 shutouts.

If it matters for postseason experiece, he did face the Bruins three seasons ago, and helped the Habs come out on top in seven games. Since then, though, he has played in just 8 postseason games, failing to record a win in any of them (to be fair, some of them were relief appearances, he was 0-5). Will he play like that? Or will he play like he did this season and three years ago against the Bruins?

Backup Alex Auld (I call him AA) is playing on his eighth team in nine years. He hasn't played in a postseason game since before the strike. His numbers weren't bad (6-2-2, 2.64, .914) but I feel it would be a risk to play him.

Then again, if Price falters or gets hurt...

Edge: (none) I'm calling this even!

Prediction: Boston in seven.


Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs Tampa Bay Lighting (5)

Pittsburgh’s Record the last 5 years:

2006/07 47W 24L 11OT 105 PTS

2007/08 47W 27L 8OT 102 PTS

2008/09 45W 28L 9OT 99PTS

2009/10 47W 28L 7OT 101PTS

2010/11 49W 25L 8OT 108 PTS

Pittsburgh's record on January 5th (The day Crosby went down): 26-12-3 for 55 points.

Pittsburgh's record the rest of the season sans Crosby 23-12-5 for 51 points.

Pittsburgh's record on Feb 4, 2011 (The day Malkin went down): 34-15-4

Pittsburgh's record the rest of the season sans Malkin: 15-10-4

Pittsburgh's record in the last 16 games of the season: 12-4-0

You read that correctly!

Yes, despite the loss of Crosby (41 games misses), Malkin (39 games missed), Staal (40 games missed) the Pens won more games this season then any other since 1995/96 (I think their current owner had something to do with that) and had more points in this season than in any other since 1992/93. Again, I think the owner (now) had something to do with that.

So amazing what they have pulled off this year. The Pens have been able to adapt!

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay returns to the playoffs for the first time in years. And Stamkos test the postseason waters for the first time!

This series brings together two of my favourite goalies: Dwayne Rolson And Marc Andre Fleury

Offence

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is obviously lacking their two best playmakers. Yet, the Pens have found ways to pick up the slack. Either by trades or by callups.

Two of the players the Pens acquired at the deadline were Alex Kovalev and Chris Neal. SO FAR, I’d say they haven’t contributed much. But they both bring experience and savy to this team. Look for them to contribute. Neal, despite his slump, still finished with 45 points. Kovalev, playing most of the season with a shallow offensive Ottawa team, had 34 points.

And then there are the other Pens.

Many have called this Chris Letang breakthrough year. He picked the right year to. Playing in ALL 82 games, he scored only 8 goals but garnered 42 assists. Plus he played some great defence (more on that later).

Chris Kunitz missed 16 games and still got 48 points. Tyler Kennedy tacked up 45 and Pascual Dupius had 37.

And tremendous two way man from Thunder Bay, Jordan Staal, who missed the first half of the season, had perhaps his best season despite all that. He averaged almost a point per game and showed what many have long suspected: if he got more ice team, we’d all see how good he REALLY is. Crosby and Malkin absence gave him that chance, ironically. He averaged 21:21 ice time this year, a career high.

Tampa Bay

St Louis, Stamkos, Lecavalier.

The Big Three

Tough to stop all three.

Stamkos may have slumped at the end of the years. Hey, it happens to all of these “streaky” scorers. He finished with 99 points, 45 of them goals. Lets not forget, 2009/10, he tied Crosby for the league lead in goals with 51. This will be his first taste of post season. I expect him to be a little nervous, but watch: he will overcome it.

Lecavalier HAS been their before. In fact, he was there back in 2004 when Tampa Bay won it all. He finished with 54 points as he had some injuries himself. Lately, though, he back to “Same Old” Vinny as he scored five goals in his last four games.

St Louis is the most feared. He just missed 100 points (99 pts for 2nd most this season) and finished second in the league with 68 assist.

And there were others.

Teddy Purcell (Now it’s the big four, eh?) was uninjured (he missed just one game) and effective as the second line right winger: 17 goals and 34 assists.

Two other players need to mentioned right now, because they both have an interesting plot to this series.

First is Simon Gagne. He’s faced the Pens in the past (2008, 2009) and then last year, helped the underdog Flyers go all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and get within two games of the cup. This year, despite some injuries, he racked up 40 points in 63 games. I can’t imagine he won’t be reeved up to face Pittsburgh for the third time in four years.

Another who should be also up for this is Ryan Malone. Born and bred and Pittsburgh, not to mention he is the son of . He’s another good left winger, notching 38 points in only 54 games. This will be his first playoff series since leaving the Pens after 2008.

Some more?

You have former Toronto Maple Leaf, Dominic Moore as the teams third line center. And he managed a respectable 32 points in 77 games. Another guy to look out for is Steve Dowie. Like others in this series, he had a bit of a banged up year (just 57 games played) but contributed (32 points). Sean Bergenheim scored 14 goals for third on the team among left wingers.

The team’s top blue line point getter would be Brett Clark, with 31 points.

The guy to watch on the Lightning Defence will be Victor Hedman. After putting out Sid Crosby with a check into the glass on Jan 5, he finished with 26 points. Only three were goals, though.

Edge: (slightly) Tampa Bay

Defence

Pittsburgh

So Letang had people talking about a Norris Trophy candidate. No one gets talked about that without playing at your own end. Letang was joined this year by Paul Martin, who really fit in well with the Pens.
Ben Lovejoy missed 35 games, but when he could play, he played often, and effective. Zbynek (how do you pronounce that? Anyone?) Michalek also contributed.
And the other defenceman aren’t to shabby either.

Brooks Orpik, despite a broken toe earlier in the season, has returned and made solid contribution

Deryk Engelland and Matts Niskanen were both minuses, but I believe they were better than the plus minus stats indicate.

Notice, that’s seven defenceman who played more than half the season. So the Pens can even overcome any injury to any one of the above.

Did I mention that the Pens allowed 199 goals this season?

Tampa Bay

Tampa lacks that one defencemen that sticks out. They also are behind the Pens in defencesive defenceman.
Clark and Hedman are fine defenceman, as is another former Leaf, Pavel Kubina.

Randy Jones and Mike Lundin and former Canuck Mattis Ohlund were the other healthy ones. None are great statistically but Ohlund has postseason experience and that should help.

There were other defenceman in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Among them are Marc-Andre Bergeron (23 games), Eric Brewer (22 games) and Matt Smaby (32 games).

Looking at the team, they employed 11 defenceman.

6 were a minus.

Edge: (wide) Pittsburgh

Goaltending

Pittsburgh

After a slow start, Mark Andre Fleury got better and better as the season went on. His record was 1-6-0 at one point, but that must have made him feel that he had a point to prove. And he sure did. One of the reasons the Pens finished so strong in how Fleury would steal games for the Pens. I remember a game he lost, where he played great. On Jan he faced the Capitals in a game the Pens would ultiamtly lose, 1-0. But you could see it. Out of the net, staring Alex the Great down. Confidence!

When Fleury slumped out of the gate, Brent Johnson stepped in and probably pushed Mark to trump him. Whenever the Pens needed him to come in, he seemed to be ready for the challenge. Plus, he does have some playoff experience.

Tampa Bay

Dwayne Roloson started this year on Long Island, and was traded to Tampa Bay. His record with the Lightning was 18-12-4 and he tossed in 4 shutouts. At 41, he is playing in his first playoffs since leading the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006. The long playoff layoff could hurt him.

He finished the year with a losing record (24-25-5) and was 8th in the league in losses, and even eight in the league in PIM by a goalie (8).

Given his age, we might see some action from Dan Ellis or even Mike Smith. Both posted winning records, but had GAA close to 3.

Edge: (Wide) Pittsburgh

Prediction: Pittsburgh in seven games.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Music To The Ears: Sing A Song Of Sports!



Ever listen to a song that reminds you of your favourite athlete? I've seen my share on television and now on YouTube. Not just a disclaimer, I'm not talking about theme songs to sports shows. It is the songs that I've seen playing behind player highlights, etc. Remember some of these "gems" ?

5) Thirteen Johnsons - Max Kantor

Ah, this one!

I actually wasn't surprised to find this on the "Pride And Passion" VHS release back in 1984. Some years later, I was remarking how many players were named Johnson in the NBA (Around 1990ish). Think, Vinny, Dennis Magic, Kevin (Who wasn't there in '84, surprisingly).
Anytime, to this day, whenever I see someone with the last name of Johnson, this rap (annoying by some accounts, just ask two of my brothers) comes right to my head.

Heck, I got addicted to it at a few years ago when I bought the Boston Celtics NBA dynasty series DVD.

Without further adieu, THIRTEEN JOHNSONS!


4) I Don't Want To Be The One - Trisha Yearwood

A was searching YouTube for clips of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, when I came across this video (see below) of them from the 1967 US Open. A real jewel of a duel.

Now, really, that song shouldn't be there. Still, I've come to hear this song in my head when I have a long putt and miss it. One of my motivations for making long putts, I guess.


3) Summer In The City - Lovin' Spoonful

Ever seen Ken Burns' great Baseball series? Carl Yastrzemski had perhaps the best two weeks (well, last two weeks) of any baseball player in such a tight pennant race. Boston, Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago were all "right there" in that time in 1967 (Even 5th place California was 84-77). Yaz took off in the Red Sox last 15 games:

.491 BA (27/55)
15 R
5 HR
18 RBI

And Ken Burns has put together another nice montage. If you have actually seen it, the clips are almost all from the World Series, which Yaz followed up on by hitting .400 with 3 homeruns! The clip ends with a kinescope of the last game of the season with Yaz getting a key hit to knock in two more.


2) The Empire Strikes Back - Meco

A kind of Star Wars disco stuff that I'm sure my older brother would have loved. But, also, if you recall the early to mid 1980s, when the Edmonton Oilers scored a goal at home, this song would ring out. Particularly, I think of Gretzky scoring on Billy Smith in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals on a breakaway.

It must have been sad to be the opposition in these situations. The Oilers, at home, up 5 or 6 goals and they're just getting warmed up, more to come! I sort of picture the crowd going nuts!

I must apologize for anyone who hated the Oilers. This is one TUNE OUT for you!

But hey, enjoy some Star Wars. You can't hate that!


1) Green Onions Booker T And The MGs

Back to Ken Burns' Baseball.

Just got through with Sandy Koufax's journey to greatness. Well, you guessed it, Ken Burns pulled off a montage of his pitching, striking out one batter after another, and even an audio call of his perfect game.

With Sandy, I just have a vision of him throwing a fastball or curveball and the batters missing it. The song (instrumental, for those unaware) actually seems fitting. For Koufax, it was always a feeling of an unfair situation for the batter. Koufax was THAT much better than all pitchers from 1962 - 1966!





Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sandy Koufax Before The Immortality, Part 5: 1961, Almost On Top Of The World


Putting It All Together

The Los Angeles Dodgers themselves entered the 1961 season as some writer’s picks to win the National League flag. But, of course, there was going to be a question mark as to how the team’s second best southpaw (behind Johnny Podres) faired.

Koufax, in spring training received some advice from Norm Sherry, where the lefty decided to slow stuff down. Did that ever pay off!

He lost his first start, anyway. Pittsburgh, the defending World Series Champions, beat him 6-3 (April 14th), and knocked him out in the 5th inning. Curiously, Koufax walked just 1 batter.

But his next start was complete game 6-hitter with just 3 walks and 11 strikeouts. The Dodgers were still cautious with Koufax, and all he had to show for the rest of the month was a short relief stint.

May would be different. And I’m sure by the end of the month, many a batter would say, “Mayday” when facing Koufax.

The early May days were not that good, though. A short start, and a relief outing where he failed to retire a batter, left his ERA at 4.91.

He won his next start, 4-2 over the Pirates, although it was hardly great. But again, the control was great, as despite surrendering 8 hits in 6 1/3 innings, he walked not a batter.

Next, he did walk 5, but gave up just 4 hits (8 2/3 innings) and fanned 11 batters, beating the Cubs, by the same score, 4-2. As he did against the Pirates, he allowed just 2 earned runs.

The Braves knocked him out early his next start, however, as Koufax walked 3 and gave up 7 hits in just four innings.

Three superb starts to end May, though, brought Koufax’s record to 6-2 on the season, and his ERA to 3.08.

All three were nine innings gems.

First, he beat the Giants, 3-2, allowing just four hits and two walks.

Then, he shutout the Cardinals, 1-0 on a masterful 3-hitter, defeating another pitcher whose stock was now on the rise, Bob Gibson (himself a 5-hitter on the day). Tommie Davis’ leadoff homerun to left center in the top of the 7th accounted for the only run of the game.

Finally, he finished off May by allowing St Louis 3 more hits, 5 walks and whiffing 13 in another 2-1 pitching duel win.

Koufax won his first June start, a 4-3 complete game nail biter over San Francisco. He wasn’t overly dominating, but 7 hits and 5 walks against lead to only 3 earned runs.

His next start was almost a carbon copy of his outing against the Giants. Here (June 7th), he allowed just 3 more earned runs and 7 hits for a 7-3 win. He struck out 7 batters (as he had against San Francisco), but there was a difference. Control. This time he walked only 2.

Sandy tossed his 6th straight complete game victory, pushing his record to 9-2, by beating the Phillies, 6-3. 3 earned runs against again, but only 2 walks and Sandy allowed but 5 hits. (The poor Philadelphia team would win only 47 games that year. But no one remembers that because of what happened to the Mets the next season: 40 wins!)

It all came to an end on June 16th, unfortunately. His outing wasn’t actually that bad. 6 1/3 innings and just 2 earned runs against the Braves. He gave up 8 hits, which is too many, and 5 walks, which is way to many. But all that, and he lost just 2-1. So with any offensive help he still could have pulled it out. He also struck 8 batters. He might have struck out more had those dangerous 3-4-5 hitters not been around:

Mathews 0 Ks (2-4)

Aaron, 0 Ks (But 0-4)

Adcock 1 K (1-3)

Sandy was undeterred. He would reach the double figure mark in wins with his best start of the season 4 days later on June 20th.

What a start it was! It was against the Chicago Cubs and Koufax resumed his complete game custom by allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while fanning 14 batters. By the way, he pitched a shutout, his second on the season. This would push his ERA down to a season low 2.78.

Another short start (5 ER in a 3 inning KO!) and short relief work followed, as he ended the month on a downer. Bowing out in 7 2/3 innings, Koufax suffered a 4-2 loss to the Pirates. Even so, he allowed just 7 hits, 1 walk and struck out 11 batters.

He faced Milwaukee again to begin July. LA won it, 3-2 as the lefty went eight innings and surrendered just three hits. Koufax did, however, have some wild times on the mound. He walked six batters. It should be noted that two of them were intentional walks.

This time, though, he struck out Mathews twice (although he had two hits to push his batting average on the season to .318) and Aaron once, on his way to 7 overall for the game.

The eventual (somehow) pennant winning Reds routed Koufax off the mound in his next start to drop his record to 11-5. Lasting just 3 2/3 innings, Koufax was shelled for 7 hits and 3 walks, plus 4 earned runs.

July 9th, which was two days later, saw Sandy again hammered by Cincinnati in a relief appearance. The walks were seemingly back and now his ERA was really on the rise.

And the ERA climbed another 14 points to 3.46 because of his next start six days later. The Phillies sort of avenged their earlier loss to Koufax by beating him and the Dodgers soundly, 7-2. Koufax’s record dropped to 11-6. While he gave up more than a hit per inning (8 in 7.1 IP), he walked only one, however, Sandy surrendered 5 earned runs.

July 17th saw a perfect two inning relief work for Sandy, as he earned his first save on the season against the Pirates.

Back to being a starter on the 20th, his 9 inning, 7 hit, 1 walk performance against the Reds was rewarded by Los Angeles with his 12th win, for a new career high in that category.

The Phillies felt the full force of Koufax as he threw still another complete game, gave up just 6 hits, 1 walk and K’d 10 batters for his 13th win on July 25th.

His last start in July was a mixed bag. Facing the Pirates again, Sandy lasted just 6 innings and gave up 8 hits and 4 walks. Again, though, just 2 runs scored, and Koufax fanned 7. The Dodgers won this game, 5-4, but Koufax didn’t figure into the decision.

August came, and wildness came. But again, Koufax would weather the storm.

He didn’t make it past the 7th inning in his first 4 starts. And three of them resulted in losses for Sandy, his record now, 13-9.

It appeared that batters had finally caught up to him, at least this season. In 21 1/3 innings in those 4 starts, Koufax was hit hard (28 hits for a .304 OBA), was wild (9 walks), fanned less than 1 per inning (20) and even gave up 6 homeruns.

Now his season wasn’t looking so great. In addition to 13-9, his ERA was now still pretty high, 3.64. Even here though, he had walked just 69 batters in (so far) 187.2 innings.

He walked 5 more in his next appearance, a complete game 7-2 win over the Reds again. Cincinnati managed 5 hits.

Sandy walked another 5, but this time gave up but two hits and an unearned run in another complete game gem over Chicago. Koufax fanned twelve as he emerged the winner of a tight, 2-1 pitching duel.

He had to face the Braves again early in September. Not only that, his mound opponent was Warren Spahn.

With one down in the first inning, the Braves Frank Bolling reached on an infield error. Eddie Mathews follow with a single, sending Bolling to third.

Koufax had to be careful with Hank Aaron. Hammering Hank not only hit 34 homeruns, but also had 10 triples, lead the league with 39 doubles, knocked in 120 runners, and scored 115 runs. On top of that, he stole 21 bases. Maybe the lefty hurler was too careful. Aaron walked. Bases loaded. Sandy needed a double play.

Joe Adcock dropped a single to left, which gave him 2 of what would be 108 RBI on the season. It also moved Aaron to third. Koufax got Frank Thomas (himself 25 homeruns in just 124 games) to force out Adcock at second, but it scored Aaron. 3-0 Braves. Koufax would avert further damage by fanning Roy McMillian.

Koufax would settle down after that, as three times he retired the side in order. The only other run he gave up was a solo homerun by catcher Sammy White in the 7th inning. Koufax was removed for a pinch-hitter in bottom of the top of the eighth, and Roger Craig held the Braves scoreless in the bottom of the frame.

But none of the Dodgers could do anything with Spahn.

He faced just 34 batters (5 more than Koufax faced), and needed less than two hours, for a complete game shutout of LA.

Koufax for his part gave up just 2 earned runs, 7 hits and a walk. But now, with this loss, Koufax was in double digits in losses.

Sandy faced the Giants as a starter and a reliever and was blown off the mound both times despite striking out 10 in only 4.2 innings in his start. In his relief appearance, he struck out 5 in two innings. He didn’t figure in the decision for either time

The lowly Phillies then defeated him on the 12th of that month, scoring six times on Sandy in 1.1 innings. The only positive was another 4 strikeouts. Loss number 11 for Koufax.

But he picked up his 16th win 3 days later. More like the Sandy that everyone was getting accustomed to: 9 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts.

And the superb lefty followed that by picking up a win in relief, and then a real show of longevity!

It took him the full 9 innings, plus another 4. And he tossed 205 innings. But once again, the poor Cubs were treated to a pitching clinic by Sandy Koufax, who won his 18th and final game of the season.

The Cubes managed 7 hits, 3 walks and two (earned) runs, total. But Sandy fanned fifteen batters and emerged with a 3-2 win.

He was hit hard against the Cardinals in his next start as once again, he faced Gibson.

Koufax surrendered 4 hits and three walks before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the 4th. Gibson was hardly better, to be fair, as he surrendered 9 hits and 5 walks in just 6.1 innings. But Bob picked up his 12th win and handed Koufax his 12th loss.

Koufax’s last start of 1961 was a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia. He pitched much better than he did last time against the Phillies, though. He tossed another complete game (this time 8 innings), gave up 3 hits and 3 walks and K’d 7 more batters. Still, he could not stop the Phillies from leaving the field with a 2-1 win and Sandy with his 13th loss, the second straight season he had lost as many games.

In looking at Koufax’s 1961 season, what do we find?

As for his work, he appeared in 42 games and started a career high 35. He finished 15 games to top his previous high of 7. His total of 255.2 innings pitched was easily the most he had ever thrown in one season.

As for wins (18), Koufax tied another Dodger lefty, Johnny Podres (who lost just 5 games for a league high .783 winning percentage) for team lead in wins. (Drysdale was only 13-10).

His ERA is about 40 points less than it was the season before, down to 3.52. That might not seem eye popping, but the Dodgers have played their last season at Memorial Coliseum. Fellow Dodgers’ ERAs:

Podres 3.74

Drysdale 3.69

Stan Williams 3.91 (15-12)

Roger Craig 6.13

The Dodgers team ERA was 4.04. No one, aside from reliever Ron Perranoski, (Happy 75th Birthday) had an ERA below Sandy’s.

Aren’t we all glad were moving on out?

Not everyone. The Dodgers offence has been high octane. The Dodgers runners touched home plate 735 times in 1961, second in the league behind the Giants 773. There must be something in the air out west.

The Dodgers as a team finished with a record of 89-65 (The National League didn’t expand like the American League did and therefore, still played only 154 games). The season ended with Los Angeles second to the surprising (as mentioned earlier) Cincinnati Reds.

Back to The Left Arm Of God. Koufax’s 3.52 ERA is exactly 0.50 behind Spahn’s league leading 3.02. Koufax was good enough for 7th in that area.

His 18 wins are good. Are they great? Spahn has tied Cincy’s Joey Jay for tops in the NL with 21, so Koufax is in a three way tie for 4th with Podres, of course, and Lew Burdette. Another Red, Jim O’Toole, finished ’61 with 19 wins.

Now how about Koufax’s actual pitching? Let’s start with Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP, as it’s known). For Sandy it’s another 4th place finish with 1.21. Once again the crafty Spahn has the trump card, 1.14.

As for actual hits against, Koufax is a little worse than he was a year ago. In 1960, he averaged just 6.8 hits against per 9 innings for second in that area. But this season, he takes that title anyway with a little more: 7.5 hits against per nine innings.

Opponents have hit just .222 on the season against Koufax. That not only tops the National League, but only four pitchers that season in the American League posted a lower number: Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas, Camilo Pascual and Steve Barber.

Opponents On Base Percentage (OBP) for Koufax this year was only .296. That is second in the league behind Spahn, who had .291.

He only pitched two shutouts, just like in 1960, and that’s not enough for a top ten finish.

His walks have improved to the point where he has permitted less than 100 (96) for 3.4 per nine innings. This isn’t good enough for a top ten finish. However, it is a drop of 1.7 walks per 9 innings from 1960.

His strikeouts per nine inning are a little down from last year. In 1960 he averaged 10.1, to lead the league for the first time. This year, he was down a little, 9.5. But once again he leads the NL. His 269 total strikeouts are not only a personal high, but also tops in the majors.

Another negative is the 27 homeruns he has surrendered. But looking at the leaders, notice anything?

1. McCormick 33

2. Burdette 31

3. Drysdale 29

4. Buzhardt, Sadecki 28

6. Mahaffey, Podres, Koufax, Purkey 27

10. Hobbie 26

Got three Dodgers in there!

Another problem, and this is something that no one can explain, is Koufax’s wild pitches. He threw 12 this season compared to 9 last season, and it’s enough for second in the league. Here’s how it looks:

1. Short 14

2. Koufax 12

3. Baldschun 11

4. McBean, Farrell 10

6. Jay, Ellsworth, Mahaffey, Williams 9

10. Podres, McDaniel, Sadecki, Gibson 8

Got more Dodgers, still!

As for what happened to Koufax in the rest of his career? The rest, as they say, is history.

But for those unaware, here is all Sandy did in the next 5 seasons:

111-34 W-L for a .766 W%

1.95 Earned Run Average

100 Complete Games

33 Shutouts

1444 Strikeouts


3 Times Topping The NL in Strikeouts (including 382 in 1965)

3 Times Topping The NL in Shutouts

4 Times Leading The NL in Lowest WHIP

4 Times Leading The NL in Lowest H/9

4 Times Leading The NL in Highest K/9

5 Times Leading The NL in Earned Run Average (Three times it was below 2.00)

2 Times Leading The NL in Complete Games


4 No-Hitters (including a perfect game, September 9, 1965)

3 Cy Young Awards (Despite having to compete against AL hurlers for this award)

2 World Series Titles (1963, 1965)

References

61*, The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer, by Ron Smith, copyright 2001.