Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Sandy Koufax (Page 3 of 5)

Zack Greinke’s adjusted ERA is better than Bob Gibson’s in 1968

Philadelphia Phillies vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Adjusted ERA July 9By Jon Weisman

In 1968, Bob Gibson famously had a 1.12 ERA that was baseball’s lowest in more than 50 years.

Right now, adjusted for park and era factors, Zack Greinke is better.

At right, you can see where Greinke stands among the greatest adjusted ERAs (ERA+) of all time, according to (Click to enlarge the chart.)

The next-closest Dodger doesn’t come until Roger Craig (205 ERA+, 1959), in 46th place. Clayton Kershaw’s best single-season ERA+ was 194 last year, and Sandy Koufax’s was 190 in 1966 (77th).

Of course, Greinke has only thrown 123 1/3 innings so far this year.  Gibson threw 304 2/3 in 1968, and adjusted ERA doesn’t factor in that level of durability.

Greinke has been boosted by a career-low .235 opponents’ batting average on balls in play, and in his 17 starts, he has allowed nine hits total with runners in scoring position (.203 on-base percentage, .224 slugging percentage).

Read more about Greinke’s unbelievable exploits in 2015 in Thursday night’s post.

Remembering ’65: Before perfect game, Drysdale, Osteen and Koufax were low-hit wonders


By Jon Weisman

Next to the World Series title, 1965 will always be remembered most by Dodger fans for Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. In fact, Los Angeles came within a hair of having four no-hitters that season — including two one-hitters that took place 50 years ago this week.

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Remembering ’65: ‘The Sound of the Dodgers’


By Jon Weisman

One day in May, this little item appeared deep in the game notes of the Times’ Frank Finch:

Maury Wills and Willie Davis cut records with Stubby Kaye Friday afternoon as well as doing single platters. During the session Jimmy Durante made a record called ‘Dandy Sandy,’ singing the praises of Prof. Koufax. Wills said it would be a smash.

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?

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Remembering ’65: An April time capsule


By Jon Weisman

Moving past their big preseason scare regarding Sandy Koufax’s elbow, the Dodgers’ found some rhythm in April. Los Angeles spent most of the month in first place, going 10-5.

Here are some tidbits of the times — a really fun time capsule, if you ask me.

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Remembering ’65: Sandy’s scare


By Jon Weisman

Imagine a world without the Internet, without social media, without wall-to-wall sports coverage, and you pick up your morning paper from the driveway to find this:

Koufax headline

“VERO BEACH — Sandy Koufax, greatest left hander in the game, flew back to Los Angeles Thursday for examination of his stiff and swollen elbow — the one on his million dollar pitching arm which he injured last season,” wrote Frank Finch of the Times.

This April 2, 1965 story showed that things were different 50 years ago in more ways than one. As we noted last week, Koufax’s 1964 season ended in mid-August. Nevertheless, on March 30, in the middle of Spring Training — nearly two weeks before Opening Day — Koufax pitched his second straight complete game for the Dodgers, striking out 10 in a 2-0 loss.

Two days later, the 29-year-old was on a plane to see Dr. Robert Kerlan.

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Remembering ’65: Spring Training optimism


By Jon Weisman

Periodically this year at Dodger Insider, we’ll flash back to 1965 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that World Series title for the Dodgers. You all know how it ended, but do you remember how we got there?

Today, we’ll check in on how things were sounding from Dodgertown in Vero Beach. Opening Day 1965 on April 12 was still about two weeks away, so while the Dodgers were coming off an 80-82, sixth-place finish in 1964, Spring Training’s power of positive thinking was in full swing. This was particularly the case with the pitching staff, as evidenced by two pieces that ran in the Times’ editions on March 28, 1965.

Roseboro head shot

John Roseboro

Dodger catcher John Roseboro, entering his ninth season, told beat writer Frank Finch of the Times that the 1965 pitching staff was the best he’s handled.

“We have an overabundance of left-handers,” Roseboro said, implicitly acknowledging the offseason trade of Frank Howard for Claude Osteen, who joined Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres in the four-man rotation, “but we have more depth now and won’t have to depend on two starters (Don Drysdale and Koufax) like we did most of last year.”

Drysdale threw 321 1/3 innings across 40 starts in 1964. Koufax averaged 7.9 innings per start with a 1.76 ERA, but his 1964 season after a 13-strikeout shutout August 16.

Assessing those top two pitchers in the midst of exhibition play, Roseboro was upbeat even if his glasses weren’t entirely rose-colored.

“Sandy’s just about ready to go nine strong innings. He’s throwing well, but his control is off a bit,” Roseboro said. “The last time I caught Don he looked ready for nine. Then he hit the ‘dead arm’ stage against the A’s. His control is good.”

Times columnist Sid Ziff reported even more positivity about the pitching, with a Dodger spokesman telling him it was “by far” the best it had ever been in Los Angeles. Of bigger concern was addressing 1964’s defensive shortcomings. The spokesman didn’t mince words.


Jim Lefebvre

“Our defense was horrible last year, but John Kennedy and Jim Lefebvre will help to correct that situation,” he said. “If Lefebvre doesn’t stay with the club, shame on us. There was a rumor he might be farmed out for another year of experience.”

Lefebvre made his Major League debut on Opening Day and went on to play 157 games and win the National League Rookie of the Year award. (Coincidentally, 50 years ago today, it was reported Lefebvre had escaped injury after being beaned in the helmet during an exhibition game against Detroit by former Dodger pitcher Larry Sherry.)

“We aren’t set in right field yet,” the spokesman continued, “but no matter who plays there, he’ll be a defensive improvement over Frank Howard. The way it looks now, Wes Parker has the best shot at it. He looks like a real hitter.”

Parker ended up settled at first base, with Ron Fairly taking the bulk of right-field action.

Also of concern was the clubhouse atmosphere and perceived undermining of manager Walter Alston. Leo Durocher, in particular, was famous for challenging Alston’s authority.

“Alston is finally on his own as a manager,” said the spokesman (who Ziff said wanted “to remain unidentified because it wouldn’t do for him to show so much confidence.”) “Now he doesn’t have to defer, subconsciously or otherwise, to any of his coaches. … The Bragans, Dressens and Durochers are all gone. There’ll be no other ‘managers’ in the dugout this season. We think it has taken a load off Alston’s shoulders. He has already assumed more authority.”

The idea that Alston, only one season removed from his third World Series title, was so under the gun shows you that it never really gets easy for a manager. But 1965 would indeed prove rewarding for Smokey.

In case you missed it: Blowin’ in the wind

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Cubs at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Andre Ethier, DH
Juan Uribe, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
(Brandon McCarthy, P)

By Jon Weisman

How many steps must a man run down
Before he realizes he’s not going to catch that home run by Howie Kendrick?

The answer, my friend, is 11. That’s about how many footprints Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin made before he watched forlornly as Kendrick’s homer sailed about a first down or two beyond the outfield fence.

Here is some postgame reaction, from Pedro Moura of the Register:

It was 11 a.m. Tuesday, two hours before the Dodgers were to play the Texas Rangers here, 20 minutes away from their spring-training home, and Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins had made plans to carpool.

Kendrick was dressed and ready to go; Rollins was still in his workout gear, needing to shower. They chided each other in the clubhouse, Rollins telling Kendrick to slow down, Kendrick telling Rollins to speed up. That’s the relationship the two men have developed in three weeks as teammates after almost a decade of mutual, cross-league admiration.

So, after Kendrick smashed perhaps the longest homer of his pro career Tuesday, at least 440 feet to dead center off Rangers left-hander Joe Beimel, no one in the Dodgers clubhouse was better suited than Rollins to provide perspective.

“Actually, I kind of thought I missed it a little bit,” Kendrick tried to say. “I guess the wind was blowing today.”

Rollins interjected: “In other words, I’ve never hit one that well.” …

Click here to read the entire article.
And now, here are some more morning links …

  • Baseball Prospectus gives the Dodgers an 89.7 percent chance of making the playoffs and 17.6 percent for winning the World Series, significantly higher than the other 29 teams. Will Leitch writes about the playoff odds today at Sports on Earth.
  • offers a sortable Milestone Tracker (link via Openers), putting the spotlight on future achievements great and small. Here are the lists for Dodger hitters and for Dodger pitchers. Now you know when Jimmy Rollins will enter MLB’s all-time top 50 in steals.
  • J.P. Howell warmed up too long during the Dodgers’ seven-run fifth inning, the pitcher and Don Mattingly told Ken Gurnick of On the bright side, Howell a) learned his lesson and b) doesn’t figure to make many appearances after the Dodgers score seven runs in an inning.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu’s fluctuating velocity (well, the fluctuating velocity of Ryu’s pitches, not Ryu himself) is the subject of this piece by Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A.
  • Andrew Friedman on meeting Sandy Koufax, via J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News:

    “It’s very rare in life where you have incredibly high expectations for someone and they actually exceed them,” Friedman said. “It’s really all encompassing — the type of person he is, the way he articulates his points, the knowledge he has, the way he’s able to question things in a very thoughtful way. I had so many different conversations over the span of that week that were incredibly thought-provoking and got me thinking.”

  • Today is the 60th anniversary of Koufax’s first game at Spring Training in Vero Beach, we were told by Historic Dodgertown in a press release. At age 19, he faced seven batters, walking two and striking out five. In the same game, 18-year-old Don Drysdale pitched four innings and struck out eight.
  • Brandon Beachy threw off a mound Tuesday for the first time since his second Tommy John operation, reports Gurnick, who adds that Beachy was both excited but keeping his enthusiasm in check.
  • Director of player development Gabe Kapler is a big booster of social media for athletes. At his blog Kaplifestyle, he explains why.
  • No more hanging chads at the ballpark: All-Star Game balloting is going all digital, notes Mike Oz at Big League Stew. End of an era …
  • Finally, we’re looking ahead to today’s biggest contest …


More from Hoornstra here.

The greatest Los Angeles Dodger pitching performances in losses

Sutton '74
By Jon Weisman

A few days ago at Fangraphs, Miles Wray wrote about the five greatest pitching performances of 2014 that came in a loss. I thought I’d put a Dodger twist on this, and throw in some historical perspective as well.

Here are the five greatest pitching performances during a loss in Los Angeles Dodger history, dating back to 1958  and using, as Wray did, Win Probability Added as the measurement. Continue past the five for a couple of bonus epics, including one that will make your jaw drop …

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In case you missed it: Soaking in Spring Training

By Jon Weisman

Man, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. Here’s what’s percolating:

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Sandy Koufax holds court

(Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers)

(Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Highlight of Spring Training/2015/Dodger life and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax is at Camelback Ranch, and a reporter asked him today if the juices were still flowing when he put on the Dodger uniform.

“The juices have gotten very thick,” Koufax joked. “They don’t flow.”

Nevertheless, the joy of the annual ritual wasn’t lost on the great lefty.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun to be around the players. This is a nice time of year — nobody’s lost their job, everybody’s got a job coming. Everybody’s positive. It’s a good time to be around baseball players.

Koufax shared thoughts on a variety of subjects — here’s a snapshot …

On Clayton Kershaw and the 2014 postseason:

“If somebody had told me that anybody would beat Clayton twice in one series, I’d have said ‘No way.’ I probably would have cursed and said ‘No way.’ But it happens. And I have to say, I don’t know if you heard his (award) acceptance speech in New York, but that last line was as classy as it gets. On a night where you’re being honored, to bring up what didn’t go right is pretty classy, pretty special.

“I don’t know if he has any extra fire (heading into 2015), because I think he always has fire. I think he’s a great competitor. So would it be any extra? I hope not, because extra might destroy you. You can just go so far. … I think he’ll be in a lot more postseasons, and I think it’ll be totally turned around.”

On Julio Urias:

“He’s impressive. He’s very impressive. This is the first time I’ve seen him throw. It’s a long way from the driving range to the golf course, and it’s a long way from side sessions to the game. He has all the requisites — we just have to see what happens. Physically, he’s very impressive.”

On Yasiel Puig:

“I think probably he’s never played against talent that might be his equal, so he’s thought, ‘OK, they’ll make a mistake. I can keep running, and they’ll screw it up.’ It doesn’t happen here. I think he’s learned that. … I think there’s a lot of progress. When you’re struggling at the plate, everything looks bad.”

On Tommy John surgery:

“They just wouldn’t operate on an arthritic elbow in those days. It would be a simple surgery. I had arthritic hooks that would be scratching, and my elbow would blow up, fill up with fluid. Then they’d drain it, send you back out there. Surgery would have been easy, they would have done it when the season was over and be fine in Spring Training. They wouldn’t have cut anything — just hammer and chisel.

“I have a lot of theories (on the epidemic of surgeries). Mechanics. I think a lot of people don’t use the lower half of their body as much as people used to. They’re much more straight up and down. Plus, people are doing it prophylactically — before they have a bad elbow, they’re doing Tommy John.

On pace of play:

“I’m not sure what pace of play is bad. It’s slower than it used to be, but you get three more pitching changes than you used to get, so that takes time. I think the strike zone has changed shape — I think it’s gotten narrower and taller and lower. I think a wider strike zone and not necessarily and not necessarily higher and lower would speed up the game. That’s just my opinion — by no means humble opinion.

“It’s not so much the time of the game. I find it hard to watch a pitcher go two strikes and no balls and end up 3-2, and that happens much more than it should.

On the new front-office leadership:

“From everything that everybody’s said, they’re analytic but they’re listening to the players and manager and coaches. You talk about the analytic thing and this all started in Oakland, but no one makes mention of the fact that (Billy Beane) was a player. So he could see talent, and if the analytical was one thing, but if he didn’t like what he saw, he didn’t sign him. It’s a combination of both that’s important.”

On clubhouse atmosphere:

“People pooh-pooh clubhouse (issues), but I think clubhouses are important. I think it’s important players like each other. … You’re together probably eight months out of the year, so if you don’t like each other, it is a grind.”

On the tough finish to the 1962 season:

“It was a strange year. I missed three or four months, whatever it is. There’s a chance we might have won. Not saying that I was that good, but there was a chance we might have won and it would have been a different year. If you lose key players, it affects your team.”

On the absence of Maury Wills and Gil Hodges from the Hall of Fame:

“I think Maury changed the game. He revolutionized the game. He was the most dominant offensive force in baseball, even though (Hank) Aaron might have been the best hitter. Every time Maury got on, it was a double or a triple.

“Gil’s contribution was not only as a player, but as a manager, and a lot of people have been elected because they did both.”

And one more … on picking up a baseball and throwing:

“I don’t throw a thing. Never. That was a long time ago in a land far away. It does not happen. I don’t even throw first balls anymore without moving up to where Vinny is.”

Video: Scully, Koufax and Hendley honored

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By Jon Weisman

“On a Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, the crafts of pitching and broadcasting came as close to perfection as we’ll ever see,” said Tom Verducci at Saturday’s Baseball Writers Association of America dinner as he introduced the Willie, Mickey & the Duke Award, going to the Cubs’ Bob Hendley and the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax and Vin Scully in recognizing the historical significance of the September 9, 1965 night that Scully broadcast Koufax’s perfect game beating Hendley’s one-hitter.

“The broadcast of the game, we’ve heard it a lot – at least I have,” Koufax said, “and Vinny was so special, it’s probably more exciting listening to him than it was doing it that night.”

Hendley, who joined Koufax in accepting the award, noted that Saturday was the first time he had actually met Koufax. He also charmingly pointed out that five days after the perfect game, he outdueled Koufax with a four-hitter in a 2-1 victory, meaning that in the two games combined, each pitcher allowed exactly two runs on five hits.

But Hendley could not have been more gracious to Scully or Koufax.

“If you get beat, get beat by class, get beat by the best,” Hendley said. “And he is the best, and he is class.”

Video: Koufax presents Kershaw with Cy Young, MVP Awards

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Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 10.55.23 AMBy Jon Weisman

Quite a weekend for Clayton Kershaw: One day after his first child was born, Sandy Koufax presented him with the 2014 National League Cy Young and MVP Awards at the 2015 Baseball Writers Association of America dinner in New York.

“If the writers still have their notes from last year, change 25 years of age to 26, change two Cy Youngs to three, add one MVP and you’re done,” Koufax said.

Kershaw’s speech was filled with thanks to Dodger teammates and staff, kicked off by gratitude to Koufax …

“Sandy, I don’t know where to start,” Kershaw said. “It’s tough for me to put into words how honored I am that you would even want to be here tonight.”

… a tearful acknowledgment of his wife, Ellen.

“She’s makes it all worth it,” he said.”

… and even a nod to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Thank you for reminding me that you’re never as good as you think you are,” Kershaw said.

Video: Happy anniversary to Koufax’s perfect game

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It was 49 years ago today, but it never gets old.

— Jon Weisman

As Clayton Kershaw makes his 200th start, what the Sandy Koufax comparisons mean

Clayton Kershaw, wearing No. 54, makes the first start of his big-league career, May 25, 2008  (Jeff Gross/Getty Images).

Clayton Kershaw, wearing No. 54, makes the first start of his big-league career on May 25, 2008. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw makes the 200th start of his Major League career tonight.

In Major League history, two pitchers have made 199 starts with an park/era-adjusted ERA (ERA+) of at least 150: Pedro Martinez and Kershaw.

Here are the top six pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings: Randy Johnson, Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Tim Lincecum, Kershaw, Sandy Koufax.

The top five in MLB history in Wins Above Average through age 26: Walter Johnson, Bert Blyleven, Christy Mathewson, Hal Newhouser, Kershaw.

* * *

Kershaw Koufax _I5T1877pb

The taboo against comparing Kershaw to Koufax has begun to fall away, as the full scope of Kershaw’s accomplishments resonates more and more among even the most diehard Koufax fans. At a minimum, fewer raise objections to mentioning them in the same sentence.

Whether Kershaw will end is career in the same stratosphere as Koufax is impossible to know. But speaking in the present, there’s no doubt that Kershaw has accomplished more by his age-26 season than Koufax has.

  • Kershaw (2008-2014): 1,301 1/3 innings, 2.52 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 1.067 WHIP, 1,356 strikeouts, 150 ERA+
  • Koufax (1955-1962): 1,131 2/3 innings, 3.71 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.314 WHIP, 1,168 strikeouts, 110 ERA+

Among the key distinctions made to elevate Koufax above Kershaw is the fact that Kershaw was part of a five-man rotation, while four-man rotations were common in the Koufax era. It’s a meaningful distinction, though perhaps overplayed in terms of how often Koufax started on three days’ rest:

Sandy Koufax startsEspecially at the outset of Koufax’s career, some of his starts that were technically on short rest came after brief appearances. For example, in his 1955 rookie season, Koufax is credited with a 14-strikeout August 27 shutout of the Reds on one day of rest, but in fact that was coming off an 11-pitch relief appearance on August 25 in the ninth inning with a five-run deficit, an outing that essentially was a glorified bullpen session.

I’m absolutely not trying to minimize anything Koufax has accomplished here — Koufax threw 135 pitches in that 1955 shutout, at age 19, and you’ll be shocked to find that in his next appearance, he allowed four runs in an inning of relief. Live by the pitch-count freedom, die by the pitch-count freedom.

Koufax was not protected the way Kershaw was; he was used almost haphazardly. He was anything but sacred for the first several years of his career, and the fact that he became as incredible as he did speaks to his miraculous qualities.

But when people have said that you can’t compare Kershaw to Koufax, the Koufax they’re really speaking of didn’t even arrive until age 27, the year of his first Cy Young Award. Kershaw doesn’t turn 27 until next year.

Ultimately, comparing Kershaw to Koufax is apples to oranges (the very best apples and oranges you’ve ever tasted). Kershaw will never have the opportunity to prove that he could match or surpass Koufax on three days’ rest. Kershaw will never crack 300 innings in a season. And for that we can be grateful, because thanks to those restrictions, Kershaw has a much better chance to pitch past the age of 30, perhaps another decade beyond Koufax’s playing life.

So when people like myself do compare Kershaw to Koufax, we’re really just trying to look for ways to shorthand the greatness of Kershaw. And it’s no shot at Koufax that in some ways, he does fall short. It simply speaks to how mindblowingly unreal Kershaw has been.

But for our conclusion, we’ll leave Koufax out of the copy:

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his age in Dodger history and probably one of the five best in Major League history. And as impossible as it seems, it’s possible he hasn’t peaked.

An eye-opening look at the Koufax-Drysdale holdout

Bavasi with pitchersBavasi cover
By Jon Weisman

Here is a fascinating time capsule from the Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale era of the Dodgers from the front office perspective.

Buzzie Bavasi, general manager of the Dodgers for the bulk of the 1950s and 1960s, wrote a lengthy, first-person article in 1967 for Sports Illustrated describing the events before, during and after the Koufax-Drysdale holdout of the previous year. Be sure to click to read the entire story.

Bavasi makes no bones about his efforts to clear or correct the record, including what Koufax himself wrote (or had ghost-written). “I’m not saying that the chapter (on the holdout) is untrue,” Bavasi states. “I’m just saying that my memories of the double holdout and Sandy’s memories are two different things.”

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