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Koufax! Koufax! Koufax!
2003-11-19 08:37
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

The all-time Dodger Cy Young Award winner, as voted by 22 Dodger Thoughts readers from a pool of nine Dodger Cy Young award winners + 1 guy from 1916, is:

Sandy Koufax

and his 1966 season.

Coming in second: Sandy Koufax (1965). Coming in third: Sandy Koufax (1963).

Koufax '66 (27-9, 1.73 ERA, 190 ERA+, 323 IP, 241 H, 19 HR, 77 BB, 317 K) won in a landslide, with 13 first-place votes out of 22. Koufax '66 was left off seven ballots entirely, but at least one Sandy Koufax season was selected on 21 of 22 ballots.

Five voters listed Koufax in all three spots on their ballot, three in the eventual order of finish.

The one and only race in this vote was for third place, to see if Orel Hershiser (1988) could sneak in to prevent the Koufax sweep. One vote would have changed things, but Koufax '63 edged Hershiser by two points.

Eric Gagne rode the recent memories of his 2003 season and his incredible statistics out of the bullpen to a fifth-place finish, while Don Drysdale (1962) grabbed sixth place by virtue of coming away with the remaining first-place vote.

Rube Marquard (1916) - born too early for the Cy Young award - got a second-place and a third-place vote, perhaps by virtue of the third-best ERA+ in the competition, to finish seventh, while Fernando Valenzuela (1981) grabbed a single vote to finish eighth. Mike Marshall (1974) and Don Newcombe (1956) ran out of time before they got any support.

Below are the standings - five points for a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.

RankPlayerYear1st2nd3rdPoints
1Koufax1966131169
2Koufax196548347
3Koufax196325429
4Hershiser198824527
5Gagne200303514
6Drysdale19621027
7Marquard19160114
8Valenzuela19810011
9tMarshall19740000
9tNewcombe19560000

Some voters supplied great or at least revelatory comments with their votes. In the spirit of a secret ballot (secret to everyone else, anyway), I am running the comments without attribution. However, if you would like your name cited with your comment, just e-mail me.

Comment 1:

1. Sandy Koufax 1965 - I was six years old, and I still remember it like it was yesterday! The Dodgers had absolutely no offense that year, and it didn't matter if Koufax was on the mound! (With the exception of Game 1 of the Series! He got hammered pretty hard)

2. Eric Gagne 2003 - I had mixed feelings about this one, until I saw his ERA, and the K's! I don't can't ever recall in my 44 years ever hearing of a pitcher more dominant. He literally walks in and the game is over!

3. Big D - Don Drysdale 1962 - I was too young, but this is my earliest memory of being a Dodger fan. He had a great season that year, and while the numbers don't look as impressive as Koufax's three Cys, I don't think anyone say he wasn't the most feared pitcher.

Comment 2:

I think Sandy Koufax has to be the clear winner in your poll; the only question is which season. His combination of innings, ERA+, and strikeouts is simply unbeatable in this field (to say nothing in the rest of baseball history). I'll go with '66 because of the highest ERA+ and also because the guy's arm was about to fall off. My top 3 would be:

Koufax 66
Koufax 65 (mmmm, strikeouts)
Koufax 63

Comment 3:

1st place - Koufax 1966
2nd place - Hershiser 1988
3rd place - Koufax 1965
Koufax 1965 should probably be ahead of Orel's performance in the magical year of '88. But I was not alive to witness Koufax, so I do show a little bias toward the Bulldog. I figure if real baseball writers can show their prejudice and ignorance while voting for the AL ROY, I can too.
Comment 4:

1. Koufax of 1966
2. Koufax of 1965
3. Hershiser - sentimental choice, plus an awesome ERA for the juiced-ball era.

Comment 5:

Here's my ballot:
1. Koufax '66
2. Koufax '65
3. Koufax '63
I tried to find a place in there for Marshall, but I just couldn't. And Hershiser's 1988 was probably my favorite Dodger season ever (I was 12), but in the end Koufax's peak was tough to top. It's too bad we were deprived of the chance to vote on any of Pedro Martinez's Cy Youngs!
Comment 6:

1. Don Drysdale
2. Eric Gagne
3. Fernando Valenzuela

It was really hard for me to pick between #2 and #3. Gagne is pitching in an era where offense is tremendous, and Fernando and Drysdale didn't necessarily have to face off against someone like Barry Bonds. Gagne has shown sheer dominance all season. Drysdale is probably my favorite pitcher because of how he could just dominate games from top to bottom.

Comment 7:

I only voted for Koufax once, out of fairness. But you could make an argument that he should occupy all three spots.

I vote:

1. Koufax - 1966
2. Hershisher - 1988
3. Gagne - 2003

Comment 8:

Interesting topic, well presented.

Here's my ballot:

1. Koufax '65. Dominating season in as tight a pennant race any Dodger squad has survived. His perfect game on Sept. 9 sparked the Dodgers to a season-ending 16-4 run, with Sandy picking up 5 victories. Two stellar WS wins. (Yes, I'm taking postseason play into account - unlike the guidelines for the real CYA voting.)

2. Hershiser '88. Season really didn't pick up steam until the end, with the scoreless streak. (Come to think of it, LA's WS drive never had a distinctive "kick." Wins by month: 13, 14, 17, 16, 17, 16, 1.) What followed is a postseason of such brilliance we may never see again: 1.05 ERA in 42-2/3 innings! Getouttahere! 3-0 with a save! (That late-night hairball at Shea was NUTS to watch.) Three CGs in 5 starts. Stunning.

3. Gagne '03. I have never seen batters so baffled as they were this year against him. I love pitchers with dead-fish changes - and his goes 85 mpfh! (I'm a little torn about favorably comparing 80-plus innings of relief vs. 220-plus innings as a starter. Then again, he also pitched 77 games as compared to a typical ace starter's 35 or so - more than double the number of games that he could directly influence.)

Here's how other reference points would vote:

Bill James Win Shares: Koufax '66 (35 win shares), Koufax '65 (33), Koufax '63 (32), Newcombe '56 (27), Hershiser '88/Gagne '03 (25), Drysdale '62 (24), Marshall '74 (21), Marquard '16 (20 - Big Jeff Feffer had 32!) and Valenzuela '81 (17).

Neyer's lineups book has Koufax's 1966 season as the top by a starting pitcher, adding that the only contender is Dazzy Vance's 1924 campaign (28 wins, 262 Ks - 36 win shares). Top relief season is Marshall's, but the book was published earlier this year, before Gagne's feats.

Comment 9:

#1 Sandy Koufax, 1963...I believe he threw 20 complete games that year? If true, that's sick!!! Where have all the tough-ass pitchers gone?

#2 Sandy Koufax, 1965...OK, this is probably the real first place. 383 K's... When the Dodgers took the field this year behind Sandy, the common saying became "We're gonna kick someone's ass tonight."
p.s. God Bless the 1965 World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers!!!

#3 Orel Hershiser, 1988...The Streak, the magic...I'm sentimental about this one. I sat behing the Dodgers dugout one glorious afternoon and watched Orel throw a 2-0 shutout during The Streak.
p.s. I could've probably put Fernando here or Sandy, 1966

Comment 10:

Since I'm feeling like Estragon in a production of "Waiting For McCourt," let's vote.

1. Koufax 1966
2. Koufax 1963
3. Marquard 1916

Comment 11:

You came up with a great idea on your all-time Dodgers Cy Young poll. Here are my top three...
3. Sandy Koufax, 1965
2. Sandy Koufax, 1963
1. Sandy Koufax, 1966
Three of the only five seasons with 150+ adjusted ERAs and the only three with 300+ IP. Quality and quantity. Combined. What else could one want?
I may have inserted Dazzy Vance's season in 1924 among the top three had it been an option. He was the MVP that year, having beaten out Rogers Hornsby (who only happened to hit .424 that year - the highest single-season average in modern N.L. history - and also lead the league in hits, walks, runs, doubles, total bases, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, Total Average, and runs created). Vance had a historic season of his own, winning not only the MVP but also the Triple Crown of pitching (W, K, ERA) plus he led the league in CG and most rate stats (including H/IP, K/IP, K/BB, and WHIP). To show you Vance's dominance, he struck out 262 batters that year and the next best in the MAJORS was the one and only Walter Johnson with 158.

Comment 12:

I thought about this all weekend and I came up with this ballot:

1) Sandy Koufax 1966
2) Sandy Koufax 1963
3) Sandy Koufax 1965

In my mind those three seasons are head and shoulders above the other candidates (because of production or in Gagne’s case number of innings). For what it is worth, I would put Gagne 4th and Hershiser 5th.

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