In my last post, I gave you a pretty comprehensive overview of Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw. For Koufax it encompassed his six years of dominance from 1961 through 1966 and for Kershaw it ran from 2011 into this year.
When the performances of these two greats are analyzed there is a remarkable comparability in them. However, what cannot be denied is the remarkable incomparability in the wide disparity in innings pitched/pitches thrown. It is thus this disparity in which I will attempt to level the playing field.
How do we do that?
I will keep this as simple as possible and be advised I am in the process of a complete comparison of their six seasons, so what I have for you today is a breakdown of their first Cy Young Award seasons for each of them.
Now here’s where we level the playing field so hang with me. Again we take the given that Sandy Koufax threw far more innings in a season and thus, far more pitches per outing. There is no way we can accurately attempt to measure what Kershaw may have done if he threw as many innings/pitches as Koufax. We can however, get a pretty accurate read on what Koufax may have done if he threw less. With that in mind, let’s proceed.
We can get that read by using what I will call, the seventh inning demarcation mark. The choice of the seventh inning is simply because of the current use of pitchers in Major League Baseball, with set up man (8th inning guy) and of course, the closer.
So here goes.
In 2011 Kershaw was 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts with 248. His opponents hit .207 against him. Those are the traditional stats. Looking at the other stats, his WAR was 6.5, his WHIP (Walks plus hits/IP) was an NL leading 0.977, his strikeouts per nine innings was 9.56 and his average hits allowed per nine innings was a league leading 6.71.
In Kershaw’s 33 starts in 2011, he threw 3,469 pitches, that is an average of 105 pitches per start. In 13 of those 33 starts he went beyond the seventh inning, twice he threw complete game shutouts and he also threw three other complete games, all wins. In each game he threw beyond the seventh he went 12-0 with one no decision.
As we begin it should be understood that complete game shutouts pitched by both Kershaw and Koufax were removed from scrutiny. The reason is simply that by definition, the performances of both pitchers on those days were not affected by number of innings pitched or pitchers thrown.
With that said, we begin the breakdown on Kershaw’s 2011 performance past the seventh inning. He pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing 4 runs, on 13 hits while walking 4 and striking out 15. His ERA was 2.63 (a third of a run more) and he surrendered 4 earned runs past the seventh, 6% of his 59 total earned runs allowed. His opponents hit .245 against him (38 points higher), his WHIP was 1.27 (a half hit more per inning), and his hits per nine innings was 8.5 (nearly 2 full hits more). The only stat that remained the same was his strikeouts per nine innings which actually went up from 9.6 to 9.7.
Now comes what I will call his COMPARATIVE PERFORMANCE…Pretty sexy huh? Arrived at by backing out all activity beyond the seventh inning.
His record remained the same…21-5…His ERA went from 2.28 to 2.25…His Opponents Batting Average from .207 to .204…His WHIP from 0.977 to 0.960…His Hits per Nine went from 6.7 to 6.5 and his K/9 remained the same 9.6.
Now lets take a look at Koufax’s first Cy Young season of 1963.
First the traditional stats: he was 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts with 306. His opponents hit .189 against him. In the modern stats: his WAR was a major league leading 10.7. His WHIP also a major league leading 0.874 and his K/9 innings was 8.8. He allowed 6.1 hits per nine innings to lead the NL.
Koufax started 40 games in 1963 throwing a total of 4,454 pitches for an average of 111 pitches per start. That is only six more per start than Kershaw. It is worth noting that Koufax had two starts in 1963 where he threw only 8 pitches in one and 16 in another. Twenty-eight times Koufax went beyond the seventh inning with 11 of them complete game shutouts. Nine other times he threw complete games and in all games he went beyond the seventh he was 24-0 with 4 no decisions.
This is what he looked like beyond the seventh inning; again remember this does not include his 11 shutouts for the aforementioned reason.
He pitched 35 1/3 innings allowing 12 earned runs, 38 hits while walking 8 batters and striking out 33. His ERA was 3.05 (well over a run higher), as he surrendered 12 of his 65 earned runs after the seventh, 18% of his total. His opponents hit .259, 70 points higher than before the seventh. His WHIP was 1.302 (like Kershaw nearly a half of hit higher). His strikeouts per nine dipped to 8.4 while his hits per nine soared from 6.2 to 9.6 nearly 3.5 hits more!
His COMPARATIVE PERFORMANCE…
His record remained the same…25-5…His ERA went from 1.88 to 1.73…His Opponents Batting Average from .189 to .173…His WHIP from 0.875 to 0.819…His Hits per Nine went from 6.1 to 5.7 and his K/9 virtually remained the same 8.8 to 8.9.
A few interesting notes on these two seasons…
- Left-handed hitters hit .224 against him while righties hit .179.
- 31 of his 40 starts came on 3 days rest, he was 19-3 with a 1.93 ERA in those games.
- He started one game on just a days rest…He won, giving up 2 runs (one earned) in 8 innings.
- He was 15-3 with a 2.09 ERA against teams over .500, 10-2 1.47 facing teams under the mark.
- His 11 shutouts remains a record for left-handers in the Modern Era (1901-Present) and he threw 3 of them in a row in early July.
- In two separate starts, he lasted only 1/3 of an inning surrendering 9 earned runs in those starts.
- Lefties hit .178 against him, righties .213.
- In his first 25 pitches of the game, batters hit .130 against him; over 100 pitches, .267.
- In the seventh inning opponents hit .283 against him, his worst inning.
- Seven times he registered double digit strikeouts with his high being 12.
- His average run support was 4.44.
- He was 3-3 on May 2nd and went 18-2 the rest of the way.
This is one year completed with five to go! In the end my objective is to develop a mechanism by which we can measure pitchers across the eras. So stay tuned as I will be pecking away at this for quite a while.
And so it is on this day in Fenway history, July 1, 2016. The summer is here!