The first of these 14 occurred on a Sunday afternoon on Aug. 3, 1930. That day, a right-hander named Dazzy Vance, pitching at Ebbets Field, faced a Giants lineup that included three future Hall of Famers (Freddie Lindstrom, Bill Terry and Mel Ott) hitting 3-4-5 and another (Carl Hubbell) as his mound counterpart. The Giants collected eight hits (including three by Terry) against Vance but couldn't push a run across. Hubbell was also as stingy as possible. Allowing only four hits, the screwballer known as "The Meal Ticket" finally broke with one out in the bottom of the ninth, when Dodgers second baseman Jake Flowers drove in the only run of the game. The 1-0 victory gave Vance his 11th win of the season and 158th of his career. A quarter-century later, he would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The most recent of the 14 took place in 2010. On the night of Sept. 14, a southpaw named Clayton Kershaw, pitching at AT&T Park in San Francisco, faced the team that would go on to win the World Series. Kershaw gave up a double and three singles, faced three batters over the minimum and walked off the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning with his first career complete game and shutout.
Most Seasons with 130 ERA+, Through Age-22 Season
|Smoky Joe Wood||3|
Kershaw's effort in that 1-0 win lowered his ERA for the season to 2.85, and his four strikeouts in that start brought his season total to 201 -- the first time in his three-year career he reached the 200-K milestone. The 22-year-old Kershaw would conclude the season with a 13-10 record, a 2.91 ERA, a 132 ERA+ and 212 strikeouts. For a pitcher who was -- before he even threw his first Major League pitch -- projected and perceived as a super stud, an electric No. 1 of a staff, Kershaw has managed some nice accomplishments and introduced himself to some fine company.
Kershaw, before he has thrown a pitch as a 23-year-old, has put up consecutive seasons of a 143 and 132 ERA+ (pitcher's ERA compared to the rest of the league, adjusted for pitcher's ballpark; the higher the number, the better a pitcher's ERA was relative to the league).
That places him on a list with elite company. Through their age-22 seasons, Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson and Smoky Joe Wood are the only pitchers to post three seasons with an ERA+ greater than 130. Of the seven pitchers with two seasons, Walter Johnson and Bob Feller are also Hall of Famers. Dwight Gooden is also a member of that fraternity.
Dodgers Since 1901 -- Most K's Through Age-22 Season
Kershaw's 212 strikeouts in 2010 gave him 497 for his career, 18th-most by any pitcher since 1901 through his age-22 season. Feller holds the record with 1,233, followed by Gooden, who had 892. That list also includes Wood (733), Johnson (708), Mathewson (652) and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (593).
Kershaw is one of three Dodgers pitchers among the top 18. The list below presents the top 10 K totals for all Dodgers pitchers through their age-22 season (since 1901).
Since we finally put together a list that includes both Kershaw and Sandy Koufax, let's finish this look at the Dodgers' newest lefty phenom with a comparison of the two.
Sandy Koufax versus Clayton Kershaw through Age-22 Season
Kershaw will be joined in the Dodgers' 2011 rotation by fellow lefty Ted Lilly. Last year, Lilly was acquired by Los Angeles at the Trade Deadline and went on to make 12 starts for the club. In those 12 starts, Lilly went 7-4, put up a WHIP below 1 and threw his first shutout since 2004. The shutout, on Aug. 19, was particularly impressive. In that start against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium, Lilly allowed only two hits, struck out 11 and faced two batters over the minimum. It marked the third time in his Major League career (which began in 1999) that Lilly tossed a shutout and struck out at least 10 batters.
It will be interesting to see what Lilly can do in a full season with Dodger Stadium as his home ballpark (he's 4-3 with a 3.90 ERA and WHIP below one in 10 career appearances there). Since coming to the NL in 2007, Lilly has been one of the more valuable pitchers in the NL. By WAR, he is ninth in the NL since '07. WAR is an acronym for Wins Above Replacement, or the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player would add.
Giants righty Tim Lincecum heads that list with an 18.7 WAR; he's followed by Roy Oswalt (17.5 WAR), Matt Cain (16.9), Adam Wainwright (16.9) and Ubaldo Jimenez (15.5).
Roger Schlueter is a senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.