Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax is considered one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball history and for good reason. He threw 137 complete games and 40 shutouts in his 12-year career with Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. All of this while posting a 2.76 ERA.
Those are all impressive numbers, but there was one season in particular in which Koufax put up his most impressive numbers. Here’s a look at Sandy Koufax’s 1963 season.
Sandy Koufax posts a 25-win season
Sandy Koufax made 40 starts in 1963, only one short of his career-high. He went 25-5 that season, with the team going 34-6 in his starts. He threw a ridiculous 311 innings, averaging nearly eight innings per start.
Koufax went the distance in half of his starts, compiling 20 complete games, and shut out his opponents 11 times that season. As far as his stats, Koufax posted a 1.88 ERA and 0.875 WHIP that season, with 306 strikeouts. Keep in mind this was in an era when hitters didn’t strike out as much as they do now.
A 40-start season
In modern baseball, a pitcher who makes 40 starts would do so in roughly a quarter of his team’s 162 games. Now most starters don’t make much more than 30 starts in a season.
With the state of relief pitching in baseball today, six innings are considered a long start for a pitcher, let alone Koufax averaging nearly eight innings for each of his 40 starts back in 1963.
Koufax obviously pitched well throughout the season, despite all the starts he made and innings he pitched. Last season, the Brewers’ Jhoulys Chacin led the majors with 35 starts
Sandy Koufax didn’t need rest
Today’s starters usually start every five days — meaning four days of rest — and rarely start on less rest than that. The exception being in the playoffs when three days of rest isn’t uncommon.
That is due to the five-man rotations (with some teams even using six starters at times). In 1963, Koufax had four days of rest between starts only five times. He made one start each on one day of rest and two days of rest. The bulk of his starts — 31 — came on just three days of rest, which makes his performances that much more impressive.
Why there will never be another season like Koufax in 1963
There are several reasons why a pitcher will never have another season like Koufax had 56 years ago. They all tie back into the fact that the game is different today than it was back then.
With more pitchers in starting rotations now, pitchers get more rest between starts, which means they make fewer starts than starters did decades ago.
And there won’t be another pitcher throwing 300 innings in a season because with the way managers use — some might say overuse — bullpens in the modern game, starters usually don’t throw more than six innings in a start. That is unless they are an ace who is having a great game and has a pitch count below 100.
Because of that, the 20 complete games Koufax threw that season is a particularly impossible record to be repeated. No pitcher threw more than two complete games last season. Even potential Hall of Famer Justin Verlander has just 24 complete games in his entire 15-year career.
All of this is partially because of money. Due to the big-money contracts that pitchers have nowadays, teams often skip their starts on occasion to keep them fresh and limit their potential for injury. Because of all these reasons, Sandy Koufax’s records are likely set in stone for a long, long time.