Is Don Sutton a first round Lord of the Ravine?

1980-baseball-season-1_medium

via static.howstuffworks.com

Is Don Sutton worthy to sit in the Walter O'Malley Suite and become a 1st ballot member of the Vin Scully Lords of the Ravine?

Bhsportsguy made his case but I have to say it didn't seem like he had his heart in it, and since I fully believe Don Sutton should be inducted on the first ballot I'm going to add my two cents and throw in a dollar or two.

Don Sutton pitched a 1-0 game on June 16th, 1970, the point of significance for me was that it was the first game I ever saw at the Ravine.  The was the best game I'd ever seen pitched at Dodger Stadium until Clayton Kershaw unfurled his 13 K game last year. Upto that point most of my favorite games had been pitched by Don Sutton including the opener in 1977 when he gave up  a lead off home run to Gary Thomanson but then shut them out for a 5 -1 victory.

Don Sutton did that a lot, more then any other Dodger pitcher ever. Ever. Sure he pitched more then anyone but I'll tell you one thing about these guys with long careers. They only get to have long careers because they do the job year in and year out. If they weren't effective they would not be taking the field.

His Dodger career spanned from a 21 year in 1966 to 1980. In 1980 at the age of 35 he had his last great season with an ERA+ of 160 supported by a WHIP of 0.989. He was not in the top 10 in Cy Young voting even though he may have been the 2nd best pitcher in the NL that year. Steve Carlton was the hands down Cy Young pitcher but his teammate Jerry Ruess got the 2nd most votes on the back of his 18-6 record.  Don Sutton came back in 1988 and started in the rotation until late June when he had to shut it down. He came back for one more start on Aug 9th but his arm was done at the age of 43.

Looking at the chart below you will see how Don Sutton dominates the Los Angeles Dodger pitching landscape.

 

                                                                        
Player SO CG SHO W L W-L% IP ERA ERA+ OPS OPS+
Don Sutton 2696 156 52 233 181 .563 3816.1 3.09 110 .626 83
Don Drysdale 2283 156 45 187 152 .552 3112.0 2.98 117 .643 86
Sandy Koufax 2214 133 38 156 77 .670 2119.2 2.64 135 .581 67
Fernando Valenzue 1759 107 29 141 116 .549 2348.2 3.31 107 .655 89
Orel Hershiser 1456 65 24 135 107 .558 2180.2 3.12 116 .642 85
Claude Osteen 1162 100 34 147 126 .538 2396.2 3.09 106 .661 97
Burt Hooton 1042 61 22 112 84 .571 1861.1 3.14 113 .635 82
Jim Brewer 672 1 1 61 51 .545 822.1 2.62 126 .602 79
Charlie Hough 536 0 0 47 46 .505 799.2 3.50 102 .661 90
Ron Perranoski 461 0 0 54 41 .568 766.2 2.56 131 .638 88
Jonathan Broxton 420 0 0 19 12 .613 317.0 2.92 146 .591 60
Tom Niedenfuer 350 0 0 30 28 .517 440.1 2.76 127 .629 82

The Pro's for Don Sutton:

  • Most wins by a margin of 46.
  • Most strikeouts by over 400
  • career leader in wins, losses, games pitched, games started, strikeouts, innings pitched, hits allowed, shutouts, and Opening-Day starts (seven).
  • Don't like counting stats - how about the 3rd best OPS+ against of only 83 among starting pitchers. One thing we are going to find is that Burt Hooton was a hell of a Dodger.
  • Most Complete Games, Most Shutouts
  • Big Game Pitcher - Won his first five post season games, including the key two games against the Pirates in 1974 with a shutout thrown in. Won the only game in the 1974 World Series against Oakland. In 1977 complete game victory over the Phillies in the NLCS. Made two starts in the 1977 series. The team lost the first game 4-3 in 12 innings. In game give with the team down 3 games to one he pitched a complete game victory 10 - 4.  His big game mantra however fell away in 1978 when he lost all three games in was involved and did not pitch well in any of them.
  • Pitched five one hitters and eight two hitters
  • He allowed no earned runs in eight All-Star innings, including his start and win in the 1977 game of which he was named MVP.

Cons

  • He might have cheated but then again he did pitch with Don Drysdale. He is famous for this quip.
    He once claimed that when he met Gaylord Perry, "he gave me a jar of Vaseline. I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper."
  • His ERA+ is only 110. Many will point to that but in his defense he started pitching at the age 21. His first five years were on the job training with ERA+ of 110, 78,106, 95, and 93. At the age of 26 he  hit his stride and was top five CY Young vote getter the next five years. 

Those are the only cons I got. Don Sutton seems to get slighted by those who dismiss the counting stats due to longevity but they seem to forget just how dominating Don Sutton could be. Five one hitters. Nine two hitters. And we are not talking a five inning one hitter or a six inning two hitter. We are talking a complete game. A mastery for 27 outs not 18. 

Don Sutton is a HOF pitcher, and Don Sutton should stand side by side with whoever else gets voted into the highest level of the Vin Scully Lords of the Ravine.

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