An embarrassment of riches - Los Angeles Dodgers 21 Year Old Pitching History

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Best 19 & 20 Year Old Position Seasons, Adrian Beltre

Best 19 & 20 Year old Pitching Seasons, Fernando Valenzuela

Best 21 Year old Position Season, Adrian Beltre


Fernando takes the crown again as a twenty one year old but he had some competition from two Hall of Famers, one future HOF, one future Cy Young award winner, one post season legend, and the second best Mexican National to ever pitch for the Dodgers.

 

                                                                                         
Rk Player WAR G Year Age GS CG SHO GF W L IP H ER BB SO ERA+ OPS
1 Fernando Valenzuela 5.4 37 1982 21 37 18 4 0 19 13 285.0 247 91 83 199 122 .620
2 Don Sutton 4.3 37 1966 21 35 6 2 0 12 12 225.2 192 75 52 209 110 .606
3 Clayton Kershaw 4.2 31 2009 21 30 0 0 1 8 8 171.0 119 53 91 185 143 .588
4 Ismael Valdez 3.8 33 1995 21 27 6 2 1 13 11 197.2 168 67 51 150 125 .620
5 Bob Welch 3.3 23 1978 21 13 4 3 6 7 4 111.1 92 25 26 66 174 .592
6 Pedro Martinez 3.2 65 1993 21 2 0 0 20 10 5 107.0 76 31 57 119 148 .592
7 Don Drysdale 2.9 44 1958 21 29 6 1 7 12 13 211.2 214 98 72 131 99 .744

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/10/2011.

TidBits:

  • Fernando came in third in the Cy Young voting in 1982, amassing 285 IP on his 21 year old arm. Since 1901 only seven pitchers have thrown more then 285 innings at the age of 21.  You won't believe who threw 323 IP. Since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, no National League pitcher has thrown more than 285 innings as a 21 year old.The closest was Mike McCormick in 1960 and he only threw 253, so Fernando threw 32 more innings than the next competitor. Using BRef's WAR, Fernando had the 8th greatest season for a 21 year old. Can anyone guess who had the 5th best?
                                                                                 
    Rk Player WAR IP Year Age Tm GS CG SHO W L W-L% SO ERA+
    1 Bob Feller 9.4 320.1 1940 21 CLE 37 31 4 27 11 .711 261 163
    2 Vida Blue 8.8 312.0 1971 21 OAK 39 24 8 24 8 .750 301 185
    3 Mark Fidrych 8.5 250.1 1976 21 DET 29 24 4 19 9 .679 97 159
    4 Frank Tanana 7.8 257.1 1975 21 CAL 33 16 5 16 9 .640 269 135
    5 xxxxxxxxx 7.4 323.2 xxxx 21 xxx 40 23 9 23 12 .657 170 158
    6 Ralph Branca 6.6 280.0 1947 21 BRO 36 15 4 21 12 .636 148 154
    7 Mike McCormick 5.8 253.0 1960 21 SFG 34 15 4 15 12 .556 154 130
    8 Fernando Valenzuela 5.4 285.0 1982 21 LAD 37 18 4 19 13 .594 199 122
    9 Al Mamaux 5.4 251.2 1915 21 PIT 30 17 8 21 8 .724 152 134
    10 Waite Hoyt 5.2 282.1 1921 21 NYY 32 21 1 19 13 .594 102 136
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 10/10/2011.
  • Don Sutton joined the vaunted Dodger rotation of Koufax / Drysdale / Osteen in 1966 helping vault the Dodgers to their second World Series in a row in 1966.  Don would not get to pitch in the 66 World Series as the Dodgers went with Don Drysdale twice instead of using the young Sutton. Don's season was good for enough for 11th best by a 21 year old since 1958.  Unlike everyone else above him on the list other then Bert Blyleven, Don would go onto a HOF career. Health is as important as a great curveball. 
                                                                                            
    Rk Player WAR IP Year Tm GS CG SHO W L W-L% ERA+ BA OBP SLG OPS
    1 Vida Blue 8.8 312.0 1971 OAK 39 24 8 24 8 .750 185 .189 .251 .272 .523
    2 Mark Fidrych 8.5 250.1 1976 DET 29 24 4 19 9 .679 159 .235 .277 .301 .579
    3 Frank Tanana 7.8 257.1 1975 CAL 33 16 5 16 9 .640 135 .226 .286 .328 .615
    4 Britt Burns 6.8 238.0 1980 CHW 32 11 1 15 13 .536 143 .241 .293 .348 .641
    5 Bret Saberhagen 6.7 235.1 1985 KCR 32 10 1 20 6 .769 145 .241 .271 .357 .628
    6 Mike McCormick 5.8 253.0 1960 SFG 34 15 4 15 12 .556 130 .241 .290 .327 .617
    7 Fernando Valenzuela 5.4 285.0 1982 LAD 37 18 4 19 13 .594 122 .236 .292 .328 .620
    8 Steve Avery 4.5 210.1 1991 ATL 35 3 1 18 8 .692 116 .240 .299 .372 .671
    9 Bert Blyleven 4.5 287.1 1972 MIN 38 11 3 17 17 .500 119 .233 .285 .342 .627
    10 Dwight Gooden 4.4 250.0 1986 NYM 33 12 2 17 6 .739 126 .215 .278 .321 .599

    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 10/10/2011.
  • Clayton Kershaw beat out everyone but Fernando and Sutton coming in 3rd for the work he did in 2009. Just a small harbinger of what was to come in 2011.
  • Ismael Valdez joined the rotation on April 26th, 1995 and combined with Hideo Nomo to be the best one two rookie punch the Dodgers have ever had. Nomo would win the ROY, and Valdez would come in 7th. It would seem that Ismael should have placed better then 7th but no doubt Nomo and Chipper Jones were better.
  • Bob Welch was known more for his relief work in the 1978 World Series then he was for the 13 starts he made, but Bob was quite good in those 13 starts. Welch was drafted in 1977 and was pitching for the Dodgers less then a year later.  No one who witnessed it will ever forget Welch striking out Reggie Jackson to end game two of the 1978 World Series, saving a 4 - 3 lead and giving the Dodgers a two game lead. It would be the last game the Dodgers would win in 1978 but oh what a game it was.  Not sure how many fans remember he lost game four but they all remember the strike out to end game two.
  • How frustrating for Dodger fans to find Pedro Martinez on this list in the only full time year he pitched for us? While it was mostly in relief it was such great relief he finds himself in front of  Don Drysdale.  107 IP, only 76 hits, and 119 K's only got him 9th place for ROY. Of course our own Mike Piazza won that year, so the Dodgers had two future HOF as rookies, and got just about nothing from Pedro and just five full years from Piazza.
  • Don Drysdale was only 21 when the Dodgers moved West so he is going to be showing up on these lists for quite a while.  This was Don's 3rd season in the major and at that point he was far from the strikeout pitcher he would become. His K rate in 1958 was 5.6 a far cry from the 8.0 he would post as a 22 year old on his way to leading the league in strikeouts.

Most of these twenty one year old greats will continue to do battle over the next few birthdays, but they get joined at age twenty two by two more familiar faces.

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