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No. 94: Greatest seasons in Dodgers history: Orel Hershiser, 1988

Don’t hate me

1988 World Series Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Orel Hershiser, 1988

Stats: 23-8, 2.26 ERA, 15 CG, 267 IP, 178 SO, 149 ERA+, 3.18 FIP, 1.05 WHIP

Awards: Cy Young, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP (6th), NLCS MVP, World Series MVP

Baseball Reference WAR: 7.2

FanGraphs WAR: 4.0

Combined WAR: 5.6

I need to brace myself, because I know the pitchforks are coming for this one. For those curious, Baseball Reference had this ranked as the 38th greatest season by a Dodgers player. FanGraphs on the other hand, well, it didn’t even crack the Top 100.

I’m not sure how both sides were so off, but I can’t make an exception, so this is where his season ranks based on WAR. 1988 was a career-year for Hershiser. He won essentially every award manageable. Let’s start with his regular season.

He finished his career numbers nearly across the board, and led the National League in almost every pitching category. Hershiser was first in wins, third in ERA, fourth in WHIP, seventh in strikeouts and first in innings pitched.

His season got off to a bang, as he went 5-0 in April to begin the season. He was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for April. In addition to winning all five of his starts, he owned a 1.56 ERA, held opponents to a .162 average and had two complete games.

Through the middle of the season he was an average to above-average starter. From May 12 through August 14 he went 10-7 with a 3.54 ERA, while opponents hit .247 off him. The final month-and-a-half is when Hershiser gave us one of the most dominant stretches we’ve ever seen from a starting pitcher.

Over his final nine starts, Hershiser went 7-1, allowing only four runs over the course of 82 innings. This was when his historic streak occurred, where he threw an MLB-record 59 consecutive scoreless innings. His ERA dropped from 3.06 to 2.26 over the course of six weeks. Of the nine games he started, all nine were complete games, including the final start which was a 10-inning complete game. He won NL Pitcher of the Month for September and was named NL Player of the Week for the final week of the season.

Now, onto the playoffs.

Hershiser showed he had enough magic left in him, as his dominance helped the Dodgers capture the 1988 World Series championship. He appeared in four games in the NLCS, starting three of them. His two most important outings came later in the series, where he got the save in the 12th inning to give the Dodgers a victory in Game 4, and threw a complete game shutout on the road in Game 7 to send the Dodgers to the World Series.

Hershiser took home NLCS MVP honors, after throwing 24 23 innings with a 1.09 ERA.

He only pitched in two games in the World Series, but was just as good. He threw complete games in both, allowing a total of only two runs while striking out seven. Hershiser was on the mound the last time the Dodgers won the World Series.

Game of the year:

(Regular season) June 29 @ Houston: 9 IP, 0 ER, 6 SO, 1 BB, 2 H, 88 game score

(Postseason) October 16 vs. Oakland: 9 IP, 0 ER, 8 SO, 3 H, 87 game score

Dodgers starters have made at least 34 starts in a season 137 times in franchise history. Here’s where Hershiser’s 1988 season ranks him:

  • 23 wins (23rd)
  • .742 winning % (11th)
  • 2.26 ERA (14th)
  • 3.18 FIP (60th)
  • 16.7 strikeout % (42nd)
  • 149 ERA+ (9th)

Get caught up on the rest of the “All-Time Dodgers” lists!