Orel Hershiser, 1985
Stats: 19-3, 2.03 ERA, 9 CG, 239 2⁄3 IP, 157 SO, 171 ERA+, 2.74 FIP, 1.03 WHIP,
Awards: Cy Young (3rd), MVP (16th)
Baseball Reference WAR: 5.9
FanGraphs WAR: 5.4
Combined WAR: 5.65
It seems like we just talked about Orel Hershiser, didn’t it? Oh yeah, we talked about his 1988 season the other day. That sure didn’t get any sort of backlash for being ranked at No. 94!
Today, we’ll be looking back at Hershiser’s 1985 campaign, which comes in three spots higher. Coming off a really good rookie season, this was the year that “The Bulldog” really broke out and cemented himself as one of the rising starting pitchers in the game.
His 19 wins were the fifth most in the NL, but his .864 winning percentage was the best. He finished the season with a 2.03 ERA, which was third in the league and also the best earned run average of his career. To wrap things up, he was fourth in WHIP (1.03), third in hits per nine innings (6.7), eighth in strikeouts (157), third in shutouts (5) and had the lowest home run rate per nine innings (0.3).
What separated this season, and frankly any season in Dodgers history was how Hershiser was absolutely dominant at Dodger Stadium... and I mean dominant. He went 11-0 in 17 starts, posting a 1.08 ERA. In 133 1⁄3 innings, he allowed only 16 runs while striking out 96. His WHIP was a whopping 0.85.
Since the live-ball era, Hershiser’s ERA of 1.08 is the second greatest at home for a season among pitchers with at least 17 starts. He’s also one of four pitchers to post a winning percentage of 1.000. Pure dominance.
Aside from a rocky couple of starts to begin the season and a rough stretch in the middle, Hershiser could have finished with even better stats all across the board. After posting a 6.75 ERA through his first two starts, he went 5-0 over his next eight starts, posting a 1.04 ERA and holding opponents to a .158 average. He was striking out batters at one of the highest rates of his career, as he had 55 strikeouts in 60 2⁄3 innings.
He’d struggle through the middle of July, posting an ERA of about 4.50. July 18 is when he turned his season around, and was the best pitcher in baseball for the final two-and-a-half months.
Over the course of his next 16 starts, Hershiser went 11-0 with a 1.34 ERA. In 120 2⁄3 innings he allowed only 18 runs, while striking out 75. If you were to take out his first two starts of the season where he allowed six runs in eight innings, Hershiser would have finished with the fourth lowest single-season ERA in Dodgers history (since the live-ball era).
Here’s where his 1985 season ranks in Dodgers history (post-1920):
- 2.03 ERA (3rd)
- 19 wins (25th)
- .864 winning % (1st)
- 2.74 FIP (12th)
- 171 ERA+ (3rd)
- .206 opponents AVG (4th)