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Best Dodgers hitting seasons of 60 games or less

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Don Newcombe & Manny Ramirez, two peas in a pod

Don Newcombe [Dodgers] Photo by John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

We already looked at the best Dodgers 60-game starts and finishes for both batters and pitchers. Today, let’s look at the best Dodgers batting seasons of no more than 60 games.

As you might expect, Manny Ramirez figures quite prominently, posting the highest WAR (3.5), most home runs (17), and RBI (53) in his post-trade-deadline 2008, hitting .396/.489/.743 in 53 games.

Rafael Furcal that year was hurt most of the year, but was great when he played, hitting .357/.439/.573 in 36 games.

Will Smith’s rookie season was also memorable, hitting .253/.337/.571 in 54 games last year, and his 15 home runs are second-most by a Dodger in such a short season.

Best Dodgers hitting WAR, 60 games or less

Hitter Year WAR
Hitter Year WAR
Manny Ramirez 2008 3.5
Don Newcombe 1955 2.3
Jose Cruz, Jr. 2005 2.2
Don Drysdale 1965 2.1
Rafael Furcal 2008 2.0
Bob Caruthers 1889 2.0
Source: Baseball-Reference

But the most surprising result was the second-highest WAR by a Dodgers batter in a season of no more than 60 games. It was by pitcher Don Newcombe, with 2.3 wins above replacement in Brooklyn’s championship season of 1955. This seems like a bit of a cheat since Newcombe played the entire season, but only totaled 57 games, fitting our criteria.

Newcombe was so good at the plate that he was used 23 times as a pinch-hitter, second on the team (George Shuba had 36 pinch plate appearances), and produced in the role, going 8-for-21 (.381) with a double.

Newcombe on the season at the plate hit .359/.395/.632 with nine doubles, seven home runs, and 23 RBI in 125 plate appearances.

Those seven home runs are the most in any season by a Dodgers pitcher, matched by Don Drysdale in 1958 and 1965. It’s tied for the most in a season by any MLB pitcher in the last 89 years. Drysdale’s 2.0 WAR in 1965 ranks fourth by a Dodgers hitter in a season of 60 games or less.

Newcombe’s 1955 also set modern era franchise records for doubles and RBI. The only Dodgers modern era pitcher to score more than the 18 runs tallied by Newcombe was Frank Kitson, with 22 runs in 1901.

Links

  • Clayton Kershaw has a one in 112 chance (0.89 percent) of posting an ERA lower than 1.12 in this shortened 2020 season, per Dan Szymborski at FanGraphs. That’s the eighth-best chance (Max Scherzer is tops, at 2.26 percent), with Walker Buehler close behind at a one in 131 chance (0.76 percent).
  • Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus examined the “halves” of the 1981 strike season, looking for comparable outlier performances in a period of games similar to 2020. Burt Hooton figured prominently that year, with the best WHIP in any half (0.817, post-strike), and fourth-best ERA (1.41, post-strike).
  • Joel Sherman at New York Post on how coronavirus tests will be reported this season: “The league’s plan is announce overall tests conducted, the number of positive tests for COVID and the percentage of positive tests. But the league will not, by agreement, be allowed to say how many of the total positives were active players.”