Koufax v. Kershaw, 5

through today’s game v. Milwaukee.
Career stats for Sandy Koufax (SK, aka K1) as of 10/15/57, age 21y 9mo, and Clayton Kershaw (CK, aka K2) as of 7/01/09, age 21y 3mo.

SK: IP 205.2 W 09 L 10 H 182 HR 26 ER 91 K 182 BB 108
CK: IP 207.1 W 12 L 10 H 177 HR 16 ER 86 K 199 BB 111

SK: ERA=3.99, WHIP=1.41, K/9 innings=8.0
CK: ERA=3.73, WHIP=1.40, K/9 innings=8.6


Koufax was a “bonus” baby who could not be sent to the minors, so he learned “in the show.” He was quite wild, obviously not unlike Kershaw, until he was 25 years old. Many of Koufax’s appearances were in relief, as a “mop-up” man. Kershaw has a tougher role as a starter, going through the lineup two or three times in each appearance.

Sunday’s game at Milwaukee was a real trial for Kershaw. Those who watched the game could see that the strike zone was about the size of a lunchbox. Kershaw could easily have given up 8 walks instead of five, and the hitters could have waited for him to groove the ball. It is a credit to him that he was able to manage the situation. It seems like Ausmus does a good job with Kershaw; I wonder if Torre is going to make a habit of pairing the two.

It is striking to watch how few hitters get good swings at Kershaw’s pitches, and how few make good contact. In a way, he would be better off in terms of pitch count if he let batters put the ball in play. Of course, he has so many runners on base from walks that his WHIP is already high even without hits. His HR allowed last year was 0.9, and this year is only 0.5. That may be partly related to a different set of opponents this year but certainly Kershaw seems to keeping batters off stride better than he did last year. Watching the radar gun readings, he seems to take more off his fast ball, as well as throwing more off speed pitches for strikes. It is in HR allowed that we see the only real statistical difference between the young Koufax and Kershaw. I suspect that can be largely accounted for by ball park differences.


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