Guidry Vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare

It’s not Cooperstown, but that’s where Ron Guidry belongs.

They were both left-handed pitchers who began their careers in New York. Each spent his whole career with one team.

One pitched 12 full seasons, the other pitched 12 full seasons and parts of two others. One was 170-91, the other 165-87, their won-lost records nearly identical.

Each was a three-time 20-game winner; each struck out 18 batters in a single game.

One won four World Series games, the other three.

Each earned Cy Young Award honors and was named Major League Player of the Year by the Sporting News

One is firmly ensconced in the Hall of Fame, considered by some to be the greatest pitcher ever. The other is hardly ever mentioned in Hall of Fame discussions.

Who are these men?

One is Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, the Brooklyn and later Los Angeles Dodger who finished 165-87 lifetime and 4-3 in the World Series.

The other is Ron Guidry, Louisiana Lightning of the New York Yankees, 170-91 lifetime and 3-1 in World Series play.

Koufax had a lower lifetime ERA, 2.76 to Guidry’s 3.29, though that disparity is lessened when you consider Koufax never faced a designated hitter. The league ERA was 3.62 in the era in which Koufax pitched, and 3.92 in Guidry’s era.

Koufax struck out 300 batters in a single season three times, and 2396 batters lifetime. His best season may have been his last, when he finished 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA and struck out 317.

Guidry 25-3 in 1978

Guidry’s single-season strikeout high was 248 in 1978, when he finished with a 25-3 record nine shutouts, and a 1.74 ERA, His .893 winning percentage that year remains the highest for a 20-game winner in baseball history. He wound up with 1778 career strikeouts.

Koufax was National League MVP in 1963, and won the Cy Young Award in ’63,’ 65 and ’66. He pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game against the Cubs in 1965.

Guidry took the Cy Young in 1978, the year he finished second in MVP balloting to Jim Rice and was named Major League Player of the Year. Koufax won that honor in 1963 and’ 65.

Despite their greatness, both pitchers had fairly brief careers, supernovas that quickly blazed across the sky. Koufax arrived in Brooklyn with the Dodgers in 1955 at the age of 19, and retired following the 1966 season at age 30, the victim of an arthritic elbow.

Guidry, then 25, made his first major league appearance against the Red Sox in 1975, and came up to stay two years later. He retired following the 1988 season.

This is not meant to put Guidry, right, on par with Koufax, who for four seasons between 1963 and 1966 may have been the most dominant pitcher in baseball history.

But Guidry had his moments too, and was arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball between 1977, when he went 16-7 and helped lead the Yankees to a World Series win, and 1985, when he finished 22-6, his third and final 20-win season

Perhaps Louisiana Lightning deserves some consideration from the Hall of Fame.

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4 Comments on “Guidry Vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare”

  1. stan says:

    I believe many who actually do the voting have a lack of appreciation for how dominant Guidry was. he belongs in the Hall as does Luis Tiant who compares to Don Drysdale. Ron Santo has also not made the Hall and he was the NL’s perennial All Star third baseman when Brooks Robinson was the same in the AL.

    • sportslifer says:

      Absolutely, Gator was dominant in the late 70s and early 80s, and helped lead the Yankees to three pennants and two world championships. You make good points about Santo and El Tiante as well. Another interesting compare is Don Mattingly to Kirby Puckett.

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