In 1988, Orel Hershiser had one of the greatest seasons pitching of all time. He broke Don Drysdale's unbreakable scoreless innings streak, won the Cy Young, and won two games in the World Series as the Dodgers beat the heavily favored Athletics.
Opposing teams used to say that it was an accomplishment getting a runner to second on Hershiser that year as he posted 23 wins, 15 complete games, 8 shutouts, and a 2.26 ERA.
It was only his fifth year as a starting pitcher and the first year he won the Cy Young.
This is Clayton Kershaw's fifth year as a starter and he already has won the Cy Young. Could this be the year he puts up numbers like Hershiser's and leads the Dodgers to the World Series?
It could be, but Kershaw cannot win 100 games. Like Hershiser, he is going to need a solid group of starters and relief pitchers behind him if the team is going to go anywhere this year.
Using the 2011 statistics for the current Dodgers, lets see how the current Dodger pitching staff compares to the 1988 squad.
Lets start with starters two through four. Following Hershiser in the rotation were Tim Belcher, Tim Leary, and Fernando Valenzuela. John Tudor came in late when the Dodgers sent Pedro Guererro to the Cardinals, but we will use Fernando as the fourth starter since he started more games. Following Kershaw, the Dodgers have Chad Billingsly, Ted Lilly, and Aaron Harang. It could be argued that Chris Capuano or Ruby De La Rosa should be included, but De La Rosa is hurt and Capuano is listed as the fifth starter.
1988 Starter #2 Tim Leary
Innings Pitched: 228
2012 Starter #2 Chad Billingsley
Innings Pitched: 188
Winner: Tim Leary
Analysis: Tim Leary had his best year of his career in 1988. He had five more total wins in 1988 than he had in any of his other 13 seasons in the majors. His 180 strikeouts were 42 more than his next highest season in his career. Billingsley had the highest ERA and lowest total of strikeouts of his career in 2011. By the end of his career, Billingsley will have had more success than Leary, but Leary wins in this comparison.
1988 Starter #3 Tim Belcher
Innings Pitched: 179
2012 Starter #3 Ted Lilly
Innings Pitched: 192
Winner: Tim Belcher
Analysis: 1988 was Tim Belcher's first year as a starter and he technically only started for three quarters of the season. His WHIP of 1.080 was the lowest of his career and he did a decent job in his post season starts. Lilly came on strong in the second half, but had a horrible first half of the season. His job with the Dodgers was to win about half of his games and eat up innings. In that respect, he did his job but it was not nearly as good of a season as Belcher's 1988 season.
1988 Starter #4 Fernando Valenzuela
Innings Pitched: 142
2012 Starter #4 Aaron Harang
Innings Pitched: 170
Winner: Aaron Harang
Analysis: 1988 was the beginning of the end for Fernandomania. He failed to reach double digit wins for the first time in seven seasons as injuries plagued him all year. While Harang did not pitch for the Dodgers in 2011, his numbers should improve as he moves to a pitchers park in Los Angeles.
It is safe to say that the 1988 Dodgers starting staff was better than the 2012 Dodgers staff, but what about the bullpen? We will take a further look at that in the next article.