Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"1960'S ALL-DECADE TEAM" SUB-SET FOR THE 1970 TOPPS SET: LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS

Time for the pitchers on my imagined 1970 sub-set celebrating the "players of the decade" for the 1960's.
Today it's all about the two lefties that represent their respective leagues: Jim Kaat and Sandy Koufax.
Now, while one of my picks may surprise some, the other is about as solid a "lock" for the nomination as there is for ANY position.
First take a look at my card design:


You may be surprised by my pick of Kaat as the American League's lefty of the decade. But really, as far as a FULL decade goes, he didn't have much stiff competition. Whitey Ford is the guy who jumps into everyone's mind, but he really had half a decade before his career went South.
As for Kaat, all the guy did was win eight Gold Glove awards, a pennant in 1965 with the Twins, post 142 wins and have five seasons of 15 or more wins, with a high of 25 in 1966, a year he easily would have won the Cy Young had there been one selected for each league at the time.
In the case of the American League, it really was about consistency in this case over anyone with dominant numbers, there just weren't any.
Kaat ended up with a very nice career, moving into the bullpen after a lengthy 20 years as a starter in 1979.
He ended up pitching effectively another five years out of the pen before retiring after the 1983 season with the Cardinals, finishing up with 283 wins, 31 shutouts and 2461 strikeouts in 898 games, 625 of them starting.
He also famously won 16 Gold Gloves total in his career, something only Greg Maddux can relate to (with 18 such awards).
Over in the National League, it's all about one lefty for the 1960's, all-time Dodger great (and fellow Bensonhurst, Brooklyn native) Sandy Koufax, out of my rival Lafayette High School (I'm a New Utrecht High School alum, of "Welcome Back Kotter" fame).
Really, what needs to be said about the "Left Arm of God"?!
Between 1960 and 1966, before having his career cut short with arm trouble, all Koufax did was win two World Championships, three Cy Young Awards, finish third in 1964, win an M.V.P. in 1963 while finishing second in 1965 and 1966, take home five E.R.A. crowns, win 25 or more games in a season three times (sorry Juan Marichal!), and win four strikeout crowns with three of those seasons topping 300!
For the decade Koufax fashioned a 137-60 record (that's a winning percentage of .695), and if you take away 1960, which saw him post a record of 8-13, we are looking at a winning percentage of .733!
Three of his seasons in the decade were seasons for the ages: 1963, 1965 & 1966. In each year he topped 25 wins, 300 strikeouts, and posted earned run averages under 2.00!
Just insane numbers from the quiet guy from the Brooklyn sandlots!
Sadly, as we all know ad nauseam, after the 1966 World Series, which saw the favored Dodgers get swept by the young-stud Baltimore Orioles, Koufax was forced to retire from the game at the height of his career or else possibly suffer permanent damage to his arm and health, leaving behind a story for the baseball history books, as well as the "what-if's?" we love to ponder time and again.
Next up on this thread, the righties: Dean Chance for the American League and Juan Marichal in the National League.
Stay tuned…

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