Career Year: Don Drysdale – 1962
Next to Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale was arguably the most intimidating pitcher in baseball during the 1960s.
Tall and hard-throwing, Drysdale wasn’t afraid to use his fastball to push batters away from the plate, and wasn’t concerned about plunking those who refused to budge or bail. Five times he led the National League in batters he hit.
He owned home plate, and wanted batters to know it. And it worked. Six times he struck out more than 200 batters in a season, and led the league in strikeouts three times.
Drysdale also finished in the top ten for earned run average eight times and led the major leagues in victories once – in 1962.
Of Drysdale’s many superb seasons, none would surpass what he accomplished in 1962. He was coming off a lackluster 1961 season, when he was 13-10 with a 3.69 ERA. He opened the 1962 season by winning three of his four April starts, then he went 4-2 with a 2.55 ERA in May.
As summer heated up, so did Drysdale’s arm. He won six times in seven June starts, and won three more (while picking up a save) before the All-Star break. He was 16-4 when he took the mound as the starting pitcher for the National League. He won three more games after the All-Star break, closing out July at 6-0 for the month and 19-4 on the season.
Drysdale was 3-3 in August and 3-2 in September. He dropped his last two starts in September. Had he won either of those starts, the Dodgers would have won the pennant. Instead the Dodgers ended the regular season in a dead heat with the San Francisco Giants, who won the pennant in a three-game playoff. Drysdale started the second playoff game, but didn’t figure in the Dodgers’ victory.
Drysdale finished the 1962 season at 25-9 with 2.83 ERA. He led all major league pitchers in victories, games started (41), innings pitched (314.1) and strikeouts (232). Oddly, it was the first time in five seasons that Drysdale didn’t lead the league in hit batsmen.
As good as he was before 1962, that season launched him as one of baseball’s genuine premier pitchers. In the four seasons from 1962 to 1965, Drysdale averaged 21 victories per season (as well as averaging 41 starts, 321 innings pitched and 232 strikeouts per season).