Koufax and Marichal
August 7, 2005 Leave a comment
Sorry guys, I’m away for the next three weeks, so updates will be somewhat sparse. But an interesting thread on Fanhome is the reason for this post.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in that thread but what sparked my interest was the Sandy Koufax/Juan Marichal comparison. Here’s the question: did Koufax really throw an incredibly large number of pitches, a number that was not in-line with his number of starts? Let’s see: from age 25-30, Koufax threw an estimated 24,804 pitches. At the same age, Marichal threw an estimated 25,138 pitches, more than Koufax! But wait, there’s also the post-season. In three World Series between the ages of 25-30, Koufax threw an estimated 681 pitches. Marichal did not have any post-season appearances in the same age period. So overall, Koufax passes Marichal with 25,485 pitches. But 300 pitches is nothing when distributed over six seasons (like three innings per year).
But maybe Koufax’s abnormally large pitch counts came in those last two seasons, when he threw a combined 658.7 innings pitched? Well in 1965-66, Koufax threw an estimated 10,280 pitches (playoffs included). In 1968-69, Marichal threw an estimated 9,048 pitches. So yes, there is a pretty large difference there. 1,232 pitches corresponds to about a 74 inning difference; 37 innings a year is a pretty large gap. But much of Koufax’s advantage comes from the fact that he played a few extra games: he averaged 119.5 pitches per start, while Marichal averaged 122.3. Marichal was throwing more pitches per start; he just had less starts!
Nevertheless, Koufax did throw more pitches over that two year period. But over a five year period at the same age, the two were virtually equal. Koufax’s load per start was not unusual for an ace in that period. Both in 1965 and 1966, there were pitchers with as many or more starts than Koufax, so his number of appearances was not unusual as well. I see no reason to exclaim that Koufax had an unusually high load of pitches.