No. 188 Jim Kaat (Number 42 Pitcher)

When I was a kid it use to upset me when writer would write about Jim Kaat and say he would have had a better won-loss record if he hadn’t pitched for the Twins because they were so bad. However, in the 60s they average just below 89 victories a year and that was Kaat in his prime year in his 20s. They didn’t hold him back too much I thought. So, I did a study year by year for his 15 years (the first two years they were still in Washington and were the Senators and this is what I found.

Wins Losses Percentage Win Loss
1959 63 91 0.409 0 2 0.000 Rookie not a good team.
1960 73 81 0.474 1 5 0.167 Still Developing.
1961 70 90 0.438 9 17 0.346 Team slightly better.
1962 91 71 0.562 18 14 0.563 Same as team.
1963 91 70 0.565 10 10 0.500 Team better.
1964 79 83 0.488 17 11 0.607 Lifted team to close to .500.
1965 102 60 0.630 18 11 0.621 Same as team,champion level.
1966 89 73 0.549 25 13 0.658 Better than team second place.
1967 91 71 0.562 16 13 0.552 Same as team.
1968 79 83 0.488 14 12 0.538 Better than team.
1969 97 65 0.599 14 13 0.519 Team better.
1970 98 64 0.605 14 10 0.583 Team better.
1971 74 86 0.463 13 14 0.481 A little better than team.
1972 77 77 0.500 10 2 0.833 Pitched great until injury.
1973 81 81 0.500 11 12 0.478 Traded to Chicago.
1255 1146 0.523 190 159 0.544

 

I subtracted Kaat’s won-loss record from the Twins. The Twins had a .519 win-loss record without Kaats for the 15 years. If Kaat had the same as the team his record would have been 181-168. So, Kaat did 9 games better then the team. I don’t think the Twins were holding them back much. Some of their worse years was when he didn’t pitch much. The 1969 and 1970 teams were really good, but Kaat had records of 14-13 and 14-12 those two years. I am not saying Kaat was bad pitcher, in fact he was a good pitcher. However, this wasn’t a team he had to carry to get to .500.

Kaat improved with Chicago. He had Johnny Sain as his pitching coach. Sain was the pitching coach in 1966 when Kaat won 25 games and help carry the team to second place. Sain was the pitching coach in Chicago. He had Kaat go with a quick delivery. Kaat won 20 games in both 1974 and 1975 and had his best two seasons according to baseball WAR. He was ages 35 and 36 those two seasons. Sain’s idea worked.

After the 1975 season Kaat was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He had an OK season in 1976, but no where near what he pitched in Chicago. In 1977 and 1978 he didn’t pitch that effectively. In 1979 he became a relief pitcher. He was more effective doing that. He ended his career with the Cardinals making an occasional start. In 1982 the Cardinals made the World Series. He pitched in the Series in relief in four games. Kaat’s last World Series was in 1965 with the Twins. That made 17 years between World Series which I’m guessing is a record. This time his team won, so he got a ring.

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