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.
|1959||63||91||0.409||0||2||0.000||Rookie not a good team.|
|1961||70||90||0.438||9||17||0.346||Team slightly better.|
|1962||91||71||0.562||18||14||0.563||Same as team.|
|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.|
|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.|
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.