The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Golden Days Era Committee selection - Jim "Kitty" Kaat


December 30, 2021

The Golden Days Era Committee voted on the following players for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minnie Minoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, and Maury Wills. The four players who received the necessary seventy-five percent of the vote to get in are Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and Jim Kaat.

Let’s take a look at the career of Jim Kaat and compare him to other pitchers in the Hall of Fame. Kaat’s career started in 1959 with the Washington Senators and ended in 1983 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He won two hundred and eighty-three games during his twenty-five-year career, had a career 3.45 ERA and 2,461 strikeouts. He made three all-star teams and won sixteen gold gloves. Only Greg Maddox has more gold gloves than Kaat.

Kaat made it to the World Series two times in his career. The first was in 1965 as a member of the Minnesota Twins facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. In game two, Kaat faced off against Sandy Koufax and gave up only one run in nine innings as the Twins defeated the Dodgers 5-1 for a 2-0 lead in the series.

Kaat would pitch against Koufax two more times in the series. However, he was replaced before the fourth inning in both games. Kaat picked up the loss in both games as Koufax pitched two shutouts in a row making the Dodgers World Series champions.

The second time Kaat pitched in the World Series was in 1982 with the St. Louis Cardinals. As a relief pitcher, he made four appearances as the Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games.

Whenever Kaat was on the baseball writers Hall of Fame ballot, he never received more than 29.6% of the vote. Some of the lack of support from the writers could be because he never hit any of the “magical” milestone statistics for a pitcher like 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts. Using the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as a comparison, Kaat falls far below the average Hall of Fame pitcher. Kaat’s WAR number is 50.5 compared to the average Hall of Fame pitcher’s WAR of 73.0.

Mariner’s fans will recognize two names with similar WAR totals to Jim Kaat. Felix Hernandez has a career WAR of 50.2 in a fifteen-year career and Mark Langston’s total is 50.1 in sixteen years. This year, Billy Pierce who was on the same ballot as Kaat has a 53.4 WAR in an eighteen-year career.

So, if we are strictly looking at Kaat as a player, he probably doesn’t make the cut. However, if you consider his additional twenty-two years as a sportscaster for the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, perhaps his induction makes sense. From 1997-2005, Kaat won seven Emmy Awards for excellence in sports broadcasting and was still on the air last year for the MLB Network.

Next week I’ll review another Golden Era Committee Selection – Tony Oliva.


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