Jim Kaat has some rather impressive career numbers. The southpaw won 16 Gold Glove Awards, is 31st all-time on the career wins list with 283, 26th all-time in innings pitched and 33rd all-time in career strikeouts with 2,461. Because of his lofty career stats, folks have been trying to get Mr. Kaat enshrined in Cooperstown for years.
Kaat joined the original Washington Senators in 1959 and was with them when they relocated to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. The move north helped Jim as he lowered his ERA from 5.58 to 3.90 in ’61. His breakout year came in 1962 however, when he was named to his first All-Star Game and won the first of his many Gold Glove Awards. That year Kaat won 18 games and tied for the league lead with five shutouts. His 173 strikeouts tied for fourth in the league but for the second year in a row he paced the junior circuit in both wild pitches and hit batsmen.
Kaat made strides in the control department in 1963, issuing an average of 0.213 walks per inning. He was the Twins winningest pitcher in 1964 and followed up that fine ’64 season by leading the AL with 42 starts in ’65. Kaat pitched the Twins to the World Series in ’65. Against the Dodgers, Jim had a decent 3.77 ERA for the Fall Classic but was handed a pair of losses.
Kaat’s finest year came in 1966 when he led the American League with 25 wins, 19 complete games, and 304 innings worked. Sudden Sam McDowell was the only other American League pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts that year. Named to his second All-Star team, Kaat also added another Gold Glove to his resume and finished fifth in MVP voting. The issues with his accuracy were gone by 1967. That year Jim averaged just 0.16 walks per inning while fanning 211 batters.
The Twins made it back to the postseason in 1970 with Jim winning 14 games during the regular season. In the ALCS, the Twins fell to Baltimore and Jim had a forgettable game against the Orioles, lasting just two innings in his lone start. Undaunted by his postseason struggles, Kaat pitched well in 1971, fashioning a 3.32 ERA. The next season, Jim was limited to fifteen games by injury while working on a great season: he was 10-2 with a 2.06 ERA.
During a sluggish 1973 season the Twins placed Jim on waivers and the White Sox claimed him. He resurrected his career in the Windy City, notching his second career 20-win season for the Pale Hose. Kaat won 21 games in 1973 and with Wilbur Wood gave the White Sox two southpaws that could be stretched out. Between the two lefties, 597 innings were pitched. He was a 20-game winner again in 1975 while fashioning a nifty 3.11 ERA.
Kaat gave the White Sox two 20-win seasons but they shipped him to Philadelphia in the off season for some decent pieces named Alan Bannister, Dick Ruthven and Roy Thomas. The Phillies got a decent year out of Jim in ’76 but he was roughed up in 1977. At the age of 38, the Phillies felt his better days were in his rearview mirror. They sold him to the Yankees early in the 1979 season. The following year he was sold to the Cardinals. Utilized as a relief pitcher, Kaat posted a fine 3.40 ERA for the Redbirds in ’81. In 1982, Kaat went to his last World Series and finally was a member of the winning squad. The Redbirds used the 43-year-old Jim in four games.
W 286/L 237/PCT .544/G 898/CG 180/IP 4,530/H 4,620/BB 1,083/SO 2,461/SHO 31/ERA 3.45