Hall Of Fame Debate: Cast Your Vote For Jim Kaat!!!

Hall Of Fame Debate: Cast Your Vote For Jim Kaat!!!

There is a pretty decent sized handful of pitchers from the 1960s and 1970s that were all tagged as their team’s ‘Ace’.  And many of them are not in the Hall of Fame.

In time, we will cover all of them here at the ‘Hall Of Fame Debate’.

Tonight, we will discuss the career of Jim Kaat.

Jim Kaat’s major league resume is pretty outstanding.  Not stellar, or elite, but certainly worth discussing when talking about the best pitchers from his era and possible Hall of Fame induction.

Here is a look at the numbers:

  • 25 seasons
  • 625 starts
  • 283-237 record
  • 54.4 win percentage
  • 3 20-win seasons
  • 5 15-19 win seasons
  • 180 complete games
  • 31 shutouts
  • 18 saves
  • 3.45 ERA
  • 4,530 innings pitched
  • 2,461 strikeouts
  • 1,083 walks
  • 2.27 K:Walk
  • 4.9 K per 9 innings
  • 3x All-Star
  • 16x Gold Glove winner
  • 4 Playoff appearances
  • 1 World Series title

Jim Kaat

With Kaat, the numbers are solid.  He was not very far from the magical 300-win milestone that normally guarantees Hall of Fame induction.  His strikeout tally is impressive, but when judging his ability to dominate games with just 4.9 strikeouts per game, his number is below average compared to the Hall of Fame talent from the same era.

Where Kaat stands alone is on defense.  He revolutionized, and put a major emphasis on, defensive play from the pitching mound.  Kaat won a total of 16 Gold Glove Awards due to his incredible defense.  The sixteen awards were consecutive, from 1962-1977, showing his dominance at the position from a defensive standpoint for a decade and a half.

Jim Kaat did not get into the playoffs very often during his 25-season major league career.  He made it to the postseason just four times, advancing to the World Series twice.  Kaat won a World Series title in 1982 with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The championship came in Kaat’s final season in the majors, but he had little to do with the win pitching just 2.2 innings in 4 games.

So, does Jim Kaat deserve more consideration for Hall of Fame entry?  Should he be enshrined at Cooperstown??

My answer is ‘No’.  For me, there is just not enough dominance to be called a Hall of Famer.  Most starting pitchers with 25 seasons in the majors can average 12 wins a year, and that is what Kaat did.  For me, I would need to see an average win total of at least 16+ wins per year.  And the strikeout tally would need to be much higher as well – Kaat’s average is well under 100 per season.  Kaat absolutely stands out as the best defensive pitcher from his era, and could possibly be the sport’s greatest defensive pitcher of all-time.  But, that is not enough in my book.  The World Series title helps, but he did not put too much into that title.

So, what do you think?   Is Jim Kaat worthy of Hall of Fame induction?  Let me hear your opinion.



14 responses to “Hall Of Fame Debate: Cast Your Vote For Jim Kaat!!!

  1. Ron Churchwell

    for me, the win total and gold gloves are enough to vote him in. As you stated, he revolutionized the way the game was played and all those players should be in the HOF.

    • Ron- Wouldn’t you epxect a lot more wins out of a pitcher that pitched for 25 years? Especially when he was probably part of 4-man rotations? I just cannot call someone elite with that kind of average-wins-per-year number. The defense was awesome, but if we elected guys based on just one aspect of the game, the HOF would be packed!!!

      • Ron Churchwell

        Well, in my opinion the Hall should be represented by guys that had a profound on impact on the game in one way or another. Kaat qualifies there as being the first pitcher to change how that positioned was fielded. Defense is half the game after all. And only being a few wins shy of the magical 300 win total, should not be held against him. After all, there are other pitchers in with less then 300 also. Hall of fame didnt recognize relief pitchers for the longest time, but eventually they got in as it was realized how much of an impact they had on the game, and how much it was changed because of the specialists. I would not even be surprised to see the all time holds leader voted in, in another 20 years or so as that has also changed how the game is played.

        Ironic you blogged about this tonight as I was just pulling some early 1960’s Kaat cards and thinking he should have been in by now. In our current era of voting, there are many players that should be in the Hall but have not made it yet, as many of your previous blogs have talked about. I believe the voting system needs to be revitalized to show appreciation for all the great players this game has been a witness too. After all, people go to the Hall to experience the game’s rich history and to see the best that ever played. Just my two cents worth.

      • Ron- You make some very valid and thought provoking points.

        For me, I think it also comes down to the impact that a player had on the game from a fan’s perspective. As a kid, my dad would tell me about trips to Yankee Stadium in which he watched Mantle, Maris, Berra, etc. His eyes would be wide due to the excitement of the memories he was recalling and mine would be wide just due to the emotion of the stories he told me.

        I’m not too sure that a player like Jim Kaat conjures up those same feelings. Maybe in MN or STL, but what about around the country. Did the stadiums he traveled to sell more tickets because he was starting? Was he a box office attraction?

        I agree 100% with your comment – “I believe the voting system needs to be revitalized to show appreciation for all the great players this game has been a witness too”. I’m just not certain that Jim Kaat fits that mold.

  2. I would say it’s a close call, but ultimately I don’t think he should be in the HOF. His win total and especially his Glove Glove Awards are really good, but when you think of dominant pitchers during his era (1959-1983), I doubt that he cracks anyone’s top ten list.

  3. The fact that the guy was relevant for that long makes him HOF material. Also hes another case like Blyleven. If that magic number goes to 300 hes in, no questions asked. He played for a lot of bad teams with no run support. It’s the reason Yankees players get in so easily, its a team game, if the rest of your team isn’t up to par it brings you down as well. He had a 3.45 era over 25 seasons. That’s amazingly consistent. It’s a better lifetime ERA than Glavine, Schilling, or Eckersley……..That being said, I’m a Twins fan, so I’m extremely biased. haha.

  4. Yeah, your right those guys probably were better pitchers. I agree with that. Kaat did however pitch nearly 900 games, which is substantially more than Palmer (558), Seaver (656) and Marichal (471). This actually ends up at a different discussion. What part does longevity play on HOF status? The idea of a persons body holding up for that long is insane, especially considering how primitive sports medicine was in Jim’s time. He pitched from 1959-1983, hes no Nolan Ryan, but that’s pretty impressive. Again, I’m a bit biased on this, so you’r probably right. Honestly my best memories of him because of my age are probably when he was an announcer during the 1991 Twins WS run. I think Jim really defines what a borderline candidate is.

    • Zebulon- I agree with the borderline candidate. For me, I just feel that there are too many guys from his era that dominated. As for longevity, I don’t believe that it is a major factor. Sure, you have to play a long time to amass great numbers, but you don’t have to play for a certain number of years if that makes sense…

  5. I have actually looked at his stats and read about his career several times in the past asking myself the same question and I come to the same conclusion you do that he is close but not quite HOF material. Longevity should help to some degree but his last 30 or so wins were really just him hanging on at the end. If you lower his win total to the 250 or so he had when he maybe should have retired the case gets a lot tougher. I do think the fielding and Gold Gloves are impressive but I also think sometimes those are won on reputation. Not to say he wasn’t great but I would bet there were a few years in that streak when he really wasn’t the best. No arguing he was a great player, just not HOF caliber in my book.

  6. The Hall of Fame. The words mean, a “Hall” a list of the greatest to play the game. “Fame” Most famous to play the game. Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg, Jim Rice, Not the greatest players to play the game, However famous in their time, and era. Jim Kaat, also one of the only players to play in 4 decades. “Hall” maybe not with the numbers, however “Famous” for his time in baseball and his era, Yes. It is a shame that numbers play such a roll in the voting of players. I see a lot of he stayed to long to try to pad his numbers. Al Kaline padded his numbers, not to mention Mr. Winfield, and if he played on a team like Johnny Bench, I’m sure his numbers would be much more to your liking. Joe Montana, great team around him. When he went to the Chiefs, not so Montana like. Great picher, and don’t forget, no steroids.

  7. Dale Hollingsworth

    A player of Kitty Kaats stature belongs in the hall of fame

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