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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jim Kaat

Eligible in 1989.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 15, 2006 at 07:16 PM | 65 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 15, 2006 at 07:19 PM (#2212571)
IMO, Kaat and others are going to need extra scrutiny as the long career '60's/'70's hurlers become eligible.
   2. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 15, 2006 at 09:00 PM (#2212647)
A closer look at Jim Kaat.

First off he's got two careers. One as a starter, another as a reliever. Although he pitched frequently in relief during his starting career, after 1977, he went into relief full time.

ROLE  G   INN      W-L    ERA
-----------------------------
SP  625  4137.2  260-217 3.43
RP  273   392.1   23
-20  3.65 


After going into relief exlusively (from age 40-44) his ERA+s were 104 94 105 89 93. That's 96 for all five years. I can't remember if it's 10 points or 20 points that you're supposed to add on when starters switch to relieving, but you can figure that Kaat was probably something like an 85-75 ERA+ level starter at that point. This notion is support by the fact that from ages 37-39 his ERA+s went 102 74 87. Obviously the end was nigh.

In addition, while he was a lefty, he was not used predominantly against lefties (i.e. was not in the LaRussa mold), and always faced many more righties than lefties. But other than his first year in relief, his platoon split wasn't even all that special, and a couple times was negative. Which is to say that I'm not terribly sure his last five years are even worth thinking about. If you're inclined to not consider Early Wynn's bad years (or Burleigh Grimes') then I think ages 40-44 for Jim Kaat don't exist for you.

OK, so what about Jim Kaat the starting pitcher. Well, just as a starter, (that is from rookie year to age 39) his ERA+ is 111. From 1964-1966 he's the best hurler in the AL, winning the WS CYA in 1966. He repeated as the three-year best in league in 1965-1967. In 1966-1968, he's within 5% of leader, Earl Wilson. In 1975 his last hurrah is being part of a multiway tie for 3rd best in the AL (for that year only) with Tanana, Busby, and Perry.

So 260-217 with a 111 ERA+ in 4137 innings. How's that compare to 229-172 with a 114 ERA+ in 3486 innings...that is, with Luis Tiant? Or with 270-212 107 ERA+ in 4180 innings...Burleigh Grimes? Or 198-160 with a 115 ERA+ in 3104 innings...Bucky Walters? Oh, and one more, a favorite of mine: 216-178 with a 116 ERA+ in 3480 innings...Wilbur Cooper.

Let's use my three-year and all-star observations to do a quick check. Heck, let's toss Jenkins and Perry in there too for good measure, and while I'm at it Willis.
NON-CYA
                      WS  WS ALL  BEST SP IN LG
NAME      INN  ERA
+  CYAs  STARS  OVER 3 YRS     5%  10%
--------------------------------------------------------
Kaat     4137  111     1     1        2          1    0
Tiant    3486  114     0     2        1          1    0
Grimes   4180  107     1     4        0          2    1 
Walters  3104  115     3     1        4          1    1
Cooper   3480  116     1     2        4          1    0
Jenkins  4500  115     1     3        1          1    1
Perry    5130  117     2     1
*       3          1    0 

Willis   3996  118     2     2        1          1    0

*NoteI incorrectly reported Perry with having two non-CYA All-Star years in his thread.
5% and 10refer to being with 5 or 10of the best three-year pitcher


By this way of looking, Perry and Jenkins do stand out a bit by virtue of having many more effective innings. Among the others, however, I see Cooper and Walters as standing out. Cooper owns the best ERA+ of the group, and in several groups of seasons could claim to be the best pitcher in the NL. If not Cooper, then Walters. Bucky has the wartime questions, but three of his three-year-dominance periods come BEFORE the war (the three three-year periods within 1938-1942). Walters does have a seasons' fewer innings and one less point on his ERA+. Walters also has the question of how much help he got from that tremendous defense. Cooper's dominant period is the early 1920s, as the NL was coming out of its 1910s low point. Unless you are a pretty virulent timeliner, Cooper's got it all over Tiant. Grimes is really hard to figure because his jeckyll and hyde performances are visible even by these methods. He's got a bunch of all-star type seasons, even a CYA, yet never was the best pitcher in his league, and has by far the worst ERA+ in the group. Which leaves Tiant and Kaat. I'm a little bit more impressed by Kaat; he was significantly more durable without a dramatic loss in quality. In fact if you shear off his last two awful years as a SP, he's got a 114 ERA+ in 3866 innings, still more innings than Tiant and just as effective. I'll take Kaat over Tiant, and I think I'll take him over Grimes too, though, to be sure, Grimes is so perplexing to me that I don't know that for 100% certain. Then there's Willis whose innings are well overinflated by his era compared the rest of these guys, and so I think an innings/ERA+ comparison is dicey at best. But he too has the jeckyll/hyde profile. Ugh.

So a ranking of them would look like this:
Perry
Jenkins
Cooper
Walters
Kaat
Tiant
Willis
Grimes

If you look at my ballot, it's all screwed up, and I need to rethink it for next year....
   3. OCF Posted: October 15, 2006 at 11:07 PM (#2212731)
Dr. Chaleeko - I think you want to hang onto that chart until we're done with 70's-centered career candidate pitchers. Before we're done, I think you'll want to add (at the very least) Sutton, Ryan, John, Blyleven, and Carlton to that. I'll have to see how they look in my system - haven't done that work yet.
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 15, 2006 at 11:31 PM (#2212754)
Kaat
Tiant
Willis
Grimes


I have Tiant and the others considerably over Kitty Kaat.
   5. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 16, 2006 at 12:21 AM (#2212838)
Good idea OCF. Kaat's an 89er, so I'll simply add the guys whose careers finish up by 1989. That means Lefty, Sutton, Knucksie, Seaver, Palmer, and TJ. Oh, and why not Vida Blue? And the starting part of Eck's career.

NON-CYA
                      WS  WS ALL  BEST SP IN LG
NAME      INN  ERA
+  CYAs  STARS  OVER 3 YRS     5%  10%
--------------------------------------------------------
Kaat     4137  111     1     1        2          1    0
Tiant    3486  114     0     2        1          1    0
Grimes   4180  107     1     4        0          2    1 
Walters  3104  115     3     1        4          1    1
Cooper   3480  116     1     2        4          1    0
Jenkins  4500  115     1     3        1          1    1
Perry    5130  117     2     1
*       3          1    0 
John     4710  111     0     1        1          0    0
Sutton   5282  108     0     3        0          0    0
Niekro   5404  115     4     1        3          1    1
Carlton  5217  113     4     3        4          0    2
Seaver   4782  127     2     5        3          2    4
Blue     3343  108     0     2        0          0    0
Palmer   3948  125     3     4        3          1    2
Eck      2495  115     1     0        0          0    1

Willis   3996  118     2     2        1          1    0

*NoteI incorrectly reported Perry with having two non-CYA All-Star years in the Jenkins thread.
5% and 10refer to being with 5 or 10of the best three-year pitcher


A list up to date at the end of 1989 would probably look like this:
Seaver/Carlton
Niekro
Palmer
Perry
Jenkins
Cooper
Walters
Kaat
John
Tiant
Willis
Grimes
Sutton
Eckersley
Blue

Seaver and Carlton seem to be 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. The distinguishing characteristics are an amazing 12 points ERA+ for Seaver, but 450 more innings for Carlton, as well as a little more dominance over league for Lefty. Seaver had a big, nasty dip around 1980-1982. Looks like an injury in 1980, a rebound year, then a total bottoming out...though he came back for a few more fine years after. Lefty didn't have a really bad year like Seaver's 1982, though he had some off years certainly. We'll add The Nasty Dutchman, The Other Only Nolan, and any stray slack later on. Let me know if I've forgotten anyone else.
   6. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 16, 2006 at 03:48 AM (#2213526)
Jim Kaat was the second guy I ever RSIed. (Blyleven was the first).

He had pretty damn good run support in his career. From memory, his RSI was better than that of Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Luis Tiant, Tommy John, & Bert Blyleven.

Jim Palmer's was better. IIRC, Kaat had an RSI around or a little over 105.

Those were the first 12 guys I RSIed: really old pitchers when I was really young.

Also, he had really consistent run support. After some dreadful dreaful run support in his early years, he had at least average run support every year except one, when strangely he won over 20 games with the White Sox.

He's exactly the sort of guy who ought to be on the outside looking in. Long career without much of a peak, his best years were widely scattered, and his overall career numbers are more a triumph of quantity over quality despite being notably aided by his teammates while playing in an era where an unusually large number of his peers racked up historic counting stats.

Of the 12 guys mentioned in this post, I think Kaat was the 12th best.
   7. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 16, 2006 at 04:23 AM (#2213558)
I do have Chris's RSI numbers handy, so I'll toss them in to the chart above, reordering it in the sequence I identified abov
-------------------------------NON-CYA
                           WS   WS ALL  BEST SP IN LG
NAME      INN  ERA
+  RSI  CYAs  STARS    OVER 3 YRS     5%  10%
---------------------------------------------------------------
Seaver   4782  127   95.7   2     5        3          2    4
Carlton  5217  113  104.6   4     3        4          0    2
Palmer   3948  125  107.0   3     4        3          1    2
Niekro   5404  115   97.7   4     1        3          1    1
Perry    5130  117   95.3   2     1
*       3          1    0 
Jenkins  4500  115   99.1   1     3        1          1    1
Cooper   3480  116   99.7   1     2        4          1    0
Walters  3104  115  100.1   3     1        4          1    1
Willis   3996  118   99.7   2     2        1          1    0
Kaat     4137  111  105.6   1     1        2          1    0
John     4710  111  103.4   0     1        1          0    0
Tiant    3486  114  103.1   0     2        1          1    0
Sutton   5282  108  103.9   0     3        0          0    0
Grimes   4180  107  106.7   1     4        0          2    1 
Eck      2495  115   95.6   1     0        0          0    1
Blue     3343  108  104.2   0     2        0          0    0



*NoteI incorrectly reported Perry with having two non-CYA All-Star years in the Jenkins thread.
5% and 10refer to being with 5 or 10of the best three-year pitcher
   8. Chris Cobb Posted: October 16, 2006 at 04:29 AM (#2213560)
Of the 12 guys mentioned in this post, I think Kaat was the 12th best.

I have him 11th of these 12. Kaat at least had a few big years, which is more than can be said for Tommy John. Sutton lacks really big years, but he was well above average for a _long_ time, whereas Kaat and John had many many seasons as strictly average pitchers.

My system sees Kaat as almost a dead ringer, in terms of overall merit, for Burleigh Grimes, who looks like he will rank 30th on my 1988 ballot, unless something very strange happens in the 1987 election.

Looking at each player's score as a percentage of the in-out line value for his era, I see Kaat at .9846 and Grimes at .9845.
   9. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 16, 2006 at 04:38 AM (#2213563)
Oh yeah, his 1977 is one of the screwiest years for run support you'll ever see. The Phillies never scored 3 or 4 runs in a game for him. He had 27 starts. I once worked up a new system called RSD (Run Support Distribution) that accounts for the distribution of run support in a pitcher's starts. (I figured RSD alright but there's a bug in the W/L adjustment that screws up pitchers in low run environment and superior pitchers).

I checked on every season from 1960-79 for my RSI guys. The single biggest loss in any season moving from RSI to RSD was Jim Kaat's 1977 season. It went from about 117 to 100. Weird.
   10. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 18, 2006 at 10:00 AM (#2216337)
I went into this thinking Kaat would be a guy I'd support. I love long career pitchers, especially those with a few big years, even if they aren't 'all-time great' years.

My system reflects this as well, long career pitchers tend to do very well (see Quinn, Jack; Rixey, Eppa).

I figured Kaat would be in their class. He isn't.

Kaat right now rates at #70 for me among post 1893 starting pitchers eligible through 1989. I've got him between Charlie Root, Claude Passeau, Curt Simmons, Nap Rucker, Jack Powell, Lefty Gomez, Eddie Rommel and Murry Dickson.

The wild thing is that only Powell and Simmons are within 1000 translated IP of Kaat (barely). Kaat nearly doubles the tIP of Gomez and Rommel and more than doubles Rucker. He's only this high because he was a very good hitter for a pitcher.

His rate comes out a 4.62 (4.50 is average). That's right, I think ERA+ overstates his effectiveness. As a reliever, he wasn't very good at keeping inherited runners from coming in (-15.3). His bullpens saved him 10.6 runs. His defenses were above average. His leagues were weak. ERA+ misses all of this.

His peak is similar to Chief Bender's.

He's basically Chief Bender, with about 1850 replacement level IP.

I have a lot more confidence in my system after this one. And a lot more confidence in it's rating of Jack Quinn. It's not just blindly loving anyone that threw 4000 innings . . .

I'm not saying Kaat wasn't a good pitcher, he definitely was, #70 is nothing to sneeze at. But there's just so much filler - I have him at just 1.1 WAR from 1977-83. My system even helps him, in that I zero out negative years - and he still only gets this high.

I really can't wait to run Tommy John . . . who is one of my all-time favorite players - and only slightly behind Andre Dawson in terms of inspiration for this project. Have to head home now though, will run him through tonight . . .
   11. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 19, 2006 at 02:00 AM (#2217205)
I ran John through the ringer, he comes out much better than Kaat.

I get him in the group that is clearly above my in/out line (which is about .800 Pennants Added).

John has .866 PA (Kaat had .683). This puts him in a group behind Bunning, Faber and Marichal, ahead of Coveleski, Ferrell, Shocker, Pierce and Bridges.

His peak is low, no doubt about it. But he does have two pretty similar peaks, over a decade apart; 1968-70 and 1979-81. His longevity is amazing. He was a pretty good starter during the last two Cy Young seasons of Koufax's career - and also had two pretty good seasons during the first two seasons that Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award.

In the Jack Quinn mold, he'll have my full support when he's eligible. He's better than Quinn and Grimes (lower peak than Grimes) if you don't give Quinn PCL credit (1916-18), he's behind Quinn if you do.

He was also 6-3 in 88 post-season innings, with a 2.65 ERA.

Amazing control, led the league in shutouts 3 times and was top 5 in the league in ERA 6 times. Everyone says he needed great defense, but for his career, his defenses were actually a smidge below average.

Much, much better than Kaat when you look at the details.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: October 19, 2006 at 02:13 AM (#2217252)
For the kids:

His nickname was Kitty, but it's pronounced "Cot."
   13. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 19, 2006 at 02:23 AM (#2217276)
Another good comp for John is Early Wynn. Wynn has about 450 more translated IP, but John was a little more effective (4.26 vs. 4.32) - Wynn has the higher peak, and is definitely better.

But John fits in along that long-career line (say 4000 tIP with a DRA over 3.85). . . I'd have them:


Roberts-Perry-Ruffing-Lyons-Wynn-Jenkins-Rixey-Quinn-Faber-John
in
----Grimes-------
out
Newsom -Kaat
   14. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 19, 2006 at 02:25 AM (#2217287)
I stretched the IP requirement a little with Newsom, but he's close enough and fits . . .
   15. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 19, 2006 at 03:59 AM (#2217500)
Since I brought up how clutch Yaz was in '67 . . .

Entering September, the Twins and Red Sox were within a half-game of each other fighting it out. They, the Tigers, and the White Sox ended the year in a four-way race for one of the greatest pennanat races ever; a pennant race that went down to the last day of the year with the Red Sox beating the Twins.

Jim Kaat was unfrickinreal in that month. 9 games, 8 starts, 6 complete games. He went 7-0 with an ERA of 1.51 in 65.7 innings. He walked 6 while whiffing 65 for a respectable 11:1 K/W ratio. Aside from his decisions, the Twins were only 10-13. He won his first seven starts, including a 10 inning shutout of the A's were he struck out 12. His relief stint was bad -- the Twins entered the bottom of the ninth with a 4-1 lead against the White Sox in Comiskey. Kaat came in with the bases loaded and none out in a 4-2 game. He tossed a wild pitch, and then had another runner score on a sacrifice before Worthington came in to finish blowing the lead. Still, Kaat was a one-man dynamo as a starter that month.

All that set up his last appearance of the year: September 29, 1967 in Fenway. The Twins entered the day with a one-game lead over the Red Sox and Tigers in what was now a 3-team race. (The Sox were two back so whoever won the Fenway game would mathmatically eliminate them. A win would eliminate the Red Sox and put the Tiger on life support. And Jim Kaat was exactly the pitcher you'd want starting for your team in that situation.

Minnesota scored an early run in the top of the first to get things off right for them. Kaat wasn't especially sharp allowing two singles in the first, but he got a timely double play and struck out Hawk Harrelson. In the second inning he allowed another base hit, but whiffed the last two hitters to end the inning. In the third he struck out his third straight hitter. With five K's in two in a third Twins fans can be forgiven for imagining the pennant already in their hands.

Then he walked the opposing pitcher. But something had gone wrong. He'd strained his elbow in that at bat. He threw two pitches to the next batter (both balls) but he was done. He'd taken them so close, but his arm was in trouble at that moment. Jim Perry, Ron Kline, and Jim Merritt combined to allow 6 runs, and the Twins lost the game. Kaat didn't start another game until May 10.

So close . . .
   16. OCF Posted: October 21, 2006 at 06:22 AM (#2220091)
Despite his years of releiving, has a near-normal ratio of IP to decisions (8.71). I have his RA+ equivalent record as 262-241, which is quite a bit worse than his actual W-L record. There's not much there in big seasons - 21-13, 20-14, 18-12, 18-13. In my system that puts him roughly comparable to Quinn (237-199) and distinctly below Jack Powell: 263-225. Since I haven't been voting for Quinn and Powell, that leaves Kaat off my ballot.
   17. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 21, 2006 at 08:31 AM (#2220103)
When I post the new chart, I'm going to add a column called DRA+, which is basically my DRA on an ERA+ type scale, hopefully that'll give an idea of how inaccurate ERA+ it can be, in terms of what it doesn't account for.

Just ran Palmer - he probably got more help than any great pitcher since Three-Finger Brown.

His defense adjust is .25. That's just insane for a modern pitcher. I mean the only modern guys close are other Orioles (McNally) and a couple of the 1970s Reds pitchers (Nolan and Gullet), who get a .20 adjustment. A few of the Yankees from the 40s are in the .20-.28 range too, guys like Spud Chandler and Tiny Bonham.

Then throw in a league adjustment and Palmer's entire career was in the weak AL - that tacks on another .13. So we're up to .38 for league and fielding.

His bullpens also saved him 10 runs, which is very good.

In the end, his DRA+ ends up being 113, which is a far cry from his 125 ERA+. Brown goes from an ERA+ of 138 to a DRA+ of 118.

He still clears the HoMer bar, but he's a lot more Marichal than Gibson, IMO.
   18. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 21, 2006 at 11:07 AM (#2220116)
Actually, a really, really good comp for Palmer is -Bunning. Same tIP (Palmer has him by 42), same DRA+, Bunning has the higher peak, by a slight but definite margin (.7 to 1.6 WAR for each of their top 5 seasons). They are within 2 RSAR of each other career wise - Bunning is 14 ahead on the mound, and Palmer makes up 16 with the stick.
   19. OCF Posted: October 21, 2006 at 05:14 PM (#2220227)
I just ran Palmer through RA+ Pythpat. He looks really, really good in that system: 268-171, which is a very close match to Gibson (265-166). Palmer has equivalent years of 25-11, 23-10, 23-13, 22-12, 20-11, which means he's right up there in "big years" scores with Gibson. One note: Palmer has a very high number of IP per actual decision - 9.40. That means I'm giving him more equivalent decisions than actual decisions.

So the big deal is what Joe is talking about: defensive support, with a side dose of league strength. Note also that he didn't really become established until 1970; he's a 70's pitcher, with the IP advantages that go with that.

The teams Gibson pitched in front of weren't overall great defensive teams, especially in the corners (Brock in LF, Shannon/Torre at 3B, Cepeda/Allen at 1B) but did usually have defensive strength up the middle (Maxvill, Flood, etc.)

(And back on the ballot discussion thread - what about Belanger?)
   20. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 21, 2006 at 07:35 PM (#2220309)
Palmer did have some insane up-the-middle defenders: Grich, Belanger, and Blair. Not bad. Certainly better, than, I dunno, Jeter, Bernie, and Cano.

In all seriousness, it's tough to come up with a better long-lasting up-the-middle defensive combo than that since the War. Maz, Groat/Alley, Virdon? Herr, Smith, McGee? Fox, Aparicio, Landis? Lind, Bell, Van Slyke?
   21. sunnyday2 Posted: October 21, 2006 at 08:23 PM (#2220334)
Then add in catcher and the O's look even better, though the Pale Hose with Sherm Lollar aren't bad are they? Dunno about the 2 Buccaneers outfits, off hand. Oh, hell, let's look 'em up.

O's--the problem is that by the time Grich came along, so did Earl Williams. Their World Series up-the-middle defenses were:

1966--Etchebarren-D. Johnson-Aparicio-Blair (C, B-, B, A+)
1969--Hendricks and Etchebarren-Johnson-Belanger-Blair (Hendricks not rated, with Etchebarren: C, B-, A+, A+)
1970--ditto
1971--Hendricks-Johnson-Belanger-Blair (?, B-, A+, A+)
1979--Dempsey-Dauer-Garcia-Bumbry (A-, C+, ?, A-)
1983--Dempsey-Dauer-Ripken-Bumbry (A-, C+, B+, A-)

Early Pirates (World Series line-up)

1960--Burgess, Maz, Groat, Virdon (C, A+, A-, A+)

Later Pirates (Post-season line-up)

1990- Slaught/LaValliere, Lind, Bell, Van Slyke ((D+/A-, A-, C+, A-)
1991--ditto

Cardinals (World Series line-ups)

1982--Porter, Herr, Smith, McGee (C, C+, A+, B)
1985--ditto
1987--Pena, Herr, Smith, McGee (A-, C+, A+, B)

White Sox

1959--Lollar, Fox, Aparicio, Landis (B+, A, B, A)

Leaving out the catcher, the Pirates' Maz-Groat-Virdon combo is the best so far. Adding in catcher, the White Sox are the only one that doesn't have a C in the line-up. Finally a personal fave:

Twins

1987--Laudner, Lombo, Gagne, Puckett (?, ?, A, A+)--too many question marks
1991--Harper, Knoblauch, Gagne, Puckett (D-, C+, A, A+)--Knobbie was not a C+ in those days, but then there's Harp....

Widen this beyond play-off line-ups and who knows what could happen.
   22. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 21, 2006 at 11:01 PM (#2220430)
Cards kept just missing. They had Ted Sizemore, Del Maxvill, and Curt Flood, but never starting at the same time. They also had Ken Boyer, an aging Dick Groat, Bill White, and Tim McCarver. Pretty good defenses in St. Louey.

From my own checks at defense, Jim Palmer had the best career defensive support of any liveball pitcher.
   23. TomH Posted: October 22, 2006 at 08:35 PM (#2221268)
that's cause besides up-the-middle, they also had that Brooks guy.
   24. DL from MN Posted: October 23, 2006 at 08:01 PM (#2222453)
I have Kaat way down at 86th behind Wilbur Wood, among others, and way behind Grimes (59). He won't get my vote.

For comparison, Tommy John will hang out with Dutch Leonard at the end of my ballot and Don Sutton will be at or near the top. Tiant is ahead of John.
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 23, 2006 at 08:13 PM (#2222463)
For comparison, Tommy John will hang out with Dutch Leonard at the end of my ballot and Don Sutton will be at or near the top. Tiant is ahead of John.

I have it, in this order, Sutton, Tiant, John, and then Kaat. The first two are very close in value (though Tiant is more peak/prime, while Sutton is more career). John and Kaat are also close in value to themselves, but a notch or two lower than Tiant/Sutton.

None of them look like they'll appear on my ballot.
   26. jingoist Posted: October 23, 2006 at 09:26 PM (#2222520)
Sooooooo, is Jim Kaat the Jake Beckley of pitchers; some slight peak, decent prime and a long, long career of slightly above-average performance when compared to his peers?
   27. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: October 23, 2006 at 09:53 PM (#2222534)
In all seriousness, it's tough to come up with a better long-lasting up-the-middle defensive combo than that since the War. Maz, Groat/Alley, Virdon? Herr, Smith, McGee? Fox, Aparicio, Landis? Lind, Bell, Van Slyke?

1993 Jays: Fernandez, Alomar, Devon White
   28. DavidFoss Posted: October 23, 2006 at 10:22 PM (#2222552)
some slight peak, decent prime and a long, long career of slightly above-average performance when compared to his peers?

Kaat looks a bit like Early Wynn with a flatter career shape and better contemporaries.

That is to say, they have similar ERA+ and IP totals, but Wynn has four years better than Kaat's best and doesn't have to compete with Koufax, Gibson, Seaver, Perry, Carlton, Palmer, Blyleven, etc etc etc.

Kaat's got a puzzling mid-career 'slump' where he was surprisingly mediocre from 1968-73 (1972 is nice but injury shortened). This came at a time when his team won two division titles as well. Anyhow, if he kept up his 1962-66 and 1974-75 levels of play during the interim he would have a great case as a long-prime candidate, but he didn't.

I'm not voting for him -- and I'm a big fan. He's a great broadcaster and I collected all of his baseball cards as a kid (it was fun to do because his cards are affordable and there are so many of them! The font on the back of the later ones was super-small!).
   29. DL from MN Posted: October 23, 2006 at 11:18 PM (#2222598)
No, Kaat is a long career of merely average performance.
   30. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:40 AM (#2222877)
Beckley is a lot more like Tommy John or Jack Quinn or Burleigh Grimes than Kaat. I can't think of a comparable hitter to Kaat.
   31. sunnyday2 Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:48 AM (#2222881)
I always think of Kaat and Rusty Staub though Staub was probably better. There is a superficial career likeness though it is a different kind of likeness, probably, that is most striking.
   32. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 24, 2006 at 01:11 PM (#2222979)
Kaat and Garvey? Kaat and Mark Grace? Kaat and Schoendienst? Kaat and Frank White?
   33. DL from MN Posted: October 24, 2006 at 01:56 PM (#2223026)
Kaat and Gary Gaetti?
   34. DavidFoss Posted: October 24, 2006 at 02:16 PM (#2223040)
No, Kaat is a long career of merely average performance

Well, Win Shares certainly doesn't like him. Ouch.

The ERA+ is at 107. He's a bit better than average.

Top ERA+ seasons:

131-130-128-126-125-114-111-108-108-105-105-105

I don't suggest anyone vote for him, but he had some good years. (including a WS-AL-CY)
   35. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 24, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#2223185)
Kaat's got a puzzling mid-career 'slump' where he was surprisingly mediocre from 1968-73

I wonder if it caused by how heavily he was leaned on in the 1967 stretch run.
   36. sunnyday2 Posted: October 24, 2006 at 04:57 PM (#2223245)
>Kaat's got a puzzling mid-career 'slump' where he was surprisingly mediocre from 1968-73
>>I wonder if it caused by how heavily he was leaned on in the 1967 stretch run.

I doubt it. In chrono order:

109-130-87-111-126-131-114-105-105-107-91-128-125-102

The fact is he threw a lot more IP in '66 than '67. He did have a sore arm in '68 when he dropped from 114 to 105 in 208 IP. The Twins babied him a bit after that--230-240 IP, until 1971 when he threw 260 again, though the ERA+ didn't change significantly (that was the 107).

But note also that he had started very well in '72 when he then got hurt. He was 10-2, 2.06 (ERA+ 156) in 15 starts (113 IP or 7.5 per game) when he got hurt. So he was that close to being out of whatever slump he was in. In '73 he was ineffective (that was the 91) and it appears to have been the lay-off, not overwork, that did it.

The "comeback" in '74 was his first full year in Chicago where he thrived with the big workload. The workload was the highest since '66 and then it was even higher in '75 (80 GS in 2 years) (these are the 128-125 years). So it seems to me that he thrived on more IP more than less, though of course it is also likely that his IP were also the result of ("earned" due to) the fact that he was effective.

Short story long: I don't see a puzzling mid-career slump at all. When your career high ERA+ is 131, a 105 is well within normal fluctuation. And if he was overworked in '67, and if it caused the sore arm in '68, no way did that affect him for 5 years. He liked (pitched well with) 40 starts more than 32.
   37. DavidFoss Posted: October 24, 2006 at 05:55 PM (#2223293)
Short story long: I don't see a puzzling mid-career slump at all. When your career high ERA+ is 131, a 105 is well within normal fluctuation.

Perhaps. It could be reverting back to my childhood recollections of his baseball cards (and traditional stats). W/L records of 14-12, 14-13, 14-10, 13-14, 10-2 and 15-13 are a bit disappointing for a guy who ended up with 283 Wins -- especially when the team won two division titles in that period. But we don't look at W/L much around here.
   38. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 24, 2006 at 06:46 PM (#2223342)
Sooooooo, is Jim Kaat the Jake Beckley of pitchers; some slight peak, decent prime and a long, long career of slightly above-average performance when compared to his peers?

Though Beckley was rarely the best first baseman for any particular season, he was the best of his generation career-wise. That can't be remotely said of Kaat.

Kaat is more like Mark Grace, the man used to devalue Eagle Eye by some here. :-)
   39. sunnyday2 Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:08 PM (#2223362)
But remember the 10-2 was an artifact of injury, and I forgot to mention it was a broken wrist. It had nothing to do with any prior workload. If he had maintained that pace that year, let's say he might have been 20-4. Throw that into that string of 14, 14, 13, 15 and it looks a lot different. Most "great" pitchers at least since Feller and Spahn mix some 14s and 15s in with their 20s.

Not to mention, but for the broken wrist you might be looking at 293 wins.

As a peak voter, that wouldn't matter to me, but for a lot of folks (including BBWAA voters) it might. (If he gets to 293, does he keep on throwing til he gets to 300? No, he threw to age 44 as it is.)

What's really out of character with the rest of Kaat's record in fact is the 283. Other than 1966, you could never dip down into a particular season and watch him pitch and say, here, my friends, is a 280 game winner.

1965--he is the Twins #2 guy at 18-11, 2.83 behind Mudcat Grant, Twins win pennant
1966--he is of course the big cahuna at 25-13, 2.74, Twins finish 2nd 9 GB
1967--he is #2 behind Dean Chance at 16-13, 3.05, Twins finish 2T 1 GB
1968--he has that sore arm but is the #2 guy at best behind Chance
1969--#3 behind Perry and Boswell at 14-13, 3.50 at age 30; if he never came back with the White Sox this would look like an utterly ordinary, predictable decline, Twins win division
1970--#2 behind Perry at 14-10, 3.56, Twins win division

Now if he goes 20-4, 2.06 (156) in 1972, then that 13-14 in 1971 is forgiven. As it is, decline continues in '73, but he bounces back for 20 wins each in '74 and '75. Surprise, surprise!

But then he really tanks. After one mediocre year as a starter in Philly (12-14, 102) he goes 14-16 in 51 stats (ERA+ 74-87) in '77-'78. What the hell were the Phillies thinking.

Dock him the second of those 2 years, then forget his career as a reliever, because he was not good, never over ERA+ 106 as a reliever. Retire him in '77 and he has 253 wins. This is the real Jim Kaat. The 283 is the result of a series of 8 below average years (on average, 3 of them at 102-105-106, but the mean of the 8 seasons at 93).

And being the Twins #1 starter only 1 time in all those years (or 2: by IP he topped Pascual in '62 though Camilo had 2 extra wins; in '64 Kaat had the 2 extra wins but Pascual the extra 24 IP; but Pascual was clearly the Twins' star pitcher in those days).

Jim Kaat 283-237, 3.45 (107) in 4530 IP (625 GS, 180 CG, 31 ShO)
Blyleven 287-250, 3.31 (118) in 4970 IP (685 GS, 242 CG, 60 ShO)--dontcha wish Bert had Kaat's big years, er, big year? OK, years. Replace Bert's best win totals of 20-19-17 with Kaat's 25-21-20 and you gain 10 wins (I'm letting the 2 20s wash out and replacing the other 2). Now Bert is at 297. Though, like Kaat, he stretched it out pretty good, throwing til he was 41 and with a 73-84 ERA+ in his final 2 years. Who exactly is gonna give him the ball enough times for 3 more wins? Well, in 1993, it would have been up to the Twins.

Anyway:

>W/L records of 14-12, 14-13, 14-10, 13-14, 10-2 and 15-13 are a bit disappointing for a guy who ended up with 283 Wins

One could say pretty much the same about Bert, and I don't think anybody is going to let that stand between Bert and the HoM. That is probably why we don't look at W/L much around here. The ERA+ differential of 11 is not insignificant.
   40. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:17 PM (#2223368)
Though Beckley was rarely the best first baseman for any particular season, he was the best of his generation career-wise. That can't be remotely said of Kaat.

But Kaat pitched during a time of extremely durable pitchers and lots of good ones. Beckley played during a time when first base went through a relatively fallow period. Had Kaat pitched from 1946-1970 instead of 1959-1983, with his peak falling during the Frank Lary/Lew Burdette era, he might appear rather differently to us. Both Kaat and Beckley are partially an illusion of the competition at their positions. Mark Grace would never have appeared to be a leading 1B, except maybe during Beckley's era or the AL of the 1950s.

Just to reiterate something from above, (non-sequitor by the way) I don't think that citing the 107 ERA+ is all that helpful. I'm not advocating for him, he's borderline at best, but he had a 111 ERA+ in 4100+ IP as a starter-only, and he was pretty poor in a few hundred innings well after the meat of his career. If the feeling about Wynn or Ruffing (or Redding), for instance, is to only take the good stuff, then you've got to do the same for Kaat. See charts above comparing him to Tiant. Tiant had a 114 in a total career of 3486 innings. Again, if the Wynn/Ruffing precedent applies, I suspect that these guys are pretty close to equal. If you chose to dig out Kaat's finest group of seasons that add up to close to 3500 innings and compare them to Tiant's career total, I wouldn't be surprised if Kaat comes out on top if not merely even.

Even Kaat's high RSI isn't that much higher than Tiant's (105.6-103.1), that is we're not talking Marichal/Perry here. Both were well supported, and that support doesn't effect either's ERA+ directly (unless it gave both more chances to stay in games).

But that's just an ERA+ look at things.
   41. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 24, 2006 at 07:29 PM (#2223379)
Had Kaat pitched from 1946-1970 instead of 1959-1983, with his peak falling during the Frank Lary/Lew Burdette era, he might appear rather differently to us.

True. He probably would have had less career IP to his name. ;-)
   42. Chris Cobb Posted: October 24, 2006 at 08:13 PM (#2223410)
I'm not advocating for him, he's borderline at best, but he had a 111 ERA+ in 4100+ IP as a starter-only, and he was pretty poor in a few hundred innings well after the meat of his career. If the feeling about Wynn or Ruffing (or Redding), for instance, is to only take the good stuff, then you've got to do the same for Kaat. See charts above comparing him to Tiant. Tiant had a 114 in a total career of 3486 innings. Again, if the Wynn/Ruffing precedent applies, I suspect that these guys are pretty close to equal. If you chose to dig out Kaat's finest group of seasons that add up to close to 3500 innings and compare them to Tiant's career total, I wouldn't be surprised if Kaat comes out on top if not merely even.

WARP1 certainly doesn't see it that way.

Jim Kaat from 1961-75 (a period that includes all of Kaat's years as a starter except 1976, when he was about average, and 1977-78, when he was bad) threw 3544.3 IP, pretty close to Tiant's career. WARP sees Kaat's DERA over these sixteen seasons as 4.24, while Tiant's career DERA is 3.91. (Dropping Kaat's weak 1963 season and ading his ok 1976 lowers his DERA only to 4.20: that is the DERA of Kaat's best 3500ish IP, grouped by seasons.)

Turning that into DERA+, Kaat's is 106; Tiant's 115. Kaat's ERA+ benefits substantially from good fielding support, while Tiant's is about right.

By WARP1's numbers, there is no way to construct a career out of Jim Kaat's seasons that is of the same length as Tiant's and also of the same quality.

I don't have time now to do a similar study using ERA+, but either someone else can give it a whirl, or I will get to it later.
   43. sunnyday2 Posted: October 24, 2006 at 08:37 PM (#2223422)
I am happy to say that Early Wynn is not in my PHoM and was never in my ballot. I did elect Ruffing in a weak moment, er, year. But being largely an ERA+ guy, even that 111 if you want to look at it that way doesn't do much for me.
   44. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 24, 2006 at 08:57 PM (#2223431)
With ERA+ you can get Kaat to 118 (117.6 more precisely) in 3408 innings using whole seasons only (1961-1962; 1964-1972; 1974-1976). Close enough to 3484 to make the point. If you're using ERA+, Kaat can be very problematic.
   45. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 24, 2006 at 09:13 PM (#2223439)
I used a simple weighted average above. When I went back and recalculated by applying the ER to actual innings for league and for Kaat, it's 116.5. By this second method, to get an ERA+ of 114, Kaat would have to have given up about 20 more runs than he did.
   46. DavidFoss Posted: October 24, 2006 at 09:36 PM (#2223453)
If you're using ERA+, Kaat can be very problematic.

Eh, you just omitted 53 early innings in 1959-60, 1963 and 1973. A guy will have an off year here and there.

After 1976, Kaat's career ERA+ was 111 in 3865 IP. Just ahead of Grimes and a wee bit behind Sutton at the same age.

Allowing for one bad year at the end for the final decline... After 1977, his career ERA+ was 108 in 4026 IP which is pretty much a dead ringer for Grimes (and a bit behind Sutton now).

The final ERA+ ended up being 107. It doesn't look like hanging on in the bullpen for six years affected his rate stats that much.

Frank Tanana is a modern pitcher who looks fairly comparable. Tanana had a higher peak, but Kaat had a bit of an edge in career length.
   47. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 25, 2006 at 12:47 PM (#2223956)
Eh, you just omitted 53 early innings in 1959-60, 1963 and 1973. A guy will have an off year here and there.

Yes, correct, and it's exactly what I was trying to do. My point in all this is that if you use ERA+ and you support Tiant and you use the Wynn/Ruffing Drop-the-Bad-Years approach, Kaat is going to be a pain to look at. He's going to look like Tiant's entirety plus lots of Early Wynn Garbage Time Innings(TM).
   48. DavidFoss Posted: October 25, 2006 at 03:14 PM (#2224028)
EW-154-142-136-135-126-118-115-110-109-103-
JK-131-130-128-126-125-114-111-108-108-105-105-105
LT-184-169-132-128-125-120-119-105-102-102-100

Yikes, you are right, this is tough.

Tiant's 169 is a bit short, but still qualifies
Kaat's 'too short to list' includes a 152
Tiant's 'too short to list' includes 127 and a 123

Anyhow, this appears to support Wynn over Kaat for sure. Tiant is tough to judge compared to Wynn.
   49. andrew siegel Posted: October 25, 2006 at 03:18 PM (#2224031)
I think it is fundamentally flawed to compare Tiant to Pierce or Kaat to Wynn. While those comparisons are superficially appealing, Pierce and Wynn are in the HoM not because their statistics in the abstract scream "elect-me" but because their resumes are fairly unique for their times and their rank among their contemporary pitchers is in clear HoM territory.
   50. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 25, 2006 at 11:40 PM (#2224473)
Wynn and Kaat aren't remotely close IMO.

I get Wynn with a RA+ of 104 in 5203.7 tIP. Kaat is at 97 in 4518.3 tIP. Note that gives Wynn some conservative war credit for 1944-46 (RA+ below 100 in 1944-45, doubled up his 1946).

That's a difference of 239 runs above replacement in only 685.3 tIP. That is an enormous difference. It's like tacking on 1/3 of Sandy Koufax's career on the margin.

Or look at their top 5 seasons:

Wynn 7.8, 6.4, 6.0, 5.7, 5.7
Kaat 6.1, 5.7, 5.6, 4.6, 4.0

Top 3 consecutive Wynn 18.8, Kaat 13.3.

Kaat and Wynn are similar in that they both pitched for a long time and had a lot of years close to average. But Wynn's peak is much higher than Kaat's, and he lasted about 3 seasons longer. that's the difference between HoM and HoVG.
   51. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 25, 2006 at 11:41 PM (#2224475)
BTW, my RA+ above adjusts for fielding support and league quality (within seasons and expansion, not timeline), not just park and league.
   52. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: October 26, 2006 at 01:02 AM (#2224518)
Right, Joe, I agree Wynn > Kaat easily. But what I'm after isn't the comparison but the method. The drop-the-bad years approach used for Wynn and Ruffing leaves Kaat (from an ERA+ perspective only) as being as good or better than Tiant. So if you're an ERA+ voter, you're faced with voting for neither or potentially voting for Kaat ahead of Tiant.
   53. Chris Cobb Posted: October 26, 2006 at 01:46 AM (#2224545)
Well, if you (1) accept drop the bad years a valid method of comparison and (2) accept ERA+ as a reliable measure of pitching quality, then Kaat is comparable to Tiant.

I don't think there are many voters who accept both of these. Tiant's thread hasn't given evidence of tremendous support for him, but it does not look like many of the electorate see Kaat as his equal or his better.

Myself, I don't accept either one. I think comparison of career segments of equal length is valid, but not cherry-picking good years. ERA+ is better that raw ERA+, but it is too influenced by fielding (and official scoring) to be exact enough for our purposes. ERA+ is especially tricky because it inaccuracies are not the result of consistent systemic biases, as is OPS+ in its underrating of OBP. Given that we have pretty reliable methods of identifying good fielding at the team level, it doesn't make sense to simply accept the view of a pitcher presented by his ERA+.
   54. Rob_Wood Posted: October 26, 2006 at 02:30 AM (#2224575)
For what it is worth, I have the following rankings:

Early Wynn
Billy Pierce
...
Luis Tiant
Jim Kaat

I had Wynn above my mythical in/out line, Pierce just below it.
Tiant is noticeably behind Pierce and ahead of Kaat.
   55. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: October 26, 2006 at 02:51 AM (#2224585)
"The drop-the-bad years approach used for Wynn and Ruffing leaves Kaat (from an ERA+ perspective only) as being as good or better than Tiant. So if you're an ERA+ voter, you're faced with voting for neither or potentially voting for Kaat ahead of Tiant."

Basically what Chris said . . .

1) Are you also dropping the bad years for Tiant?

2) Tiant's peak is still higher.

3) ERA+ overstates Kaat's value more than Tiant's. He pitched behind good defenses in weak leagues. My conversion process knocks Tiant from 114 ERA+ to 112 RA+, Kaat goes from 107 ERA+ to 97 RA+. I haven't had a chance to break Kaat out for only the years you mention.

4) Even without dropping the bad years, Tiant gets 11% more Pennants Added than Kaat in 1150 fewer translated IP. I don't see how dropping any of Kaat's career off would make him close to Tiant, since I already zero out all seasons below replacement level.

I have it like this Rob

Wynn
-
Pierce
Tiant
-
-
-
Kaat
   56. rawagman Posted: November 01, 2006 at 04:24 PM (#2229585)
Can someone who remembers tell me why Jim Kaat won so many Gold Gloves...
   57. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 01, 2006 at 04:55 PM (#2229603)
Can someone who remembers tell me why Jim Kaat won so many Gold Gloves...

Because of his Kaat-like reflexes on the mound. ;-)
   58. DavidFoss Posted: November 01, 2006 at 05:14 PM (#2229612)
Can someone who remembers tell me why Jim Kaat won so many Gold Gloves...

I'm interested as well. It won't effect my voting (pitcher fielding is part of ERA), but more interested from an anecdotal standpoint. Was there a particular type of play that he excelled at? You know, what would a typical Jim Kaat Web-Gem have looked like. :-)
   59. sunnyday2 Posted: November 01, 2006 at 05:24 PM (#2229617)
He was quick and had great fundamentals/footwork making the play on bunts and squibbers.
   60. Daryn Posted: November 01, 2006 at 06:20 PM (#2229643)
He also landed in a good fielding position, like Maddux does. Also like Maddux, they tend to award the Gold Glove to a good pitcher and after they give it to you for three or so years in a row they are loathe to take it away.
   61. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 01, 2006 at 07:09 PM (#2229685)
He also landed in a good fielding position, like Maddux does. Also like Maddux, they tend to award the Gold Glove to a good pitcher and after they give it to you for three or so years in a row they are loathe to take it away.

Not that it should matter, but Kaat looked ten times more the athlete than Maddux ever did. Heck, he probably does even today. :-)
   62. KJOK Posted: November 01, 2006 at 09:14 PM (#2229782)
Kaat was one of the few pitchers who actually 'stood out' defensively - he moved and LOOKED like a great defender when he had to field. I'd have to say he's the greatest fielding pitcher I ever saw, by quite a bit. Later in his career, he also very effectively killed SB against, when SB's were a big part of offense, due to his abbreviated windup.
   63. OCF Posted: November 01, 2006 at 09:22 PM (#2229788)
A pitcher's own defensive skills (or lack thereof, like Randy Johnson) would be something that needed to be added into the analysis if you were evaluating pitchers by DIPS or DIPS-related criteria. But if you are evaluating them by RA, that defense has already been included and need not be adjusted for. Using ERA has the odd little quirk of dealing with runs that followed a pitcher's own errors. And defense-adjusted RA mostly deals with the season-long quality of the entire team defense, for which the pitcher's own contribution is minor (since so many games happened without him.)
   64. OCF Posted: November 01, 2006 at 09:28 PM (#2229790)
As soon as I typed "Randy Johnson," I started thinking: generically, who has the most trouble fielding the position at P? Tall left-handers, of course. Southpaws have a harder time making the throw to first base. They have a harder time covering first base, both because their motion may take them to the third base side, and just thinking about trying to catch a throw while running to first, it seems it would be easier with the glove on the inside (left) hand. sunnyday2 mentioned "bunts and squibbers". That's where the difficulty of that throw to first matters, and it's also why being tall is a disadvantage - harder to get down there to where the ball is.

Jim Kaat was a 6'4" left-hander. More power to him.
   65. sunnyday2 Posted: November 01, 2006 at 10:14 PM (#2229821)
Kaat was also an outstanding hitter for a pitcher, occasionally used as a PH.

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