Jim Kaat-Hall of Fame or Not?

Another one of my favorites in baseball history was Jim Kaat. I loved his name, and he was a commentator too.

Why he belongs:

Longevity-He pitched from when my mom was 6 until I turned 3. He played 25 seasons. People with more: Nolan Ryan, Cap Anson, Deacon McGuire, Tommy John (the latter two, Hall of Fame, you need to get on that). Other guys who played 25 seasons: Rickey Henderson, Charlie Hough, Bobby Wallace & Eddie Collins (all but Hough are in the Hall of Fame).

16 Gold Gloves-the most a pitcher had until Greg Maddux

Who else has 16 or more Gold Gloves?

Greg Maddux

Brooks Robinson

You have to go to 11 to find somebody not in the Hall of Fame. (Keith Hernandez & Omar Vizquel; I am also under the assumption that Maddux and Ivan Rodriguez are HOFer’s.)

He has more Gold Gloves than Ozzie Smith, Roberto Clemente and Roberto Alomar.

3 20-win seasons. Finished in the top 10 in Wins 7 times, leading in 1966.

Finished in the top 10 in Innings Pitched 6 times, leading in 1966.

Finished in the top 10 in Games Started 8 times, leading in 1965 & 1966.

He put up some MONSTER career numbers. 283 wins. That’s good enough for #31 on the all-time list. There are 3 eligible pitchers above him NOT in the Hall of Fame: Bobby Mathews, Tommy John (who I would have put in last year) and Tony Mullane (the first and last the HOF needs to get with it). 300 wins is the magic number, right? Look at whom he has more wins than: Jim Palmer, Bob Feller & Bob Gibson.

He’s #25 on the all-time Innings Pitched list. Guess who above him isn’t in the HOF. If you guessed Mathews, John & Mullane, you’re right. Guess who has FEWER Innings Pitched than Kaat: Old Hoss Radbourn and Fergie Jenkins, in addition to Palmer, Gibson & Feller.

2461 Strikeouts put him at #34. While Strikeout aren’t a HOF voter’s priority in measuring pitchers (otherwise Bert Blyleven would have gone in first ballot), there are legends that Kaat is better than: Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Early Wynn and Lefty Grove.

The Hall of Fame Monitor lists his score at 130. A Hall-of-Famer is at 100. He has the highest score of anybody on the ballot this year.

Baseball-reference.com lists similar pitchers: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Eppa Rixey, Bert Blyleven, Early Wynn, Burleigh Grimes, Red Ruffing (all Hall-of-Famers), Tommy John (should be) and Jamie Moyer and Frank Tanana (monster players themselves).

Why he doesn’t:

3 All-Star Games

He only finished in the Cy Young balloting once-1975, finishing tied for 4th. However, to be fair, his best season by far was 1966. That was when the Cy Young Award had one recipient. It went to Sandy Koufax. He finished 5th in the AL MVP voting that year.

He only finished in the top 10 in ERA 3 times.

He was in the top 10 in Win-Loss percentage twice.

He was in the top 10 in Strikeouts 4 times. That’s 16% of his seasons.

Based on those numbers, he wasn’t that “dominant” of a pitcher.

He’s #16 on the All-Time Losses list. (Though to be fair, 13 of those 15 above him are Hall-of-Famers, and the two that aren’t pitched in the 19th century.)

Probably the most damning stat is how he finished in previous HOF ballots. The highest percentage he ever received was 29.6% in 1993. That’s good enough for #8. Reggie Jackson was elected that year. Three would go on to become Hall-of-Famers: Phil Niekro, Orlando Cepeda & Tony Perez. Three others above him have not been elected: Steve Garvey (needs to be), Tony Oliva (needs to be) and Ron Santo (jury’s still out on that).

All in all… There are two numbers that stick out to me. 283 which are his number of wins. And in an era of relievers, I don’t see how you can hold 300 as that magic number, especially considering that the last 5 years of career, he was primarily a reliever.

The other number is 16. That’s his number of Gold Gloves. I don’t see how anybody who won 16 of those is not in the Hall of Fame.

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