Ok, I want to try and explain, in a very basic way, how I feel the game has changed in the past 40 years. If you know me you’d know I wasn’t even close to being around 40 years ago, so I’m going purely off of stats on this one. I really only have one example and that is Jim Kaat. “Kitty” Kaat, as he was popularly referred to, pitched more than 300 innings in two different seasons; 1966, as a 27-year old with the Twins, and 1975, as a 36-year old for the Chicago White Sox. In those two seasons he combined for 31 complete games; nowadays, pitchers might be considered overused if they get that many in a 15-year career. But these aren’t garbage innings, where Kaat gave up a ton of runs and the manager just left him in there to rot. No, in 1966 Kaat’s ERA was 2.75 (which, ironically, wouldn’t have put him in the top 5 of the AL for the category that year, yet in 2007 a 2.75 ERA would’ve led the AL by .26 runs!). In ’75 it was 3.11, still very respectable for how much he pitched (41 starts and 43 total games that year). Moreover, in this day and age, one might think “sure 300 innings is a great feat, but it must’ve taken its toll and Jim’s arm!” In fact, Kaat had only one serious injury in his career: a sprained left wrist that saw him make just 15 starts in 1972 (and he was 10-2 with 5 CG in that limited amount of time). In all he had 14 seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, and in his last season, at age 44, he pitched 34 2/3 innings in 24 relief games for the St. Louis Cardinals. In those days 40 starts in a season was rare. In 2007, the most starts in the Majors was 35 by Dontrelle Willis. Even so, his ERA was 5.17 and he totaled just over 205 innings for an average of just under 6 innings per start.

 

Ok, so that was just the pitching, and it kinda turned into a post highlighting Jim Kaat’s career, but it begs the question: In the current state of baseball, are pitchers babied too much? Maybe so, but I also feel that pitchers just don’t have the stamina anymore, simply from being used to not pitching more than 230 innings in a given year. If you watch 3 Johan Santana starts in a season, I just about guarantee that you’d be able to tell he hits “the wall” around 100-110 pitches. For instance, when Santana had 17 strikeouts against the Rangers last August, he threw 112 pitches. In interviews following the game, reporters asked him multiple times how he felt about not being able to pitch in the 9th inning and go for a tie of the strikeout record. Santana told everyone that he basically pulled himself, that he was out of gas, and that the team’s bullpen (ok, in this situation it was only going to be Joe Nathan) was strong enough to finish the game. Had that been Cy Young or Walter Johnson (749 and 531 complete games, respectively) on the mound, they would’ve found it in them to finish the game. Granted, I may be going back too far in baseball history to use guys like Young and Johnson, where 400-inning seasons were commonplace and an ERA over 2.50 was considered average. Maybe that shows a change in the game between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to the mid 1900’s. At this rate, in another 20-30 years, maybe baseball will be all home runs and batting averages and the lowest ERA in the league will be around 4.00.

 

Excuse any ramblings I may have made, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in just how crazy different baseball was.

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