Saturday, February 23, 2013

#316 Paul Splittorff - Kansas City Royals

Paul Splittorff's 13th Topps card shows him mid delivery in a spring training location.  The picture is a frame a or two too late to capture his high leg kick for which he was known.
Player: Paul Splittorff was a part of the Royals inaugural free agent draft class in 1968.  Although the odds are long on a 25th round pick making the majors, Splittorff was the first Royal from that draft to make the big league roster when he was called up at the tail end of the 1970 season.  He was roughed up in two appearances allowing nine runs in 8.2 innings.
Splittorff got another chance in June, 1971 and pitched consistently, allowing three or less earned runs in 18 of his 22 starts.  The young southpaw finished with a 2.68 ERA (127 ERA+) in 144 frames of work.  Splittorff should have finished higher than the fifth place spot he received in a weak AL ROY class that saw Chris Chambliss win with a .275, 9 HR season.
The Royals found Splittorff to be a reliable starter in their rotation as he averaged 217 innings over the next nine seasons.  Although his ERA over that time frame was not spectacular at 3.77, he was a workhorse, twice racking up as many as 262 innings and five times making 35 or more starts.  He won a career high 20 games in '73 and 19 in '78. 
The Royals won four divisional titles and a pennant in 1980 with Splittorff, and though he wasn't the ace of the staff, he pitched well in the postseason with a 2-0 record and 2.79 ERA in 38.2 innings.  He got off to a rough start in '81 and then tossed an eleven inning six-hit shutout on May 23 against the Twins.  He came back on three days rest and was rocked and it was a struggle the rest of the year posting a career worst 4.36 ERA. 
At this stage of his career the soft tossing lefty was confined to the back of the rotation.  He made 28 starts in '82 with a 4.28 ERA but improved to a 3.63 mark in 27 starts in '83.  With a bevy of young pitchers in the system (Saberhagen, Gubicza, Jackson) and an sky high ERA of 7.7, Splittorff retired on June 29 after meeting with GM John Schuerholz. 

Flipside: You can really see that by the early 80s, Splittorff was a five to six inning starter as he had no complete games in '82 and just one in '81. 
I always appreciate players who stay with the same team their entire career.
Oddball: Splittorff struck out 61 batters in 156 innings in 1983.  So what's so odd about that you ask?  That total led the Royals staff!  Bud Black threw a few more innings but K'd just 58.  Veteran Larry Gura topped 200 frames but whiffed just 57. 
History: Splittorff holds many of the Royals career pitching marks including wins (166), starts (392) and innings pitched (2,554).  He moved into the broadcast booth for the Royals right after he retired, a position he held until he passed away in 2011

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