Sunday, August 14, 2011

#225 - Paul Splittorff

Paul Splittorff should have an action card. He got a "5" card by winning 20 in '73 but it's pretty blase with him just standing there in his warmup jacket in Oakland. The photo makes you think the guy was kind of a yawner. But he actually had a dramatic pitching motion, employing a big kick in his delivery. Paul was a Royal before there were any Royals and he continued his affiliation with the team, after he finished playing for them for 16 seasons, as their color guy for 27 years. He sadly passed away earlier this year from melanoma at age 64. In doing research for this post everything I read about Paul indicated he was a great guy.

Splittorff came out of Indiana to Morningside College in Iowa where he continued to play baseball and hoops. The KC scout assigned to check him out his senior year didn't even see him pitch because the game was rained out, but recommended him anyway and Paul was drafted in '68 in a late round. He was sent to the Corning Royals of the NY-Penn league, who technically weren't even affiliated with the Royals yet, and won eight games in half a season as a starter. He then spent the next two seasons at Omaha, KC's Triple A club, and made a late appearance in '70. In '71 he got off to a nice start at Omaha and was then pulled up for good, winning eight with a nice ERA. He finished fifth in AL ROY voting that year. Paul was not a power pitcher despite the big kick. He had a sinking fastball, his out pitch for righties, and a big curve which wreaked havoc on lefties. He enjoyed another nice season in '72 and then had his big year in '73, even though his ERA spiked by almost a run.

In '74 Splittorff had his first off season, nearly reversing his record to go 13-19 with a 4.10 ERA. In '75 he put some time in the pen to work through stuff and dropped his ERA a run and by the end of the season was back in the rotation full-time. In '76 he retuned to a winning record as one of a very strong staff of starters that would take the Royals to the AL playoffs the next three seasons. He won 16 in '77 and 19 the next season and pitched well overall in the playoffs, accumulating a 2-0 record in five games. He won 14 in '80, the year KC finally beat the Yankees, and got his first Series action in relief since manager Jim Frey left him out of the rotation. After a couple mediocre seasons, he led the Royals staff with 13 wins in '83. He then got off to a slow start in '84 and with the next round of premium pitchers arriving he retired during the season, pretty much moving right into broadcasting. Both sides of his 166-143 record are team records. He also had a 3.81 ERA with 88 complete games, 17 shutouts, and a save. In the post-season he was a combined 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in seven games.

Paul gets notice for his defense - he was also pretty good up top - and his '69 season, despite the high ERA that year. I don't know what he did for the dairy but I'm sure he was much happier with his career choice after playing. He was a talented sportscaster, also calling college hoop and local football games.

We get to cross leagues with just one guy here:

1. Splittorff and John Mayberry '72 to '77 Royals;
2. Mayberry and Roger Metzger '71 Astros.

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