Paul Splitorff career highlights

Earlier today, former Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff died after a fight with cancer at age 64>.

I’ve never been a Royals fan but I do remember as a kid when he was a veteran pitcher, and all-time franchise victory in wins to boot. My main memory of him when I was a kid is something a bit more oddball, though: I always like the named “Splittorff.” It just sounds nice.

At any rate, I recently wrote a piece discussing Harmon Killebrew career highlights when Killer died, and though Splittorff isn’t nearly as big a figure as Killebrew, I thought I’d do the same.

Below is a list of big games Splittorff appeared in, his best/worst/most noteworthy achievements, and some oddball games/moments he happened to be on hand for, even if he had nothing to do with what made that game worthy of note. Hey, they’re all games he appeared in.

Sept. 23, 1970 Paul Splittorff plays his first game. He loses to the White Sox, pitching seven innings allowing 10 hits and five runs (three earned). In his first inning of work, Carlos May is out trying to steal third against him.

April 22, 1972 Splittorff tosses a complete game but loses 1-0 to Wilbur Wood and the White Sox. This is his only complete-game 1-0 loss.

May 3, 1972 Al Kaline, age 37, hits two triples in one game against the Royals. Splittorff allows the first.

June 27, 1972 Splittorff hits a triple. It’s his second and last extra base hit, as next year the AL adopts the DH rule.

Sept. 5, 1972 Splittorff fans 10 batters in a game, a career high he’ll tie on Sept. 16, 1973.

June 2, 1973 John Ellis of the Indians gets a second-inning single against Splittorff. It’s the only hit Ellis gets in 34 career at-bats against Splittorff.

July 26, 1973 Splittorff’s only complete-game shutout 1-0 win in a nine-inning game. He won 1-0 in a shortened five-inning game on Aug. 11, 1971. It’s over the White Sox, whom he three-hits.

Aug. 26, 1973 In the second inning of a game against the Orioles, Splittorff allows an inside-the-park grand slam to Paul Blair. It’s one of three inside-the-park home runs Splittorff ever allows and one of four slams. It comes in the worst start of Splittorff’s career: 6.2 IP, 13 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 2 K for a Game Score of 9.

Sept. 26, 1973 In his last start of the season, Splittorff wins his 20th game of the year, his only 20-win season. It looks like there was a definite push to get him to 20 wins. The team allowed him to start on Sept. 20, 23, and 26—all of which were victories for him. In his entire career, Splittorff started on two days rest exactly five times—and two were right here back-to-back as he made the final push for 20 wins.

June 26, 1974 Splittorff’s longest career start results in a complete game victory as the Royals beat the White Sox 2-1. Splittorff’s line: 12 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 K.

Aug. 11, 1974 Splittorff allows a leadoff home run to Ken Berry. It’s the only leadoff home run he’ll allow in 392 career starts.

April 9, 1975 Splittorff throws three wild pitches, his most in one game.

April 14, 1975 In his first decision of the year, Splittorff picks up the loss, giving him eight straight losses including late 1974. This is the worst losing streak of his career.

Aug. 3, 1975 Splittorff throws a complete game one-hitter. Oakland’s Claudell Washington singles with one out in the first inning, and that’s it for the day against Splittorff.

Sept. 15, 1975 Splittorff wins his 62nd game, all with the Royals, to pass Dick Drago as the franchise’s all-time leader in victories. Splittorff eventually retires with 166 wins and is still the all-time Royals leader in wins.

Oct. 10, 1976 Game 2 of the ALCS: Splittorff makes his first-ever playoff appearance, pitching in relief when Whitey Herzog gets a quick hook to Dennis Leonard in the third inning. The Royals trail 3-2 when Splittorff comes in, but have a 7-3 lead when he leaves for the ninth inning, and that’s the final score.

Oct. 14, 1976 Game 5 of the ALCS: Splittorff again relieves Leonard early. Leonard faces only three batters, and they all get hits, and then Splittorff enters. He also has troubles, allowing two runs in 3.2 innings, not including an inherited runner that scored in the first. The Yankees win 7-6 to take the pennant on a walk-off home run by Chris Chambliss.

July 1, 1977 Splittorff indirectly helps make Royals history. When he has to leave the game after facing only four batters—and getting none out (three hits and a walk)—reliever Marty Pattin comes in to pitch nine full innings, as the Royals beat the Indians 12-2. It’s the last time a Royal went nine innings in relief. Bruce Del Canton also did it for the team on May 5, 1973.

Sept. 2, 1977 Splittorff nearly throws a no-hitter. Charlie Moore singles with two outs in the bottom of the eighth for the Brewers, and Splittorff has to settle for a one-hitter. If it’s any consolation, according to Game Score it’s still his greatest start. His line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K in 3-0 complete-game win over the Brewers.

Oct. 5, 1977: Game 1 of the ALCS: Splittorff makes his first postseason start, and the Royals beat the Yankees, 7-2. He goes eight innings allowing two runs on eight hits and a walk while fanning a pair.

Oct. 9, 1977: Game 5 of the ALCS. Splittorff gets the start in the final game of the best-of-five ALCS. There’s an interesting decision made before the game: Yankees manager Billy Martin benches star Reggie Jackson because he doesn’t think the slugger can hit Splittorff. At that time, Jackson is 19-for-68 career versus Splittorff, but that’s because Jackson crushed him when Splitorff was a kid. Beginning in 1973, Splittorff held Jackson to an 11-for-54 line—actually, it’s 11-for-58 if you include Game 1 of the ALCS—with four doubles and one home run.

The Royals lead 3-1 after seven innings, but when Willie Randolph gets a single to leadoff the eighth, manager Herzog yanks Splittorff and puts the game in his bullpen’s hands. It doesn’t work, as the Yankees win 5-3.

April 22, 1978 Splittorff wins his 11th consecutive game—12th consecutive if you count last year’s postseason. That’s his longest career winning streak.

July 21, 1978 Splittorff wins his 100th game. He is the first Royals pitcher in history to reach this mark.

Oct. 6, 1978: Game 3 of the ALCS. Splittorff gets a no-decision when the Royals beat the Yankees 6-5. He throws 7.1 innings and allows five runs (four earned).

Aug. 21, 1979 Splittorff pitches a nine-inning complete game despite striking out zero batters. Yankees win, 6-2. Want to know how the game has changed? It’s been four years since anyone had a complete game with zero Ks, but the Royals did it seven times by themselves in the 1970s. This was the only time for Spittorff, though.

Sept. 28, 1980 Splittorff is the starting pitcher when George Brett hits a pinch hit grand slam in the top of the sixth inning. Splittorff was removed from the game a half-inning before, and this shot ensures he won’t get the loss.

Oct. 10, 1980: Game 3 of the ALCS. Splittorff makes his last postseason start, and the Royals clinch their first pennant in the game. He doesn’t get the win, but he allowed only one run in 5.1 innings. A late Royals rally gives them a 4-2 win. I’m not sure what happened to get him pulled. While he’d just allowed a one-out double to Reggie Jackson, the Royals led 1-0 and Jackson was the first Yankee to make it to scoring position since the third inning.

Oct. 21, 1980: Game 6 of the World Series. Splittorff makes his only World Series appearance when he relieves in its final game. Was he injured? He was the team’s third best pitcher on the year, but was ignored for the first five games of the Series after his early hook in the ALCS. Here, he allows four hits in 1.2 innings.

April 30, 1981 In a rare relief appearance, Splittorff balks, his first in almost five years and more than 1,000 innings. He balks again three days later.

May 23, 1981 Splittorff stars in one of the greatest pitchers’ duels in KC history. He pitches 11 innings of shutout ball against the Twins, allowing only six hits and two walks—but the Royals can’t score either. A Willie Wilson RBI single in the bottom of the 15th inning finally ends it, a 1-0 victory for the Royals. It’s the last time a Royals starter has pitched 11 innings in a game.

June 11, 1981 Splittorff is the starting pitcher for the Royals when George Brett’s batting average reaches its all-time peak. A ninth-inning double gives him 1,307 hits in 4,094 at-bats, a .319248 mark. By that time in the game, though, Splittorff is long gone. He didn’t get out of the fourth inning.

May 2, 1983 Milwaukee’s Larry Hisle hits a pinch hit home run off Splittorff, the only pinch hit homer he ever gives up. It turns 3-0 Royals lead into a 3-2 game.

May 24, 1983 Never much of a strikeout artist, Splittorff fans his 1,000th batter, Jim Sundberg. He’s thrown 2,386.1 innings at that point in his career.

June 10, 1983 Splittorff allows only seven base runners (three hits and four walks) but still manages to pick two of them off in game against the Mariners. It’s the third time in his career he’s picked off two runners in one game.

July 25, 1983 Splittorff is Kansas City’s starting pitcher when the opposing Indians perform one of baseball’s stranger collective brain farts. In the bottom of the eighth inning and the Royals batting, the entire Cleveland team walks off the field with two outs. They thought the inning was over. Apparently, counting to three is harder than it looks. Splittorff had been removed from the game by that time, though. He did get the win, the 161st of his career.

April 4, 1984 Splittorff, in his first appearance of the year, gets roughed up by the Yankees and is removed in the fifth inning. In his place, the Royals turn to a kid making his big league debut: Bret Saberhagen. In his next start, Splittorff will pitch poorly again, and again the Royals will have Saberhagen enter the game in relief. A torch has just been passed.

June 26, 1984 Splittorff plays his last game. It’s a start—his first since getting demoted to the bullpen over two months earlier—and, as one might expect, it doesn’t go well. He’s taken out in the fifth inning, having allowed seven runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks. Relieving him yet again is Saberhagen, who finishes off the game. In Splittorff’s three starts in 1984, he throws a total of 10 innings. In those same games, reliever Saberhagen throws 14 innings.

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12 years ago

Split was pissed after the 1980 WS because manager Jim Frey started Rich Gale over him. Their numbers were fairly similar, but Splitt had the post-season experience. Him and Frey didn’t get along at all. No injury, just manager’s decision. And of course, Gale did not pitch all that well in the deciding Game Six.

Chris J.
12 years ago

Max – thanks for the info. 

I also heard another one from BTF post Guapo: Cal Ripken’s first plate appearance was agasint Splittorff.

James Jelak
12 years ago

Thanks for this post and your work that went into it.

I remember Split well as a Brewers fan of the 70s and 80s.

I like nostalgia, and I also like comparing players from different eras.

Split, and his KC mates, had some really nice teams. I was at the Charlie Moore game. That was a really good Brewers team he stymied.

12 years ago

Too bad we don’t have GB% and HR/FB data on Splittorff. He had an insanely low K/9(3.72) for a pitcher who achieved his level of success.  He didn’t walk many batters(BB/9=2.75) so that helped.  He had a relatively low BABIP and a low HR/9.  Those numbers would make an interesting case study if we had the the full array of data. I wonder what his xFIP was?