May 30, 2009

The World Series Phillies Project: Update 1

I have identified the many holes in World Series Phillie Project. I am still trying to put together the wantlist/checklist...whatever you want to call it. This is taking a lot more time than I intended it to. I will make a grand announcement when I get these lists/files done.

Here's a sampling of pieces of the project. This pertains to the Steve Carlton collection and the rookie card pieces of the project. Here are my most recent big acquisitions (for me).

1. 1967 Topps Steve Carlton is at the top of mini-pyramid
This was a loved card, but now it's mine.

2. At the bottom are two Chase Utleys: the 2001 Bowman Draft Picks and 2001 Bowman Heritage. This completes the Chase Utley base rookie card collection from 2001 since these were the only base card releases of Utley from that year.

This project is my focus for collecting, but all Phillies are welcome in trades, etc. Any help in compiling information for this(especially for the 2008 Phillies) would be much appreciated.

May 29, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 5 of 18

JA Happ

Since the baseball season is long (a marathon, not a sprint they always say). Let's keep track of the Phillies 2009 season in digestible bites. A weekly wrap-up doesn't give justice to the ups and downs that a team goes through because it's so uneven.Therefore, I've decided to summarize the season in 9 game swaths, the equivalent of 3 series, barring rainouts and schedule unevenness. Plus, 9*18=162...I like even numbers.

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 5
Slice Record: 5-4
Cumulative Record: 25-20
Standing at Slice's End: 0.5 games behind the aching Metropolitans
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Marlins
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Reds, Yankees
Wins to Remember: Defeating the Yankees 7-3 on May 22, Defeating the Reds 4-3 on May 19
Loss to spill milk over: Losing to the Yankees 5-4 on May 23, blowing a 4-2 9th inning lead.
New York doesn't scare me: JA Happ
Bats do help in general: When facing Burke Badenhop
Nemesis Alert: Chris Volstad
My throne is waiting for me:Cole Hamels
First base, first base...that sounds familiar: Jimmy Rollins
The ex-Phils haunting continues: Wes Helms
Don't you miss the NL?: A.J. Burnett, not enjoying the old divisional rivalry rematch
Welcome to the big leagues: John Mayberry Jr, if only Fox Sports could find your father to react in time.
Promises, Promises: Chan Ho Park reneged on his promise to do well as the 5th starter. Shame on Ruben Amaro for listening to him.
The 9th inning is a call for action: unless you're down by 2 with a runner on 1st base; Matt Stairs, swing away: Shane Victorino, don't run
It had to happen sometime: Ryan Howard committed an error
Hitting Heroes: Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard
Need Adjustments: Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins
Fire Starters on the Mound: Brad Lidge, Jack Taschner, Brad Lidge...again
Holding the Fort Down: Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers

It was yet another uneven slice of the season with really few performances to take note. Cole Hamels is back (long live King Cole!), pitching 6 innings in both starts with a 6:1 K:B ratio and less than 1.2 WHIP. Ibanez is hitting better than Albert Pujols; his OPS is still a stratospheric value of 1.109, now with more home run goodness. JA Happ pitched remarkably well in the pressure cooker of Yankee Stadium 3; allowing only 2 runs (with no walks) in 6 innings to that lineup. And most surprisingly of all, Joe Blanton struck out 11 in 7 innings in one start.

The hitting is still keeping pace overall with an .OPS of .790 during this time period, but it seems there are cracks in the aura. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino need to get on base more, period. They both have .OBP below .330 (with Rollins closer to .280). This is unacceptable in the long run; move them down in the order to maximize the power of Utley, Howard, and Ibanez: the lefty brigade. Jayson Werth has slumped, flailing at breaking stuff outside and bailing on fastballs inside; he's like Burrell when he was slumping. Does he need a temporary platoon partner? Pedro Feliz has been the most pleasant surprise of the season so far, upping his walk rate by 50% and hitting over .400 with RISP.

Brad Lidge is worrisome still. The home runs, the high walk rate, the higher contact % (over 1.000 OPS against) all hint at a deeper problem. His velocity is there, but he can;t get the fastball over and his slider can be avoided if there are less than two strikes. It's kind of Manuel to show loyalty, but give him a mental break for a couple weeks; Ryan Madson is a viable alternative. And Clay Condrey is...'nobody expects Everyday Clay Condrey'...he is the stealth good reliever so far.

It was just reported that Brett Myers might have hip surgery (just as the good Brett Myers decided to start pitching). Time to bring on the trade rumors or welcome Kyle Kendrick, Chan Ho Park, Andrew Carpenter, or Carlos Carrasco to the rotation.

They won two series on the road against over .500 teams and lost a series at home against an under .500 team. They're batting stats are also significantly worse at CBP; this does not trend with previous years. There's something intangible that is missing for the home struggles.

The Mets are hurt, the Braves continue to annoy, it's the time of the year to make a move. There is no try,there is only play ball.

May 27, 2009

Tales of a Former Bowman Collector: Part 2

The "next big thing" had been a large part of the baseball card hobby for many years before I made my perfunctory discovery. The 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly and the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco were two of the more prominent examples of collectors seeking out and hoarding prominent rookie cards of stars-in-the-making.

When the extreme overproduction era hit in 1987/1988, it wasn't just a matter of identifying the up and coming youngsters making their debuts on the major league rosters. It was about finding the prospect of the moment and making a financial killing on the cards by flipping them quickly before anyone was the wiser about their lack of future superstar ability and/or overabundance of these cards. The first example that comes to mind is Gregg Jefferies. Others may include such luminaries as Sam Horn, Phil Plantier, Kevin Maas, etc. How to invest in these rookies was simple; buy 100 card lots and sell as much as you can when the up arrow in the Beckett appeared (because no one understood what that really meant).

In 1989, the Bowman brand was introduced, primarily as a a nostalgia kick by Topps. However, there was something different about the brand. It included an overabundance of rookie cards (in terms of percentage) compared to the normal Topps base set. I opened one pack that year, and I honestly hated them. I couldn't properly rubberband the cards or store them in my album; they were too large!

One aspect did stick with me, for some cards (the first ones I saw were Ed Sprague and Tino Martinez), it simply said in the statistics section, "No Prior MLB Experience". How can they have a card without experience thought my wondering 8 year old mind?

As we see in subsequent years, it was a concerted effort to get the first card of a player out by Topps before any other company. This they normally could do because they signed individual contracts with players rather than going through the MLB Players Association.

1990 and 1991 Bowman (though extremely ugly in design) followed the same concept in providing a high percentage of first or rookie cards in the sets. It wasn't until 1992 when Bowman as a brand hit its stride

May 26, 2009

2009 Goudey Pack Break

After seeing all the breaks of 2009 Goudey and most people proclaiming it U-G-L-Y, I had to see for myself. So I present the first ever pack break on the blog with a newly minted scanner.

97-Russell Martin (looking pensive in his catcher duds)
36-Wilkin Castillo rookie (forgot to look at the painter or camera; who is that dirty helmeted man?)
13-Chipper Jones (looking suave and evil like the Phillie pitcher Terminator he is)

Heads up! It's 269-Ichiro. I loved these cards in 2007. I'm glad they're back.

A blue-backed Mini of 152-Lou Marson, staying in the minors until his appointed day.

Next is two Yankees.
Yankee blue (135-Alex Rodriguez)

And Yankee orange (136-Chien-Ming Wang);though he should be blue the way he's pitching this year.

Then, lastly, here's a rookie of 124-Jonathon Niese, probably the Mets top pitching prospect. May he always look so perplexed at the big league level (here's a hint, the ball's in your other hand, Jonathon, no one's throwing it to you)

Overall, I liked the pack I got a lot. A mini-Phillie and an Ichiro heads-up were definitely highlights. I could do without the orange and green backgrounds though. I'm not sure if I can take opening a whole box of this, but as a few novelty packs and buying some singles would be within my range of interest. Next time, I would like to get a 4-in-1 to see those in person; also a Tiger Woods auto would be ideal (keep dreaming).

Pack grade: A-
Collectability of Goudey: C+
Reason to come back for more: Heads Up inserts, Sports Royalty inserts
Reason to stay away: Don't want to look at so much orange when browsing through a set
Likelihood of buying a hobby box: 22%

May 23, 2009

The Junior High Countdown: 114. 1994 Score Rookie/Traded

Score/Pinnacle Company attempted a new strategy for distribution of their R/T sets (previously had been box sets from 1988-1992 with a hiatus in 1993), distributing them in packs with an all-new design template and flair. What results is not for those of the faint of heart.

Design: There were two designs for the set. The veterans (or traded) design (not pictured) featured one photo on the front with red scrapbook style borders. The rookie design featured a mashed-up portrait/action shot design with the same red borders and the "Rookie '94" logo prominently featured. The veteran backs had two photos similar to the rookie front while the rookie backs had one horizontal photo. Stats were featured on the backs.

Details: It was released in the fall of 1994 in 36 pack boxes with 10 cards per pack at a SRP of $0.99. There are 165 cards in the base set. One gold rush parallel was inserted per pack. Other inserts included Changing Places (inserted 1:36 packs) and Super Rookies (inserted 1:36 hobby packs only). There was also a September Call-Up redemption card inserted 1:240 packs. Notable rookies in this set were Chan Ho Park, Jose Lima.....and no one else even had a rookie card.

Impact: Well, it was the last Score R/T set ever produced, so it has that going for it. Also, curse you, redemption cards! You cursed mid-'90s staple!!!

Summary: The reason this set ranks so low is essentially three-fold. In the first place, they did not keep with the base set (1994 Score) design to at least create an illusion of a continuation of a pretty decent set. Red is just a poor choice. Any other card sets with prominent red borders? I can't recall any.

In the second place, where are the rookies? This may be my biggest pet peeve of all, touting something as a rookies set and then not including any. Did the card companies not understand the Beckett rookie card rules when putting together a set. Because some of these so-called rookies have had cards out for over two years. This is acceptable for a base set when you want to showcase players who played on the team during the season, but in this type of set, dig a little deeper for prospects. I mean, Sterling Hitchcock was even in 1993!

And the most egregious mistake of all, is having a valuable commodity like the first pick of the draft, Alex Rodriguez (who did not sign an individual Topps contract by the way), and wasting your first card on him on an impossible to get redemption card. An insert card, a la Boys of Summer in 1994 Score would have been semi-acceptable, but this is a high-profile player. Use the draft picks in the Rookie/Traded sets, this is where they go. In addition, the redemption card expired within a year of release. For more on this sordid tale of mismanagement, click here for the words of the expert at Stale Gum.

Lack of rookies, no desirable insert sets, and a lack of foresight reduce this to the ashes of the 50 cent pack bin forever more. I didn't buy it then and I wouldn't buy it now.

May 20, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 4 of 18

Since the baseball season is long (a marathon, not a sprint they always say). Let's keep track of the Phillies 2009 season in digestible bites. A weekly wrap-up doesn't give justice to the ups and downs that a team goes through because it's so uneven.Therefore, I've decided to summarize the season in 9 game swaths, the equivalent of 3 series, barring rainouts and schedule unevenness. Plus, 9*18=162...I like even numbers.

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 4
Slice Record: 5-4
Cumulative Record: 20-16
Standing at Slice's End: 0.5 games behind the surged Metropolitans
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Dodgers, Braves
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Nationals (mostly their pitching staff and fielders)
Wins to Remember: Sweeping the doubleheader against the Nationals on May 16. Beating the Dodgers 5-3 on May 12 with Werth's gutsy baserunning.
Loss to spill milk over: Losing 4-2 to the Braves on May 10 both outplayed and outmanaged in that game.
Lord, I was born a walking man (I swear): Pedro Feliz
I will run for Congress because Washington has been good to me: Raul Ibanez
It's a good thing train tickets are usually round trip: Andrew Carpenter
One appearance, one win in the books, undefeated forever?: Sergio Escalona
Every hitter's best friend: The lost Daniel Cabrera of Washington
Look who's coming soon: J.C. Romero now in the minors on rehab assignment
Bats do help in general: When facing Kenshin Kawakami
Nemesis Alert: Brian McCann and the ex, Randy Wolf
Most Notable Feat: Jayson Werth stealing 2nd, 3rd, and home in the same inning against the Dodgers
Hitting Heroes: Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth
Need Adjustments: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, the bench
Fire Starters on the Mound: Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Chan Ho Park
Holding the Fort Down: Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers

This was a trying part of the season. 4 wins in a row at the conclusion of it sure look nice and pretty, but they were really ugly wins. I mean, the games themselves were aesthetically ugly. The good news is that they beat a team that they were supposed to in the Nationals. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to play up to the other competition, losing series to the similarly mediocre Braves and first-place Dodgers.

There are signs for optimism heading into the quarter pole of the season.
  • Jayson Werth has turned into a legitimate right handed force, complementing the left handed hitting lineup nicely.
  • Raul Ibanez has played like an MVP candidate so far this season, leading the league in total bases and OPS.
  • Ryan Howard is striking out less, making less errors, has decent stats, and is primed for a mid-summer power surge.
  • Brett Myers and Cole Hamels have both pitched two quality starts in a row.
  • Ryan Madson's changeup is whiff-magnetic.
  • Clay Condrey, 7th inning man...what a revelation.

Unfortunately, the team still has a balance of negativity to draw upon; this only means more opportunities for improvement.

  • Jimmy Rollins has a lower OPS from the leadoff spot than the Phillies' ninth position in the lineup.
  • This is grievously poor because the pinch hitters and bench for the Phillies have been especially feeble this year. (Small Sample Size Alert!) Greg Dobbs has a negative OPS+ relative to the league, which I didn't think was mathematically possible (an OPS+ of 100 is considered average).
  • Brad Lidge needs to stop giving up runs and baserunners; a WHIP of 1.89 and a BB/9 of over 4 will not cut it as a closer.
  • Jaime Moyer and Joe Blanton need to stop runners from getting on base. For Moyer, he is allowing nearly 3 HR/9 IP. It's nearly a 17% HR/FB percentage, which is way above normal.
  • Chase Utley looks hurt; I don't want to think about it or dream about it. He needs to play at 100%.

The foundation is there, it would be nice to beat the Mets and Braves head-to-head to establish ultimate authority over the division. It would be nicer to start winning at home and give the fans what they always want to see, a winner. We are now at the point of the season where slumps are not fluky anymore. The Phillies are well-positioned to remain in the race and bash opposing pitching staffs back to the bullpen purgatory.

May 16, 2009

Fantasy Trade Notice 2: Comments Needed

Remember, in the previous edition, when I traded away the unbelievably good Zack Greinke for Ian Kinsler. "Like a fool!" the peasants chortle.

I think I recouped my investment and improved my team with this trade. Observe.

I picked Kevin Millwood and Geovany Soto off waivers during the season.
NOTE to EVERYONE: Do not drop all-star catchers in April, consider benching them or trading them.

I then parlayed these two(to a team that just had their only catcher, Jorge Posada, placed on the DL) into...Jake Peavy, the new ace of my staff. I think I did really well in this trade. Compared to the previous trade, there is no question of whether I gave up somebody too quickly or not at the right time.

Millwood and Soto were on my bench and not contributing anything. Depth is nice, but a bonafide ace is nicer.

Which combination would you rather have?

A. Greinke, Millwood, Soto
B. Peavy, Kinsler

Please leave your comments.

May 14, 2009

6th Blog Bat Around

The question this month that has been presented is simple enough in its scope, why do you blog? for what purpose has the subject matter been chosen?

I am essentially new to the communication by webpage medium. Ask any of my family or friends, and they'll say two things about me (well, maybe three): "I wish he'd call or keep in touch more", "he loves baseball", and "he's really weird." Only two out of those three I can control and it's not the loving baseball part.

I blog because I enjoy the subject matter and it's a way to put down some thoughts and ideas. On my own, I would never do formal rankings or set reviews or tell collecting stories because I really don't know anyone who cares about these things anymore. I can try some of these ideas out, and if they work, well, then I'm in the clear, and if they don't someone can let me know (assuming that it's ever read beyond my eyes).

I have been reading baseball blogs since forever; (with me being a Phillies fan) and Minor league ball by John Sickels
were the first I read. Somehow I discovered the baseball card blogs sometime in 2007, and I have been hooked ever since. I am quite the lurker; I can tell you the evolution of almost any site out there, along with their subject matter.

Like many others out there, I have a collecting obsession. I have tempered the spending lately, but I have rearranged my card cabinet once per month, pulled cards for trades, re-evaluated my binder inclusion criteria, and found different shoe boxes. This is a place where I can say all that and maybe that third characteristic would be less apparent.

My favorite posts are the ones with a creative bent; I'm currently working on a series that is different from anything posted so far.

I would like to be more active in the great cardosphere community that has formed, but as usual I am as shy as a masked umpire. Feel free to contact me and I will respond...usually with too many words...and later than expected.

Blogging also makes me feel I'm not talking to the air about my interests. I really can't see your glazed eyes as I ramble on incessantly to belabor an already made point...which is good for me.

In which case, I take it all back, my real purpose of blogging about baseball and baseball cards is to discourage the formation of a race of flesh-eating zombies that drone in unison "home run", "foul ball", "must eat cardboard"....

Trust me, it's not a pretty sight.

Fantasy Baseball: Team Checkpoint 2

We are now 1/6 of the way through the season. Look at the standings of your league. Go ahead, it's still safe. No matter where you are at this point in the season, IT'S NOT TIME TO PANIC.

Approximately 30 games have been played this season. Evan Longoria, though a really great player, will not have 200 RBI this year. Jacoby Ellsbury will not have 100 SB. Lance Berkman, Jimmy Rollins, and BJ Upton will not hit below .200 all season.

Every player has a true talent level, which means this is how they are expected to perform on average based on career arc and past performance.

Slow starts and injuries matter now and should be factored into your projections for any given an extent, excepting extenuating circumstances like a lingering injury. (A-Rod is the prime example of this as are other late starters like John Lackey).

It's time to shed the deadweight on your roster. Deadweight is defined as:
Starting pitchers with 3 or more starts in a row with 7.50+ ERA, >1.4 WHIP, and <2:1 K:BB ratio.
Non-closing relievers with no opportunity on the horizon with >3 ERA, <8.5 K/IP
Corner infielders (1B/3B) with .SLG<.400
Hitters who have no speed and are not catchers that consistently hit 7th or below in the lineup

You didn't know all these facts when the season started. You didn't know everybody's situation on their team. Now that you do, it's time to maximize the stats.

Identify low scoring teams in historically pitcher ballparks (Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco, San Diego), high scoring teams in historical hitters parks (Texas, Philadelphia, Boston, Colorado), and high scoring teams in general (Yankees, Toronto, Tampa Bay, St. Louis). For open roster spots and replacements of underperforming players, consider their team and place on their real team's roster.

Make trades now! Find someone who has a need due to an injury and exploit it. Find the category which can use the extra little push (R, RBI, SV) and get that player, regardless of his position. Pull off a 2-for-1 or 3 for 2 deal to get a top player (I will have an example of this type of trade this weekend).

And most importantly, be aware of where you are in the standings for each category. Ratio categories (especially WHIP) are extremely volatile still and other categories can be caught up in. If you are ahead, make a deal with a struggling team to enhance one of your strengths.

Cool heads prevail and pay attention, it's still a long season.

Checkpoint 3 is at the 48 game mark.

May 13, 2009

2007 Sweet Spot Group Break at I Am Joe Collector

If you want to get some 2007 Sweet Spot cards for a reasonable price, Jeff at I Am Joe Collector is holding two 10 tin breaks.

One of the breaks is for 2007 Baseball and the other one is for 2007 Football. Each slot is $18.50 and will get you a randomized team. This is a great opportunity to get some great cards (with some luck, of course).

I can vouch for him. I participated in a 2009 Finest group break last month; he opened everything on video, and I received my cards within one week (which I will post if I ever install my scanner that is sitting in a box on my desk)

Go to I Am Joe Collector and check it out.

May 12, 2009

Tales of a Former Bowman Collector: Part 1

I am or was a Bowman set collector. I have been for many years. I may not always succeed with the sets I had initially pursued, but there is always the inkling that one day it will be complete. My eventual goal is to have every Bowman (and Bowman Draft Picks set) from 1989-2005. I am also open to collecting Bowman Chrome sets that do not have the autographed cards as a part of the base set itself. But that's not the reason for this post. The previews for 2009 Bowman have arrived and the product looks extremely disappointing in both design and format.

Bowman has never been a bastion of great card design. 1990 Bowman might be one my least favorite designs ever. But the brand had always had a hook, the rookie cards of people that the everyday baseball fan had never heard of. Particularly, during the time period before the rise of, the draft was a clandestine enterprise held on the answering machines and conference calls of team general managers. Beyond the first round, there was really no attention paid to who was drafted when, and who eventually populated the minor league squads. Also, even in the local paper, you only received scores and stats for the AA and AAA minor league affiliates. Those without a Sporting News subscription or Baseball America book simply did not have access to this information.

I really did not actively pursue Bowman sets until 1995. Before that, I rarely could buy packs that were greater than $2.00. The first set that caught my eye, 1992 Bowman, was going for $3.00 in my local card shop. I, of course, was relegated to getting 1992 Topps for $0.69 since I had to rely on the generosity of my parents.

During that year, I saw a prospect special, probably on Baseball Tonight, talking about Vlad Guerrero, the new Montreal wunderkind. Simply, I wanted his card. I went to one of the local card stores and bought a couple packs for $1.99. I liked the cards; I liked the one foil per pack configuration and the design was less foily than conventional Topps that year. I went back the next week and bought two more packs for $2.49. The price raised because of inventory restock; this was a common occurrence for certain sets. The next time I went there, packs were $5.49; I could not afford that within my normal monthly card budget. That was the end of 1995 Bowman packs for me.

But the image of the next big thing in baseball stuck with me as my collecting habits evolved.

May 11, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 3 of 18

Since the baseball season is long (a marathon, not a sprint they always say). Let's keep track of the Phillies 2009 season in digestible bites. A weekly wrap-up doesn't give justice to the ups and downs that a team goes through because it's so uneven.Therefore, I've decided to summarize the season in 9 game swaths, the equivalent of 3 series, barring rainouts and schedule unevenness. Plus, 9*18=162...I like even numbers.

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 3
Slice Record: 5-4
Cumulative Record: 15-12
Standing at Slice's End: 0.5 games ahead the surging Metropolitans
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Mets, weather
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Cardinals, Nationals (every loss hurts though)
Wins to Remember: Beating the Braves 10-6 on May 8 (Hamels goes more than 5 innings!). Beating the Cardinals 6-1 on May 4 (Quality start from Blanton!)
Loss to spill milk over: Losing 1-0 against the Mets on May 6. (the defense lost the game
It helps when they say your job is on the line: Chan Ho Park with 6 consecutive scoreless innings
Bats do help in general: When facing Scott Olsen
If only the Phillies traded 4 non-star prospects for him, then we wouldn't have to dread games against him: Johan Santana
Nemesis Alert: Mike Pelfrey
Return from the houses in the boondocks: Cole Hamels, pitching a total start
Sometimes it's better to act than to think: Jayson Werth (though the rest of the slice was brilliant)
Hitting Heroes: Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth
Need Adjustments: Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, the catchers, the bench
Fire Starters on the Mound: Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton
Holding the Fort Down: Clay Condrey, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, J.A. Happ

Brett Myers is an apt picture for this slice, because like their mercurial, temperamental pitcher, they don't yet have a recipe for sustained success this season. Starting pitching with an ERA above 7, a bullpen with an aching, struggling closer, and a lineup lacking production from both the top and bottom is a mix of mediocrity.

Jimmy Rollins will not hit .400 this month as he claimed once; I'm hoping his OPS surpasses that mark. Something seems wrong with his swing, especially from the right side; his approach at the plate when he leads off an inning is also lacking. Victorino has not been much better, though he at least shows flashes of good contact. The middle of the lineup is holding the fort down. Kudos to Werth for raising his OPS above .950. Power and patience with contact is a strong combination for success. The bench has not done anything positive in awhile.

There is definitely something physically wrong with Lidge; it seems like the same knee that plagued him in 2006-2007, and that is worrisome. Without drive there is no bite on the slider. Madson, Happ, Condrey, and Durbin are thriving, though they are not helped by having to pitch 3-4 innings per night. Happ should probably replace Park in the rotation, one great start from Park not withstanding. Control and HRs allowed, as always, are the problems of struggling pitching staff. Hamels at least has shown some signs of turning it around. The league, unfortunately, is hitting Moyer. A 5.41 ERA is still not acceptable at this point of the season.

They also need to take advantage of their homepark. The fans love them. Crashburn Alley loves them. Play loose, but don't play without mental focus. Standings are still fluid, so let's ride that river raft.

May 10, 2009

Pink Bat Day

It's Pink Bat Day in MLB today, which can mean only one thing. It's Mother's Day; so wish all those mothers a happy mother's day.

May 7, 2009

Fantasy Trade Notice: Comments Needed

I recently made a fantasy trade on one my teams.

I traded the unbelievable Zack Greinke with one of my many closers for Ian Kinsler.

My team was hurting in power and was stellar in pitching across the board, so I accepted it.

I now need to trade a second baseman since I have too many (Kinsler, Pedroia, and Hill).

Which would you trade? And who would you target?

May 6, 2009

Game Attendance Report-May 1, 2009: Giants vs. Rockies

I attended my first game of the season this past Friday night. It was not a typical, picturesque spring evening for a ballgame. Then again, the nights in San Francisco never are.

This is how you prepare to attend a Giants game. Wear a sweatshirt. Wear a jacket. Bring a winter hat and a pair of gloves. Make sure your bank account has enough balance to buy both beer and hot chocolate...(I usually don't drink either because I am naturally a warm person.)

To top it off for this game, it had been raining all day. Lucky for those wanting to attend the game, the Giant's groundskeeping crew had the foresight to put the tarp on the field during the entirety of the afternoon. At around 6:45, I finally left for the ballpark because it was announced formally that the tarp was removed, and the game would be played as scheduled.

As I normally am for most things, I was late to the game, arriving at the bottom of the 2nd inning. It seems most people were late (or didn't show at all). The paid attendance was announced as 31,000; there was definitely maybe half that amount of people there. Not that I blame them, in the Bay Area, it is unusual to have rain once May arrives.

As I made my way down to my seats (winning a company raffle is a great thing) with garlic fries in hand and the coat and hat firmly worn as the misty rain swirled around me, I looked up to see the Giants had made a dent in the starting pitcher's windup armor, establishing a runner on first base.

The Giants did go on to score a run in that inning, thanks to a Travis Ishikawa double, establishing a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the evening. There were very few outstanding performances during the game; though there were no overtly sloppy ones either. Ryan Spilsborough did make one memorable running basketcatch in right field.

Randy Johnson's pitch movement and selection were impressive. His fastball reached 91-92 mph and his slider was at 83-84 mph with some serious bite. On the other side, Ubaldo Jimenez battled wildness and held the Giants to only 3 runs in 7 innings. The Rockies hitters, however, could not support the effort. Chris Ianetta unloaded an absurdly deep home run in the eighth and Ian Stewart soon followed with a 420 foot double to right-center. The Rockies were able to load the bases with 2 outs, but Brian Wilson, the Giants closer, came on and struck out Ryan Spilsborough swinging on a 3-2 fastball.

Note on Brian Wilson: His fastball touched 100 mph once according to the inflated stadium radar gun reading, but he was extremely wild. Also, his video entrance to House of Pain's "Jump Around" was really tacky.

All in all, it was a fun ballgame to attend. It had tense moments, a close score, and it stopped raining by the 4th inning.

May 2, 2009

The Junior High Countdown: 115. 1995 Studio

Design: Look at the images above; let's just call this the credit card set. The stats make up the credit card number on the front with an overlaid player photo and a ghosted league logo in the background. The back has a magnetic strip and facsimile signature with one year of stats, a little bit of copy, and a player photo from the field.

Details: It was released at a SRP of $1.99 per pack. Each pack had 5 cards with one of those cards being a parallel. Each box had 36 packs of pure credit card goodness. The base set had 200 cards, and the parallel sets were a gold set (inserted approximately 1:1 packs) with 50 cards and the ever more expensive platinum set with 25 cards (inserted 1:10 packs). There were no rookies in the set, only veterans, which is appropriate for the card set type.

Impact: Never again was a set catered only to teenagers at a mall where they can be conveniently kept in a wallet until ready for swiping. Studio was also retro-revamped for 1996. Cards that felt like different materials (The cards also felt plastic-like.) continued to be a trend through the late-1990s (though this set was not a trend setter).

Summary: The most unfortunate aspect of this card set is the complete deviation from the Studio branding that Donruss had established from 1991-1994. No more was the card focused on the player. Instead it was focused on gimmicktry of the first degree. "Let's make the cards feel and look just like plastic currency" Also, falling by the wayside were the insert sets that had defined Studio previously such as the very popular Studio Heritage and other one time offerings like Silhouettes and Superstars on Canvas.

The quirkiness of the set brand was also diluted because the most interesting part of the card backs in the past, the copy, was reduced to one or two short sentences. In the past, Studio cards read like the profile in a team media guide. Whether this is good or bad is up for debate, but it did create a niche for itself within the myriad of card releases. Statistics were never the focus of this card brand.

I was never interested in buying packs of this because frankly, there was nothing to get excited or intrigued about when a pack was presented. I have one card in this set in my collection, and it's really my brother's. It's only there to fill a page in my "ultimate set book". (That is a post for another time).

Donruss realized the error of its ways and reverted back to type for Studio in 1996 (which Pinnacle ultimately released after the buyout). It was a welcome reversion from the cartoonish nightmare of a set of credit cards.