May 28, 2010
I am going on vacation for the next 12 days to a place where there will be limited access to internet and probably no phones (at least I won't be able to use mine). I can only hope that I will be able to have as much fun as Mark Whiten had on this day. Until next time, compadres! Drop me a line if something extraordinary happens.
May 27, 2010
Let's tier it up.
The Superstar Level
1) Chase Utley: Quite possibly the best player the Phillies have had since the days of Mike Schmidt in terms of all-around play. He is 4th in the NL in OPS (1.016) with 10 HR, 23 RBI and usually stellar play at 2B.
2) Jayson Werth: The beard gives powers which we have not foreseen. He is 2nd in the NL in OPS with 9 HR and 33 RBI.
3) Roy Halladay; He's 6-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 1.1 WHIP. He also likes to throw all the innings.
The All-Star Caliber Level
1) Ryan Howard: Hitting for average (.296) with some power (.473 SLG). Huh?? When did he become a rich man's Lyle Overbay? Still has a presence.
2) Carlos Ruiz: Before his shoulder injury, he was an on-base machine (.423 OBP). Also, they need him to control the running game.
3) Placido Polanco: This guy's contact skills are amazing. I also am encouraged by his fielding at 3B after the position conversion.
4) Jose Contreras: He has a 686 ERA+ and 20/2 K/BB ratio in 14 innings. Welcome, closer.
The Scrappy Level
1) Cole Hamels: The worry right now is the 1.39 WHIP; one still doesn't know which Hamels will appear for a given start.
2) Jamie Moyer; Essentially has had 3 or 4 bad innings all season. His 30/11 K/BB ratio and 1.1 WHP are great.
3)Shane Victorino: Filled in admirably for Rollins in the leadoff spot; has shown a lot of power (.463 SLG) and little patience (.309 OBP). Better suited for lower in the order.
4) Chad Durbin: The bullpen workhorse with 21 innings and 0.98 WHIP.
5) Raul Ibanez: He's borderline serviceable at this point. He has a hot streak still in him; I can sense it. Has had trouble catching up to fastballs.
The Guys Who Need a Push Level
1) Bullpen: Madson? disaster. Lidge? injured. Baez? wild. Herndon? inexperienced.
2) Bench: Schneider? Gload? Francisco? Dobbs? Castro? Valdez? Can any of these guys remember to hit? Highest OPS among them is .690. Not good
3)Kyle Kendrick: 4.0 K/9 is a not a good ratio; nor is the 3.1 BB/9 ratio. The sinkerball needs to well...sink more.
The Injury Train
1) Jimmy Rollins: Get well soon.
2) Joe Blanton: Does not have the same sing-and-miss stuff as last year.
3)Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson: Someone needs to get well to lend the bullpen some depth.
What to Expect and Where They're Going
Well, I'm not going to count the Mets series in this purview.....
The Phillies have a solid core of star and superstar players on both offense and defense. They need players to perform up to their historical norms (Howard, Ibanez, Polanco) to continue these winning ways. Werth and Utley have become elite players.
Halladay has been a revelation, though his heavy workload is worrisome. The rest of the starting rotation is balanced, but has no other potential dominant force at this point in time (until Hamels masters the cutter).
The bench is extremely poor at this point. No one is contributing anything positive. This is worrisome in the long run. The bullpen is also in shambles, though there could be reinforcements through a trade (Bobby Jenks?) or the minors (Scott Mathieson?). Brad Lidge becoming a mediocre pitcher would also help (after last year's experience).
Also, the energy must return. Whether it's Rollins who was providing it before or some unknown source. Everybody just seems so....stoic. Anyway, here's to a successful next quarter of 2010.
May 24, 2010
August Wilson, 1962 Topps design: Best known for writing a ten play series called "The Pittsburgh Cycle", won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama.
Herbert Hoover, 1966 Topps design: After his presidency, he started a meals program in the United States and England to help war survivors. One of the few presidents to live many years after leaving office.
An insert of Abraham's Lincoln's life: Picture the Mickey Mantle story without any bats.
Battle of Iwo Jima, 1961 Topps design: One of the greatest victoris for the American military during World War II in the Pacific.
Jackie Robinson, 1961 Topps design: A great moment, a great legacy.
Medal of Honor insert, George F. Shiels: Received the medal for "Voluntarily exposed himself to the fire of the enemy and went with 4 men to the relief of 2 native Filipinos Iying wounded about 150 yards in front of the lines and personally carried one of them to a place of safety." as an army surgeon.
Alexander Hamilton, 1986 Topps design: Besides being the first Secretary of the Treasury and noted dueller, he was on the of the progenitors of the fire department.
Medgar Evers, 1953 Topps design: Was first field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. Was one of the leaders of the case against the segregation of the University of Mississippi. Like many other leaders of that tumultuous time, he was killed by opposing forces soon after his accomplishment.
Just felt like opening a pack, what can I say?
May 21, 2010
The surprising thing about the list of those that have compiled 20 losses in a season, is that many of them were not bad pitchers over the whole of their career. It's just that for one season sometimes your arm is tired from 30 complete games and 346 innings the previous year. Is that a viable explanation? Or you start, 40 games and get a decision in 33 of them. How many pitchers have 33 decisions in a season anymore? Suffice to say, Steve Carlton followed his 1972 ( I would put forth this is one of the ten greatest pitching seasons of the past 40 years) with a not so stellar performance in 1973. He had 20 losses, 3.90 ERA (97 ERA+), 113 BB, and league leading totals 127 ER allowed (and a league-leading 293 IP and 1262 batters faced), 293 Hits allowed, and 18 complete games.
Something was not quite the same. His K rate declined from 8.1 to 6.8 K/9 and his BB rate climbed from 2.3 to 3.5 BB/9. Was he unlucky? Well, not especially. He had seven losses from quality starts. Only 3 or 4, I would characterize as extremely unlucky. In the majority of his losses, he just did not seem to have the proverbial it. The league average was 4.15 runs/game and he allowed 4 or more runs in losses 12 times.
Welcome to the list, 1974 Topps Steve Carlton.
May 20, 2010
Frank Sullivan: # of years on Phillies-2 (1961-1962), Best Season as a Phillie (1961): 3-16 W/L with 4.09 ERA (95 ERA+), 55 BB., and 114 K
Gene Mauch: Managed Phillies for 9 years with a .486 winning % with 5 full seasons over .500.
Al Neiger: # of years on Phillies-1 (1960), Best Season as a Phillie (1960): 0-0 W/L with 5.68 ERA (70 ERA+), 4 BB., and 3 K in 12.2 IP (only major league season)
John Buzhardt: # of years on Phillies-2 (1960-1961), Best Season as a Phillie (1960): 5-16 W/L with 3.86 ERA (101 ERA+), 68 BB., and 73 K in 200.1 IP
Ruben Amaro: # of years on Phillies-6 (1960-1965), Best Season as a Phillie (1964): .264/.307/.341 (84 OPS+) with 4 HR and 34 RBI. Also, won a Gold Glove
Tony Curry: # of years on Phillies-2 (1960-1961), Best Season as a Phillie (1960): .261/.308/.408 (95 OPS+) with 6 HR and 34 RBI
So, far this is the makings of a below average team (which it most definitely was in 1960 and 1961). What classic uniforms those were! And no facial hair was to be seen on anyone as the fashion of the times dictated. I think I like collecting these more than this years/ Heritage after all.
May 18, 2010
Last night, the Phillies welcome back Jimmy Rollins from the DL due to his calf injury. Despite his less-than-stellar 2009, seeing Rollins's name in the lineup is a joyful sight for any Phillies fan. Before his calf injury, he was on a hot streak that hadn;t been rivaled since the 2007 MVP seaon. He was hitting .391/.516/.739 at the point of the injury. This, of course, is not a sustainable set of averages for the season, but the new patient approach could pay dividends, especially if he continues drving the ball with authority.
What did the Phillies miss with Rollins out? Well, offensively, they were still a great team. They get to move Victorino back down in the order (this was written before Utley got sick, who was hitting a very good .309/.347/.606 from the lead-off spot, the only downside is that he only drew 8 BB in those 29 games. In a way, he's then better suited to be another linchpin in the 6th or 7th spot of the order. He did have 21 RBI in 29 games after all...while hitting leadoff.
Of course, the other side is the shortstop replacements. Neither Juan Castro nor Wilson Valdez are long term solutions as evidenced by their .590 or so OPS. Also, Valdez had a penchant or grounding into double plays that I've never quite seen before. Also, I believe that neither are as good a fielder as Rollins.
But, he has returned and the lineup has essentially league average or better hitters at seven of the eight positions (Ibanez has to wake up). The keystone combination of Utley and Rollins has reformed once again.
Plus, who else would New York radio approach for a controversial quote?
May 14, 2010
Here's the view of the field and ballpark from my seats behind first base at the rear of the first level. I liked these seats for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there was a unvarnished view of the field. Second, for right handed batters, there was a great view of the strikezone. Third, the section was one step away from the tasty fajita and nachos place they have in the stadium. Last, we were shielded from the wind, which from those of you who have ever been to a game in San Francisco, know this is very important, especially at night.
I went with an eclectic mix of folks. People wearing Phillies hats, Giants hats, and A's hats. And in my group there were also a couple of Mets fans. It's easy to enjoy a baseball game with friends on a Monday evening.
Also, there's a card show in Daly City, CA (one of the Tristar ones)that I will be attending on Sunday morning (before my soccer game, of course). I haven't been to a real card show since 1999. I hope it's fun. Wish me luck!
Oh, and enjoy the images below. I am trying to get the rest from the friend who actually remembered to bring the camera to the game.
May 13, 2010
1995 Sportsflix Darren Daulton: I miss the multi-images of Sportsflix (cs).
2003 Fleer Box Score Jimmy Rollins: The back of the card does have a memorable box score on the back of it. It's time to revitalize that concept...as an insert set.
1992 Fleer Dale Murphy: I was really excited the day Dale Murphy was traded to the Phillies in 1990. I was at my cousin's house in South Carolina and suddenly I had dreams of a 4th place finish dancing in my head.
1992 Donruss Tommy Greene: Celebration of the no-hitter from May 1991, an unprecedented second in 2 years for the Phillies' pitching staff (Terry Mulholland in August, 1990)
1988 Score Juan Samuel: Turning two with a glorious purple border. 1988 Score was revolutionary in many ways.
1987 Donruss Chris James: One of many "Rated Rookies" who didn't become stars, though I remember him as a decent player with some power.
2008 Upper Deck Heroes Bob Gibson: 1.12, 1968, that is all.
2005 Topps Mark Mulder (gold foil or something): Remember when he was one of the big 3 of Oakland? And the A's would be forever ruined by trading him for Dan Haren and Daric Barton? Well, it wasn't until later that they were ruined when they traded Dan Haren.
2000 Topps Gold Label Class 2 Mark Mulder: This is just a nice card. I appreciate multiple photos on the front.
1999 Victory Mark McGwire: 1998 was a summer of home runs and unexpected Cardinal and Cub hugging.
1999 Upper Deck Ben Grieve: I'm not sure how he made history here, but he won ROY in 1998. What ever happened to him?
1998 Skybox Miguel Tejada Little Dawgs: Words fail me.
1993 Topps Stadium Club Todd Van Poppel: A cautionary hype tale that everyone remembers.
1997 Leaf Brian Jordan: This was the first Leaf set released under the Pinnacle banner. Good base design; horrible inserts. (anyone remember fractal matrix, fractal materials, and fractal matrix diecuts?)
1992 Fleer Dennis Eckersley: Classic shot of a classic pitching motion.
1990 K-Mart Superstars Ozzie Smith: Look an unlicensed card. The pose reminds me of 2010 Upper Deck.
1988 Donruss Stan Musial puzzle card: I'm glad Donruss inserted these cards in these sets; otherwise we would never see the whole thing. How many puzzle piece doubles was it possible to get in a box?
1986 Topps Willie McGee: The reigning 1985 MVP who is also the only person to ever win a batting title in a league in which he did not finish the season (1990).
Thank you, Dave, for the fun cards to collate and sort through!
May 12, 2010
He doesn't have quite the pedigree of other top prospects that people are going crazy for in this release of 2010 Bowman this week like Jason Heyward or Steve Strasburg or Donovan Tate and the like. Where does hype end and reality begin?
Billy Butler ranked 25th on the Baseball America Top 100 in 2007. Other recent prospects at 25 include Troy Tulowitzki (2006), Jordan Schafer (2008), Brian Matusz (2009), and Kyle Drabeck (2010). So there is a reasonable expectation that at this ranking that the player will become a contributor at the major league level and quite possibly an all-star at some point.
At that's exactly the point. Rankings are expectations. And we, as card collectors, can get sucked in and stuck in the vortex of expectations and spin with them for years until the bottom falls out (even if you're not a prospector).
Recent example: Andy Marte, he was a top 15 prospect for three years running (2004-2006). He had a high prospect pedigree in other words. He was in two highly regarded organizations: Atlanta and Boston, and he never made it to the majors and contributed significantly. His cards, however, stayed at high levels for many years with the hope that he would become a great MLB player.
A more recent example: Alex Gordon (#2 prospect in 2007 and teammate of Billy Butler). His autos from Exquisite and Bowman and the like were still very popular and expensive until last year because of that ranking and the expectations it bestowed. From a performance standpoint, he was outshone by his less heralded prospect brethren, Billy Butler, whose cards were not expensive and who accomplished something as a hitter very few have done (greater than 50 doubles in a season when less than 24 year olds.)
Yes, Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg are the top two prospects now (and deservedly so). But at this point, I would say to not buy into their cards at this high level of cost. The only one who has maintained such a high cost after entering the card market at this level has been Albert Pujols. Heyward's profile is pretty well impeccable as a prospect (age, power, plate discipline). He could be even be a Miguel Cabrera type (with more fielding prowess).
Even at a perennial all-star's production, the hype will die down for the next big prospect to come along and the price of the cards will drop. And if some misfortune befalls his career then the price will still drop. The prospect of Strasburg's continued hobby success is even more precarious. Basically, he has to be Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay combined to match the hype accompanying his cards.
What do you expect from these prospects? These are not long-term investments at this point and price. Enjoy their playing days though, they have the potential to be great.
If any of them can match Billy Butler's production (124 OPS+ at the age of 23) in terms of MLB contributions, well, do you think the hype would increase?
May 11, 2010
The innings three that began the match were the time of the cruising. With 34 pitches, he dispatched the rakish 9 from Atlanta. He received duly praised assistance from the accuracy of the right arm of Jayson Werth, straight unto the mark his hurled sphere flew and whence it arrived, Omar Infante was tagged out to end the first frame.
It was during this first frame that the fastball began acting most unlike itself. It would stay up when it was called to go down and give the batters an opportunity most undeserved to send it spinning into the expansive outfield.
In the 4th inning, the time of wildness came upon Hamels. Glaus and McCann jogged to first with nary a ball attempted to be struck. Luckily, Diaz, a fellow lefty, was baffled and K'd, Conrad (Chipper's replacement) was out, and slumping McLouth was also sent back to the dugout ashamed of the three strikes.
The Phillies staked Hamels to a 4-0 lead by this point and even in wildness, he would seem to be prevail. Alas, the 5th inning came, and the wildness infected his entire being and caused the walk of the pitcher. And thus begun the great unraveling, 4 singles in succession brought home three runs for the Braves.
It was then that Hamels regained some semblance of forebearance and got the idea to dispatch of the talented catcher McCann with a K and two groundouts of Diaz and McLouth. The damage had been done to this outing however. For Hamels, had thrown 40 pitches in the 5th frame, totaling 97 over the game. He was not to return.
The bullpen did hold and the Phillies were victorious at the end, 5-3. A winner of record was he, but he must know that the preciseness of his location was his downfall. Hamels of 2008 he was not, but serviceable as a starter he will be. Until next time...
May 9, 2010
Next, is a slick-fielding (not like oil) first baseman, Keith Hernandez .
Place on the WAR chart: : Below Harmon Killebrew and above Willie Keeler and Dave Winfield
Career Overview and Some Numbers:Played for the Cardinals (73-83), Mets (83-89), and Indians (90). Won 11 Gold Gloves in his career, 1 MVP award, and 2 Silver Sluggers. Led the league in runs twice, AVG once, OBP once, and BB once. Had 5 seasons of greater than 140 OPS+. Most similar players numbers-wise were Mark Grace, Wally Joyner, and John Olerud.
His profile was not that of a typical power-hitting 1st baseman, disguising some of his value. His fielding was consistently considered top of the line for his position (both range and sure-handedness). He had middling power (career high of 18 HR) with a relatively high OBP. He also had a good batting eye and plate discipline. This combination gave him a skillset in which he was not outstanding in any one category, but good to great across the board, easily overlooked by HOF voters (not withstanding his Seinfeld popularity)
Best Season:1979: Won the MVP award hitting.344/.417/.513 (151 OPS+), setting career highs in R, H, RBI, 2B, 3B, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG, and TB.
The Final Numbers: Hit .296/.384/.436 (128 OPS+) with 162 HR,1071 RBI, 1124 R, 426 2B, 1070/1012 BB/K ratio.
Why He Should be Remembered:Redefined first base fielding as an important aspect to consider (along with Mattingly in the '80s). Was a major contributor on the 1982 STL and 1986 NYM World Series winning teams. Also,was the 1st team captain in Mets history. Apparently, there was also a "Curse of Keith Hernandez" for the Cardinals from 1983-2005. Who knew?
HOF Balloting Performance:Remained on the ballot for 9 years until 2004 with a high of 10.8%.
Rookie Card:1975 Topps 623
Modern Cards:2009 Topps Tribute, 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites, many, many more.
May 7, 2010
I had just been perusing ebay recently and was searching for sets when I saw something I hadn't seen before. 1984 Topps Traded sets are popular!? There hasn't been many sales recently, but there were a few "Buy It Now"s completed at over $20 apiece; there were also a few auctions with the set hovering aroun $15.
I am a major collector of small boxed sets (Topps Traded, Fleer Update, etc). This one has not entered the pantheon of "need to have" traded sets from the '80s...for me. Witness the checklist highlights below.
Notables Rookies: Dwight Gooden, Juan Samuel, Brett Saberhagen, Mark Langston
Other Notables: 1984 Cy winner Rick Sutcliffe's as a Cub, Pete Rose as an Expo, Joe Morgan as an Athletic, Tony Perez, Tom Seaver, Goose Gossage, 1984 MVP Willie Hernandez as a Tiger, 1984 ROY Alvin Davis
This doesn't scream out to me as being a $15 set. In fact, I purchased it for less than $5 not that long ago. As I was typing this, two more sold at $22 and $26, respectively. What is going on with this set? Is it now much rarer than originally thought? Are people trying to catch the 1984 Fleer Update wave from the same year (but without the same rookies present?).
Rookie values drive these type of sets. Are Dwight Gooden and Mark Langston more popular than before? Based on my perception and educated guessing on impact, here is my ranking of Topps Traded sets of the boxed late-season Traded set era (1981-1993)
12. 1990: Only notable rookies were John Olerud and Scott Erickson. The design was garish as well.
11. 1985: Ozzie Guillen and Mariano Duncan and that's it. Does Rickey Henderson as a Yankee count as important?
10. 1993: Had the Olympic team cards, only great MLBer of those was Todd Helton. Also had Barry Bond's 1st card as a Giant and Greg Maddux's 1st card as a Brave.
9. 1989: Ken Griffey's 1st Topps card, but was released much later than everyone else's.
8. 1984: Details previously mentioned. I do like the 1984 design.
7. 1991: Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi rookies along with other team USA cards.
6. 1981: Danny Ainge rookie (yes, the basketball one) and Fernando Valenzuela's 1st solo card, but nothing much else to write home about. This was the progenitor though, including the use of alphabetical order of the names in the set (though Topps abandoned the continuation numbering in 1982)
5. 1983: Darryl Strawberry rookie along with the incredibly timeless 1983 design and Von Hayes's 1st card as a Phillie. First one I would characterize as moderately difficult to find.
4. 1988: Bring on the Olympians! I don't care what it sells for now, but it was a revelation at the time. Jim Abbott, Robin Ventura, Roberto Alomar, Tino Martinez, etc; it was a truly original theme for a traded set (though it was first introduced in 1985 Topps)
3. 1986: Great rookie selection for the time: Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Will Clark, Andres Galarraga, John Kruk, Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco. These are a lot of players that held someone's imaginations in the 1980s and 1990s as all-stars. Too bad there was a fall out for some unknown reason.
2. 1992: This is a purely personal ranking. But, Nomar! Nomar! I was really excited when I bought this set many years ago. Also, there were other Team USA cards, including a Jason Varitek rookie. They also introduced the first mainstream parallel boxed set by releasing a ToppsGold factory set that year (I don't know if Topps Tiffany sets were available in stores)
1. 1982: Cal Ripken's, the man who saved baseball after the strike, first solo card. It was also produced in pretty limited quantities. Even today, the set goes for around $80 (though it routinely reached $150-$200 in the past), It also had Ozzie Smith's 1st card as a Cardinal and other HOFs such as Reggie Jackson, Gaylord Perry, and Fergie Jenkins.
What's your impression left by these rarely opened releases?