Oct 31, 2012

Tricked Out on Halloween: Pitcher Losses

Sometimes pitcher losses aren't always what they seem.  Are they treats for a game not as well pitched as you had hoped or are they tricks for doing well in previous years or for being a good team except when they don't give you run support.  Here are the tricked out categories.

MVPs that led the league in losses
Hal Newhouser
Denny McLain
Vida Blue
Justin Verlander

HOFers that led the league in losses
Amos Rusie:
Vic Willis
Cy Young
Ed Walsh
Eppa Rixey
Rube Marquard
Burleigh Grimes
Red Ruffing
Ted Lyons
Early Wynn
Hal Newhouser
Bob Lemon
Robin Roberts
Steve Carlton
Nolan Ryan
Phil Niekro
Bert Blyleven

Pitchers that led the league in losses and won a pennant and/or world series

Tim Lincecum (2012)
Jason Marquis (2006)
Livan Hernandez (2002)

Leading the league in losses and wins in the same year
Phil Niekro

And most horrifying of all, here are all the years where a Phillies pitcher led the league in losses since 1900.
1911, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921, 1927, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1944, 1945, 1948, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1961, 1973, 1989, 1997

Happy Halloween!

Oct 30, 2012

Jimmy Rollins Rolls Along: Gold Glove Edition

The Phillies, in their long, interminable, and mostly loss-accumulating history, have not been known as a team that touts a large number of players with career service greater than 10 years.  They have been, at times, a team of nobodies, a team of transients, a team where greatness fades, and a team where potential is not realized for many near-greats, all-stars, and all-time greats.  Here is a short list of Hall of Famers that you may or may not have known called the Phillies home for some years of their career: Jimmie Foxx, Hack Wilson, Lloyd Waner, Dave Bancroft, Roger Connor, Joe Morgan, Chief Bender, Ferguson Jenkins.....the list is longer than that.  A lot of these appearances in the (mostly) red and white occurred at the end of the player's career, with the notable exception of Jenkins, and show that when a franchise struggles, it's easy to reach for a dimming star to drive the attraction.

When one thinks of the Phillies, there are two names that immediately leap to mind and that is Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton.  Besides their exalted place in the pantheon of players, another reason is their longevity with the franchise.  Schmidt and Carlton played with the Phillies for 18 seasons and 15 seasons, respectively.

There are few other Phillies that approach that longevity. Some that I can remember....

Robin Roberts: 15 seasons
Richie Ashburn: 12 seasons
Larry Bowa: 12 seasons
Garry Maddox: 12 seasons
Del Ennis: 11 seasons
Johnny Callison: 10 seasons
Willie Jones: 13 seasons
Curt Simmons: 13 seasons
Chuck Klein: 15 seasons
Darren Daulton: 14 seasons

I'm sure there's more out there, but these are the names that come to my mind immediately.

Joining this list as a modern Phillie is Jimmy Rollins.  He just keeps rolling along as a top-tier shortstop in the league.  This was further validated by receiving his 4th Gold Glove award today. (yes, I know all the problems associated with Gold Glove voting and how it doesn't really represent the best defender in a given year, especially with the controversial snub of Mike Trout in the AL).  What it does represent is how much his play is held in high esteem by his peers and opposing coaches.

He has grown from the fresh-faced rookie with dreads who lit a fire under the 2001 Phillies to their first winning season in 8 years to the confident and sometimes brash leader of the 5 time division winning Phillies to the productive veteran in his declining years.
This is his best base rookie card. Can you believe there are only two to chase?
He has always been one of my maddeningly favorite players.  He seems to pop up in the infield more and more, he doesn't like to walk, he gets called out for jogging plays out....but he's exhilarating to watch, he can rope a liner into the alley for a triple (the first Phillie to reach 100 triples since Sherry Magee), he can pull a ball down the line for a home run, he will steal bases with flair, abandon, and intelligence (83% career success rate with over 400 career steals).

He now sits in exalted company in Phillies history: 4th in hits, 4th in triples, 3rd in runs, 2nd in doubles, 12th in RBIs, and 3rd in stolen bases.  He may not be a Hall of Famer, but he has secured his place in the annals of Phillies history.  Here's to at least two more years of burgeoning productivity and steady shortstop play.

Oct 24, 2012

Heritage High Numbers: A Perspective of a Collector

Topps Heritage High Numbers is an interesting concept on its face. And then it completely subverted the concept and fell flat on its face. The problem with it is twofold: 1)The obvious one is the price point of $100 for one 100 card set and one auto.  This prices out the first world set building collectors that just want Heritage in all its forms.  2) The other and more disturbing is the fact that it is limited to 1000 copies, which is the claim for justifying the high price point.

The Heritage design of this year is memorable because 1963 Topps's design was memorable; it is colorful and lends itself well to treatment in multiple ways (see Heritage minors), so an extension of the early year release with this year's desirable rookies and blockbuster trades is commendable.  The online-only distribution also isn't that bad since Topps Mini seemed to have a good supply, and there are other great cards that Topps has done online over the past couple years.

::Cue gratuitous 2011 Diamond Die Cut scans::

::end scene::

I also thought that the 2012 Topps Mini set was a good idea in addition to the online giveaway set cards from the past couple years.  This set, though, does not feel so much as an update set, but as a money grab.   There are a couple reasons I see this as being its principal case for being.

First, is that the numbering of the set does not seem to be a continuous extension of the Heritage set from this year; the numbering of the base cards is H576-H675.  Where are numbers 501-575?  Did I miss something?  Also, since when do Heritage cards have an H at the start of the numbering?  To be a true boxed traded set (not seen since 2000 Topps Traded), the numbering would have to reset to HT1-HT100 or be a true continuation a la 1981 Topps Traded.

Though the Heritage High Number sets from 2008-2009 were true high number products, they also lacked in their execution.  They were coupled with Topps Update & Highlights, and had too much of an SP ratio for the size of the set.  They also weren't a boxed set.

Second, is that the auto checklist is tailored in such a way to justify the cost rather than the other way around. What I mean by that is that it seems Topps put Darvish, Harper, Cespedes, Middlebrooks, and Bauer on the auto checklist, saw that they were there, and then priced the set accordingly.  I don't know the price to obtain these elite hobby rookie autos, but that's the perception that remains.

The remaining question is, is it possible to profit financially from such a release?  Let's say I buy 5 sets and hold them. Will the secondary market price ever exceed $100 for sealed sets?  If I open them and pull the red ink Harper auto, will I recoup the cost?

The answer to the second question is easier than the first.  Harper autos can generally be said to go in the $150-$400 range for unnumbered or high numbered ones.  Pulling the cream autos will recoup cost, pulling Edinson Volquez will not.

The answer to the second question is at the whim of market forces.  There probably can't be a significant jump in sets because of the nature of releases in 2012.  If I want a limited Darvish, Harper, or Cespedes rookie, I can pick and choose from a number of them.  Will the Heritage design be the magnet that draws me past all the others?  I just don't see a similar jump happening than what happened with 2000 Topps Traded this season or 2011 Gypsy Queen last year or 2010 Bowman the year before.  The limited nature is pre-supposed, the distribution is centralized, so there is no competition to drive up prices, and the subject matter is not exclusive.

It falls somewhere between the first and second world of collecting, though the odds for pulling an elite auto are not that astronomical if they're all inserted equally, and the ones who purchase it at first opportunity may be left holding the bag for a set that has the negative potential to be no more than a footnote.

I also can also be completely wrong, and it will go on the rocket flight of 1993 Stadium Club Murphy.  Like I've been implying, the idea is sound, but the execution needs some refinement to be palatable to one of the collector worlds.

The ideal configuration for me would be $50 with a larger print run (5000? 10000?), one auto and five chrome card parallels per boxed set.  I think that would grab more attention and keep more collectors involved in the long run.

Oct 20, 2012

The Last NL Game(s) of the Year: A Lament

As a baseball fan, I'm always a little down when the playoffs reach their interminable end. This means each day that there are less and less games to take in. How can I enjoy the four way split screen when there are only 1 or 2 games on.

That being said, it's both a blessing and a curse that one of the last teams standing is one of my local teams. A blessing in that the games are aired at times which I can catch them (and if I'm very, extremely lucky get tickets, but that won't happen this playoffs) and a curse in that I do not like the Giants at all and can't cheer for them. I had a soft spot in my heart for the Cardinals because I lived there during the rise of Albert Pujols.  

I can't like either team now because of the fact that they have combined to knock off the Phillies in the playoffs the last two years and gone on to win the World Series. I read somewhere that seppuku is the preferable cheering choice for the NLCS as a Phillies fan; I tend to agree.

Below are a couple scenes from an earlier time when Shane Victorino was still on the team playing in San Francisco.  I wish I were there to witness my favorite team donning red in NLCS game 6 this weekend.  One thing the Giants definitely did right was their stadium.  Besides the fact that it's freezing there all year around (always bring a winter hat and/or scarf), it has great sight lines, great food, and is intimate enough to rock during a playoff game.

Just call me the anti-Giants rock (unless they play the Mets or Braves or Nationals or Dodgers.....you get the idea).

Also, these could have been images of an alternate future, but it's too dark for that.  All playoff games start during the daytime here.  I'm thankful the hour doesn't fall back until November now.  This means more fun with shadows out in the ballpark.

Here is an alternate reality lineup for NLCS game 6 (if the Phillies weren't insanely mediocre this year).

SS Rollins
LF Pierre
2B Utley
1B Howard
C Ruiz
CF Mayberry
RF Brown
3B Frandsen
P Lee

I think I'm going to run a simulation against the Giants lineup just to make me feel better and then rig it until the Phillies win every time.....

Here's to playoff baseball....and the fading of yet another season.

Oct 18, 2012

A Couple More 1956 Topps Phillies

The accumulation of vintage Phillies cards continues unabated by time, space, and orbs of glowing glucose.   Today's presentation is from the majestic 1956 Topps set, in which I was able to acquire two more cards for the team set.  These cards are so big that they don't even fit into standard 9 pocket pages; this must have been done on purpose....(yes, the standard size wasn't set until 1957; with this fact, I'm surprised there's not more border-trimmed 1956 cards out there)

In any case, first on the list is Murry Dickson.  He had a fascinating career.  He served in WWII.  He won World Series rings with the Cardinals twice while in his 20s and with the Yankees while in his 40s.  He led the league in losses 3 consecutive years, and the first of those years was a 20 loss season following a 20 win season.  He also finished 9th in MVP voting that selfsame year.  As a Phillie, he had one full season, experiencing a renaissance year at the age of 38, finishing 12-11 with a 3.50 ERA.   For reference, the list of pitchers with a 20 loss season directly following a 20 win season is Steve Carlton, Wilbur Wood, Jerry Koosman, Mel Stottlemyre, Larry Jackson, Bobo Newsom, Hooks Dauss, and Eppa Rixey among possible others.
This is the first Phillies team card issued in a major issue set.  I love how they're called Coach xxx and Manager Smith in case you couldn't tell from the absolute clarity of the picture.  Is Del Ennis really wearing a suit in this team photo?  And who's the guy in the polo? It's unclear if the list at the bottom only includes players and coaches.  Were those the trainer and manager?  Inquiring minds need to know these things.

I definitely need more of these cards.

Oct 10, 2012

All the Way From the Backstop (a swapping cards edition)

In a quest to reconcile where I get cards from and for what purpose, I found these cards curiously labeled "backstop01....09".  This means that was from the writer of the Pads-centric blog  All the Way to the Backstop.  He must have sent me a wide variety of Phillies, I remember a stack a mile-high, but more realistically, it was 100 cards or so.  So let me give a retroactive shout out and display of Phillies cards from modern and bygone eras.
1992 Ultra Charlie Hayes: memorable Phillies moment: catching the last out of the first Phillies no-hitter in Veterans Stadium.
1996 Select Darren Daulton:  Just Read This....trust me.
1993 Upper Deck Team Card Hammer & Nails: This was a portrait of the hitting soul of that crazy '93 team.  I can't imagine where they got the name of the card though, must be some nickname angle.
1998 Donruss "Bob" Abreu:  I never heard him referred to Bobby ever in all his years as a Phillie.  He did have 6 straight seasons of greater than 136 OPS+ and 20 HRs.  My guess is that only Mike Schmidt and Chuck Klein matched him, but I didn't do the research.
2012 Topps Opening Day Cole Hamels:  The elder statesman of the Phillies pitching staff somehow set a career high in wins this year with 17.
2012 Bowman Gold Shane Victorino: "Not at my head, bro", and then he'll run you down.
1991 Leaf Dickie Thon: When he hit 15 HRs in 1989, I thought he was the greatest shortstop ever.  How come he's never mentioned as a lost career a la Herb Score or Tony Conigliaro?
1989 Donruss MVP Kevin Gross: Interesting fact: led the NL in batters hit for 3 straight years as a Phillie.
1995 Topps Ricky Bottalico: Have you noticed that first year closers have a lot of success and 2nd year closers don't have so much success?  Has there ever been a case study done for this?

This was a great mix of cards to get.  Thanks again.

Oct 6, 2012

Stat Anomaly: 20 Losses in a Season: Al Jackson, 1962

Al Jackson was on the 1962 Mets.  The 1962 Mets had 120 losses.  Ipso facto, there were a lot of losses to go around.   In two previous seasons with the Pirates, he had only made 5 starts, but flashed some promise. Al Jackson was a 26 year old rookie just looking for an opportunity after 7 years in the minors; he got that opportunity and then some.

Jackson started 33 games, completing 12 of them with 4 shutouts.  Superficially, that line looks good through  the prism of today's game.    The rest of the stats tell a different story. He finished 8-20 with a team leading 4.40 ERA (94 ERA+, 6% below league average) and a 1.39 WHIP.  He struck out 118 and walked 78 and was a pretty good fielding pitcher for what's it worth.

Let's see how much was by his own hand and how much was being a product of the modern team with the most losses ever.  I give him a tally of four hard luck losses.  There were a lot of games (8) where he went less than 5 innings and allowed 4 or more runs.

Check out this line from August 14th against the Phillies in which he got the loss:

15 !! innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned),5 BB, 6 K with a 96 game score.  They did not have number of pitches listed, but the estimate was over 200 pitches!!  His other hard luck losses all had him pitching at least 7 innings and giving up 3 runs or less, including one other game in which he went 10 innings.

Al Jackson did not have a very good season in 1962, but he wasn't as bad as his record indicates.  He was wildly inconsistent as a rookie on an expansion team is expected to be.

Did you know he held the franchise mark for the Mets in wins and shutouts until Tom Seaver came along? He;s also been a part of the Mets organization up until this year.

My favorite part of this card is that he was an all-star rookie with this record.  It's just a striking juxtaposition and a measure of respect that he had for toiling away on the 1962 Mets half a century ago.