Friday, April 18, 2008

#369 Greg Harris

Why this card is awesome: Because of that totally awesome face that Harris is making. It's nice how Topps highlighted his funny mouth by hiding the rest of his head in a dark shadow.

Cool stat: A lot of you know this, but many probably don't. Harris was (and still is, I'm sure) ambidextrous and had a special glove with a thumb on each end that he could wear on either hand. He pitched in his career as a righty, but always wanted to get a chance to pitch as a lefty in a real game. If you check out his platoon splits, you can see that he did appear in one game as a lefty. On September 28, 1995, Harris pitched as both a lefty and a righty in the same game. The next day, he appeared in his last major-league game. BONUS: from 1985 to 1992, Harris had 4 seasons with at least 100 IP, ERA+ of 150, and no more than 20 saves. Nobody else in baseball had more than 1 such season over that period.

#368 Gerald Young

Why this card is awesome: Because as ridiculous as those uniforms were, I really dig the Astros cards from this set. This is another card that has every color from the rainbow, thanks to those purple-ish frame on the screen in front of the seats. (But need I mention more shadows on the face?)

Cool stat: Young hit 19 career triples off 19 different pitchers. He managed only 8 RBI on those triples, meaning that at least 11 came with the bases empty (assuming no baserunners got thrown out at the plate.) In fact, 13 of the triples came with the bases empty. Originally, I assumed that he must have hit a lot of them leading off the game. Indeed, 3 of his triples led off his team's half of the first inning. But that means he had 10 other triples coming beyond the first inning with the bases empty, and 6 with runners on. That's not such a bad ratio, I guess.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

#367 Tim Leary

Why this card is awesome: Because of yet another shadow face. The background behind Leary is nice, sky, fluffy clouds, green trees.

Cool stat: Between 1980 when Brian Kingman lost 20 games and 2003 when Mike Maroth lost 21, Tim Leary was one of a handful of players who was spared that fate by stopping at 19 losses in a season. Of course, you have to be at least a halfway decent pitcher to lose 19 or more games. If you were so terrible, no team would keep trotting you out there if you gave your taem no real chance of winning.

#366 Chet Lemon

Why this card is awesome: Because I never understood why Lemon was regarded so poorly. Look at the numbers on the back of this card. He's not a superstar, but he was a pretty good player. If you ask me, he should have been on card #365 and Youmans on this one.

Cool stat: From 1977 to 1988, there are 5 guys (Winfield, Schmidt, Rice, Murray, and Dawson) who had at least 11 HR and 51 every single season. There is a pool of another 6 players, including Lemon, who did that every year except one.

#365 Floyd Youmans

Why this card is awesome: Because that Expo in the background (probably Vance Law) doesn't look ready to play, considering he's not in a defensive stance nor is he looking toward the batter. Is there any chance that Youmans is actually warming up on a sideline mound here?

Cool stat: For pitchers with 500 to 600 IP in their careers (not including active pitchers, or else Joe Nathan would be first) Youmans is 4th in fewest hits allowed per 9 innings. Of course, he walked a lot of guys, as did most of the other leaders on this list (or else they would have pitched a lot more than 500-600 innings.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

#364 Nick Esasky

Why this card is awesome: Because, holy crap, Topps managed to get the entire front of Esasky's body completely engulfed in shadow in this shot. Maybe they should have tried to get one where Esasky's glove was in front of his face. Geez.

Cool stat: Esasky hit 122 career homers, and the very first one was an inside-the-park job off Phil Niekro.

#363 Willie Fraser

Why this card is awesome: Because of the position of Fraser's fingers on his pitching hand. What type of pitch did he just throw?

Cool stat: Jim Presely had the most homers (4) off Fraser. Interestly, in 16 PAs, those were Presley's only hits off him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#362 Juan Castillo

Why this card is awesome: Because this card is from several years before the Rockies existed, there is way too much purple on it. The purple name banner that all the Brewers cards have is bad enough, but the vast sea of purple behind Castillo is way over the top.

Cool stat: Castillo had just 101 career hits, but did have one 4-hit game in 1987 against Oakland.

#361 Greg Maddux

Why this card is awesome: Because it's easy to imagine what Topps what thinking when they gave him a crappy card number like #361. They just put superstar Tony Gwynn at #360 so they needed a scrub to put next. Maddux spent parts of 1986 and 1987 in the bigs with the Cubs and pitched poorly. Sure, he was just 21 at this point, but it didn't seem likely he would amount to anything. Umm....wrong.

That's two superstar cards in a row!

Cool stat: Check this out. At the moment, Maddux is 348-214 in his career, a .619 W-L%. That's good for 9th in career wins, and 10th all-time in W-L% among pitchers with at least 400 decisions. What do you think Maddux's record would be if we neutralized it on He's played mostly for winning teams, so you'd expect it to fall closer to .500, right? Wrong. His neutralized stats are 363-195, a .651 W-L%, and he'd have 7 different 20-win seasons, including 28-4 in 1994. And it's easy to forget, but this guy won 4 Cy Young awards in a row from 1992 to 1995, including the last 2 unanimously. Wow. (Note: Clemens Maddux won another game after I wrote the above paragraph a few days ago.)

We can't officially add to our Hall of Fame count, but Maddux might be the first unanimous selection when he comes up for election around 2014 or 2015. With Roger Clemens being tainted by both alleged PED use and the ridiculous way in which he responded to the allegations, Maddux is now cemented as the best pitcher of the last 40 years.

#360 Tony Gwynn

Why this card is awesome:
Because this card is a great shot of how Gwynn used to hold the bat. He did the opposite of choke up, rather puttign his hands as far down the end of the bat as possible. I believe he even wrapped his bottom pinky around the edge of the knob. Oh, and I love the italics on the back of the card.

Cool stat: Gwynn was simply an awesome player. You can read all kinds of things about his great career in other places. But here's a nice one for you: over the course of his career from 1982 to 2001, Gwynn had 7 seasons in which he had enough PA to qualify for the batting title (502) but struck out 23 or fewer times. Over that same period, everybody else in baseball did it only 6 times.

Gwynn is in my top 5 of all-time favorite players.

Hall of Fame count: 24

2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #8 Don Mattingly

My bad - I totally forgot to post this back when card #300 went up. Matt, the winner of the last giveaway, gets screwed because I only just realized that I had forgotten this card when I packed up his winnings. So he's not getting this one. And since Mattingly's my favorite player, I'll probably just keep this one anyway.

#359 Tim Stoddard

Why this card is awesome: Because some players look great in pinstripes....and then there's Tim Stoddard...

Cool stat: Tim Stoddard was very average. In fact, in the last 30 years, he's among the top 10 in most IP for relievers with ERA+ between 99 and 101.

Monday, April 14, 2008

#358 Rey Quinones

Why this card is awesome: Because of the cameraman visible in the background, in full headset glory. Oh, and that horrendous trade mentioned on the back (horrendous for the Mariners, that is.) Dave Henderson and Spike Owen were not tremendous talents, but they beat the pulp out of the 4 guys the M's got for them.

Cool stat: Two guys hit exactly 12 home runs in each year 1987 and 1988. One is Rey Quinones. Who was the other? Click through to find out. Clue: he played the same position as Quinones but was a much better player.

#357 Floyd Bannister

Why this card is awesome: Because what a poor bastard Bannister was. Look at all the crappy teams he was on.

Bannister is the father of current pitcher Brian Bannister, who looks like he has a shot to be even better than his dad was.

Cool stat: Bannister never got a lot of press, but he was one of the more reliable starters of the 1980s. From 1980 to 1988, he and Dave Stieb led with 4 seasons with 200 IP and an ERA+ of 120.

#356 Luis Aguayo

Why this card is awesome: Because of more dugout craziness. I see a couple of Phillies on the right, wearing their powder blue unis. But just who is that on the left? I'm going to assume it's a trainer, although it also looks a little like Jayson Stark.

Cool stat: Aguayo has the fewest RBIs all-time in a season with 12 or more homers. His RBI rate of roughly one every 10 at-bats is not so bad, but the Phillies were near the bottom of the league in BA that year and they just didn't get enough runners on base.

#355 Roger McDowell

Why this card is awesome: Because I like being able to clearly see the uniform number, in this case Jackie Robinson's #42. I think all baseball cards should include either clear photos of the uniform number or a listing of the number somewhere on the card.

Cool stat: For relief pitchers over the last 50 years with at least 1000 IP, McDowell had the 4th-fewest strikeouts. What really surprises my about that list is who is #1.

2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #32 Will Clark

It's another Fan Favorites card, this time of Slick Willy.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

#354 Marc Sullivan

Why this card is awesome: Because the light stancheon appears to be combing Sullivan's unkept hair sticking out over his ear.

Cool stat: Sullivan had 4 plate appearances where he put his team into the lead. One of them was a fairly rare bird - a walk off hit-by-pitch.


All previous posts here are now fully tagged. The tags are all listed down on the lower right. So, for example, if you click on "closer" you get all these cards:

Mitch Williams

Dennis Eckersley

Jesse Orosco

Jeff Russell

Bruce Sutter

Goose Gossage

Dan Quisenberry

Tom Henke

Lee Smith

Doug Jones

#353 Ed Olwine

Why this card is awesome: Because how does someone born in Ohio get to live in Hyannis Port MA?

Cool stat: Olwine allowed only 13 home runs is his short career, but 3 of them were to Kevin McReynolds. And McReynolds did that in just 7 PAs against Olwine. Only Tony Gwynn had more PAs against him.