Saturday, April 26, 2008

#385 Carlton Fisk

Why this card is awesome: Because of all those stats on the back of the card, one really stick out as odd: 9 triples in 1972. For a catcher, and for a big, huge dude like Fisk. Geez.

Cool stat: Fisk's 1972 season is only the second most recent one for a catcher with at least 9 triples. Click through to see who did it more recently.

Hall of Fame count: 25

#384 Neil Allen

Why this card is awesome: Because it's another card where you can get a nice view of his grip on the baseball. I wonder if cards like this annoyed the player. Back in 1988, video technology wasn't close to where it is today, and getting a nice close-up shot of a pitcher's grip on the ball might have been really helpful to some hitters.

Cool stat: Allen has some weird career stats against the Phillies. He's got a 2-10 career record against them, by far his worst record against any team. But he also has 10 saves against them, tied for the most. But he allowed more homers to them than to any other team, although he did it in more games and innings than against any other opponent.

Friday, April 25, 2008

#383 Eric Bell

Why this card is awesome: Because Bell joins our list of sad-looking players. He's in a similar pose to Chuck Crim, though Bell looks a tad more contemplative.

Also, Bell's middle name is Alvin. Please, parents: if you name your son Eric, don't give him a middle name starting with "A." Because then, when he writes out his name with his middle initial, it looks like "ERICA."

Cool stat: Bell is in a very exclusive club for pitchers who had a year with a non-zero ERA of 0.50 or less. Lots of guys have had a 0.00 ERA (over just a few outings) but it's pretty rare to get a very low ERA that's not quite zero. Interestingly, Joba Chamberlain makes the list from last year.

Seriously, look how similar the poses are:

#382 Keith Miller

Why this card is awesome: Because he was voted "top base runner"...when that's the most impressive fact on your card, you haven't done much yet.

Also, help me out here--what team is in the background? Are those powder-blue Phillies road jerseys? I can't tell.

Cool stat: Miller is one of a handful of players to have exactly 1 homer in a season at least 4 times between 1988 and 1995. Pitchers Andy Benes, Omar Oliveras, and Dwight Gooden make that list too! Miller is not to be confused with another player with the same name who played at the same time.

#381 Angels Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because have you ever seen two guys who look less happy about their picture being taken? Wally Joyner looks like he's holding back some chunks, and Jack Howell looks like he's holding in some turds.

Cool stat: The 1988 Angels were one of 4 teams that year to have 2 players with at least 14 intentional walks.

#380 Joe Magrane

Why this card is awesome: Because you wanna talk about baseball history? At the time this card was issued, the two scouts mentioned on the back were 81 (Thornton Lee) and 52 (Marty Keough.) Keough was obviously not at all old for a scout at the time, but Lee was.

Cool stat: Magrane's 1988 was one of the unluckiest seasons for a pitcher of all time. For seasons with at least 162 IP (qualifying seasons) and an ERA+ of 160 or better, Magrane had the worst winning percentage and fewest wins of all time. And that came for a fairly average Cardinals team, not a stinker team.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

#379 Rafael Ramirez

Why this card is awesome: Because it's yet another Rafael in our set. We've had Palmeiro, Belliard, and Santana so far, and here's the fourth.

Cool stat: Here's an example of a very deceptive stat. What do Ramirez, Alan Trammell, Willie Randolph, and Willie Wilson have in common? They are the only 4 players who, from 1980 to 1990, had at least 10 seasons with 1 HR, 1 3B, 2 SB, and 2 SH. Of course, Ramirez actually sucked offensively.

#378 Todd Frohwirth

Why this card is awesome: Because of two things: the markings that identify his glove (looks like "FRO") and that dopey misplaced hair in front of his ear.

Cool stat: "FRO" cracks the top 10 for seasons with fewest hits allowed in a season with at least 95 IP.

#377 Sam Horn

Why this card is awesome: Because he was signed by scout Ray Boone! I love how baseball presents so many unbroken strings back to its own past, whether by guys who were teammates, players who became managers, or baseball families like the Boones. (For any major newbies out there, Ray Boone was a ballplayer, as was his son Bob, as were his grandsons Aaron and Bret.)

Also, this photo shows you exactly why Horn was almost exclusively a DH. He doesn't exactly look like Mattingly scooping that ball.

Cool stat: Horn had the fewest PAs in a season ever with 14+ HR.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

#376 Bill Wilkinson

Why this card is awesome: Because Wilkinson seems to be taking the commandment "love thyself" a bit too far, although not quite as far as teammate Greg Briley took it. (Of course, Wilkinson is actually stretching out his pitching arm in this photo.)

Cool stat: Wilkinson had a very short career but quite good major league numbers. For pitchers in the 1980s with between 100 and 200 IP and an ERA+ of at least 110, Wilkinson makes the top 10 for highest strikeout rate. Almost everybody else on the list was either finishing their career at the beginning of the 1980s (J.R. Richard, Victor Cruz) or beginning their career at the end of the 1980s (Rob Dibble, Bryan Harvey, Mike Schooler, David Wells, Jeff Montgomery and many others.) But there's practically nobody else whose entire career comes up in this search.

So the big question is: why was his career so short? About all I can tell is that in 1989 he went back to the minors and didn't put up good enough numbers to make it back to the majors. Weird.

#375 Tom Brunansky

Why this card is awesome: Because of consistency--he may not have been a superstar, but he was bullseye precise every year from 1984 to 1987.

Cool stat: Brunansky is fairly underrated thanks in part to never putting up huge RBI numbers. From 1983 to 1989, he had 20+ homers and between 75 and 90 RBIs every year. Nobody else had more than 3 such years.

#374 Doc Edwards

Why this card is awesome: Because Edwards is actually 51 in this photo. He only looks 84.

Cool stat: The 1987 Cleveland Indians were one of just two teams in the 1980s (the other being the '82 Brewers) to have three players with at least 32 homers. That's pretty amazing considering that the '87 Indians lost 101 games.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#373 Checklist 265-396

Why this card is awesome: Because once we actually get to the last card on this checklist, we'll be halfway done with the entire set!

#372 Matt Williams

Why this card is awesome: Because Williams must have been standing right next to Jose Uribe, as they both have the solid green background. Also, this was another one of those nice "discovered" rookie cards. Williams had 3 lousy years to start his career. When he broke out in 1990, we collectors went back to our commons boxes to pull out all the Williams rookie cards.

Cool stat: A bit of a cheat, here, but I refer you back to a Stat of the Day post I made a while back showing that Williams once hit 62 homers in a 162-game stretch, back when Roger Maris' 61 was still the record, and the only asterisk anybody talked about was the one some folks wanted on Maris' record since he got 162 games to do it instead of 154.

#371 Joe Hesketh

Why this card is awesome: Because, this time Topps said, "Hey Joe--we like to try to get shadows on everybody's face. To make doubly sure in your case, let's put the sun behind you AND have you raise both your arms up in a totally fake-looking pitching pose." Actually, I do like the card, in part because of the very retro pose, and in part because I see at least 9 different green things on this card. (I count a green border, green team name, big green fence in the back, short green fence in the front, big green tree on the left, two smaller green trees in front of it, a much smaller green tree in front of those, and the edge of another green tree all the way on the right.)

Cool stat: Hesketh was a pretty good pitcher and I'm surprised he didn't have more success in his career. He had some very nice games, and in particular seemed to really like game scores of 77 or 75.

#370 Jose Canseco

Why this card is awesome: Because of false idols. During the 1988 season, when Canseco was putting together the first 40/40 year ever, this was an absolutely iconic card. I remember ripping 1988 Topps packs as a kid, and this was one of my most favorite cards to get. Now, however, it just looks kind of funny, and it's hard to take Canseco seriously as he himself tries to look so serious.

Cool stat: Canseco is still one of just four players to have a 40-40 season.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Sorry for the lack of posts last few days--I accidentally screwed up the post for the next card so I wanted to wait until I was back in the office tomorrow to fix it.