Saturday, April 5, 2008

#320 Alan Trammell

Why this card is awesome: Because that's an awfully strange bulge in the side of his uniform leg. That's all I'm sayin'.

Cool stat: I loved Trammell as a player but all you folks supporting him for the HOF need to calm down. He was great but is not Hall-worthy, and it's not even close. But his 1987 was one for the ages. Since 1940, it was one of just 6 seasons where a player had 100 RBI, 100 runs, a .340 BA, and 20 stolen bases. Of course, Darin Erstad did it too, so it can't be that great.

#319 Mike Loynd

Why this card is awesome: Because of the weird orange-peach color background. Like the Jose Uribe card, what the heck were they thinking?

Cool stat: Over 1986 and 1987, Loynd had the 4th-highest WHIP among pitchers with at least 100 IP. Interestingly, the top two guys on the list went on to do some good things in their careers. But not Loynd--this was his last card.

#318 Mel Hall

Why this card is awesome: Because with little frame of reference other than the light stanchion in the background, I'm inclined to think Hall was about 200 feet tall.

Cool stat: Seven players have had 5 seasons with between 17 and 19 homers. Hall was, by far, the worst of them when ranked by OPS+.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

#317 Tom Nieto

Why this card is awesome: Because Nieto was one of the useless throw-ins in the Jeff Reardon trade, as mentioned on the back, although he was the one actually going to Minnesota with Reardon. I don't know whether Nieto actually had a double chin, but in any case, this is not a flattering photo.

Cool stat: Nieto hit just 5 career homers, but they were pretty neat. One was a 3-run inside-the-park job off Bob Knepper to put his team ahead. Another was a game-winning shot in the 10th inning off Ron Davis.

40 years on

The blog celebrates the 20th anniversary of a cool set of baseball cards, but I just wanted to take a moment to honor the memory of MLK on this, the 40th anniversary of his death. In my opinion, we are still very far from being a truly equal society (with respect to not just African Americans) but I shudder to think how much further behind we'd be now without him.

#316 Jose Rijo

Why this card is awesome: Because I'm surprised that Topps used a photo with such a blatently obvious Budweiser ad in the background.

The cool thing about this card and the previous one (Dave Parker) is that these two players got traded for each other in December 1987, a bit too late for Topps to incorporate the change into this set. (Tim Birtsas was also in the trade.)

Cool stat: From 1988 to 1993 (6 seasons), Rijo leads the way in seasons with at least 111 IP and an ERA no higher than 2.84. In fact, he did that all 6 of those years and nobody else did it more than 3 times. Whew!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

#315 Dave Parker

Why this card is awesome: Because we forget just how beefy Parker was. In an age well before steroid use was common, Parker was a beast of a man. By today's standards, he doesn't look so large.

Also, this card and the next card form an interesting pair. Who knows why?

Also, this is yet another card with Expos in the background...

Cool stat: From 1979 to 1990, Parker had the most seasons (5) of 90 to 99 RBIs. If he had gotten a bit lucky and had 2 or 3 more 100-RBI seasons, he might actually have gotten serious HOF consideration. He's followed on that list by some other guys who were sort of marginal superstars - Kevin McReynolds and Harold Baines.

#314 Jimy Williams

Why this card is awesome: Following on after Chuck Crim, it's another sad-looking fellow. Maybe Jimy's upset because the 1987 Blue Jays won 96 games but finished just second. Or maybe it's because they fell to just 87 wins in 1988. Or maybe it's because he never did find that damn second 'M' in "Jimmy."

Cool stat: The 1987 Blue Jays had 9 guys to have at least 10 homers. That tied the Orioles and Giants for the MLB lead that year.

#313 Bob McClure

Why this card is awesome: Because even a Milwaukee suburb sounds small when it's in Wisconsin...good ol' Delafield. McClure must have moved there when he joined the Brewers and stayed there for at least a year or two after heading north (and east) to Montreal.

Cool stat: McClure appeared in 698 games, and for guys with that many games, he's got the 12th-highest WHIP. Wow. Pretty sucky.

#312 Joey Meyer

Why this card is awesome: Because I swear this guy's name should be Meatball. That's all I'm sayin'.

Also, they mention on the back that the has a son named Tanner, but it turns out that his own first name is also Tanner.

Cool stat: Courtesy of his Wikipedia page, it turns out that Meyer is the only guy to hit a walkoff homer against Roger Clemens. In fact, it is the only walkoff PA against Clemens. The other 90 PAs were all wins.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

#311 Scott Sanderson

Why this card is awesome: Because other than a touch of black, the is the most red, white, and blue card I've ever seen. OK, there's a touch of orange too, in the upper left.

Cool stat: Since 1978, for pitchers with at least 2500 IP, Sanderson is 8th in fewest walks per 9 innings. He still ended up with a very average ERA, and one wonders what his record would have been like if he had a closer-to-average walk rate.

#310 Tom Herr

Why this card is awesome: Because I'm digging the all-red jersey. I assume this shot, like Jack Clark's, was taken during a spring training game since I don't think teams wore solid-color jerseys like this during games back then.

Cool stat: One of the very first posts I made on the SOTD blog was about Herr, particularly his 1985 season with more than 100 RBI but fewer than 10 HR.

#309 Bill Long

Why this card is awesome: Because of the nice alternate red mesh jersey he's got on. Oh, and that huge ice cube that was chasing Barry Jones seems to be sneaking up on Long too.

Cool stat: True to his name, Long really gave up the long ball. In fact, for non-active players with 500 to 550 career IP, he's 8th all-time in HRs allowed. And most of the other guys pitched much more recently, in longer-ball days. Many folks will be amused to see the fat pussy toad whose name is atop the list. (Borrowing from the Wikipedia entry for him, I shall remind you that "pussy" in this came rhymes with "fussy" and does not refer to female genitalia.)

#308 Lee Mazzilli

Why this card is awesome: Because of the the nice shot of the spring training stadium in the background. I could research it, but I'll take the lazy way out: who knows what stadium that is?

Cool stat: In his later playing years, Mazzilli was best known as a pinch-hitter. From his splits, you can get his full line as a pinch hitter: just a .224 hitter, with 74 hits in 330 AB, but he had 52 RBI in those ABs, a far better rate than in his non pinch-hitting appearances.

This set seems to be loaded with future managers (as I guess most sets are) and he is another.

#307 Mike Trujillo

Why this card is awesome: Because of another nice color-unified card. It's all sky blue, grassy green, and yellow. Love it. Plus another nice shadow across the face. Trujillo looks a bit like he got a tan while skiing (he has a sort of tan line from where a ski mask might have been.)

Cool stat: In the last 30 years, Trujillo is among just 20 pitchers to start 22 or fewer games in that span and complete at least 3 of them. Trujillo didn't have a lot of success in his career, but those 3 CGs are better than a lot of pitchers ever do today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

#306 Billy Hatcher

Why this card is awesome: Because while I guess that's a glove hanging on the dugout wall, I swear it looks a lot like a disembodied head floating there. even looks like it's scowling. (You'd be scowling too if your head were severed from your body.)

And, oh yes, this is one of the very rare cards in this set featuring Expos in the background. (Thats a joke, in case you aren't a frequent reader.)

Cool stat: Hatcher is among just a handful of players to have a season with at least 53 SB but single digits for CS. Tony Womack did it twice!!

#305 Steve Sax

Why this card is awesome: Because, geez, what a terrible and embarrassing photo Topps used here. Sax looks like a third-grader desperately trying to get on base during a game of tee ball.

Cool stat: Since 1901, there have been only 13 seasons in which a player was caught stealing 30 or more times. This includes Sax's 1983, in which he stole 56 bases and was caught 30 times. That is by far the worst ratio for any season after 1920 with at least 30 CS. Maury Wills was caught 31 times in 1965, but he also stole 94 bases successfully.

#304 George Hendrick

Why this card is awesome: Because this might be the only card in the set to feature an empty folding chair in the background. It's a bit tough to see, but it's there.

Cool stat: This is kind of weird. Hendrick had 119 PAs against Steve Carlton (his most against any pitcher) while runner-up Bill Lee faced Hendrick 78 times. That's a huge disparity. That's more than 50% additional PAs against Lefty than against Spaceman. I wonder why? The fact that he hit Carlton so well must have had something to do with it.

#303 Eric Show

Why this card is awesome: Because Show (for those who do not know, it rhymes with "how" not with "know") was born in Riverside, just about 100 miles from San Diego. Nice to think that he got to grow up and play for the team he probably rooted for as a kid. Sadly, the story of his life did not turn out so nicely.

Show is best-remembered as the player who gave up Pete Rose's record-breaking hit, when Rose passed Ty Cobb for most career hits in 1985. Later, in 1994, Show died while in rehab, trying to deal with his addiction.

I believe, but could be wrong, that Show is the first player from the 1988 Topps set to pass away, dying just 6 years after this set was issued.

Cool stat: Three guys (Frank Viola, Jack Morris, and Charlie Hough) pitched at least 200 innings in each of the 6 seasons from 1983 to 1988. Show is among a group of 11 others who did it in at least 5 of those years.

Deceased players and managers: 11

Crap, that's two deceased players back-to-back.

#302 Jose Uribe

Why this card is awesome: Because I get the feeling that this photo was taken while Uribe was filming a commercial. He's standing in front of a green screen so that his image can later be superimposed on some bizarre background. Seriously, I have no idea why the photographer thought this was a good idea for a shot.

Cool stat: From 1984 to 1993, Uribe had the 6th-lowest career OPS+ among players with at least 3000 PAs. What I remember most about Uribe is that he wore Air Jordan's number 23.

Deceased players and managers: 10

Uribe was on the Giants Leaders card recently and we noted there that he passed away a few years ago.

#301 Bud Black

Why this card is awesome: Because current Padres manager Bud Black continues the weird name game in MLB. Almost nobody with a color for a last name is actually of the race we associate with that color. Black, for example, is not black, but white. Bill White was black. Neither Shawn Green nor Willie Green are green. Vida Blue was not blue. And so on...

Cool stat: Over the last 30 years, Black makes the top 20 for fewest walks issued among pitchers with at least 2000 IP.

Monday, March 31, 2008

#300 Don Mattingly

Why this card is awesome: Because THIS is probably the best card of the 1980s, let alone of the 1988 Topps set. A great iconic action shot for a guy with all kinds of numbers in italics on the back of the card. What more can be said?

Cool stat: Despite playing contemporaneously with the two best hitters of the last 50 years (Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn,) Mattingly actually led all of MLB in hits over one 3 year period, 1984 to 1986. Boggs would have led going away had he not walked so much (or rather had Mattingly and Gwynn not walked so little, as both had very low walk rates.)

#299 Steve Crawford

Why this card is awesome: Because of the rare shot of a pullover. We haven't seen too many of those in this set.

Cool stat: Crawford didn't give up more than 2 homers to anybody except Jesse Barfield, who hit 4 off him. Interestingly, all of Barfield's homers came when his own team was trailing.

#298 Milt Thompson

Why this card is awesome: Like Freddie Toliver, here's another depressed looking Phillie. But with that bat in his hands, this looks to me more like a nice, classic baseball card. Of course, it's also another shot with a shadow right across the player's face. Tsk tsk.

Cool stat: For three straight years, 1988 to 1990, Thompson had exactly 39 walks. That's a statistical oddity--it's rare to see a player get any one stat (except perhaps games played, or zeroes, in cases like Cal Ripken) exactly the same for a few years running. It reminds me a bit of how Vinnie Castilla had the same HR, RBI, and BA in both 1996 and 1997.

News & notes

I just wanted to mention a couple of things:
  • I am going back and adding tags to all the posts. I'm adding the team name and the player's position (or positions.) That way, you can go back and find all the cards from your favorite team, or all the players for a given position. I haven't finished adding all the tags yet, but they will be done soon. An index of tags appears down on the right, below all the links.
  • I'm still looking for autographed 1988 Topps cards if you have any to trade. Just let me know.
  • My posting rate here has been a little slow lately, but I'm going to speed up again starting today. I need to finish out the set in the next 2 months because I'm going to be busy after that as a first-time father. I may not have time to post any extras, such as the factory-sealed 1988 Topps Traded Tiffany set I have sitting right here.

#297 Zane Smith

Why this card is awesome: Because of deceptive stats. In the "Cool stat" below, I'm going to demonstrate that Smith was actually a pretty good pitcher. But you wouldn't know it from these stats. Aside from leading the league in Runs Allowed in 1987 (but not Earned Runs, which is very telling, re: crappy Braves defense), his K/BB ratios are simply awful.

Cool stat: Smith finished with a career ERA+ of 105, which is great considering the poor teams he played on for most of his career. But with that above-average ERA, he finished with just a 100-115 record. A basic neutralization of his stats on changes his career ERA from 3.74 to 3.76, but also changes his record to 114-102, a .528 win percentage as compared to his actual value of .465. Smith was, in actuality, a pretty consistent, above average pitcher who had a bad reputation from being on the terrible late-80's Braves. Also of note: he was traded twice in mid-season, and both times performed fantastically for his new team.

#296 Floyd Rayford

Why this card is awesome: Because posing with the chest protector on is sooooo old school. I love it. Plus, Rayford is about 30 in this photo but looks about 55.

Cool stat: In 1985, Rayford led all players with at least 25 games at catcher in SLG. And he led by a wide margin. But he didn't hit like that in other years, and this was his last card.