Saturday, August 2, 2008

#574 Graig Nettles

Why this card is awesome: Because, like Ray Knight, it's weird to see Nettles in a jersey from a team like the Braves. We think of him as a Yankee or a Padre, or maybe even an Indian. But not a Brave or an Expo.

Cool stat: Nettles was a very good player. He had a great year or two, but he was very solid. From 1971 to 1985, he had 10 different seasons with a BA between .244 and .276 over at least 400 ABs. That's at least 2 more years than anybody else over that stretch.

Friday, August 1, 2008

#573 Bob Stanley

Why this card is awesome: Because --


I have discovered something about this card that I suspect is unique in the long and glorious history of baseball cards.

The background of this card features a POPSICLE. Yes, a POPSICLE.

Cool stat:
Stanley is mostly remembered for his role in the 1986 World Series debacle. But from 1977 to 1985 he led all of baseball in most seasons with at least 80 IP and an ERA+ of 112 or better. He was one of the finest pitchers in the game back then.

#572 Chris James

Why this card is awesome: Because that, my friends, is a level swing. Look at that bat--damn near parallel to the ground. You don't see that too often. Plus, another mention on the back of Mr. Gassaway!

James was part of two fairly lopsided trades. First, the Phillies traded him away and got John Kruk, a key member of their 1993 NL championship team plus Randy Ready. Later, he was packaged along with Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga by the Padres in order to get Joe Carter. Carter was very overrated, and Alomar and Baerga were two of the biggest reasons why the Indians became playoff contenders in the 1990s. (Carter was of of course traded with Sandy's brother Roberto just a year later.)

Cool stat: James once had 3 extra base hits in a game, a double, triple, and a homer. Unfortunately he missed the cycle by just a single. Here's a piece about missing the cycle by a single.

Don Mattingly in 3D

I just debuted my own 3D Don Mattingly 1988 Topps card over at Things Done to Cards.

Please read the post over at TDTC for instructions.

#571 Mark Williamson

Why this card is awesome: Because now I know why I always confused Mark Williamson and Eric Bell. Previously, I thought Bell's card resembled Chuck Crim's card, but take a look at this:

I mean, seriously, folks. Look at the wall behind these guys. They are in the exact same location, looking in the same direction, wearing the same uniform, and everything.

I've taken the liberty of simply fusing these cards together. I give you late-80s player "Mark Bell":

Cool stat: Williamson's got one of the most recent seasons with an ERA+ of at least 400 (!!), minimum 15 IP.

#570 Jeffrey Leonard

Why this card is awesome: Because what do Jeffrey Leonard and John Cangelosi have in common? They are both scratching their backs with their bats on their 1988 Topps cards.

Cool stat: There are so many interesting things about Leonard and his career. I'm going with this one: since 1941, among players with at least league-average OPS and zero homers, Leonard had a top-10 season in terms of RBIs. The Wizard of Oz has the top such season since 1941.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

#569 Charlie Leibrandt

Why this card is awesome: Because this whole card is tilted to the right. I wonder why they did that? Maybe Leibrandt didn't have his V8 that morning and he was tiling to his left, so the photographer turned the camera to compensate.

Cool stat: Leibrandt was one of the most solid starting pitchers of the mid-80s and finished with an above-average career. From 1985 to 1987, he was one of just 6 starters to get at least 8 complete games each year.

#568 Chris Brown

Why this card is awesome: Because of the unusual black shirt Brown's wearing under his uniform.

Cool stat: Brown was a maddening player to many fans and members of the media due his to rash of strange injuries interrupting a very productive career. Case in point: Brown makes the top 25 for OPS+ over 1985 and 1986, among players with at least 800 AB.

Deceased players and managers: 16

Brown died quite recently, just a year and a half ago, from complications related to a house fire. The cause of the fire, including Brown's role, remains a mystery. Sadly, the odd circumstances of his death mirror the peculiar injuries and behavior he manifested during his career.

It's a bit too morbid for me to research carefully, but I believe Brown is the most recent player in this set to have died. He died a couple of months after Joe Niekro.

#567 Mike Diaz

Why this card is awesome: Because it's a great shot of the shoulder patch on the Pirates' uniforms from that year. No doubt that photo was taken in 1987 as that year is visible on the patch. I can't think of any other cards from this set that have a visible year like that.

Cool stat: Diaz hit 31 career homers, and 9 of those came off just 3 guys: 4 off John Tudor, 3 off El Sid, and 2 off Shane Rawley.

That's the second mention of John Tudor so far on this blog. Can't wait for the last mention of him! (Because he's the last card in the set...)

#566 Charlie O'Brien

Why this card is awesome: Because of the super-classic catcher pose. Look how small his chest protector is! Today, catchers wear something almost twice as large. Also, he's playing on the same minor-league field as Ken Williams.

Cool stat: Charlie O'Brien was THE worst hitting catcher of the late 80s and early 90s. In fact, of the 59 catchers to get at least 600 at bats total from 1987 to 1992, he had the lowest BA. But he must have been a good catcher because he stuck around for 15 years and won a World Series with Atlanta in 1995, doing what Greg Olson, Damon Berryhill, Javier Lopez, Eddie Perez, Johnny Estrada, and Brian McCann weren't able to do.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

#565 Lloyd Moseby

Why this card is awesome: Because although Moseby's in a classic baseball card pose (rest on bat) I can't think of another example of the pose in this set. Can you?

Cool stat: Moseby is thought of as a pretty productive player, but he wasn't really. He played in 1588 games. Let's say I ranked all players with fewer than 1600 career games by total bases in their careers. You'd expect Moseby to rank reasonably highly, wouldn't you, if for no reason other than that he's so close to the 1600-game cutoff? Well in reality, he ranks 54th. He's about 900 total bases behind Albert Belle, who played about 50 fewer games. He's about 400 total bases behind Nomar, who has played almost 250 fewest games.

I'm not saying Moseby was bad--he wasn't. But with a career OPS+ of 102, he was pretty much average. Just like Bobby Ojeda.

#564 Frank Lucchesi

Why this card is awesome: Because this card demonstrates how things have changed over the years. Look at this photo of Lucchesi. How old would you say he is in the picture? I myself would guess about 70. But he was born in 1927 so in this picture he was just 50 (and in fact is 71 at this writing.) This is my point. In 1988, being 50 was being old. But these days, 50-year-olds are much healthier than they used to be, and lots of people who are in their 70s now look the way people in their 50s did back then. I bet Lucchesi looks pretty much the same today as he did then.

Cool stat: Lucchesi managed the Cubs for just 25 games in 1987, taking over for Gene Michael as the Cubs finished last (although at just 76-85 were not a terrible team.) The Cubs had just two guys play more than 142 games that year, which is among the fewest in MLB that season.

#563 Jose Guzman

Why this card is awesome: Because, once and for all, this is NOT Juan Guzman. Yes, Jose and Juan are both very common Latino names, but they are really not the same guy. The two Guzmans are no more identical than Mark Davis and Mike Davis.

Cool stat: Interestingly, though, Jose Guzman kind of reminds me of Juan Guzman in terms of his career. This Guzman, like his surnamesake, was a pretty average pitcher who showed fairly often flashes of brilliance. He had 10 game scores of 80 or better, including 4 shutouts and a mess of other complete games. But he got blasted a lot too, and ended up with a career ERA+ of 102. Average. Sort of like Bobby Ojeda.

Posted by Picasa

Chien-Ming Wang autographs

A while back, I asked for some trades to get some CMW cards that I could get autographed. Well I got all my autos back and here they are.

Wang just got his boot off so hopefully he'll get to pitch some more before the Yankees' season ends.

If anybody is interested in trading for any of these cards, just let me know.


I screwed up the time stamp on Moseby's card which is why he got published a bit early. Oh well.

#562 Jim Lindeman

Why this card is awesome: Because I am perplexed about what team is seen in the background. Clearly this is a spring training game using alternate jerseys. Are those blue and orange jerseys from the Astros, the Padres, or some other team?

Cool stat: For players with no more than 680 career at-bats, Lindeman had the 20th most homers (in a tie,) 21st most RBI (also in a tie) and 12th most total bases.

#561 Rick Cerone

Why this card is awesome: Because how does a guy get so many career triples (13 at the time this card was made) with so few stolen bases (4)?

Cool stat: Since 1960, Cerone is in the bottom 10 for stolen bases in a career with at least 15 triples. He's right ahead of Bone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

#560 Tim Wallach

Why this card is awesome: Because, hey look, more Expos in the background! In the first half of the set, I mentioned that a lot, but we haven't seen it in a while. Of course, given that Timmy himself played for the Expos, it somehow seems less interesting...

Cool stat: Wallach's 1987 was weird, as that year was weird for many players. For players with at least 123 RBI in a season, Wallach makes the top 25 for worst OPS+ in that season.

1978 Topps is coming!

Hell yes, I got my 1978 Topps set today. What a beauty.

Let's blast our way through the rest of 1988 so we can get on to 1978.

One thing about this earlier set: I'm a lot less familiar with the cards and the players, so I;m going to be relying on you, the readers, to make lots of posts telling stories about these guys.

Also with the 1978 set, I'm going to have voting to determine the best card in the set.

Does anybody know of a good widget to put polls into Blogger posts?

#559 Ken Williams

Why this card is awesome: Because I simply love the minor league shot. That looks like a high school field in the background.

Cool stat: Checking out Williams' career homers, I see that he hit one off Mike Flanagan. Who knows why that is interesting? (A little trivia for you...)

#558 Bob Ojeda

Why this card is awesome: Because of the surprise appearance of HoJo in the background of this card. I'd recognize that number-20-wearing, Caucasian third baseman anywhere.

Incidentally, one interesting thing about this blog is that it's easy to look up players by first or last name. If you put "Howard" in the search box, you learn that Howard Johnson was the only player in this set (so far posted, at least) with Howard as a first or last name. No Ryan Howard or Howard Battle. Conversely, check out, for example, a search for "Mark." That yields Thurmond, Gubicza, Davis, Ciardi, Ryal, McLemore, Langston, Knudson, Davidson, and McGwire.

Anyway, Ojeda is lucky that he doesn't add to the total for deceased players. As most baseball fans will know, he was involved in the boating accident that killed Tim Crews and Steve Olin. He also once damaged his finger while cutting hedges, which apparently made him throw the ball differently and improved his performance.

Cool stat: Ojeda was a very average pitcher who gets more credit than he deserves for having one great year: 1986 with the Mets. If they hadn't won the World Series that year, he'd probably be remembered as the average pitcher he was. Take away his 18-5 record that year and he was 97-93 in his career. How average was he? Over the 10-year period 1983-1992, Ojeda is tied for the lead in most seasons with 150 IP and an ERA+ between 90 and 115. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with steady and average. He's just not as great as many people seem to mis-remember.

#557 Craig Reynolds

Why this card is awesome: Because this card looks like it was taken on a high school field. Check out those bleachers. Right behind home plate and yet about only 6 rows deep! That's spring training for ya!

Cool stat: Excluding pitchers, Reynolds is one of 5 guys to have an OPS+ under 100 every year from 1979 to 1989.

Monday, July 28, 2008

#556 Stan Clarke

Why this card is awesome: Because of so many 80s things: unkempt hair, fuzzy mustache, bling necklace, puffy collar, etc, etc.

Cool stat: Clarke tied Dwayne Henry for most seasons between 1983 and 1990 with 23 or fewer IP, despite the fact that he didn't pitch in the majors in 1984 or 1988.

#555 Brook Jacoby

Why this card is awesome: Because of two things we previously mentioned. He, like Eric King, has ties to Oxnard, CA, plus, like Brett Butler, he was part of the great trade the Indians made for Len Barker.

Cool stat: Jacoby's 1987 is the 4th-fewest RBI for a guy with at least 32 HR. Interestingly, I would have assumed that this was because 1987 was such a fluke year for homers. But with an OPS+ of 143 that year, Jacoby was pretty damned productive. He doesn't even make the 200 worst seasons in OPS+ with 32 or more homers. (Incidentally, the #1 season on that list, Tony Batista's 2004, is one of the biggest all-time fluke years.)