Saturday, August 23, 2008

#642 Bob Dernier

Why this card is awesome: Because, hot damn, this is a red, white, and blue card. For some reason, that red border really stands out on this card more than other Cubs cards.

Cool stat: Despite playing on the Phillies for all but four seasons of his career, Dernier hit more of his 23 career homers off Don Carman than anybody else.

Friday, August 22, 2008

#641 Rick Honeycutt

Why this card is awesome: Because, OMG, what a terrible airbrush job. Not only did they give him a ridiculous hat that looks like he's storing his lunch under there, but they put the Oakland name on his jersey so high it's ridiculous. Just like they did with Dave LaPoint.

Cool stat: Honeycutt posted one of the finest seasons for a reliever over 42, one of just 10 seasons with at least 60 games, and he pitched very well.

#640 Garry Templeton

Why this card is awesome: Because this is the most obvious of the uncorrected errors of the 1988 Topps set: a green border on a Padres card instead of the orange border on all other cards from the set. I remember when I first pulled this card out of a pack and assumed it was a one-time error. I desperately tried to pull another Templeton, expecting the next pull to have an orange border. Of course, it didn't. Then, I at least thought I had a few error cards that would eventually be corrected, but that was wrong too. Poor adolescent me. :(

Cool stat: Templeton had the lowest OBP for a qualifying season with at least a .314 batting average (and three of the top six such seasons.) The guy could hit some but he couldn't walk. He was the first guy to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in the same season, but he batted exclusively from one side at the end of the season in order to achieve the feat. He certainly seems to me to have been a pretty selfish player.

#639 Brewers Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because unless I am mistaken, this is the only card in the 1988 Topps set that prominently features a person who was neither a manager nor a player in 1987. Yeah, there are lots of cards with guys in the background who don't qualify, but that's Tony Muser on the left (and Glenn Braggs on the right.) Muser finished up as a player with Milwaukee after the 1978 season and was a coach with the team later. Eventually, he became manager of the Royals from 1997 to 2002.

Cool stat: Check out the back of the card, on the offensive side. Molitor and Yount were just massive forces on the field. A .353 batting average for Molitor, 9 triples for Yount, 45 stolen bases for Molitor, 103 RBI for goes on and on. Still, these guys get very little national recognition. I was surprised (very pleasantly) by how easily they both got elected to the Hall of Fame. And for an almost totally meaningless stat, the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers tied for most players that year with at least 3 triples.

2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #9 Frank Viola

I don't actually own this card. The scan was graciously provided by dayf at Cardboard Junkie.

Why this card is awesome: Because that guy in the outfield sure doesn't look ready for the play. If I had to guess, I'd say it's LF Dan Gladden, although the complexion might be a bit too dark to be him.

#638 Steve Balboni

Why this card is awesome: Because if you know Steve Balboni, you know he was one of the strongest guys ever to play baseball, and yet he has such little muscle definition in this photo. That, my friends, is a pre-Steroids Era photo.

Cool stat: Next to Mark McGwire's 2001, Balboni had the highest OPS+ in a season with at least 200 AB but a batting average under .195. He may not have gotten a lot of hits, but many of them went over the fence. In fact, for players with fewer than 800 career hits, Balboni's got the most home runs of all time.

#637 Jay Bell

Why this card is awesome: Because you gotta love that there's a guy taking a hack in the batting cage in the background. Plus, we see one of two interesting trades that Bell was involved with on the back. He was one of the chips that got Bert Blyleven to Minnesota. Later, Bell was involved in a double "player-to-be-named-later" trade, with the famous Felix Fermin.

Cool stat: Bell had a massive fluke year in 1999. All time, he's had the second-lowest batting average in a season with at least 130 runs, 110 RBI, and a .550 SLG. Only Roger Maris' 1961 was lower. Some people think that this is evidence that Bell used steroids in 1999, saying that he wasn't any better hitter, just hit the ball further that year. I don't think statistics can really inform on one player like that. But Bell's year is a fluke just because of the other names on the list. He's clearly the very worst player from the 80 such seasons.

#636 Charles Hudson

Why this card is awesome: Because I've got an interesting story about Hudson. When I was in high school, we got a new gym teacher named Mr. Hudson. We didn't know his first name, but a few students thought he looked a lot like Charlie Hudson the ballplayer. Lots of students asked him if he was, in fact, the former big-league player, but he never gave a straight answer. I had my doubts until one day when Mr. Hudson wore shorts when we played softball outside. I saw that both of his knees had very significant scars, and I remembered that Charlie Hudson's career ended when, as a member of the Tigers, he hit a patch of ice while driving and severely injured both legs, requiring surgery. When nobody else was around, I asked Mr. Hudson if he had injured his knees in a car accident and he asked how I knew that. I told him I'd read it in the paper. He smiled, picked up a softball, and threw it further than I have ever seen any other human being throw anything. Then he looked at me, put his finger to his lips, went "shhhh", and smiled. It was our secret: I never told another soul that Mr. Hudson was indeed Charlie Hudson.

Well, until now!

Cool stat: Hudson pitched a lot better on 5 days' rest than any other number of days. Trouble is, of course, that it's tough to use a guy pitching every 6 days when everybody else on your staff goes every 5 days.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

#635 Terry Pendleton

Why this card is awesome: Because it's another Oxnard connection...and because Pendleton's sporting a very scruffy face.

Cool stat: Pendleton was a decent player, but no better. He gets ways more credit than he deserves due to being a surprise great free-agent signing by Atlanta for the 1991 season, when that franchise began it's reign at the top of the NL. Pendleton had 2 very nice seasons for the Braves in '91 and '92 and otherwise had a reasonably average career (note the career OBP of .316.) Over 1991 and 1992, he was tied for 3rd in MLB in total bases. Joe Carter, he of the .306 career OBP, being #1 on that list is baffling.

#634 Jose DeLeon

Why this card is awesome: Because of the bad trade, though not as bad as you might think, mentioned on the back. The Pirates picked up Bobby Bonilla, a very valuable player for them, straight up for DeLeon.

Cool stat: Over the last 30 years, DeLeon is the only guy to lose at least 19 games in a season more than once. But he had a lot of good years too and finished with an above-average ERA. His 2-19 record in 1985 neutralizes to 6-11, while his 7-19 record in 1990 neutralizes to 8-12. He also had 2 of the 3 best hit rates among 19-game losers in the last 30 years (but also the 2 worst walk rates.)

Anyway, DeLeon wasn't nearly as bad a pitcher as he is remembered.

#633 Barry Lyons

Why this card is awesome: Because this is a sweet, sweet action shot. I assume Lyons is raising his glove for a throw from the outfield, for a play at the plate. Actions shots of catchers are awesome.

Cool stat: Lyons saved one of his best career games for one of his last career games. In his 4th-to-last-game in the big leagues, Lyons hit a 3-run homer, and had RBIs on a single and a groundout. Incidentally, Mike Cameron hit his first career homer in that game for the White Sox's other run. And it was one of Johnny Damon's first games. The only other player in that game still active at this writing is Frank Thomas.

#632 Steve Shields

Why this card is awesome: Because of the trade mentioned on the back, one of several bad trades the Mariners made in the 1980s. Scott Bankhead had one excellent full season with Seattle (and a bunch of injury-riddled ones) but Mike Kingery and Steve Shields were both pretty poor players. That's very little to get in return for Danny Tartabull, who hit more than 200 homers and drove in 100 runs 4 different times after he left Seattle. Granted Tartabull had an injury-riddled career as well, but he was still a far more productive player than the three guys Seattle got combined.

Cool stat: Shields is one of just 16 pitchers since 1901 with a career ERA+ under 78 and a W-L% of .500 or better (minimum 16 decisions.) Of course, that's nothing more than dumb luck.

#631 Jack Howell

Why this card is awesome: Because of a serious anger face that Howell is sporting. Also, the back of the card has a telltale was stain from being on the top of a wax pack. The top card on every wax pack had a stain like that.

Cool stat: Howell's got the second fewest RBIs in a season with 20 HR and a qualifying number of PAs (502.) Interestingly, the guy on the last card, Darrell Evans, had the fewest extra-base hits in a season with the same criteria.

Autographed cards

zman40, a frequent commenter on this blog, has started his own blog showing off autographed baseball cards that he has obtained. So far, he's posted a lot of vintage cards that he's gotten autographed, and his stories behind them are fun to read.

Check it out:

Autographed cards

#630 Darrell Evans

Why this card is awesome: Because Evans was coming off a great 1987, with an OPS+ of 135 and 99 RBI in 150 games. He also walked 100 times while striking out only 84 times, and did it all at age 40.

Cool stat: In 1985, Evans had one of a handful of seasons with 40 homers but fewer than 100 RBI. Evans is also one of just three players to have 100 homers for three different franchises. Can you name the other two? (Answer in small font below the image of the back of the card.) Evans was also part of a triad of players to hit 40 homers each for one team. Only 3 such triads have ever existed, and two of them were Coors-inflated.

Alex Rodriguez and Reggie Jackson

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

#629 Kelly Downs

Why this card is awesome: Because this is the second straight Giants card, I guess because Dave Henderson was slotted at #628 before he got traded from the Red Sox. Oh, plus Downs is standing in front of a huge circle honoring retired HOFer Willie McCovey, #44. Pretty damn cool.

Cool stat: Downs has one of the most recent seasons with at least 6 complete games, including at least 3 shutouts, but still with a below-average ERA.

#628 Dave Henderson

Why this card is awesome: Because this is actually a good airbrush job. I assume it must be airbrushed but with basically just the SF logo replacing the B that was originally there. Henderson was a broadcaster for the Mariners for a while, and a pretty good one too, but that's not saying much since much of their other group is pretty pathetic.

Cool stat: Henderson had 10+ total bases in a game 4 different times. When he had 12 total bases, his team still lost, in part because his 3 homers that day were all solo. Oh, he also had a 5th game with 10 TB in the 1989 World Series. Hendu was money in the post-season.

#627 Joe Boever

Why this card is awesome: Because Boever looks nervous there in Veterans Stadium, thinking geez, the Phillies are the only team worse than the Braves..hope I don't end up playing there in a few years (uh oh!)

Cool stat: Boever's 1995 ranks in the top 10 for most homers given up in a season with no starts.

#626 Glenn Wilson

Why this card is awesome: Because Wilson is a symbol of how bad the Phillies were in the mid-to-late 1980s. He was often a featured player for the Phillies, such as getting their all-star selection in 1985 when Mike Schmidt had a slow start. Wilson was certainly not a terrible player, but an all-star he was not. Another sore point for the Phillies is the trade on the back, acquiring Wilson for both Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman. A year after that trade, Hernandez was MVP and CY and the Tigers won the World Series. The Phillies still sucked.

Cool stat: WIlson had one of 15 seasons in the 1980s with at least 100 RBI but fewer than 20 HR. Our man Bill Buckner did that 3 times himself in the 1980s.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

#625 Frank Viola

Why this card is awesome: Because of all the weird things on this card:
  • Viola is sort of giving a "thumbs up" to the photographer, but it seems like he was still caught off guard because he didn't really get his hand into the correct position.
  • Geena Davis is hanging out in the first row there, right under the "T" in "TWINS."
  • Good thing Viola's wearing pants, because this is about as direct a crotch shot as you'll see in this set.
I remember at one point in Viola's career, he was getting smacked around because he was tipping his pitches. Word came out that an opposing team figured out that when he came set, he held his glove in one position for a fastball and in another position for an off-speed pitch. Supposedly, the opposition shared this fact around the league and Viola went quite a number of starts before somebody finally told him that he was tipping.

Cool stat: Viola was a good pitcher who had a great peak from 1987 to 1988 when he tied for the lead with 41 wins. He was also the only guy to pitch at least 230 innings from 1984 to 1992.

#624 Jim Leyland

Why this card is awesome: Because even though this card is 20 years old, current Tigers manager Jim Leyland looks just as old then as he does now. I guess he went gray a little early.

Cool stat: The back of the card is a who's who of late 80s Pirates (duh) and if you're like me, it reminds you of how the Pirates won their division three years in a row but never advanced past the NLCS. Remember, this was before the days of the wild card, so winning the division was a big deal.

#623 Mike Flanagan

Why this card is awesome: Because it's the other half of our future GM duo, along with Kenny Williams. It's kind of weird to see Flanagan in a Blue Jays uniform since he has basically been an Oriole lifer.

Cool stat: I thought for sure that Flanagan faced the most batters from 1978 to 1980, but he was just third, far behind Phil Niekro.

#622 Kal Daniels

Why this card is awesome: Because of the mention of future Pittsburgh GM, Cam Bonifay, on the back. It's interesting how varied the scouts are--some are future GMs, working their way up the ladder, while many are former players or executives, effectively working their way "down the ladder" to retirement. This card also has an all-black background just like Barry Larkin's.

Cool stat: Daniels is one of just 10 players to have multiple seasons since 1901 with 25 HR, an OPS+ of 150, but no more than 450 AB. That's a pretty nice list to appear on: 3 HOFers (Ruth, Ott, and Williams) plus 4 more with at least approximate HOF-caliber careers (Ramirez, Thome, Bonds, and McGwire.) Daniels' problem was that he couldn't stay healthy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

#621 Gene Nelson

Why this card is awesome:
Because, wow, this card is pretty damn similar to Dennis Eckerlsey's. See here:

Cool stat: Nelson was an important part of the playoff A's teams of 1988 to 1990. In 1990, he also posted one of the lowest strikeout rates ever for a guy with 70 IP and an ERA+ of 230 or better. He posted another good year in 1993 but then retired.

#620 Cory Snyder

Why this card is awesome: Because this card features a pretty funny mustache in it's own way. It's tough to see, but it's there. I also wish we could read that sign in the dugout. It's also kind of funny to see Snyder listed as a SS on the back of the card. After he made 8 errors in 34 games at SS in 1986, he didn't get many more games there. Oh wait, they trotted him out at SS for 18 more games in 1987 and he made 6 more errors.

Cool stat: Snyder had one of the lowest all-time OBP in a year with at least 30 HR.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

#619 Mike Dunne

Why this card is awesome: Because here's the last All-Star Rookie card in the set, and it's a stinker. In fact, this is the second player from the Pirates to be elected to the team in this set, and they are both stinkers. (See also: Al Pedrique.)

(I just re-read that, and this can't be the last All-Star Rookie because we haven't seen Matt Nokes yet.)

Cool stat: Still, it's tough to blame Topps for this selection. Check out this list of pitchers who, in their first season, qualified for the ERA title (minimum 162 IP) and had an ERA+ of 135 or better. Only 10 guys have done it since 1944 and those 10 include Brandon Webb, Dwight Gooden, Dennis Ecklersley, and Herb Score. Nice. Too bad it was Dunne's only good year.