Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nominations for the best card in the 1988 Topps set

Reader David suggested that I make a poll for the best card in the 1988 Topps set (regular set, not traded) and I like his idea.

First, though, we need to get a list of cards to use for the voting.

So, your task is to nominate cards you'd like to see considered. Your basis for calling a card "the best" can be anything you want--best player, best design, best photograph.

Post a comment here nominating 1 to 5 cards. Please include card # and name. You might also include your rationale for why the card is so great if it isn't already obvious. I'll take nominations for the entire week of Sept 15. We'll finish out the set by Wednesday so you'll have time to review all 792 cards.

Afterwards, I'll get some polls going and we'll determine the overall best card.

#760 Mike Scott

Why this card is awesome: Because this is the only Astros card in the set where you can't see any rainbow coloring on the uniform, due to Scott's arms being over his head. Kevin Bass' card is close, but there is just a hint.

Interesting, too, that this card comes pretty soon after Danny Heep's, as Scott was traded for him.

Cool stat: Scott has the weirdest neutralized stats I've ever seen.

In 1986, we was actually 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA. Neutralized, it's 22-8 with a 2.49 ERA. In 1989, he was actually 20-10 with a 3.10 ERA. Neutralized, it's 13-11 with a 3.67 ERA. I've never seen a guy have such wildly large swings on his W-L record in individual years.

Overall, Scott was actually 124-108 (.534) with a 3.54 ERA (exactly league average.) Neutralized, he was 117-119 (.515) with a 4.05 ERA. This much as not that surprising. We know that the Astrodome was a pitcher's park and therefore shouldn't be surprised that his neutralized numbers are worse overall. But that 1986 is a strange artifact.

Friday, September 12, 2008

#759 A's Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because this reminds me of how confused I was in 1988 as to whether the team was called A's or Athletics. I thought that since this card said A's, then A's must have been their official name. I was confused to later learn about them also being called Athletics.

Also, back in 1988, I think it goes without saying that this was a pretty damn awesome card. McGwire was the best young power hitter in the game and Canseco was the first 40-40 guy in history.

Wow, Luis Polonia got his name on a leaders card not once but TWICE.

Cool stat: Here's a list that really shows how the Steroids Era began in 1993. This is most recent seasons with 120+ runs and 120+ RBI. Nineteen such seasons were recorded in the first 8 years of the current decade. Twenty such seasons were recorded 1993 to 1999. Before that, Canseco's 1988 was one of just two such seasons in the 1980s.

#758 Eddie Williams

Why this card is awesome: Because it's nice to see a guy who looks genuinely happy! It's a real-looking smile for once.

Cool stat: Williams had an absolutely wild 1994. Firstly, he made it back to MLB after 3 years in Japan and the minor leagues. Then, he batted .331 but didn't reach even 200 PAs, and yet still managed 42 RBI. Only 2 guys have ever had a season like that.

Introducing 1988 Topps Traded Tiffany (part 1)

This is part 1/4 of a teaser series for the 1988 Topps Traded Tiffany set we'll crack and display on this blog as soon as we finish the regular 1988 Topps set.

Here's a "before" shot of the box.

As you can, it's a pretty nice package. The gold label says "CONTAINS ONE COMPLETE SET" and is the equivalent of a factory seal. I also noticed that the box is a bit damaged on most corners, which makes me nervous about whether the cards are going to have dinged corners. Pretty safe bet they will.

In case anybody out there doesn't know what traded sets are, Topps issued these set--every year since 1981 I believe--to include rookies or players who changed teams either during the previous season or during the off season. They also included cards for new managers. As will become obvious, they used some photos taken from spring training of 1988, so many of the photos are much as one full year newer than the photos used in the regular 1988 set (many of which were taken in spring training 1987.)

#757 John Marzano

Why this card is awesome: Because this card had more baseballs on it than any other card in the set! I count at least 5 for sure.

Cool stat: Marzano's home run log is pretty interesting. Of his 11 career dingers, 4 came off 2 guys, and those 4 were the first 4 he ever hit, coming in the first 13 games of his career. After that, he sprinkled 7 more off 7 different guys.

Deceased players and managers: 19

#756 Mike Maddux

Why this card is awesome: Because, hey, there's Steve Bedrosian in the background!

Mike Maddux had it a bit rough as an MLB ballplayer. He was actually a pretty good pitcher, but is remembered much worse than he was due to his much better brother. (In case you're living under a rock, his brother is one Greg Maddux.)

Cool stat: Maddux is one of just 18 relievers to pitch at least 600 innings from age 29 season onward while compiling no more than 20 saves. Over that part of his career, he had a very nice 112 ERA+. The fact that so few guys lasted long enough to get 600 IP tells you that they either became closers or weren't good enough to stay in the league. The guys on this list were probably not utilized as best as they could have been given the level of their talent. Like I said, Mike Maddux had it a bit rough. Not as good as his brother, but WAY better than most people think.

#755 Ozzie Virgil

Why this card is awesome: Because after Dave Palmer, this is the other Braves card with a retro uniform. Weird. I also like that we can see a lot of the umpire. Maybe this card can help us figure out why they are wearing strange uniforms. The player in the background looks to me a lot like a Yankee wearing a road jersey, which would make this an exhibition game, and perhaps the Braves wore special jerseys for this game. Anybody else have a better theory?

Cool stat: Only two catchers ever managed a season with at least 27 HR and 72 RBI (btw, aren't those very Fiskian numbers?) and an OPS+ of 107 or less. Virgil did it in the homer-crazy 1987.

#754 Mike LaCoss

Why this card is awesome: Because of cool stuff in the background. There's another pitcher warming up on the right, and some very blurry stuff on the left. I can't tell if Topps airbrushed that stuff or not.

Cool stat: LaCoss wasn't all that good a pitcher, but he had a few moments in the sun while holding a bat. He has one of the more recent batting seasons by a pitcher with at least 2 HR and 9 RBI.

#753 Danny Heep

Why this card is awesome: Because you get a nice shot of that patch on the Dodgers uniform. And, leave it to Topps to find a way to get a guy's entire face in the shadows except for the tip of his nose. Consequently, they've made Heep look a bit like Pinocchio in this photo.

Cool stat: Heep was the ultimate part-time player for most of his career. From 1982 to 1989, he and Mickey Hatcher tie for most seasons appearing in 80 to 120 games.

#752 Mark Grant

Why this card is awesome: Because this card is just like Chris Brown's, clearly taken at the same time. Both players have been airbrushed out of Giants unis and into Padres unis.

Cool stat: Grant was fairly consistently a below-average pitcher, but his 1989 is one of the last seasons a guy ever pitched as many as 116 innings in a season without making any starts.

#751 Jim Morrison

Why this card is awesome: Because here we see the final appearance of the giant ice cube that was chasing Barry Jones and Bill Long. Look out, Jim! It's right behind you! Damn, that ice cube really made it around during spring training. I wonder how it survived in the sun for so long.

Cool stat: In 1980, Morrison hit 40 doubles but scored only 66 runs. That's one of the lowest totals in the last 50 years for a guy with 40+ doubles. Chances are, unless he was a terrible baserunner, this had more to do with Morrison's White Sox teammates than with himself.

2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #3 Bo Jackson

This is the last Fan Favorites card we'll be featuring here. Also, this is the last set of scans provided by dayf at Cardboard Junkie.

Why this card is awesome: Because of the mention on the back of Jackson's catch in the 1989 All-Star game. If you saw that catch, you remember and will NEVER forget it. If you haven't seen it, check out this incredible video.

#750 Bo Jackson

Why this card is awesome: Because this is the last great card of the 1988 Topps set. It's another beautiful blue Royals card, too. Bo Knows Pretty Much Everything, if I recall correctly. This card was never worth a ton, but it was still a great pull in 1988.

Cool stat: Jackson is among 11 players to have 4 or more seasons with 20 HR and 10 SB among their first 5. Imagine what he could have done if hadn't hurt his hip.

#749 Mark Eichhorn

Why this card is awesome: Because we saw Duane Ward, a relatively ignored great reliever for the Blue Jays, and here is another such guy in Eichhorn. See below for more.

Cool stat: For relievers with a minimum of 800 IP, check out the highest career ERA+. You'd never think of Eichhorn, right? But there he is at #6 all time, right behind Quisenberry, Wilhelm, and Hoffman, and right ahead of Franco and Sutter.

Serious--this guy kicked ass.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

#748 Reid Nichols

Why this card is awesome: Because, hey, it's another Expos card at Shea. Boy oh boy. Also, he led the league with 156 hits in 1979, but had just a .293 BA? Interesting...

This was Nichols' last card.

Cool stat: Nichols hit one triple every year from 1980 to 1985. He was the only guy to do that.

#747 Bobby Witt

Why this card is awesome: Because he was born in Arlington VA but lived (at least at that time) in Arlington TX. A Tale of Two Arlingtons. And, he led the league in walks twice in a row (see back of the card.)

Cool stat: Of the 437 pitchers to throw at least 1800 innings since 1901, guess who had the highest walk rate? Yup.

#746 Gene Larkin

Why this card is awesome: Because, my friends, love him or hate him, that is actually George W. Bush pictured. Seriously.

Cool stat: Larkin is by far best remembered for the game winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, widely regarded as The Greatest World Series Game Ever Played, thanks in large part to Jack Morris' 10-inning CG. Larkin had 3 other walk-off hits in the regular season, all singles, including a 2-run come-from-behind job off Gene Garber.

#745 Bill Doran

Why this card is awesome: Because whoever photographed the Astros in this set did a good job. This card is similar to Denny Walling's card in that it captures the motion of the at-bat very nicely. There was some very capable action-photographer working that day.

Cool stat: Since 1982, Doran had one of the wierder seasons in terms of doubles and triples. He makes the top 25 for fewest doubles in a season with at least 11 triples. Most of these guys were speed demons who turned doubles into triples. I never thought we'd see anything about Deion Sanders on this blog, but there he is at number 1 on that list. 14 triples and only 6 doubles...imagine that!

#744 Whitey Herzog

Why this card is awesome: Because it's Whitey!! Some love him, some hate him, but we all know him. This card has pretty unusual coloring, thanks to all the extra yellow in the corner.

Cool stat: Herzog had a pretty unremarkable playing career, but check out his home runs log. Off his 25 career homers, 8 came off two guys: Paul Foytack and Barry Latman. Plus, 15 either tied the game or put his team ahead.

#743 Larry Herndon

Why this card is awesome: Because I sure don't know what he's doing with his eyes. Flirting with the pitcher, perhaps?

Cool stat: Herndon was a pretty good player who had a great year in 1982. In his career, he had 5 different games with 3 extra base hits, all wins for his team.

#742 Mark Clear

Why this card is awesome: Because this card is a bit of an optical illusion, making clear look like one of his legs is about 2 feet shorter than the other.

Cool stat: Clear was lucky. He finished with a career ERA+ of 109 but didn't really deserve it due to all the hits and walks he gave up. In fact, he has the highest career WHIP of anybody with an ERA+ that high, minimum 700 IP. (If I lowered the innings limit a bit, Mitch Williams would slide into the #1 spot.)

#741 Mike Easler

Why this card is awesome: Because there is some stuff visible in Mike's helmet although I can't quite make it out. These days, mirror-finish sunglasses are common and we've all become accustomed to seeing stuff reflected. But it was rare back in 1988. Can anybody figure out what is visible?

Cool stat: Easler had one of the top HR totals in a season with fewer than 450 PA but a BA of at least .330.

#740 Rick Sutcliffe

Why this card is awesome: Because, man oh man, 16 wins in 20 games with the Cubs in 1984. Nobody will ever forget that, although C.C. Sabathia might do as well with the Brewers this year.

Sutcliffe has one of what seems like a rash of former players making embarrassing appearances in TV when he appeared on an ESPN telecast obviously drunk. I would guess the video is around somewhere. To his credit, he wasn't working, he was just in the crowd. There's nothing wrong with drinking off the job--or at least in that case, how much you drink is your own business, not your employer's.

Cool stat: It's pretty rare to register 300 decisions in MLB with a below-average ERA. Only 17 guys in history have done it. Sutcliffe was one of the very lucky ones, registering a very healthy W-L% of .552 despite that very average ERA. Of course, nobody was luckier than Lew Burdette, who managed more than 200 wins despite being very average.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

#739 Darryl Boston

Why this card is awesome: Because the shadow over Boston's face combined with his cool pose makes him look super badass!

Cool stat: Boston was a good part-time player. Since the beginning of his career in 1984, he's one of just 3 guys with at least 3 seasons having double-digit HRs and SBs in no more than 370 AB.

It seems criminal that Boston never played for Boston.

#738 Scott Bankhead

Why this card is awesome: Because, yeah, if being Pitcher of the Week is the best minor-league stat Topps can find on you, you might not be in for a long major-league career.

Cool stat: Truth be told, Bankhead has pretty impressive career stats. A guy with a career WHIP under 1.30 should have had a longer and more successful career. Anyway, George Bell smacked him around pretty well, hitting 5 homers off him while nobody else had more than 3.

#737 Butch Wynegar

Why this card is awesome: Because of the cool wrist band with the diamond on it. Who knows what it says?

Cool stat: Wynegar had a great start to his career. He's one of just 5 guys to have at least 10 HR, 2 3B, 600 PAs, and 68 BB in each of his first two seasons. The others include Ted Williams, Albert Pujols, and Jeff Bagwell (wow!) But Wynegar wasn't a great hitter nor did he have great power, and his career went downhill from there.

Two notes: 1) As always, counts cups of coffee as a first season, so this search may miss some guys who should really be on the list. 2) It's pretty remarkable how similar Wynegar's first two seasons are to each other, statistically. Pujols did the same thing.