Wednesday, November 25, 2015

So Fresh, So Clean

Everyone knows Oscar Gamble from his 1976 Topps Traded card.  It was made before I was even born, but it has always been one omy favorite baseball cards.  I don't own that set, but I do have about three copies of this card.....

I recently had the opportunity to trade for an autograph of Oscar.  I was looking to unload some of the thousands of doubles that occupy a table in my baseball card room and ran across a Mariners collector looking to fill a bunch of holes in their collection.   Amongst the cards in their trade album was this gem from the 2015 Archives set.....

While this is a cleaner version of Oscar Gamble I was still happy to add the card to my collection of autographs.  He not only had a cool 1976 Topps Traded card, but was also a pretty good baseball player back in the day.  He helped the Yankees win the American League pennant in 1976 and again in 1981.  He is by no means a Hall of Fame player, but 200 career home runs and an OPS+ of 127 are pretty numbers.  Love this card, even if Oscar's hair is trimmed up a little bit in the photograph.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


One of the darkest eras of baseball in my lifetime came during the early and mid 1990s watching my hometown Cardinals.  I know a lot of baseball fans and card collectors give me grief over the fact that the Cardinals are always winning something and how tough it must be to be a Cardinals fan.  Well, as a kid in middle school and high school the Cardinals were generally depressing to watch.  I went to a ton of games though and got to see a ton of good players not on the Cardinals.  I also got to see Ray Lankford.

The team was owned by the stingy August Busch III who really did not care about the team the way his father, August Busch II had since he bought the team in the 1950s.  When the team needed help he would generally not fork over the money to fix the problem.  Cardinals fans generally have the perception that Auggie's entire tenure as owner was spent not spending on baseball players.  However, that is not entirely true.

After the player strike was resolved in the spring of 1995, Auggie went out and got two of the best starting pitchers in the National League during the 1994 season.  The Cardinals traded Kirk Bullinger to the Expos for Ken Hill, who finished second in the 1994 Cy Young voting, and Danny Jackson, who finished 6th.  Cardinals fans were hopefully.

With the downfall of the Cardinals in the early 1990s, I slowed down my baseball card collecting.  Not that I stopped, but I basically put together a Topps set and spent the rest of the year opening packs, or picking up singles from card products I found interesting.  Definitely not my usual level of interest.  However, the addition of Danny Jackson and Ken Hill peaked my interest again and I rushed out to 1,000,000 Baseball Cards in Ballwin, Missouri to buy all the quarter and fifty cent Danny Jackson cards I could put my hands on....

This was my favorite....

Anytime you can fit the skyline of St. Louis onto a baseball card it's a positive.  Looking back on this card, I also like looking at old Busch Stadium with the astroturf and full seating section in the outfield.

Unfortunately the Danny Jackson signing turned out to be a complete disaster for the Cardinals.  Jackson ended the 1995 season with a 2-12 record and an ERA of 5.90. The team ended up losing 81 games, but would have easily lost 90 if the season had not been shortened to 144 games that year.  Jackson would stay in St. Louis until he was traded for Fernando Valenzuela in the early parts of the 1997 season.  Still, he was the Cardinal I remember the team signing as a free agent who was a big deal.  I have my big stack of Danny Jackson still sitting in a box, not a regular stop, but I like to look at them every once in a while.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Rookie Pitchers from 2015

Yesterday I looked at the top position players, so it's the pitchers today.  Tomorrow I will take on the Topps All-Rookie Team and see how they did assembling a team of rookies.  Like I said earlier, it was a tough task this year.  Here are my top 5 pitchers......

5.  Roberto Osuna RP Toronto Blue Jays

The 20 year old Osuna helped the Blue Jays at the back end of their bullpen this year.  He was pretty impressive at times, but I still think he could use a little bit more polish.  He ended the 2015 season with 20 saves, a 0.91 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 153.  Not many 20 year olds get to step into the closers role, especially for a playoff team.  Best rookie relief pitcher this season, so he makes the list at 5....

4.  Aaron Nola P Philadelphia Phillies 

Nola pitched about a quarter of the season for a really bad Phillies team and managed to post a 6-2 record with a respectable ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rate.  I am a little hesitant about his long term upside as far as being a top of the line starter, but he is at least a very good middle of the rotation pitcher.  I like him better than pitchers like Andrew Heaney and Taylor Jungmann, but not sure he's really in the same class as players like Syndergaard.  Still a good start to his career and worthy of making my list of rookie pitchers....

3.  Noah Syndergaard P New York Mets 

Snydergaard is a very high potential pitching prospect.  If I were making this list based on potential, it would be pretty ridiculous to put him this low.  However, every player has to start somewhere and this is where I am going to slot him.  He pitched 2/3 of the season with the Mets, won 9 games, and had an excellent strikeout ratio.  There is still some room for improvement in Sydergaard's game though.  Like keeping the ball in the stadium

2.  Lance McCullers P Houston Astros 

I think Syndergaard will be better than McCullers in the long run, but for 2015 Lance did a nice job of helping the Astros to the American League West pennant.  McCullers had a decent ERA, WHIP, and struck out more than a batter per inning.  His won-loss record wasn't great, but he did a nice job of helping to stabilize the rotation.  At the end of the year McCullers had an ERA+ of 125 and a WAR of 2.4.  Good enough for second on my list.....

1.  Luis Severino P New York Yankees 

Severino only made 11 starts this year and managed to win five of those starts.  His innings were held down by the Yankees, but his metrics were very good.  Let's start out with  the fact that his WAR was 2.0, almost higher than Syndergaard, in half of the starts.  His strikeout rate was pretty good too along with a nice ERA+ of 137.  Severino is only 21 and should be a very good starter for the Yankees for a long time to come...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Position Player Rookies of 2015

This afternoon Topps posted their All-Rookie team on their blog.  As a kid I used to love finding the cards in the Topps sets with the little cup.  Sometimes they were good players, other years were a little leaner and there were some rather mediocre players running around with the Topps Cup on their cards.  When I sat down to plan my posts for this week I originally had the idea to make my own version of the Topps All-Rookie team.  

I would do a little comparing and contrasting with the Topps list when it was released, post a few pictures of the Rookie Cup next to some baseball cards.  It was going to be a great post.  Then I started looking at some of the stats for the rookie players.  I actually had a few notes written down from my podcast I made few weeks back where I did a little prognosticating about the awards season.  Well, there was the one guy from the Cubs who was the best rookie.  Another third baseman was on my list and about three or four shortstops.  

If Francisco Lindor could change his position to first base this would be a lot easier this year.  I still made the All-Topps post and will share tomorrow.  Seriously not an easy job given the fact that the best five rookies play two positions.  In the meantime, here are my five best rookie players....

5.  Matt Duffy 3B San Francisco Giants 

I am not sure that Duffy will hang with the rest of the players on this last in the long run, but he still had a great year.  In the long run, I think Duffy will be a solid everyday player.  Nothing flashy, but there's nothing wrong with running him out to the hot corner 150 times a year.  This year Duffy produced a .295/.334/.428 slash line along with 46 extra base hits.  

4.  Jung Ho Kang SS Pittsburgh Pirates 

Kang ended up missing the last few weeks of the season due to injury, but still had a really good run after moving over from the KBO.  In his first year with the Pirates he hit .287/.355/.461 with 41 extra bases.  Most years Kang would get a little bit more love, maybe even contended for the National League Rookie of the year.  In 2015, he's the third best shortstop on this list.  

3.  Francisco Lindor SS Cleveland Indians 

Lindor was a really good player in these parts a summer or to back when he starred for the Carolina Mudcats.  He was an exceptional defensive player, but I was never quite sure if he would hit when he reach the Majors.  He definitely held his own this summer with a .313/.353/.482 mark with 48 extra base hits and 12 steals playing part of the season with the Indians.  

2.  Carlos Correa SS Houston Astros 

Correa deservedly won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after helping the Astros win the American League West pennant.  The former number one overall pick hit .279/.245/.512 with 45 extra base hits in just under 400 at-bats.  He should be a fun player to watch for years to come in Houston.  

1.  Kris Bryant 3B Chicago Cubs 

An easy choice for the top spot on my list.  Bryant went .275/.369/.488 with 62 extra base hits during his first summer on the north side.  He should be around for a long time and should push his home run total higher than the 26 he hit during his Rookie of the Year campaign this season.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Virtual Dunk

I am a pretty big college basketball fan.  I have lived in North Carolina now for almost a decade.  When I first moved here I was pretty adamant  about not latching onto one of the big four ACC schools that are within 100 miles of my front door.  Three of those, Duke, North Carolina, and NC State, are all within 30 minutes.  My neutrality went out the window at some point about seven years ago when I went back for a Masters Degree and attended NC State.  Go Pack!

I've followed a few former NC State players in the NBA and will occasionally also check in on a few other players I watched in the ACC conference, or Mizzou players.  I grew up in Missouri, so I stay loyal to the Tigers, but their games are not on here very often.  I will also check out the Hornets on occasion, but I cannot say that I am a regular watcher.  My favorite NBA players to watch at the moment are Phoenix Suns forward, and former high scoring ACC Player of the Year, T.J. Warren and former Mizzou guard Jordan Clarkson.  I miss T.J.....

Anyway, I recently decided to try out something a little bit new with the NBA on the recommendation of a few other collectors around the internet.  Yes, it's more digit cards, but they are really cool.  Don't be a wet blanket about this post.  Read on....

I have been on the Panini Dunk App for a little more than a week and I have to say that it might be better than the other two card collecting apps I have on my phone.  The other two apps, just for reference, are the Star Wars Card Trader and Bunt.  I have bad luck with Bunt, still fun though and baseball cards will always be number one in my hobby interests.  Star Wars is fun, and I have some good cards, but it gets really complex at times.  The Dunk app is great because it is simplistic.  Don't blow it Panini.  Here's what I like about it.  

The cards have a decent design.  I realize that some of this product is geared towards kids and I sure that kids probably really like the looks of these cards.  I can accept the fact that I am a thirty something playing with an app for kids, no shame.  The base card design is not really a deciding factor for me on this product.  In my opinion the best feature of the card is the back.  

Star Wars card obviously do not have stats, but neither do the Bunt cards.  I have stopped even flipping the Bunt cards over to the back.  I know there is a bunch of fantasy points and the what-not that I am not interested on the other side.  The Panini Dunk cards have actual basketball stats and include the players performance in their latest game.  While there are stats on the back, they are not overly complicated.  See kid friendly, again.  Stats on the back is a plus.  

One of the other pluses for me, don't blow it Panini, is the fact that the main emphasis of the app seems to be to put together a complete set of basketball cards.  Imagine that.  Dunk includes a checklist that is broken down by team showing the percentage of cards from each team that the collector has in their collection.  You can also see your progress in chart form......

Again, this seems really kid friendly with the circles and the pie pieces around the edges to indicate whether or not the collectors have finished the team sets.  Again, the fact that the product places a square focus on collecting a set is a real positive in my book.  This concept seems to be lacking in most of the digital products I have experienced.  

Let's talk about the subsets and inserts.  The subsets are all draft related and count towards your completion of the set.  The Karl-Anthony Towns card shown in the picture below is one of the Draft cards in the set.  

The inserts are not bad to collect either.  It seems like Topps and Star Wars Card Trader have new inserts daily.  Right now, Panini Dunk has the Prestige set.  It has the feel of a parallel set, those things that Topps overkills with pink and camo, but not every card in the set has a Prestige parallel.  Does that make it a skip parallel?  Collectors can use credits to upgrade base cards to get the Prestige cards, pull them out of packs, or trade for them.  There is a trade area on the app.  Here's a look at the Prestige cards....

Overall, this is a really nice app.  It's definitely got a lot of kid appeal to it, but set that aside and consider the fact that it is the only card app that focuses on building a set.  The cards have actual stats on them.  The inserts and subsets are simplistic and not difficult to find.  Best of all, this is a free app.  If you have not checked out this item give it a try.