Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

Any Player/Any Era: Larry Walker for Baseball Past & Present

Any Player/Any Era: Larry Walker for Baseball Past & Present: http://baseballpastandpresent.com/2012/05/03/playerany-era-larry-walker/. A look at how Walker would have fared on the late 1930s St. Louis Cardinals, away from Coors Field and the steroid era.

Any player/Any era: Eric Davis for Baseball Past & Present

Any player/Any era: Eric Davis for Baseball Past & Present: http://baseballpastandpresent.com/2012/03/02/playerany-era-eric-davis/.

Some fond memories of his time with the Orioles and wondering how he would do on the 1960s St. Louis Cardinals.

Any player/Any era: Pedro Guerrero for Baseball Past and Present

Any player/Any era: Pedro Guerrero for Baseball Past and Present: http://baseballpastandpresent.com/2012/01/05/3848/

Check You out on the Flip Side: Brian Jordan

Well to quibble and parse words and whatnot: he can’t make key defensive plays at any point, I mean the ball has to be hit to him or an infielder has to throw a difficult ball to him – otherwise his job at first base is pretty pedestrian by defensive standards.

Still, Jordan had a reputation as a great defensive player. In fact, his .988 career fielding percentage is tied for 28th best with people like Freddy Lynn, Mike Devareaux, Paul O’Neil, the great Paul Blair, Tim Raines, Andy Van Slyke, Jay Buhner, Steve Finley and others. There’s a fair number of Orioles on that list – Raines and Buhner are the only ones who never played for Baltimore. And guess where Jordan was born? You got it: Baltimore.

Do the defensive metrics back up his fielding percentage and reputation? Sort of. His dWAR (defensive wins above replacement player) is 16.1, oddly enough most of his value came as a right fielder.  What’s most misleading about this card is that Jordan played just 27 games at first in his career and played 1,382 games in the outfield. I always remembered Jordan as an outfielder but, based on this card, assumed he was an ill-suited first baseman – shows you can’t believe everything you read.

Jordan was quite the underrated player. From 1995-2002, he accumulated 30.8 WAR (Fangraphs), the 35th most during that span and just a few ticks behind the immortal Frank Thomas. During that stretch, he hit .291/.341/.473 and averaged 18 HRs, yet made an All-star team just once.

Jordan’s last season was the year this card was printed. He didn’t exactly go out on top. Still, I’ll always remember him as the foil to Deion Sanders. Sanders was the flashy one who was better at football than baseball. Jordan always seemed rather workmanlike and was clearly better at baseball than football. Either way, he fielded his position well, hit decently and was one of the better players for a seven-year stretch – not much more you can ask for from a career.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the butchering of the English language. First, Jordan wasn’t really a first baseman. Second, “has prospered in the major leagues as the productive offensive…” just makes no sense. How about: “has prospered in the major leagues a productive offensive…” Third, the whole end of the sentence is Goobeldy Gook. This is up there with the all time greats when it comes to poorly written back of the base ball cards. It really should have been part of the 1987 Topps set.

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Matt Wieters: Awesome Catcher for the Platoon Advantage

Matt Wieters: Awesome Catcher for the Platoon Advantage: http://www.platoonadvantage.com/2011/12/matt-wieters-awesome-catcher.html

It’s been an incredibly tough season/off-season for Orioles fans. After the way the club finished 2010 and a pretty good 2010 offseason (sure they made their share of bad signings, but, this time, they were limited to one-year deals!), which saw them deal fringy relievers for solider major league players, Orioles fans could smile a little smile that the team was at least sort of going in the right direction. On April 9, the Orioles were 6-2 and 5.5 games ahead of Boston and Tampa Bay. Of course, reality set in and the Orioles continued to completely and utterly fail to develop minor league talent at the major league level and finished 69-93, 28 games behind the Yankees. Then, the 2011 off-season came and GM candidate after candidate turned them down. Eventually, they hired Dan Duquette (who has been out of baseball almost as long as it has been since the Orioles finished above .500), and, sadly, it didn’t seem nearly as embarrassing as it could have been. Of course, the one joy Orioles fans had throughout the season was the defense of Matt Wieters. It was beautiful to watch him play baseball well. Then, when the Fielding Bible and Gold Glove Awards recently came out, we had validation for our love of Wieters.

Check You out on the Flip Side: Delino DeShields

Anyone who reads the back of this card and doesn’t think of Top Gun or Independence Day is simply an unAmerican.

What I didn’t realize is that DeShields was Kenny Lofton before Lofton was. DeShields had a full ride to run point for Villanova before being the 12th overall pick in the 1987 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos. And, of course, there was that little tidbit of him Spud Webbing a dunk contest in a battle across sports (I assume this was a Rock n Jock, but can’t find the video).

He made quick work of the minors, posting great OBPs and made his debut in 1990 at 21. He hit .289/.375/.393 in 129 games.

Unfortunately, a lot of that average was BABIP driven as he hit .349 on balls in play that year. He came back to earth in 1991, hitting .238/.347/.332 and would lead the league with 151 Ks. In addition, his .9623 fielding percentage that year was the seventh worst by a second baseman in a season since 1946. But he got on base and ran, accumulating 56 SBs. You combine his steals with Marquis Grissom (who had 76 swipes) and you get the 11th most prolific stolen base combo in MLB history.

His average bounced back in a major way in 1992, as he hit .292/.359/.398 with 46 steals. Again, if you pair him and Grissom (78 steals) you get a bad ass burglar combo – the 16th best duo in history. After four years with the Expos, he had a .277/.367/.373 line and 187 SBs.

The Dodgers, evidently thinking he was the next Lou Whittaker, traded a promising young pitcher by the name of Pedro Martinez for his services. That didn’t work out so well. DeShields struggled in LA, going .241/.326/.327 in three years.

After leaving the Dodgers in free agency, he played well for the Cardinals for two years, and then signed with the Baltimore Orioles. His first two seasons with the Orioles went well, but his third was horrid. He hit .197/.312/.309 and made the last out in Hideo Nomo’s no-hitter. The Orioles released him and the Cubs scooped him up. He played better for the Cubs and combined went 23/25 in SBs that year, tied for the 28th best stolen base percentage in a season in MLB history (min. 20 SBs).

Speed was clearly DeShields calling card from a positive standpoint. He ended his career with the 45th most SBs in MLB history: two ahead of Bobby Bonds and two behind Eric Young, Sr.

Of course, striking out and poor fielding would be DeShields calling card from a negative standpoint. He finished with 1,061 Ks, the 29th most in MLB history by a lefty (two behind Any Van Slyke, another erstwhile Oriole). The 151 Ks in ’91 were the 29th most in a season by a lefty (tied with fellow Flip Sider Ray Lankford). Hey, hopefully he can appreciate symmetry.

[Complete non-sequitur] For some reason I can’t divorce him from José Offerman in my head…and what do you know, Offerman is #1 on his similarity score.

Still, DeShields was a fun Luis Castillo-like player. He also put in work after his playing career, co-founding the Urban Baseball League and raising some athletes. You know about his son, but his eldest daughter appears to be the next preeminent female dunker.

In his work with the Urban League, he travels with fellow Flip Sider Oil Can Boyd as part of the Oil Can Boyd Urban All Stars.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Floyd Rayford

Electric trains are not a hobby. Baseball cards are not a hobby. Collecting baseball cards is a hobby. Organizing, trading, reading and analyzing baseball cards is an obsession.

Collecting electric trains is a hobby, as is erecting electric train sets and villages and what have you’s – generally anything that gets you whacked by the mob.

I can understand the joy of electric trains…I think. When I was a kid, I had a long looping wooden track. I had hundreds of trains/cars/trucks, etc. I would set them up bumper to bumper in some order that made sense to a five year old. Then I would start with one and push them around. I would then swap some vehicle positioning and push them around the track again. My little mind found this incredibly fun and pleasing.

Hey to each his own, Rayford clearly needed a hobby to take his mind off the trials and tribulations of life in the minor/major leagues.

Rayford was drafted in 1975 by the California Angels and reached  AAA in 1979. The following season, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles along with a bag o’ cash for Larry Harlow, who had a decent season in 1980 for the Angles but would be out of baseball after 1981. Rayford wasn’t ready for prime time, however, as he spent the majority of 1980 and ’81 in the minors, appearing in the longest game in baseball history, a 33-inning, eight hour and 25 minute affair.

He got to play sparingly in 1982 with the big league club and was replaced by Cal Ripken at third on May 30, thus launching the longest consecutive games played streak in baseball history.

He was bounced between the Cardinals and Orioles for the next few years and would be finished in the majors after the 1987 season, the year this card was printed. Still, he had successes in limited opportunities. In 1985, he hit .306/.324/.521 and 18 HRs in 372 plate appearances.

Before he officially retired form ball, he played in the minors from 89-91, appearing in just 81 games as a player. He actually had a tougher task than playing, as he was a player-coach the last two seasons.

I do hope he got a World Series ring for 1982, that could be the centerpiece of this model train set.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: David Freese

So, I pulled this card out awhile ago and almost wrote about it a dozen times. Now, Joe Buck’s monstrous head and Tim McCarver’s repeated idiocy have rendered it pointless.

Yes, the decision was fated to benefit the Cardinals. As did Roy Halladay’s friendship with Chris Carpenter…or something like that.

Still, I can quibble with the whole “Rookie of the Year” candidate thing right? I mean he was as much a candidate as Ron Paul is for president in 2012.

Last I checked, the top NL rookies of the year were Buster Posey, Jason Heyward and Jaime Garcia.

Heck, among NL rookies, Freese’s 0.5 WAR was behind those above and Starlin Castro, Neil Walker, Ike Davis, Jose Tabata and Jonny Venters and tied with Gaby Sanchez.

Freese had a fine 2010, but appeared in just 70 games. His .296/.361/.765 foretold of future success if he could stay healthy. Good for him that a whole heaping lot of that success happened in the grandest stage of them all.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Jeff Suppan

So Jeff Suppan was the Todd Van Poppel of the mid-90s? That was my initial reaction to the blurb on the back of the card.

However, that’s not really true.

As the card points out, Suppan had all the promise and pedigree of a highly touted young pitcher (he had more stuff than fluff which was the case with Van Poppel). And you can’t really fault those press clippings, as Suppan tore through the minors. In 1996, at AAA and just 21-years-old, Suppan had a 5.68 K:BB rate.

For whatever reason, though, his stuff at that time just couldn’t fool major league hitters. While he posted nearly a K per inning in the minors, he struggled to strike out more than five batters per nine with the Red Sox. After three unsuccessful seasons and 39 appearances (29 starts) with a 5.99 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 1.83 K:BB rate, the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft* and the Diamondbacks pounced (that’s probably a poor onomatopoeia).

He pitched horribly for Arizona and they soon sold him to Kansas City. While his tenure with the Royals was unspectacular, he pitched over 200 innings during each of his four full years there (from 1999-2002), combining for a 4.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 1.60 K:BB rate. Dude just ate innings, pitching the seventh most during that span – just behind Livan Hernandez, Mike Mussina, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson.

After 2002, he signed as a free agent with the Pirates, who quickly traded him and Brandon Lyon to the Red Sox for Mike Gonzalez, Freddy Sanchez and dollar dollar bills. Talk about a deal involving some average players who ended up making serious bank. It was a one-year deal, so Suppan found himself a free agent again in 2003.

That’s when he met the god that is Dave Duncan. From 2004-2006, he threw 572 innings for the Cardinals, posting a 3.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 1.67 K:BB rate. Sure it was mostly smoke and mirrors, but that’s some quality durability.

He also came through when it matted. He went 3-3 in the post-season for the Cardinals during that stretch and dominated the New York Mets in 2006. He threw 15 innings and allowed one earned run. He was the MVP of the NLCS that year and even took Steve Trachsel (a very similar pitcher) deep in game three.

After his splendid 2006 regular and post season, Suppan was treated to a four-year $42 million contract by the Brewers (good gosh, my golly, what a folly). He pitched wretchedly for the Brewers, prompting one fan to put Suppan up for sale on eBay.

He was eventually released, but scooped up by the Cardinals. He posted a 3.84 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 1.32 K:BB rate for the Cardinals in 70.1 IPs during 2010. That would be his last season in the majors.

While I was able to mention Suppan in the same breath as Maddux in this piece, he never lived up to those press clippings. However, the $58 million he earned in his playing time, the NLCS MVP, 2006 World Champion and 12.8 WAR suggest he was a far better player than Van Poppel ever was (TVP was worth -2.1 WAR during his career).

*Man, there were four total All-stars in that draft (although possibly a Hall of Famer in Bobby Abreu). One All-star, Damian Miller, I vaguely remember as a subpar catcher. While I was annoyed Esteban Yan was gone from the Orioles, it didn’t hurt as much as Aaron Ledesma being scooped up in the final round. I was 15 when he played for the Orioles – I had no clue he was 26 at the time as I had never heard of him. That year was magical for the Orioles (at least for awhile) and I remember an 11-3 loss to the Tigers pretty well. Jimmy Key continued his second half swoon and Esteban Yan compounded the damage, but a scrappy infielder went 2-4, raising his average to .345. Ledesma hit .352 that year for the Orioles but didn’t make a postseason appearance. The following year he hit .324 for Tampa Bay, then would be out of baseball two years later. The only two HRs he ever hit were for the Orioles and he finished with a .296/.338/.365 line. His dWAR seems average, so I’m surprised his bat never stuck. Maybe he just wasn’t that good…like Luis Mercedes.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Hoyt Wilhelm (via Candy Maldonado)

Before the summer of 1991, when I was just 9, I thought I knew everything about baseball – and, if not everything about baseball, everything about the Baltimore Orioles. I grew up going to games with my family. I also tagged along with my father and some of his college friends, one of which played “fantasy baseball.” This particular friend was astounded at my ability to recall statistics, trades, etc.

What changed that summer? I rode in a car driven by my father to Cooperstown, New York. We had an old Volkswagen Rabbit (I think) without A/C. I had purchased Pocket Full of Kryptonite (holy crap what a video) before the trip and we listened to it on repeat the entire way – my father must have hated the Spin Doctors.

Anyway, the whole city is amazing, baseball card stores, memorabilia abounds – and that doesn’t include the awesome history-rich spectacle that is the Hall of Fame. On this trip, I opened a 1989 Upper Deck pack and received a Ken Griffey, Jr. card. Magic.

Getting to actually go into the Hall was a special thrill. I got my picture taken in-between the plaques of Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. Then we wandered around and I saw Hoyt Wilhelm. I had no freaking clue who Hoyt Wilhelm was. I had never studied my Candy Maldonado cards apparently (probably because I hated Maldonado even though I sort of liked the Blue Jays teams from the early 90s…Maldonado always seemed to make errors and lollygag. But, I’ve already written about Maldonado so there’s no reason to dwell).

Wilhelm, who pitched as a 48-year-old, had a career that spanned 21 seasons and 2,254 innings and he racked up a bunch of records on the way.

Wilhelm appeared in the fifth most games in history by a pitcher: 1,070, which trails only Dennis Eckersley, Mike Stanton, John Franco and Jesse Orosco – modern day relievers. He also owns the 30th best ERA (2.52) by a pitcher with at least 1,500 IPs. He owns the most career victories in relief: 124 – a record not likely to ever be broken. He also pitched the most innings in relief in MLB history: 1,871.

And that knuckleball was devastating, resulting in the eighth lowest opposing batting average – people hit just .216 off him – a mark better than Randy Johnson. Hell his knuckleball was so good, the Baltimore Orioles created a bigger mitt so catchers could handle it.

And, really, it wouldn’t be until he joined the Orioles that his career would take off. He spent eight seasons with the New York Giants, St. Louis, and Cleveland, until the Indians gave up on him and Baltimore claimed him off waivers. He pitched for parts of five years for the Orioles, amassing 14.7 wins above replacement player, a 2.42 ERA and 2.28 K:BB walk rate. Eventually he would be part of a trade that brought the Orioles Luis Apiricio.

Still, Wilhelm is probably most remembered for September 20, 1958 when he threw a no-hitter against the hated Yankees and Mr. Perfect, Don Larsen. The Yankees wouldn’t be no-hit for another 45 years.

Then, the following year, on August 6, 1959, Wilhelm almost pitched a no-hitter in relief. Entering the game at the start of the ninth inning, Wilhelm held the White Sox hitless for 8⅔ innings before finally surrendering a hit in the 17th.

Wilhelm also fought in Europe during World War II and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart.

I’ve found my way to a number of Hoyt Wilhelm cards over the years (all pictured here). I realize he’s a borderline Hall of Famer, at best, but his career remains terribly fascinating to this day. I stumbled upon his life much the same way I stumbled onto this topic – just cruising through baseball history looking to soak up knowledge. Who knew something good could come from Candy Maldonado?

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