Posts Tagged ‘topps’

Check You Out on the Flip Side: Jason Marquis

A stathead…er…An untrained observer with a working knowledge of the National League for the last eight years who stumbled upon the back of this card would likely assume that some combination of Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, Carlos Zambrano and Aaron Harang would fit the bill as the top starters in the National League from 2004-2009.

Not so fast! Marquis and his 9.5 WAR (Fangraphs) but amazing winability (80 Ws) is clearly involved, as noted by this fine 2010 Topps card.

Never mind that his 4.9 K/9 rate was the fifth lowest among starters with significant innings from that era (it was worse than Woody Williams, Kris Benson, Cory Lidle, Dave Bush, and many others). In addition, his ERA (4.49) was similarly amongst the worse, as were his FIP (4.84, which only bested Jeff Suppan) and xFIP (4.68). Like Jack Morris (who I revere), Marquis just pitched to the score. Right…

While that’s a lot of negativity, we can say that Marquis was durable (and averageish). He threw 1,177.1 IPs during that stretch, the fourth most behind Oswalt, Harang and Zambrano. Of course, that took its tool as he started the 2010 season late and struggled to win just two games. Apparently, it’s hard to pitch to the score when the Nationals are involved.

He pitched better on the surface in 2011, good enough to look like an innings eater to the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, shortly after he was traded to Arizona, he broke his fibula and missed the rest of the year.

Regardless, Marquis has come a long way from Staten Island and the Little League World Series. In case you don’t remember, Marquis was on the third-place little league squad in 1991. He even beat Chad Pennington.

Pitching and winning must have seemed real easy in little league. It probably seemed harder but not impossible from 2004-2009. I imagine wining seems a lot more difficult now after struggling with losing teams and injuries.

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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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Check You out on the Flip Side: Grady Sizemore

Talk about a seemingly non-ominous ominous reverse jinx card.

I’ve been a huge Sizemore fan since he went 20-20 in 2005 as a 22-year old. I’ve written about him for fantasy and I’ve handled this card carefully. It is one of those I wanted to write about but couldn’t get into it.

 

Until recently, Sizemore went out there, played hard and fabulously and never missed a game. From 2005-2008, Sizemore played 639 games, or 160 per year, and put up a .281/.372/.496 line paired with superb defense in centerfield.

But, maybe, just maybe, he should have taken a few more games off here and there. As the card alludes to, Sizemore missed two months in 2009. Unfortunately, that would be the beginning of a dramatic (hopefully abbreviated) Dale Murphy like swoon. Sizemore appeared in 210 games total from 2009-2011 and his production (.234/.314/.413) plummeted.

At 22 and 23, Sizemore’s career trajectory looked a lot like Duke Snider’s did at similar ages. At 24 and 25, his career resembled the great Barry Bonds. Now, he looks a lot like Trot Nixon, Reggie Smith (albeit a very good player), Bobby Bonilla, Ron Gant and Ellis Burks.

For awhile, Sizemore did it all. He is his high school’s all time leader in rushing yards and was a third round pick in the MLB draft. He was a shooting star and was part of the massive Bartolo Colon trade (Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips), which basically ended the Expos. Heck, at the time, he even signed a pretty nice contract with an incredibly friendly 2012 club option – yet that option was declined (thankfully he got back together with Indians and hopefully his body will heal).

If this is just Sizemore playing out the string with a body that quit on him, let’s remember his 2006 season. He became the second player in MLB history to have at least 50 doubles, 10 triples, 25 home runs, and 20 stolen bases in a single season.

Here’s hoping he finds the magic elixir.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Brett Tomko

I don’t know if this is at all accurate, but this could be the first baseball card that alludes to a player being in the “best shape of his life.” Unfortunately, Tomko’s improved overall strength didn’t exactly help him in the transition to the big boy league:

1999 with the Reds: 172 IPs, 6.91 K/9, 3.14 BB/9, 4.92 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.37 WHIP

2000 with the Mariners: 92.1 IPs, 5.75 K/9, 3.90 BB/9, 4.68 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.43 WHIP

I find his decline in K-rate somewhat startlingly, sure he went from a league that features the pitcher to one with a designated hitter, but he went from starting most of his games to relieving – perhaps that pitcher was a massive cushion for Tomko. Regardless, he totally needed that strength improvement program.

The card also notes that Tomko has four excellent pitches. While we don’t have pitch value data going back to the beginning of his career, I find it hard to believe he had one excellent pitch. From 2002-2011, his wFB totaled -20.1 and his wSL was -16.1. About the only thing the card got right is that his curveball was improving: his wCB was 3.7 in 2002 and 0.8 from 2002-2011.

Lastly, at the time of the Griffey trade, there was no way people saw Tomko as loaded with talent. If the Mariners thought he was loaded with talent, he would have started more than 12 games over two years and wouldn’t have been traded just two years and 127 innings later.

In fact, he was traded three times from 2000-2002 and, once he made it to free agency, travelled up and down the west coast signing with the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, and Athletics. He, perhaps, pitched poorest for the Dodgers, earning the nickname: “Bombko,” which, in any other sport, might be a positive thing. Tomko’s 1.25 HR/9 from 1997-2011 is the 31st worst during that span (and look at the ballparks he pitched in).

While his career fell short of its promise, his personal life is rosy: Tomko is married to Julia Schultz (her google image search is NSFW but worth it) and has become an artist – I wonder what he wants to paint (certainly wasn’t corners like Bob Tewksbury, hardy har har).

And the most interesting thing about Tomko: his father won a contest naming the Cleveland Cavaliers; his entry stated, “the name Cleveland Cavaliers represents a group of daring, fearless men.”

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Len Matuszek

As you read this on a Kindle or iPad, remember that, not too long ago, it was odd that someone was into “audio and video recording.” Hell, I made three videos of my puppy last night. Fellow 1987 Flip Sider (and one-time Phillie), Dan Schatzeder also had a thing for video recorders.

Things sure have come a long way since 1987 – it does seem like the “nerds” have taken over. I’m not just talking about stat geeks, but if you watch commercials for the latest video games, some of the biggest stars (Kobe, Jonah Hill, etc.) are itching to be in them. It is, quite frankly, cool to play video games. Of course, I play MVP Baseball 2005, NCAA Football 2010 and GTA Vice City, so I might be behind the times.

Matuszek is a Pong-esque relic from a different era, a no-hit corner guy. He was drafted by Philadelphia in the 5th round in 1976.

He toiled in the minors from 1976-1980, touching double digit homers once, but showing a decent ability to get on base (he never posted an OBP below .345). He made his debut in 1981, but saw just 14 plate appearances. He got triple the plate appearances the following year, but hit horribly (.077/.119/.103).

He got significantly more run in 1983 (87 plate appearances) and looked good (.275/.306/.525), at least by 1983 Yuengling-goggles standards.

Following that small sample size opposition pitching drubbing, the Phillies installed Matuszek as their starting first baseman in 1984. He just happened to be replacing Pete Rose. He didn’t do so hot, though, hitting just .248/.350/.458. That OBP could play but the lack of power couldn’t.

He was shipped to the Blue Jays in April of 1985 and then from Toronto to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July for a broken down Al Oliver. He didn’t do anything for the Dodgers, aside from appearing in three games in the NLCS and going 1/1 with a run.

Two years later, he went .067/.125/.067 after 16 plate appearances, and his major league career would be over.

Hey more time for the AV club.

 

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Ray Searage

I understand that baseball is the national pastime so someone probably thought it was cute to equate most leisure activities to pastimes for the 1987 Topps set, but scuba diving? A pastime? How is that possible? I mean the majority of equipment required for scuba diving are generally more modern inventions.

Now, carpentry, that’s truly timeless. People been building stuff with wood and whatnot since opposable thumbs.

Searage’s career wasn’t exactly timeless. He was drafted in 1976 and wouldn’t make the majors until 1981 at 26 with the New York Mets. He pitched 36.2 innings and posted a 3.68 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Not bad, eh? Well, he had a 0.94 K:BB rate, yikes. Still, he finished the year 1-0 and went 1/1 at the plate. The Mets traded Searage to Cleveland in 1982 for Tom Veryzer. This made Searage the only Met in history to have a spotless record and 1.000 batting average.

After 1981, Searage would toil in the minors, not reaching the majors again until 1984. He was now 29 and pitching for Milwaukee. He again had success (0.70 ERA and 0.94 WHIP) in limited innings (38.1). However, his success wouldn’t continue, as in the same basic amount of innings, Searage had a 5.92 ERA and 1.05 WHIP the following season.

He performed similarly poorly in 1986, so the Brewers traded him to the White Sox for Tom Hartley and Al Jones. He pitched well for the White Sox to wind down 1986, but showed very little in 1987. He was out of baseball in 1988, but came back in 1989 with the Dodgers at 34.

He pitched two season and 69 innings for the Dodgers, finishing with a 3.18 ERA and 1.28 WHIP for the club. He called it quits after 1990, arguably his best year.

With all the shuttles from the minors to the majors, it was good Searage could find work as a carpenter, maybe he even worked on erecting billboards in minor league parks. Anyway, I think he’s moved on to better pastures. And we also got more facts about Hoyt Wilhelm with this one!

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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: Benny Distefano

This Flip Side joins Greg Minton’s on the list of things my fiancé loves that I fear mightily.

I don’t understand how dancing can be leisurely. I mean, if I’m enjoying dancing, I’m not leisurely drinking. I’m sneaking away from the fiancé to get secret Tequila shots. At one point, I believe I asked the finance “why can’t we just grind like normal white people.”*

I guess to each his own.

Distefano must have needed a good leisure activity as his career wasn’t overly successful and certainly was up and down, if we’re talking about minors/majors. He played in the majors in 1984, 1986, 1988-89 and 1992. He finished with a .228/.296/.350.

He ended up playing first, right field, left field and catcher during his career. Not exactly prime no-hit utility player slots, but since he threw left-handed that kind of eliminated the majority of the infield. However, he did play catcher. And, according to this New York Times story, Distefano was the last left-handed throwing player to ever catch a game.

One other interesting aspect of Distefano’s career:  he broke up David Cone’s no-hit bid on April 28, 1992, ensuring the Mets still haven’t had a no-hitter. Man, I’ve been picking on the Mets a lot lately.

“*But I’m white…”

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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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