Posts Tagged ‘san francisco giants’

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Frank Williams/Eric King/Danny Gladden

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Man, the ’80s were different times. We’re only talking 23 years, but the world sure has changed.

For instance, Frank Williams had to work construction in the off-season. Could you imagine a player with decent major league experience being employed as something other than a “baseball player?” I wonder what his taxes looked like.

By the time this card was printed, Williams had pitched parts of three seasons for the Giants, totaled 231.2 innings, and posted a 3.22 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Sure his K-rate declined every year (from 7.70 to 6.66 to 5.68) but he was worth 2.1 wins above a replacement player – not bad for a construction worker.

By 1989, Williams would have a pretty decent MLB line: 3.00 ERA, 471.2 innings, and a 1.38 WHIP. Unfortunately, a car crash would end his career and send his life spiraling out of control. He would die of a heart attack at 50 in 2009.

My hope is that Williams — wherever he is — gets to relive August 24, 1984. On that day, Williams recorded two relief wins against the Mets. Not a lot of people get to win a game in the majors, let alone two in one day. Congrats, Condolences.

I didn’t realize Williams’ tale was so tragic when I began this flip side. If you were thinking of someone who might have a dangerous motor vehicle accident (*ahem* Jeff Kent), you might have guessed it was Eric King. Like Williams, King was a construction worker in the off-season. Also similarly, King earned 1.5 WAR in his first season (going 11-4 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 138.1 innings in 1986).

eric king backeric king frontHis next three seasons would show promise, but, ultimately, be pedestrian (3.90 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, just 5.4 K/9). However, he’d pitch real well in 1990 and 1991 (earning 5.3 WAR) and securing a million dollar payday (let’s hope there was no motorcycle clause in his contract). It was an odd career for King as he’d be out of baseball after the 1992 season. In all, though, he was part of some fascinating trades that included the likes of Matt Nokes, Bob Melvin and Cory Snyder. He’d retire with a 3.97 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 4.8 K/9 in 863.1 innings.

While it’s clear being a construction worker was a common occupation for ’80s ballplayers, apparently so was a love of motorcycles. Like King, Danny Gladden (who would later become a memorable golden retriever-like Twin) was a fan of motorcycles. He took it one step further by “[enjoying] competition water skiing and motorcycle racing.” I presume he took part in them, but maybe not.

gladden backgladden frontNot surprisingly, Gladden played the game with, what I remember to be, reckless abandon. He averaged 27 SBs and 11 caught stealings from 1984-1990. During that time, he would post a .277/.332/.385 slash line. Still that didn’t quite live-up to Gladden’s promise. He got to the majors late (becoming a full time player in 1984 at 26). That’d be, quite possibly, his best year as well: .351/.410/.447 in 86 games. He’d earn 3.4 WAR that season.

I was way too young to remember Gladden as a Giant. What I remember: Gladden was the Twins version of Lenny Dykstra. Gladden’s play in game seven of the 1991 World Series will be forever cemented in my mind: he stretched a bloop into a double en route to scoring the winning run on Gene Larkin’s base hit in the bottom of the 10th inning of Jack Morris’ game. When he was rounding first, his hair flying, you could almost see him revving his engine.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Chili Davis

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Man, Topps had a real succinct way to sum up Davis’ life as it stood in 1987. He likes to cook, swim, jog and travel – but one thing is missing: hitting (more on that later).

Cooking, yeah that can be fun and delicious, travelling – not so bad (if you’re not being literal). However, who really likes yogging? I mean it’s just running for as long as you can. Some of my long-term readers know I run a decent amount, but I don’t enjoy it — it’s simply the easiest way to get cardio and combat the two helpings of French Fries I had last weekend. Seriously, just because I run fast (did 7.3 miles in 51:29 recently) doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, it means I hate it and want to get it over with ASAP.

That is all well and good, perfect and succinct (tongue and cheek) analysis, but I’ll posit that what the card misses is Davis love of hitting. Davis has the 11th most at bats in major league baseball history by a switch-hitter (8,673 — more than Mickey Mantle, Ruben Sierra, Bernie Williams and Maury Wills). He also has the (not surprisingly) 13th most hits by a switch hitter with 2,380 — just 35 less than the Mick. He wasn’t hitting wimpy singles either — he logged the ninth best slugging percentage (.451) by a switch hitter, just behind Carl Everett of all people. With that slugging percentage, it wouldn’t surprise you that he ended with the fifth most RBIs by a switch hitter…more than Pete Rose and Chipper Jones.

Oddly enough, he finished with the 16th most career intentional walks since 1955. Davis had 188 which was tied with Ted Simmons and more than Dave Winfield, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew. Another thing he did better than just about every player? Hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a single game — he did it 11 times and tied for the most all-time with Eddie Murray.

Lastly, Davis played in the 62nd most games in MLB history (2,436) — more than Killebrew and Mike Schmidt. I’ll submit that any time you do several things that Hall of Famers didn’t, you’ve had a worthwhile career.

Maybe all that cooking helped him relax and focus. Clearly the swimming and yogging must have helped his longevity. Also a like of travelling couldn’t hurt as the daily baseball grind includes long hours in planes. But, in reality, I’m sure a love of putting the ball in play made Chili an underrated player in the ’80s and ’90s.

One question? Do you think Davis made chili? If so, was it caliente?

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Steve Bedrosian

bedrosian back bedrosian frontJudging by his awesome facial hair and hobbies, Bedrosian seems to be the consummate flame-throwing good ole boy (never mind that he was born in Massachusetts). To me, four wheeling and breeding dogs screams hunter — of course, I’m not a hunter, so I might be completely wrong. Either way, given these three things: awesome beard, four-wheeler and breeds dogs, you would absolutely agree that he is capable of 120+ IPs in (predominantly) relief in back-to-back years.

Bedrosian did accomplish that feat and so much more. Outside of 1985, Bedrosian was basically a relief pitcher. It’s kind of odd because in ’85, he threw 206.2 innings and posted a 3.83 ERA. Of course he had a 4.14 FIP and recorded just 5.84 K/9 compared to the 8.71 rate he posted in the previous season. Another reason he’d start zero games for the rest of his career after posting 37 starts for the Braves? The organization would trade him and Milt Thompson to the Phillies for Pete Smith and Ozzie Virgil. The Phillies saw his ability to strike guys out in relief and kept him there permanently.

It’d turn out to be a pretty smart move. Bedrosian finished his career with the 34th most relief wins all time with 65 — one more than Al Hrabosky, he of the awesomest facial hair ever. Of course, on the flip side, Bedrosian has the 31st most loses (61) in relief in MLB History — tied with Bob Stanley and one ahead of Mike Stanton.

You add up that career and durability and you get the pitcher with the 46th most innings pitched in relief in MLB history — just 2.1 innings behind José Mesa (seriously – what? I’m as confused as you are).

However, the most surprising/confusing aspect of Bedrosian’s career would be the 1987 season. He did post a 2.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 7.5 K/9 and lead the league in saves with 40. Not surprising you’d say? A pretty average/above average year? Well, he won the Cy Young that year, yet had only a 2.0 WAR and only 89 IPs. Sure his win was by no means unanimous as he received just 9 first place votes (out of 24). The problem is no one could see through records and recognize the dominance of Orel Hershiser (16-16, 264 IPs, 3.06 ERA, 190 Ks, 1.21 WHIP).

Relievers are often a different breed – fiery and eclectic as always. Bedrosian, while not really remembered and with his Cy Young completely forgotten, is one of the more underrated useful relievers of all time. Plus, you can’t ignore that beard, ahem Brian Wilson.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Candy Maldonado

Maldonado backMaldonado frontReally? I mean, really? Travelling is an enjoyable experience? Maybe the mid-80s were different — there weren’t interminable security lines and strip searches that would make Demi Moore blush. Maybe back then you could bring whatever food you wanted on a plane and meet people at the gate.

I didn’t fly much as a youngster in the 80s — my family drove places. It was not a good thing…for anyone. The only saving grace was the Game Boy and Tetris.

I abhor travelling, but I like vacationing. Occasionally, air travel is fun – like on an overseas flight that isn’t too long but full of free booze. That’s my kind of travelling. But in reality, getting from point A to point B has gotten more painful than ever before.

I’m sure this isn’t want Maldonado meant when he marked “travelling” under the “enjoyable experiences” portion of the questionnaire. But I’m literal.

It’s a good thing Maldonado liked to travel, as baseball, at each level, involves a fair bit of it. In addition, Maldonado played 15 seasons in the pros for seven different teams (Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Blue Jays, Rangers, Cubs and Brewers). He was traded three times…for Alex Trevino, some nobodies and Glenallen Hill (more on him later). As mostly a part time player, he’d earn just 9.7 WAR for his career.

That doesn’t do justice to his career though. When you play 15 seasons in the Bigs you accumulate some interesting stats and, as it turns out, Maldonado was quite adept at hitting pinch-hit HRs. For instance, Maldonado is tied for 16th all time in MLB history for pinch-hit HRs. He hit 11, just two behind Hill and five behind Willie McCovey.

Perhaps the oddest thing about Maldonado’s career: only three times in MLB history has a pinch-hit homerun been the only run of the game. Maldonado accomplished this “feat” against Mark Davis on April 13, 1985.

Speaking of pinch-hitting, Maldonado had the 16th best season in MLB history in terms of pinch hit average — .425 in 1986. Not too shabby. He also earned roughly $9 million in his career – enough to make travelling at lot more relaxing…

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Shane Rawley

Rawley back Rawley frontThe cadence of this card is stunning. We learn that, seven years prior to its printing, Rawley earned his pilot’s license. Then, of his many interests (we assure you they are numerous) he likes to write. That’s pretty cool; writing is a fun thing to do for some people. Then, oh-by-the-way, Rawley also likes flying. Umm no **** Sherlock.

It would stand to reason if a guy was so motivated to get his pilot’s license it would be because he likes flying airplanes. I would imagine that he wasn’t flying commercial jets in the off-season to pick up pocket change. It’s just funny to me how weirdly worded this card is — there are four sentences that have very little connection with one another – and, in actuality, some are not even complete sentences.

Regardless, the ebb and flow of the narrative is kind of like Rawley’s career. In his first four seasons with the Mariners, Rawley would pitch in 159 games and amass 309.1 innings and 182 punch-outs while posting a 3.75 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. He started only five games for the Mariners.

He would then be traded in 1981 to the New York Yankees. In two+ years, Rawley would start 60 games, pitch in relief in 32 others and post a 4.11 ERA and 1.39 WHIP before being traded to the Phillies, for whom he would start 140 games and appear in only five as a reliever.

He’d be finished in the majors after the 1989 season, his first with the Twins, during which he’d start 25 games.

Given his handedness–he was a southpaw–it’s odd that he left the game just two years after being a 17 game winner. You’d think he’d at least get to be a LOOGY out of the pen. Unfortunately, Rawley would exhibit absolutely no platoon splits — righties hit .271/.340/.405 off him, while lefties hit .272/.333/.371.

He clearly had an up and down career – shifting from starter to reliever — lets hope his flying skills weren’t as rocky.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Fred Lewis

Fred lewis backWhen you compare the info from the older cards to the newer cards, you see a natural progression. There seems to be more professionalism, better information and a subtle sense of “stat-geek” influences with the new cards. Of course, in today’s modern world it is much easier to edit things and gather information.

Still, I like the neatness of the Fred Lewis card…the card calls his career highlights “unique” because they are – they aren’t “great” or anything he really controls, just unique. The factoids are beautifully odd: Lewis hit safely in his first three at bats, his first homer was part of a cycle, his next two dingers were grand slams, and he stole home twice (the coolest thing besides flying jets).

This card is part of the 2010 Series I, which means it doesn’t include the tidbit that on April 15 he was traded to the Blue Jays for cash/player to be named. Clearly the Giants were willing to give up on the 29-year-old outfielder who had been a second round selection in 2002. It’s not exactly clear why. Set aside the fact that the Giants were not bursting with hitting talent, Lewis managed a useable (especially in the NL) slash line (.277/.355/.420) over 1,528 plate appearances. Not surprisingly, Lewis would post a .262/.332/.414 line in the AL. Given the harder competition it makes sense that he’d hit a bit worse in the harder league.

However, the bizarre thing about this is the decision to trade Lewis for, essentially, nothing. He had done all those cool things — stole home, hit grand slams, hit for the cycle and was decidedly useful. The Giants would use Aaron Rowand (331 ABs), Nate Schierholtz (227 ABs) and an assortment of other players in a spot that Lewis could have manned easily. Sure Lewis earned .8 WAR this year, but Rowand earned a negative WAR and Schierholtz earned just .2 WAR.

Maybe I’m a sucker for players who act like Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez, but I found it incredibly odd the way the Giants handled Lewis this year. At the very least, Lewis has had one of the most unique careers of any baseball player — and that is saying something.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Brian Buchanan

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I really find this card funny – for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is that it allows me to make a little fun of the New York Yankees….

So let me get this straight. Matt Nokes walks in free agency because the Yanks have a young catcher in the minors who is playing pretty well and the team can obtain a supplemental draft pick when he signs with another organization. The Yankees then use that pick on someone named Brian Buchanan – a big 6’3, 190 lbs left-handed pitcher out of high school. Of course, as you (the reader) no doubt see, Buchanan played JV baseball for two years and didn’t pitch his junior season. So, the Yankees drafted a guy with exactly 42.2 varsity high school innings. Not typically the recipe for success.

He’d spend six years in the Yankees minor league system tapping out at AA. He’d finish with not exactly horrible minor league numbers spread over nine years (3.99 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 7.2 Ks/9). What really hurt him was his control; he’d walk 4.1 batters per nine in the minors. Unfortunately, like so many other draft picks, Buchanan would never toe the rubber for a major league ball club.

As for the other Brian Buchanan – and seriously was it the PR departments idea to draft guys with the same name in back-to-back years — he’d log 14 seasons in the minors, finishing with a .279/.341/.450 slash line and 141 HRs. He’d never play for the Yankees as he, along with Eric Milton, Christian Guzman and Danny Mota would be shipped to the Twins in exchange for Chuck Knoblauch. Truly this trade helped both sides. The Twins ultimately got two steady major league performers and Knoblauch played a solid second base for the Yankees. However, Buchanan would do nothing for the Twins – hitting a grand total of 16 HRs in 414 ABs before being traded to the Padres for Jason Bartlett.

Of course Bartlett would put up some great minor league numbers (.299/.373/.417) leading him to become a semi-darling of the stat-community. He was then packaged along with Matt Garza for, predominantly, Delmon Young.

So, the Yankees got no major league appearances from back-to-back Brian Buchanan first round draft picks. Of course, they did turn one into part of chuck Knoblauch — which is a pretty good thing.

You have to love the MLB draft – strange things always seem to happen which is decidedly the case with the only two MLB players to have been named Brian Buchanan.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.