The Old Perfessor’s Platoon

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Back in the 1950’s, Yankees Manager Casey Stengel was a most colorful and confusing character on the baseball landscape. After all, he once said, “You have to have a Catcher because if you don’t, you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.” And, “The key to being a good Manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.” Of course, he was also very much crazy like a fox because he also said, “Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional ballplayer. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”

 

From 1949-1960, Casey’s Yankees won 10 of 12 AL Pennants and 7 World Series titles. In an era before advanced baseball statistics, it seems that he was decades ahead of the curve in the ability to manipulate line-ups and get the most out of a 25-man roster. Of course, anyone can put Mickey Mantle’s name on the line-up card each day, but that version of the Bronx Bombers seemed to have a different hero each day. If you look back at some of those rosters, it’s clear that Stengel knew about percentages because he took advantage of platooning LH & RH hitters on a regular basis. Just using 1954 as a snapshot, you’ll see that the everyday 1B Joe Collins (who hit LH) didn’t even get 400 AB’s because Bill Skowron (who hit RH) was available. “Moose”, in his rookie season, hit .340 in 215 AB’s. In the corner OF positions, Gene Woodling, Irv Noren & Enos Slaughter batted from the left side, while Hank Bauer & Bob Cerv batted from the right side. Even HOF Shortstop Phil Rizzuto had less than 400 AB’s because switch-hitting Willy Miranda was available.

 

The modern version of that team is the Oakland Athletics, under the guidance of GM Billy Beane. Working with a limited budget, the “Moneyball” system has made the A’s competitive with their major-market opponents. One of the keys to their success is the same platoon blueprint that Old Casey implemented in the 50’s. The A’s averaged over 92 wins in 2012-2014 utilizing versions of this formula. In the last few years, a number of successful teams have taken advantage of RH/LH splits including the 2018 Dodgers.

 

For MLB GM’s and Fantasy Baseball participants, this lesson shouldn’t be ignored. For whatever reason, LH batters always have more difficulty hitting LH pitching than their RH counterparts have hitting RH pitching (have you ever heard of a “situational right-hander”?). If teams blindly continue to give their LH hitters AB’s against tough LH hurlers, it will impact productivity for the team. Hitters like George Brett and Tony Gywnn only come around every decade or so. From a Fantasy prospective, you need to know about this statistical category because players who don’t produce will eventually lose playing time and impact your investment in the player. The analysis becomes even more critical in today’s game where teams now carry 12 or 13 pitchers and the platoon option gets reduced with a limited amount of batters on the bench.

 

Looking only at fairly regular members of the line-up, here’s some eye-opening numbers about LH hitters and their success against LH pitching in 2018. We’ll use OPS (On-Base % & Slugging %) as the guideline.

 

> Brandon Belt, Giants 1B – .628 OPS vs. LH, .822 vs. RH

 

> Jackie Bradley, Jr., Red Sox OF – .562 / .768

 

> Keon Broxton, Mets OF – .512 / .781

 

> Shin-Soo Chin, Rangers OF – .638 / .892

 

> Adam Eaton, Nats OF – .552 / .845

 

> Alex Gordon, Royals OF – .555 / .750

 

> Eric Hosmer, Padres 1B – .527 / .829

 

> Jake Lamb, D’Backs 1/3 – .493 / .702

 

> Colin Moran, Pirates 3B – .503 / .790

 

> Shohei Ohtani, Angels DH – .654 / 1.043

 

> Joe Panik, Giants 2B – .489 / .706

 

> Joc Pederson, Dodgers OF- .503 / .893

 

> Travis Shaw, Brewers IF – .599 / .894

 

The question is if this type of player will get more or less regular AB’s moving forward? And, if they continue to get those AB’s, is it a positive or negative for your Fantasy roster? More AB’s will not only negatively impact the BA/OBP category, it also becomes a factor for power numbers, as this type of player has a tendency to underperform in that realm also.

 

Are there LH hitters you can count on to be in the line-up everyday? A few to consider –

 

> Christian Yelich, Brewers OF – .983 / 1.007

 

> Mallex Smith, Mariners OF – .817 / .761

 

> Eddie Rosario, Twins OF – .726 / .838

 

> Gregory Polanco, Pirates OF – .771 / .864

 

> Rougned Odor, Rangers 2B – .711 / .773

 

> Brandon Nimmo, Mets OF – .742 / .946

 

> Max Muncy, Dodgers IF – .891 / 1.001

 

> Mike Moustakas, FA 3B – .721 / .798

 

> Nick Markasis, Braves OF – .765 / .828

 

> Max Kepler, Twins OF – .745 / .720

 

> Odubel Herrera, Phillies OF – .740 / .727

 

> Bryce Harper, FA OF – .857 / .904

 

> Scooter Gennett, Reds 2B – .774 / .882

 

> Joey Gallo, Rangers 1B/OF- .820 / .804

 

> Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B – .923 / .878

 

> Corey Dickerson, Pirates OF – .735 / .827

 

> Michael Conforto, Mets OF – .803 / .794

 

> Charlie Blackmon, Rockies OF – .817 / .886

 

 

Just what you need, another calculation to include in your 2019 player analysis. Sort of like giving a golfer one more swing-thought.

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Statistical Evolution

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Baseball fans from the “Baby Boomer” generation learned all they knew about statistics from the backs of Topps baseball cards. If someone said “SABR”, it was really the word “saber”, referring to a swashbuckling movie starring Burt Lancaster or Stewart Granger. With the advent of Fantasy Baseball, the Internet and advanced metrics for the sport, everything has changed. The real question is, are you still judging player performance by those same stats that were on the baseball cards?

 

Looking at the back of a 1959 Topps baseball gives us a starting point for this analysis. Obviously, the stats are from the ’58 season and tell you the most basic information. For hitters, you find BA, HR, RBI, Runs, Games Played and a few other categories but not even SB. For Pitchers, it gives you IP, W & L, Strikeouts, BB & ERA. In order to bring the performance up-to-date, let’s see how the new age categories play out, as we review the best of 2018.

 

> OBP (On-Base %) – Mike Trout led the majors with .460 followed closely by AL MVP Mookie Betts with .438…in ’59, it was Cardinals 1B Joe Cunningham with .453

 

> SLG (Slugging %, determined by Total Bases / At Bats) – Two teammates led the way with Betts at .640 and J.D. Martinez at .629…Hank Aaron was the only player in ’59 over .600 at .636

 

> OPS (OBP & SLG)) – Maybe the most telling of the new numbers, as it explains how many bases a hitter has accumulated for his team…only four big leaguers exceeded at least 1.000 with Trout, Betts, Martinez and NL MVP Christian Yelich on the list. Aaron was the only player in that category for ’59 with 1.037 but look at the names filing out the top five…Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks & Willie Mays.

 

> OPS+ (Adjusted to the ballpark factors with a mean of 100) – Trout was #1 at 199 followed by Betts, Martinez, Yelich and Alex Bregman. In ’59, Aaron was again the best at 182 but names in the top ten that might surprise you included Cunnngham, Harvey Kuenn & Gene Woodling.

 

> WAR (Wins Above Replacement) – A single number that estimates the number of Wins a player was worth to his team above the level of a replacement player…four players achieved a number of 10 last season with Betts & Trout joined by Aaron Nola & Jacob deGrom. 60 years ago, Ernie Banks led the offensive players with 10.2 and Senators Pitcher Camilo Pascual topped the Pitchers with 8.6.

 

> Offense Winning % (The percentage of games a team with nine of this player batting would win. Assumes average pitching & defense) – Trout (85.4%) & Betts (84.6%) were the best in 2018 while Aaron was #1 in ’59 at 79.3%

 

> WHIP (Walks & Hits /IP) – This stat had its genesis from Fantasy Baseball and has now become mainstream. It essentially calculates how many base runners a Pitcher allows per inning pitched…the best for ’18 was Justin Verlander at 0.92 while five others came in at less than a baserunner per inning…Max Scherzer, deGrom, Blake Snell, Nola and Corey Kluber. The top three in 1959 were Art Ditmar (1.03), Harvey Haddix and Don Newcombe.

 

> Strikeouts per 9 IP – This stat tells you about pitching dominance in the modern era and the modern hitter’s reluctance to put the ball in play instead of swinging for the fences…last season’s leader was Gerrit Cole at 12.4 while Scherzer & Verlander also exceeded 12…1959 was certainly a different environment as Herb Score led the way with 8.2 and Don Drysdale was the only other hurler above 8.

 

> ERA+ (Once again, adjusted to ballpark factors) – Snell and deGrom were the only two over 200 and Trevor Bauer was 3rd with 198…Hoyt Wilhelm of the Orioles was the best in ’59 at 173.

 

> Fielding Independent Pitching (similar to ERA but eliminates fielding from the equation) – deGrom, Bauer & Patrick Corbin were the best in 18…Pascual and Larry Jackson of the Cardinals were the top two in ’59.

 

That’s probably more than enough for your introductory lesson…if you can’t wait for more, try baseball-reference.com

Stats You Never Knew

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As Fantasy players, this is the time of year when our brain is overloaded with information from too many sources. ADP (average draft position) for snake drafts, dollar value projections for auction drafts, inflation calculation for keeper leagues, prospect rankings and every imaginable stat for each player who might be on a major league roster as of March 28th. So, how can you possibly get an edge in today’s Internet age where someone can go from neophyte to expert in the course of web-browsing weekend? One answer might be to look below the surface and find stats that others ignore. Recently in this space, you found the pitchers from 2018 who threw at least 66% strikes and had a minimum of 17% swings & misses. Of the 150+ hurlers who met the criteria of rotation starters or closers, only about 35 made the grade. Maybe a little asterisk next to their name on your draft sheet might not be a bad idea?

 

On this visit, once again with the help of the 2019 Bill James Handbook, we’ll look at league leader batting categories from last season in hopes of finding an occasional clue about future performance.

 

American League

 

> Mallex Smith (.367) and Aaron Hicks (.366) were both in the top ten in On-Base Percentage.

 

> Miguel Andujar might not be a great defensive player but his Slugging Average (.527) was better than Giancarlo Stanton (.509). Andujar made league minimum while Stanton made $25 Million.

 

> Nelson Cruz hit 37 HR’s at age 38.

 

> The A’s double-play combo of Marcus Semien & Jed Lowrie combined for 1,383 plate appearances.

 

> Alex Bregman hit 51 Doubles.

 

> The Red Sox had three players score 100+ Runs…Mookie Betts 129, J.D. Martinez 111 & Andrew Benintendi 103.

 

> Despite missing 20+ games, Mike Trout led the league in Walks with 122…25 were intentional.

 

> Yoan Moncada (217), Stanton (211) and Joey Gallo (207) were the three players with 200+ Strikeouts.

 

> J.D. Martinez hit .800 with the bases loaded.

 

> Speaking of clutch, Joey Wendle hit .347 in the “BA Close & Late” category.

 

> Joe Mauer and Yuri Gurriel were the only two players to hit over .400 with runners in scoring position (RISP).

 

> Nick Castellanos led the league with a .381 BA against LH Pitchers.

 

> Jose Altuve had the best BA (.349) on the road.

 

> Rougned Odor had the lowest SB success percentage at 50% (12-for-24).

 

> Jose Ramirez was the only player to “see” over 3,000 pitches.

 

> Justin Upton had the best OPS vs. Curveballs (1.133) and Tyler White had the best (1.262) vs. Changeups.

 

> Omar Narvaez has the best OPS (.854) for a Catcher…Justin Smoak had the best (.805) for First Basemen.

 

> Andrelton Simmons had the lowest Strikeout rate (7.3%).

 

> Jake Cave had the league’s longest HR average (421 feet).

 

> Khris Davis led the league in Lead Changing RBI (41).

 

National League

 

> Only three players had a .400 OBP…Joey Votto (.417), Brandon Nimmo (.404) & Christian Yelich (.402).

 

> Trevor Story had the 2nd best Slugging Average (.567)…Yelich was 1st (.598).

 

> Five players appeared in all 162 games…and one of them was Freddy Galvis.

 

> Ketel Marte led all of baseball with 12 Triples.

 

> Javier Baez (111) had more RBI than Nolan Arenado (110).

 

> Bryce Harper led all of baseball with 130 Walks.

 

>Chris Taylor led the league in Strikeouts with 178.

 

> Pablo Sandoval had the highest BA (.636) with the bases loaded.

 

> Dansby Swanson had the best BA (.375) in “Close & Late” situations.

 

> Brian Anderson was the best (.367) at hitting with RISP.

> Nolan Arenado hit .347 at home and Paul Goldschmidt hit .339 on the road.

 

> Five players had at least an 80% Stolen Base success rate…and one of them was Michael A. Taylor.

 

> Manuel Margot swiped 11 bases and was caught stealing 10 times (52.4%).

 

> Miguel Rojas grounded into 23 double-plays in 488 AB’s…Matt Carpenter grounded into none in 564 AB’s.

 

> Cesar Hernandez was the only player to “see” over 3,000 pitches.

 

> Eric Hosmer had the highest ground ball ratio (3.06).

 

> Rhys Hoskins had the lowest ground ball ratio (0.56)

 

> Max Muncy had the highest percentage of Pitches Taken with 62.9%.

 

> David Peralta had the best OPS vs. Curveballs with 1.137.

 

> Mike Moustakas had the best OPS vs. Sliders with 1.145.

 

> Three Catchers had an OPS over .800…Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto & Francisco Cervelli.

 

> Scooter Gennett had the best OPS (.856) among 2B. He also had the lowest average Home Run distance (377 feet).

 

> Ian Happ had the highest Swing and Miss Percentage with 37.7%.

 

> Anthony Rizzo led the league with 40 Lead Changing RBI.

To the untrained eye, this may all seem like a plethora of useless information, but you Rotisserie Ducklings have picked up a tidbit or two that you’ll remember at the Draft…you can thank me later.

The Right Stuff

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Former big-league Pitcher Tom Candiotti was quoted regarding the term stuff about a decade ago and said, “It seems the term has been around baseball forever. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, as scouting became more essential and more organized, the term stuff became more prominent as a technical term.” My first recollection was early in the 1967 season when the Red Sox played a series in Anaheim and some of the Angel hitters described what “great stuff” Jim Lonborg had displayed against them. It seems that they knew what they were saying, as Lonborg won 22 games that season along with the AL Cy Young Award.

 

When you do your scouting for the 2019 season, it could be that stuff should be part of your thought process. In the 2019 Bill James Handbook, Alex Vigderman looks at two primary categories that lead to pitching success…1) Throwing Strikes and 2) Having a Swing and Miss Pitch. It is clear from his analysis that the two are of “comparable importance”. Nine out of ten major league pitchers throw 60-69% strikes, but the difference in the range is enormous. The average ERA at 67% strikes is significantly lower than the average ERA at 60% strikes. Four out of five major league pitchers have swing-and-miss figures of 12-20% and once again the margins of the study show the difference. The average ERA at 19-20% is almost a run lower than the average ERA at 12%.

 

So, the dream Fantasy (and reality) pitcher would be the one who has above-average numbers in both categories. Logic might tell us that a pitcher who is above both the mid-point in strikes thrown (say 66%) and swings-and-misses (say 17%), might have the right stuff. Let’s look at rotation starters & closers  from 2018 who met that criteria (in alphabetical order)…

 

> Shane Bieber (67/18) – 11-5 in 19 starts as a rookie, it seems like that 4.55 ERA might come down.

 

> Dylan Bundy (67/20) – Tough to find something good about a record of 8-16 with a 5.45 ERA, but the base skills are there.

 

> Carlos Carrasco (67/23) – No surprise here and Indians clearly understand with a 4-year $47 Million extension.

 

> Gerrit Cole (67/22) – 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and will be a free agent in 2020…Ca Ching!

 

> Jacob deGrom (69/23) – At age 30, he has a ROY Award and a Cy Young.

 

> Edwin Diaz (67/29) – This verifies that the new Mets Closer has swing & miss stuff.

 

> Sean Doolittle (70/26) – The only Pitcher in the game with 70% strikes each of the last three seasons.

 

> Zach Eflin (66/17) – 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts…might be a sleeper pick.

 

> Ken Giles (70/23) – Frustratingly inconsistent as a Closer but did have 26 Saves in ’18.

 

> Josh Hader (67/29) – The poster boy for “bullpenning”, look at that swing & miss rate.

 

> Andrew Heaney (66/18) – A post-hype hurler with an injury history, he made 30 starts last season with solid results.

 

> Kelvin Herrera (67/20) – Coming off an injury, he’s still on the free agent market but has Closer credentials.

> Kenley Jansen (68/21) – Had a slow start and eventual off-season surgery that wasn’t arm related…the underlying numbers are still there.

 

> Clayton Kershaw (68/17) – Like most of us, he’s not what he once was…but he’s still good.

 

> Corey Kluber (67/19) – 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA…has averaged 32 starts over the last five years.

 

> Kenta Maeda (66/22) – What gets lost in his 8-11 record is that he struck out 11 batters per 9 innings.

 

> German Marquez (66/20) – The breakout seems to be real.

 

> Joe Musgrove (70/17) – How does an injury-prone starter with a 17-21 lifetime record get on the list? Maybe worth a flyer in the end game?

 

> Aaron Nola (67/19) – 3rd in the Cy Young balloting at age 25.

 

> Roberto Osuna (72/20) – Controversial player due to personal behavior, but the stats are off the charts…will turn 24 next month.

 

> James Paxton (68/22) – Will the results be better or worse in Yankee Stadium?

 

> Nick Pivetta (66/19) – With any luck, his 4.77 ERA could be a run better in ’19.

 

> Chris Sale (68/24) – If you’ve ever been in the ballpark when this guy pitches, you immediately think “He’s got great stuff”.

 

> Max Scherzer (69/24) – Arguably, the best Pitcher in the game…three Cy Young Awards in the last six years.

 

> Luis Severino (67/19) – Turns 25 next month…a perennial All-Star if he stays healthy.

 

> Noah Syndergaard (68/21)) – 13-4 in 25 starts.

 

> Jameson Taillon (66/17) – Emerged as the Bucs ace at age 26.

 

> Masahiro Tanaka (67/21) – 64-34 in five seasons…with a dangling elbow ligament.

 

> Blake Treinen (68/27) – Had 38 Saves and an ERA of 0.83!!

 

> Felipe Vazquez (67/22) – His GF (games finished) number for 2018 was 60!!

 

> Justin Verlander (69/22) – At age 35, this is amazing…didn’t miss a start and had 290 K’s.

 

> Alex Wood (66/17) – Cincy may not be as kind as L.A.

 

> Kirby Yates (66/26) – Sometimes when Closers come out of nowhere, you wonder if it was a fluke…these numbers alleviate your fears.

 

As George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that their stuff is crap and your crap is stuff?” Hope all your hurlers have the right stuff.

 

 

 

Are You A Real Baseball Fan

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Are you a real baseball fan? A true baseball fan? Don’t reply too quickly because membership in this exclusive club requires certain criteria. Can you answer yes to most of the following questions…

 

> Do you still have a vivid memory of that Home Run you hit in Little League?

 

> Does it take you back in time when you remember that first autograph from a major leaguer?

 

> Did you study statistics and do you still know the lifetime batting average of your favorite player?

 

> Is there at least one big league jersey hanging in your closet?

 

> Do you have a T-shirt that says “BB THE BB”?

 

> Does a 3-2 count with the bases loaded still put you on the edge of your seat?

 

> Is there a Bill James publication somewhere on your bookshelf?

 

There are dozens more on the baseball SAT, but you get the idea. This marvelous sport we love is part of the fabric of our lives. If you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, the history of the game speaks to you and you’re always ready for a baseball-themed conversation…or debate. You can probably name most of the 32 players who have reached 3,000 hits but a football fan wouldn’t even know some of the 31 players with 10,000 career rushing yards if you gave them the names. If you doubt that, ask some of your Fantasy Football buddies about Thomas Jones or Corey Dillon.

 

So, as we celebrate the history of the game and the wonders of the 2018 season, let’s take a look at who the sport lost in the past year…

 

> Willie McCovey, Giants 1B 1959-1980 – One of two Hall of Famers who passed away in ’18, “Stretch” was a star from the moment he arrived in the big leagues and won the ’59 NL Rookie of the Year award by hitting .354 in 192 AB’s. Hit 521 HR’s and contributed a 64.5 WAR on his way to Cooperstown in 1986.

 

> Red Schoendienst, Cardinals 2B 1945-1963 – Enshrined by the Veteran’s Committee in 1989, he also managed the Redbirds from 1965-1976 and won a World Series ring in 1967. As a player, he was a ten-time All Star.

 

> Rusty Staub, Astros / Expos & Mets OF 1963-1985 – One of the most colorful and popular players of his era, “Le Grand Orange” accumulated 292 HR’s and over 2,700 Hits in his career. He was also admired after his playing days for his contributions to numerous charities.

 

> Bob Bailey, Pirates / Dodgers & Expos 3B-OF 1962-1978 – A solid everyday player for over a decade, he hit 189 HR’s and accumulated a WAR number of 28.7.

 

> Wally Moon, Cardinals & Dodgers OF 1954-1965 – Broke in with the Redbirds in ’54 and won the NL Rookie of the Year award. Joined the Dodgers in ’59 and his “Moon Shots” over the short left-field fence helped the team go on to win the World Series. An outstanding all-around player, he even had a Gold Glove on his resume.

 

> Oscar Gamble, Yankees OF 1969-1985 – Played with seven different teams in a 17-year career and hit 200 HR’s. His best season was 1977 with the White Sox where he hit .297 with 31 HR’s & 83 RBI’s. And, of course, he probably had the best Afro in the history of the game.

 

> Ed Charles, A’s & Mets 3B 1962-1969 – Will always be remembered as a member of that amazing ’69 Mets team that won it all.

 

> Tito Francona, Indians OF 1956-1970 – A 15-year major league veteran, his best seasons were in Cleveland where he made the All-Star team in ’61. Coming full circle, his Son Terry is now the Manager of the Tribe.

 

> Bruce Kison, Pirates & Angels P 1971-1985 – One of four Pitchers with 100+ Wins who passed in ’18, he had a lifetime record of 115-88 with a 3.66 ERA.

 

> Marty Pattin, Royals P 1968-1980 – Pitched over 200 innings for four consecutive seasons in the early 70’s. Ended up 114-109 with 25 Saves and a 3.62 ERA.

 

> Tony Cloninger, Braves & Reds P 1961-1972 – His lifetime record of 113-97 is certainly worthwhile, but his claim to fame will always be that July game in 1966 at Candlestick Park when he hit two Grand Slam HR’s and had nine (9) RBI’s.

 

> Billy O’Dell, Orioles & Giants P 1954-1967 – An impressive 3.29 ERA goes with his 105-100 record. Made two AL All-Star teams in the 50’s and recorded 19 Wins for the ’62 Giants.

 

92 former big-leaguers died in 2018 and if you’re a real fan, you’ll remember many of them. There were guys who played in the early 50’s like Tom Brewer, Dick Cole, Sammy Esposito & Dean Stone, guys who were more infamous than famous like Jack Hamilton, guys with famous names like John Kennedy and guys with nicknames like “Doc” Edwards & “Moose” Stubing. And, a few more who played at least ten seasons in the majors like Bob Barton, Dave Nelson, Ed Roebuck, Carl Scheib, Lee Stange & Luis Valbuena.

 

They’re all part of the history because they were all in the “Show”.

 

 

 

Double Digit Uniformity

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In a previous visit, we reviewed the history of uniform numbers in baseball and listed the best players to wear a single digit on their back. Needless to say, the rookie cards of some of those legends (including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Stan Musial) would put a huge dent in your wallet, but as we move into double digit numbers, you’ll find that a home equity loan may still be necessary.

 

Today, we’ll look at numbers 10-25 and, as before, the value of the cards is based on Near Mint (NM 7) condition.

 

> #10 Lefty Grove, Athletics & Red Sox Pitcher – This Hall of Famer won 300 games and led the American League in ERA Nine (9) times in the 1920’s & 30’s. His rookie card is from 1933 Goudey (#220) and is valued at $900. Other candidates include Phil Rizzuto and Andre Dawson.

 

> #11 Carl Hubbell, Giants Pitcher – “King Carl” had a lifetime ERA under 3 and won two National League MVP Awards in the 1930’s. He will always be remembered for the greatest pitching performance in All-Star Game history when in 1934, he struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons & Joe Cronin in succession. All five were future Hall of Famers. Hubbell has two cards in the ’33 Goudey set (#’s 230 & 234) and they are each worth over $600. Luis Aparicio and Paul Waner also wore #11.

 

> #12  Roberto Alomar, Indians & Blue Jays 2B – Arguably, the best fielding 2B of the modern era, he won ten (10) Gold Gloves and accumulated over 2,700 Hits on his way to Cooperstown. His best rookie card is from 1988 Score (#105T) and can be had for less than $10, which is a reflection of the over-production during that time.

 

#13 Alex Rodriguez, Yankees 3B – His reputation has gone into the porcelain commode and there’s no doubt that he’s a polarizing figure, but we’re reluctantly putting him on the list. There are numerous rookie cards of him from 1994, ranging in price from $10 to $50. If this choice causes you to slightly throw up in your mouth, go with the 1971 Topps card of Dave Concepcion (#14), which books for about $25.

 

> #14 Ernie Banks, Cubs SS & Pete Rose, Reds 2B/OF – Can you really choose between these two iconic ballplayers? “Mr. Cub” has his rookie card in the 1954 Topps set (#94) and it will set you back $2,500. “Charlie Hustle” can be found as a rookie in the 1963 edition of Topps (#537) and the card books for about $1,400. If you’re a Rose fan, opt for his 1964 card (#125), which is much nicer visually and is only valued at $350.

 

#15 Thurman Munson, Yankees C – The Yankees Captain shared his rookie card in the 1970 Topps set (#189) with Dave McDonald and it books for $80. A better option is Munson’s 1971 Topps card (#5), which books even higher at $220 due to the condition-sensitive black borders. Another #15 of note was Dick Allen.

 

#16 Whitey Ford, Yankees Pitcher – One of the great post-season hurlers in history, he won ten (10) World series games with a 2.71 ERA and had a .690 lifetime winning percentage. His rookie card from the 1951 Bowman set (#1) is worth $1,850 in near mint condition. The price is reflective not only of his career but because  the first (and last) card in vintage sets is always difficult to find in good condition. Why, you ask? Because kids would put rubber bands around their cards, significantly damaging the top and bottom card. One other notable Pitcher to wear this number was Hal Newhouser.

 

#17 Dizzy Dean, Cardinals Pitcher – This great right-hander had a record of 30-7 in 1934 and won two more games in the World Series. That performance won him the National League MVP and he followed up with a 28-12 mark in 1935. One of the colorful characters of the game, he later became a well-known broadcaster. His rookie card from 1933 Goudey (#223) books for $1,400.

 

#18 Ted Kluszewski, Reds 1B – “Big Klu” was a great slugger and hit 40+ Home Runs for three consecutive seasons in the mid-50’s. His rookie card can be found in the 1948 Leaf set (#38) and is valued at $275. Other #18’s of note include Moises Alou and Mel Harder.

 

#19 Bob Feller, Indians Pitcher – “Rapid Robert” had one of the great fastballs ever and won 266 games while missing 3+ years serving in World War II. There are two cards of his in the 1938 Goudey “Heads-Up” set (#’s 264 & 288) and they’ll set you back about $3,300 in total. In the modern era, both Tony Gwynn and Robin Yount wore #19.

 

#20 Frank Robinson, Reds & Orioles OF – A very tough call, but this marvelous player won MVP Awards in both leagues, had over 2,900 Hits and slugged 586 Home Runs. In addition, he became the first major league Black Manager in 1975 and ended up managing for 16 seasons. 1957 Topps is where you’ll find his rookie card (#35) and it books for $325. You could certainly make a case for Mike Schmidt, Lou Brock or Pie Traynor.

 

#21 Roberto Clemente, Pirates OF – An amazing player and still idolized by millions in his native Puerto Rico. A .317 lifetime batting average, 3,000 hits and 11 Gold Gloves only scratch the surface of his talent. A near mint 1955 Topps card of his (#164) is worth $7,500 and has increased in value dramatically over the last few years. Other 21’s include Warren Spahn, Sammy Sosa & Roger Clemens.

 

#22 Jim Palmer, Orioles Pitcher – Three (3) Cy Young Awards and eight (8) 20-win seasons cement his Hall of Fame credentials. The 1966 Topps set has the rookie card (#126) and it books for $95.

 

#23 Ryne Sandberg, Cubs 2B – This ten-time All-Star also won eight (8) consecutive Gold Gloves on his way to the Hall of Fame. There are three rookie cards from 1983, but look for the Topps issue (#83) at about $10. Don Mattingly also wore this number.

 

#24 Willie Mays, Giants OF – Maybe the best all-around player of all time, the “Say Hey Kid” was a joy to watch with his unique flair for the game. A 1951 Bowman rookie card (#305) from the scarcer high-number series will set you back about $12,000. Ken Griffey Jr. & Rickey Henderson share the uniform number.

 

#25 Barry Bonds, Pirates & Giants OF – No matter what you think of him, he was the most dominant player of his era. Due to the proliferation of cards in the 80’s, there are numerous rookie cards in both 1986 & ’87. The ’86 Topps Traded card (#11T) books for less than $10.

 

Hope some of your favorites were included…best of luck with that loan application.

 

The Hall With It

'92 Rivera 9

This column is being penned during the holiday season and before you know it, the Hall of Fame ballot results will be out there for everyone to digest and debate. As usual, this will be a contentious decision-making process for the baseball writers and reading through the thoughts of various eligible voters, one thing is clear…nobody agrees on anything! This isn’t surprising because in speaking with scores of fans over the last few months, I’ve found the same can be said of their opinions. From people who would put the maximum of ten players on their imaginary ballot to those who want to make some sort of statement by leaving the ballot blank to everywhere in between. The PED issue has muddied the waters to such an extent, there is no right or wrong answer. The only position that is stupid, is the one where a fan says, “steroids don’t matter that much, you still need to hit the ball.” All those people don’t have the basic math skills to understand that a 370 foot fly ball out becomes a 390 foot Home Run with only a 5% difference in bat speed and strength.

 

Of course, before looking at the BBWAA ballot, we must digest the results of the Veteran’s Committee. Until last year, no player had been added to the Hall from this process since Ron Santo in 2012. Last time, Jack Morris & Alan Trammell got the honor and now, we have the additions of Harold Baines & Lee Smith. The opinions and feedback on these choices has been interesting and varied. I never had Morris on my list, but thought Trammell had been overlooked for years…if you don’t think he’s as good as Barry Larkin, you haven’t watched enough baseball. This time, I can’t agree with the Baines selection but might be swayed on Smith…when he retired, he had the most Saves in the history of the game. Interestingly, if there hadn’t been player strikes in 1981 & 1994, Baines easily surpasses 3,000 hits and maybe that changes the conversation for some skeptics?

 

Based on a recent survey utilizing ballots made public early in the process, there seems to be a reasonable chance that a number of players will be elected by the writers in 2019 and despite the feelings of Joe Morgan and others, that could include the possibility of Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens. Won’t that be great fun for the fans who have already made plans to travel to Cooperstown for induction weekend? With all this as a backdrop, the Old Duck will enter the fray and share with you his mythical Hall of Fame ballot. One thing I know for sure…nobody will agree with me.

 

 

> Edgar Martinez, YES – The argument against the DH doesn’t hold any more credence than the one against relief pitchers did ten years ago. The best at every position belong in the Hall. His lifetime OPS of .933 is better than Mike Piazza and the WAR of 68 seals the deal. Last year’s vote tally was 70.4% (induction requires 75%) and this is his last year on the ballot.

 

> Roger Clemens, NO – Yes, he was probably a Hall of Fame player without steroids and yes, he will get in someday, but sometimes you must make a stand. If Robby Alomar had to wait a year for spitting on an umpire, this arrogant jerk should have to wait a few years for each needle-marked cheek. Went from 54.1% in ’17 to 57.3% last year.

 

> Barry Bonds, NO – Same comment as Clemens. Was at 56.4% last year.

 

> Mike Mussina, YES – This is one of the tougher choices, but the overall numbers are very impressive…270 Wins and a WAR of 83 are both better than Curt Schilling. Once Jack Morris got in, his vote count improved from 51.8% in ’17 to 63.5% in ’18.

 

 

> Curt Schilling, NO – One of those marginal guys with 216 Wins, his lifetime WAR of 76 is very impressive and higher than many Pitchers already enshrined. While it isn’t fair, his political comments will probably impact the voting. He was behind Mussina last time at 51.2%.

 

> Omar Vizquel, YES – Only received 37% in his first year of eligibility, but he captured 11 Gold Gloves and contributed 2,877 hits…11 more than Baines!

 

> Larry Walker, NO – Another player who may be more appreciated as the years roll on, but the Colorado factor makes it difficult to determine his real credentials…last year’s number was up from 21.9% to 34.1%

 

> Fred McGriff, NO – As time goes on and voters have a chance to digest his numbers prior to the PED era, more consideration might come his way. At this point, he’s not gaining traction with 21.7% in ’17 and 23.2% last year.

 

> Manny Ramirez, NO – Surprisingly garnered 23.8% in his first year of eligibility but dropped to 22% last year, as he was caught cheating on multiple occasions. Maybe his use of female hormones can get him into the “League of Their Own” wing.

 

> Jeff Kent, NO – His credibility has more to do with his position (2B) than his performance. Went down in support from 16.7% to 14.5%.

 

> Gary Sheffield, NO – His cumulative totals of 509 HR’s and a 60.3 WAR are impressive but they’re watered down by the era in which he played. Also impacted by a lack of fan loyalty because he played for eight different franchises. The 2017 number of 13.3% went down to 11.1%.

 

> Billy Wagner, NO – Had an outstanding career but overshadowed by Rivera, Hoffman and others…received 10.2% in ’17 and 11.1% in ’18.

 

> Scott Rolen, NO – A very good player (like Baines) but not a great player. 2018 was his first year on the ballot and the support was 10.2%.

 

> Sammy Sosa, NO – Got 7.8% of the vote last year…everyone feels he had help. He will, however get more votes than Chico Esquela.

 

> Andruw Jones, NO – 7.3% in your first year doesn’t bode well for the future.

 

 

Only three of my ten spots are filled but that seems reasonable. For the record, I’ve never understood writers who make players wait for their vote because they seem to think there’s a difference in “First-Ballot” Hall of Famers. So, a first-timer will also get my vote…

 

> Mariano Rivera, YES – The best in history at what he did…652 Saves and a 56.2 WAR.

 

Lots of other familiar names are first-time eligible this time around including Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte and Lance Berkman. Any of them get your vote?

 

There’s my ballot… Martinez, Mussina, Vizquel & Rivera. A great class…with great class.