The Big Baseball Card Box – Row 1

In order to be a “Power Seller” of baseball cards on eBay, you don’t necessarily have to be a baseball fan…but it sure makes life more interesting.

 

Each year, tens of thousands of baseball cards go through my hands and are viewed by these weary eyes. Sometimes, it’s a collection I have purchased from a private party. Other times, it might be a collection that someone has acquired and they want my opinion on the value. And, occasionally, I act as a conduit between people who are selling and buying cards. In all of these cases, the first thing to know that is that 95+% of the cards have no real value. They represent players known in the business as “commons” and even though every card has a book price, they are basically worthless in the marketplace.

 

For a real fan, however, there is no such thing as a “common” player because there’s a story behind every photo on every card. So, whenever this type of “junk” collection comes my way, I revert to being a fan. One of my clients dropped off a small collection last week and included was a 5,000-count box that he said had “nothing of value”. I’m still going to look through the cards but instead of having any monetary expectation, the history of small stories and legends fill my brain. The first row included baseball cards from the late 70’s, so let’s see who was found.

 

1979 Topps

 

> #31…Tom House, Mariners Pitcher – After nine years in the majors, he had only won 29 games. Later, however, he became one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game and even helped NFL QB’s with their throwing techniques. And, of course, in 1975 he was in the Braves bullpen and caught Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run ball.

 

> #94…Len Barker, Rangers Pitcher – His record in ’78 was 1-5 with a 4.85 ERA, but in 1979 he was traded to the Indians and in 1981, he became one of only 23 players in history to pitch a perfect game.

 

> #309…Ralph Garr, White Sox OF – This back-story was told recently at a SABR meeting attended by Mike Port and Roland Hemond. The Angels were battling for the AL West title in September of 1979 when their DH Willie Aikens got injured, putting them in desperate need of a LH bat for the stretch drive. Port, the Angels Assistant GM called Hemond, the White Sox GM, and made a cash offer for Garr that was only valid if the player could be in Kansas City that night for the Angels game. The White Sox were starting a road-trip and flying to Seattle, so Roland had to get to O’Hare Airport in time to get Ralph off the Sox charter and across the airport to the KC flight. The deal got done and the Angels won the Division.

 

> #327…Art Howe, Astros 2B – Played for 11 seasons and managed for 14 more, but his legacy will always be the negative portrayal of him by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie “Moneyball”.

 

> #329…Joe Coleman, Blue Jays P – This was his last of 15 seasons in the big leagues. His Dad (also named Joe) pitched in the majors from 1942-55 and his son Casey debuted with the Cubs in 2010.

 

> #399…David Clyde, Indians P – The #1 pick out of High School in the 1973 Amateur Draft, he started 18 games for the Rangers at age 18 without throwing one pitch in the minor leagues. By 1979, at age 24, he won only 3 games with a ERA of 5.91 and never pitched in the major leagues again.

 

> #442…Doyle Alexander, Rangers P – Pitched 19 seasons and won 194 games. In 1987, the Tigers acquired him from the Braves in August for the stretch drive and he went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA that helped them win the AL East. The obscure minor league player the Braves got in the deal went into the Hall of Fame last year…his name is John Smoltz!

 

> #455…Bill Lee, Red Sox P – His outrageous personality overshadowed his baseball ability and it’s easy to forget that he won 17 games in three consecutive seasons during the mid-70’s. With that being said, he didn’t acquire the nickname “Spaceman” for nothing. He once said, “They asked me about mandatory drug testing. I said I believed in drug testing a long time ago. All through the 60’s, I tested everything”.

 

> #511…Paul Reuschel, Indians P – Being the second best baseball player in the family never makes you famous. Hank Aaron hit 755 HR’s, his brother Tommie hit 13. Rick Reuschel won 214 games in a 19-year career, while Paul won 16 games in five big league seasons.

 

> #605…Rick Monday, Dodgers OF – In 1964, Dodger scout Tommy Lasorda tried to sign this 18 year-old out of Santa Monica High School. The prospect decided to play college baseball at Arizona State and while he was there, MLB instituted the amateur draft. In 1965, Monday was the first player ever picked in this manner by the Kansas City Athletics. He made his major league debut in 1966 and was eventually traded from the Cubs to the Dodgers in 1977. The Dodger Manager at the time? You guessed it…Tommy Lasorda.

 

Maybe some of these names brought back a few memories. As for me…row #2 awaits.

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Fantasy Rookies – Hook, Line & Stinker

For over 30 years, Fantasy players have bought the hype on prospects and overpaid for rookies on major league rosters. We just can’t help it, as the intrigue of finding the next Mike Trout counterbalances that pea-sized portion of our brain that holds the logic. Even Fantasy pundits use axioms such as, “pay for the future, not for the past” and we end up going hard after players with no future. The only efforts we really remember are the ones like drafting Tony Gwynn for $5 in 1984. All the failures drift out of our memory like so many losing weekends in Las Vegas.

 

Well, I’m here to tell you that it will get worse before it gets better. According to one analytic website, 2015 was the best season for rookies in the history of the game. Just look at the list! The top four vote-getters in the NL were Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, Jung-ho Kang & Noah Syndergaard. In the AL, it was Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Miguel Sano & Roberto Osuna. Beyond those top choices, you also had Obubel Herrera, Randal Grichuk, Addison Russell, Joc Pederson, Billy Burns & Eddie Rosario. All of the “extra” guys had a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 2.3 or better. Certainly an unprecedented level of talent.

 

So, how do we curtail our enthusiasm in 2016? Taking on Mr. Spock from Star Trek as a partner would be one solution, but maybe roster research could also help. As we sit here in late January with most of the available free agents in the fold, which rookies will really have the opportunity to get significant playing time this season? Using one of the many “Top 100” lists from the baseball section of the Internet, let’s try to gain some traction as Drafts get closer.

 

> Byron Buxton, Twins OF – Still only 22, he’s been stalled by injuries. Should be the CF and lead-off hitter on opening day, but don’t forget that he hit .209 in 129 MLB AB’s last season…with 6 BB’s & 44 K’s.

 

> Corey Seager, Dodgers SS – Slated to be the team’s everyday SS after a solid AAA campaign and impressive September performance. Let’s not forget, however, that a year ago the same things were being said about Joc Pederson and his Fantasy owners are currently jumping ship.

 

> Steven Matz, Mets P – The #4 starter in the rotation for ’16, this LH was very impressive after his late-season call-up.

 

Are you impressed with these three players? Well, you better be, because after going through the top 50 on the list, I can’t find anyone else who seems like a lock for a job on April 3rd. Pitchers like Lucas Giolito, Julio Urias, Tyler Glasnow & Jose Berrios will still be in the minors. Joey Gallo & Trea Turner don’t have places in the line-up. Yoan Moncada, Brendan Rogers & Dansby Swanson are too far away. Alex Reyes is suspended, J.P. Crawford is injured and small-market teams won’t start the clock on Orlando Arcia, Blake Snell & Bradley Zimmer. That pretty much covers the top 20, so 2016 might not have the firepower to match the previous season. Temper your expectations rather than losing your temper in April.

 

Watching Your P’s & Q’s And The MLE’s

For Fantasy players, prospects are a passion and a plight. This time of year, we scour lists from Baseball America, MLB.com, magazine annuals and numerous websites that claim to have that crystal ball. The reality is that each season’s top 100 list includes a logjam of bums who will never make an impact on your team or their MLB employer. Do the names Rick Ankiel, Paul Wilson, Brandon Wood, Joba Chamberlain & Jesus Montero sound familiar? They should because, over the last 20 years, they’ve each been one of the top three prospects in baseball.

 

In our ongoing quest to find talent, we look at pedigree (in terms of draft position or contract), athleticism, roster opportunity, scouting reports and statistics. One of those statistics should be Major League Equivalents (MLE’s). Originally outlined in 1985 by Bill James, the concept is to evaluate minor league statistics and create a reasonable expectation of how they would correlate to major league performance. A number of analytic sites have formulas in place to determine these outcomes and while no one statistic is carved in granite, it’s another item for your Fantasy toolbox.

 

Looking back at some of the surprising players from 2015, it’s interesting to see what their MLE’s looked like from 2014. It’s a reasonable guess that these guys weren’t highly valued in your Draft last Spring, but they turned out to be the kind of bargains that help win leagues…

 

> Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays OF – Not a top prospect and known more for his glove than his bat, his ’14 minor league numbers equated to a .287 BA, 22 SB’s and a 86% contact rate. His first full major league season resulted in a .278 BA, 25 SB’s and a 79% contact rate.

 

> Greg Bird, Yankees 1B – Those of us who watched him in the 2014 Arizona Fall League knew there was potential. In less than 100 AB’s at AA in ’14, he profiled for 6 HR’s and a 13% walk rate. If you knew that background, his 11 HR’s and 11% walk rate in 157 AB’s after being called up in ’15 were not a surprise.

 

> David Peralta, D’Backs OF – His projected .249 BA in AA early in ’14 wasn’t that impressive on the surface, but a predicted 88% contact rate and above-average power told another tale. After getting called up in ’14, he hit .286 with 8 HR’s and then exploded in ’15 with a .312 BA, 17 HR’s & 78 RBI’s.

 

> Eugenio Suarez, Reds SS – In the Tigers system during .14, his BA equaled .251 but he showed good power potential for an IF. After getting traded to the Reds, he hit .280 with 13 HR’s in less than 400 AB’s.

 

> Kevin Kiermaier, Rays OF – In minor league stops during ’13 & ’14, he profiled as a .265 hitter with good contact skills (80%) and outstanding speed. So, while winning the Gold Glove in ’15, he also rewarded Fantasy owners with .263 BA and 18 SB’s.

 

> J.T. Realmuto, Marlins C – At AA in ’14, his stats equated to .259 BA with exceptional speed at a scarce position. Now the main backstop for Miami, he finished ’15 with a .259 BA, 10 HR’s & 8 SB’s.

 

Wouldn’t you have loved these six guys at single-digit prices in an auction or late round picks in a snake? As we head toward the 2016 season, let’s look at some top prospects with solid MLE’s along with a few that might be flying under the radar. The ranking of the player will be their position on the current MLB.com top 100 prospect list.

 

> Corey Seager, Dodgers SS (#2) – No surprise here with his splashy debut last September. The MLE’s from AAA say a .269 BA with 16 HR’s is a reasonable expectation.

 

> J.P. Crawford, Phillies SS (#5) – A 20 year-old at AA last season, his predicted .241 BA isn’t great, but the 10% walk rate and 88% contact rate tells you about the skills.

 

> Orlando Arcia, Brewers SS (#12) – At AA in ’15, this 21 year-old had stats equivalent to a .297 BA with 23 SB’s.

 

> Manuel Margot, Padres OF (#25) – Acquired from the Red Sox in the Craig Kimbrel, this 20 year-old made it to AA last season and the MLE’s included a .263 BA, 16 SB’s and a 85% contact rate.

 

> Albert Almora, Cubs OF (#89) – Almost forgotten in the Cubs tsunami of prospects, his ’15 season at AA (age 21) shows potential with a .249 projected BA, 87% contact rate and good speed.

 

> Max Kepler, Twins OF (#96) – This German-born player is moving quickly. His MLE’s from AA included a .294 BA with 14 SB’s and a 11% walk rate.

 

> Trey Mancini, Orioles 1B (NR) – The signings of Chris Davis & Mark Trumbo cloud the future but his MLE BA at AA was .332.

 

> Andrew Knapp, Phillies C (NR) – Barely in the Phils top 20 list and certainly behind Jorge Alfaro as a Catching prospect, he still offers switch-hitting power with a MLE BA of .311 at AA.

 

> Trevor Story, Rockies SS (NR) – Troy Tulowitzki is in Toronto and Jose Reyes might be in jail, so he’s a player to watch. At A level in ’15, his MLE’s were .260 BA, 17 HR’s & 16 SB’s.

 

Just for the record, guess who had spectacular MLE’s before being called up last season? Some guy named Carlos Correa.

 

 

 

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

As the calendar turns and baseball fans start counting down the days to when Pitchers and Catchers report, Fantasy players begin to worry more about the Pitchers than the Catchers. When it comes to being successful at this game, the most difficult challenge is always predicting the performance of starting pitchers. There are certainly a dozen or so fairly reliable commodities (think Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and others) but even if you manage to roster one of those stars, you still need 4-5 other rotation members. The inconsistency of these other hurlers equates to finding any tool that might help you draft the SP’s that won’t make you cry by Memorial Day.

 

In an earlier visit, we talked about an advanced pitching metric called “Fielding Independent Pitching” (FIP), which measures what a player’s ERA would have been if the pitcher were to have experienced league average on balls in play. A similar stat called “Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics” (DIPS) addresses the same concept. You can find a pitcher’s FIP at “fangraphs.com” and his DIPS at “espn.com”, but the premise is to determine if a pitcher was lucky or unlucky in a given season. While this is only one measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness, it might help determine if you go the extra dollar (or wait that extra round) when choosing a pitcher in your league.

 

Based on a comparison of ERA versus FIP in 2015, there were 13 SP’s whose ERA should have been at least a half run (0.49) better than the actual results…

 

1) Carlos Carrasco, Indians – 3.63 ERA, 2.84 FIP = .79 differential…seems to be targeted in every trade rumor during the off-season.

 

2) Rick Porcello, Red Sox – 4.92 ERA, 4.13 FIP = .79 differential…two consecutive years on this list, so maybe he’s unlucky and lousy?

 

3) Gio Gonzalez, Nationals – 3.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP = 0.74 differential…the forgotten man in the Nats rotation, so maybe he’ll finally be under-rated instead of over-rated?

 

4) Jeff Samardzija, White Sox – 4.96 ERA, 4.23 FIP = .73 differential…moves to a NL park with big dimensions.

 

5) Chris Sale, White Sox – 3.41 ERA, 2.73 FIP = 0.68 differential…when you watch him pitch, you wonder how he could have a record of only 13-11.

 

6) Wade Miley, Mariners – 4.46 ERA, 3.81 FIP = 0.65 differential…got off to a horrible start in Boston and now moves to a pitcher’s park.

 

7) Kyle Hendricks, Cubs – 3.95 ERA, 3.36 FIP = 0.59 differential…rumors always have the Cubbies looking for another starter and he could be the odd man out, but the numbers say why?

 

8) Jeff Locke, Pirates – 4.49 ERA, 3.95 FIP = 0.54 differential…still not very tempting for a NL starter.

 

9) Corey Kluber, Indians – 3.49 ERA, 2.97 FIP = 0.52 differential…a 9-16 record following a Cy Young season, but there is no issue with the underlying numbers.

 

10) Yordano Ventura, Royals – 4.08 ERA, 3.57 FIP = 0.51 differential…still some upside in that electric arm.

 

11T) Andrew Cashner, Padres – 4.34 ERA, 3.85 FIP = 0.49 differential…based on the expectation, even the FIP was too high pitching in Petco.

 

11T) Taijuan Walker, Mariners – 4.56 ERA, 4.07 FIP = 0.49 differential…same comment as Cashner, with Safeco replacing Petco.

 

11T) Colby Lewis, Rangers – 4.66 ERA, 4.17 FIP = 0.49 differential…neither number should be on your roster.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, there were 12 SP’s who seemed to have luck on their side this past season with ERA’s over 0.49 runs better than expected.

 

1) Marco Estrada, Blue Jays – 3.13 ERA, 4.40 FIP = -1.27 differential…turned these numbers into a 2-year, $26 Million deal.

 

2) Hector Santiago, Angels – 3.59 ERA, 4.57 FIP = -1.18 differential…another suspect in the Halos’ rotation.

 

3) Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks – 1.66 ERA, 2.76 FIP = -1.10 differential…the Snakes would be thrilled with even the FIP number in Chase Field

 

4) John Lackey, Cubs – 2.77 ERA, 3.57 FIP = -.80 differential…moving to the friendly confines won’t help.

 

5) Scott Kazmir, Free Agent – 3.10 ERA, 3.98 FIP = -0.78 differential…moving to a contender and a pitcher’s park, but don’t over-bid.

 

6) Sonny Gray, A’s – 2.73 ERA, 3.45 FIP = -0.72 differential…a really good hurler, but an ERA under 3.00 again might be wishful thinking.

 

7) Jake Arrieta, Cubs – 1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP = -0.58 differential…nothing to worry about here.

 

8) Yovani Gallardo, Free Agent – 3.42 ERA, 4.00 FIP = -0.58 differential…hitting the market at the right time, but will be overpaid.

 

9) R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays – 3.91 ERA, 4.48 FIP = -0.57 differential…durable but hittable.

 

10) James Shields, Padres – 3.91 ERA, 4.45 FIP = -0.54 differential…and this was in a pitcher’s park.

 

11) Mike Leake, Cardinals – 3.70 ERA, 4.20 FIP = -0.50 differential…that $80 Million contract better be for durability because he doesn’t miss bats.

 

12) Michael Wacha, Cardinals – 3.38 ERA, 3.87 FIP = -0.49 differential…don’t expect another 17-7 campaign.

 

So, when your friends want to know what a baseball fanatic does during those cold Winter nights, tell them you’re studying your FIP & DIPS.

Junior Joins The Hall

For baseball fans, the name of a Hall of Fame player brings up instant images from the history of the game. For those of us falling into the category of “vintage” fans, those mental snapshots include moments we actually witnessed such as…

 

> Ted Williams hitting a milestone home run (#400) at Fenway Park.

 

> Being at Angel Stadium the night that George Brett went 4-for-4 to reach 3,000 hits.

 

> Seeing Carl Yastremzski playing left field at the old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in his rookie season.

 

> Hearing Sandy Koufax’s fastball hit the Catcher’s mitt at Dodger Stadium.

 

> Watching Cal Ripken Jr. hit a home run at Camden Yards.

 

> Sitting at Jack Murphy Stadium and having the privilege to see Tony Gwynn hit an opposite field single.

 

For the newest HOF member Ken Griffey Jr., the memory is different because it went unnoticed by history. In the early 90’s, a group of baseball fanatics from Southern California did a Spring Training road-trip to Arizona and took in four games in three days. On a beautiful day at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Angels were hosting the Mariners and some unlucky member of the home team hit a deep drive to left-center field. Junior got a great jump on the ball and ended up making the catch with a head-long dive on the warning track. He proudly showed off the ball to the crowd and then got up and sprinted to the dugout (it was the 3rd out) with a smile that everyone could see. Yes, a meaningless game and a dangerous play by a star player, but it told you everything you needed to know about his enthusiasm and love of the game. I still remember that catch like it was yesterday and it will jump into my consciousness again when he’s at the podium in Cooperstown this Summer.

 

Interestingly, Ken Griffey Jr. also had a profound impact on the baseball card industry. In the February issue of Beckett Baseball Magazine, Dave Sliepka chronicles the background of the turbulent story of baseball cards in the 80’s. As we’ve talked about in previous articles, Topps lost their monopoly of cards in 1980, allowing Donruss & Fleer to enter the market in 1981. By the late 80’s, other companies were entering the fray and collectors were becoming more and more frustrated due to over-production and too many similar products. That all changed in 1989, when a fledgling company called Upper Deck received licensing and started producing sports cards.

 

Putting together their first baseball card in 1989, the company decided to alter the landscape by offering a higher quality collectible with thicker paper stock, beautiful photography and a hologram for authenticity. They even had the audacity to charge $1 a pack, which was more than twice what Topps cards cost at the time. Sliepka describes it as “going from a rotary phone to an iPhone”. Another significant factor in their success, however, was the willingness to take chances. They decided to go out on the limb to feature “prospects”. Other companies had always had “rookie cards” in their sets, but Upper Deck opted to have the first 26 cards in their 700-card offering to be “Star Rookies”.

 

The best decision was to have Ken Griffey Jr. be the #1 card in the set. Today, that seems like a no-brainer but when the calendar turned to 1989, Griffey was only 19 years old and had never played a game above AA. In fact, due to injuries, he only played 75 games in the minors in 1988. To verify how “out of the box” this thinking was, Topps didn’t even include Griffey in their 1989 set. Two members of last year’s HOF class were also in that 26-card subset…John Smoltz & Randy Johnson. However, what would have happened if one of the other prospects had been chosen to be #1, like Doug Dascenzo, Mike Harkey or Felix Jose?

 

Griffey exploded onto the scene in 1989 by hitting 16 HR’s with 61 RBI’s and 16 SB’s to finish 3rd in the Rookie of the Year balloting. And the perfect storm of the Upper Deck set dominated the hobby with the Griffey RC becoming the most popular card. The good news for today’s collectors is that Upper Deck joined the competition in producing mass quantities of the product and you can still buy a factory-sealed set for around $50 on eBay. To show the popularity of the individual Griffey card over the years, grading company PSA has had over 60,000 of them submitted. Only 4% have been determined to be “Gem Mint 10” and if you have one, it’s worth about $300. A “Mint 9” (about 33% of those submitted) books for $45-$50 and a “NM – MT 8” (44%) is worth about $30. The downside to the glossy sheen of this product is that even a card coming out of a sealed pack or set could have enough slight damage to impact the grade. For collectors, this background allows you to own one of the most famous cards in the history of the hobby for a reasonable price.

 

As for me, every time I see the card, it also takes me back to the warning track in Tempe, Arizona.

 

 

Casey Stengel’s Platoon

Casey Stengel’s Platoon

 

 

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. A quick glance at their 2012 roster shows the symmetry. Chris Carter / Brandon Moss at 1B, Jonny Gomes / Seth Smith at OF/DH and numerous other limited AB contributors like Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris and Colin Cowgill. The A’s averaged over 92 wins in 2012-2014 utilizing versions of this formula.

 

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 2015…

 

> Cody Asche, Phillies 3B/OF – .231 BA, .277 OBP

 

> Justin Bour, Marlins 1B – .221 BA, .293 OBP

 

> Jay Bruce, Reds OF – .229 BA, .286 OBP

 

> Kole Calhoun, Angels OF – .220 BA, .293 OBP

 

> Jason Castro, Astros C – .192 BA, .243 OBP

 

> Chris Coghlan, Cubs OF – .116 BA, .208 OBP

 

> Andre Ethier, Dodgers OF – .200 BA, .229 OBP

 

> Carlos Gonzalez, Rockis OF – .195 BA, .222 OBP

 

> Curtis Granderson, Mets OF – .183 BA, .273 OBP

 

> Ryan Howard, Phillies 1B – .130 BA, .176 OBP

 

> Ender Inciarte, D’Backs / Braves OF – .229 BA, .255 OBP

 

> Jake Lamb, D’Backs 3B – .200 BA, .275 OBP

 

> Adam LaRoche, White Sox 1B – .157 BA, .191 OBP

 

> Adam Lind, Brewers / Mariners 1B – .221 BA, .277 OBP

 

> Logan Morrison, Mariners / Rays 1B – .190 BA, .253 OBP

 

> Davis Ortiz, Red Sox DH – .231 BA, .277 OBP

 

> Gerardo Parra, Orioles OF – .238 BA, .296 OBP

 

> Jace Peterson, Braves 2B – .190 BA, .234 OBP

 

> Gregory Polanco, Pirates OF – .190 BA, .250 OBP

 

> Kyle Schwarber, Cubs C/OF – .143 BA, .213 OBP

 

> Denard Span, Nationals OF – .197 BA, .279 OBP

 

> Luis Valbuena, Astros 3B – .158 BA, .265 OBP

 

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. Bour hit 23 HR’s in 2015, but none were against LH…Lind hit 20 HR’s in 2015, but also had zero against southpaws…Bruce was at 4 of 26…CarGo hit 5 of 40…Granderson slugged 2 of 26 and the list goes on.

 

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

 

> Christian Yelich, Marlins OF – .288 BA, .347 OBP

 

> Joey Votto, Reds 1B – .331 BA, .467 OBP

 

> Travis Shaw, Red Sox 1B – .329 BA, .353 OBP

 

> Kyle Seager, Mariners 3B – .297 BA, .324 OBP

 

> Eddie Rosario, Twins OF – .289 BA, .311 OBP

 

> Anthony Rizzo, Cubs 1B – .294 BA, .409 OBP

 

> Joe Panik, Giants 2B – .291 BA, .374 OBP

 

> Mike Moustakas, Royals 3B – .282 BA, .338 OBP

 

> Eric Hosmer, Royals 1B – .279 BA, .332 OBP

 

> Jason Heyward, Cardinals / Cubs OF – .272 BA, .344 OBP

 

> Bryce Harper, Nationals OF – .318 BA, .434 OBP

 

> Dee Gordon, Marlins 2B – .350 BA, .373 OBP

 

> Alex Gordon, Royals OF – .280 BA, .377 OBP

 

> Brett Gardner, Yankees OF – .276 BA, .361 OBP

 

> Lucas Duda, Mets 1B – .285 BA, .333 OBP

 

> Michael Brantley, Indians OF – .294 BA, .346 OBP

 

> Nori Aoki, Giants / Mariners OF – .333 BA, .400 OBP

 

Just what you need, another calculation to include in your 2016 player analysis. Sort of like giving a golfer one more swing-thought.

Riding With Roland

Riding With Roland

 

 

 

One of the great things about baseball is that it still brings excitement to fans whether they’re 7 or 70. And, no matter when it happened, you’ll always remember that time you got to meet an icon of the game. For some, it’s that autographed baseball you got from your favorite player. For others, it was the chance to talk with a player, coach or manager during Spring Training or at a sports function. Or maybe you had the unique opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with someone whose plaque hangs in Cooperstown.

 

My retirement community has a very active Sports Club filled with the most knowledgeable baseball fans you’ll ever meet. We attend a number of games at Chase Field in Phoenix each season and also gather at local ballparks for Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League. In addition, at least a dozen times each year, we are privileged to have guest speakers who give of their time and come talk with us about the national pastime. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to host Fergie Jenkins, Matt Williams, Josh Hamilton, John D’Acquisto, Peter Magowan (former owner of the Giants), Jeff Idelson (HOF President) Bernie Pleskoff (MLB.com writer), Daron Sutton, legendary scouts Art Stewart & Mel Didier as well as many others.

 

Of all our visitors over the last decade, the most frequent and most accommodating has been Roland Hemond, Special Assistant to the President & CEO of the Diamondbacks. He has made multiple presentations to the Club, has attended numerous functions and has also used his influence to bring in other speakers. At our recent holiday party, Roland was a featured guest and received a plaque from the group in thanks of his contributions over the years. I had the enviable task of picking him up at his Phoenix home for the 45-minute drive out to our community, which allowed me to talk baseball with one of the most famous executives in the history of the game. Of course, a few detours would have helped because his first big-league job was in 1952.

 

Talking with Roland is akin to attending a class in baseball history. In 1949, he was in the Coast Guard and stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Along with 68,000 other people, he was in Yankee Stadium on October 2nd for the one-game playoff for the American League Pennant between the Yankees & Red Sox. In the car last week, he gave me a virtual play-by play of the game from Ellis Kinder’s tough luck loss (allowing only one run in 7 innings for the Sox) to Jerry Coleman’s 3 RBI’s in the bottom of the 8th that put the game out of reach for the Yanks. We also came to the realization that “small world” moments are always part of the game. Roland’s first big league job was with the Boston Braves in 1952 and he admitted that occasionally, he would sneak over to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox and the great stars of the American League. There’s a good chance that a six-year old boy was also in attendance, as that’s the same year my Uncle first began taking me to the ballpark.

 

So, for the casual fan, who is Roland Hemond? The resume is impressive…

 

> 1952-60 – Worked in the front office of the Boston/Milwaukee Braves (Eddie Mathews’ rookie year was ’52, Hank Aaron’s was ’54).

 

> Scouting and Farm Director of the expansion Los Angeles Angels from 1961-70.

 

> Became the Assistant GM of the White Sox in 1971 was the GM from 1973-85.

 

> General Manager of the Orioles from 1988-95.

 

> Senior Executive VP for the Diamondbacks from 1996-2000.

 

> Executive Advisor for the White Sox from 2000-07 and then back to the D’Backs in 2008.

 

> Considered the architect of the Arizona Fall League, which began in 1992 and is still recognized as the premier developmental program in baseball.

 

His success and reputation in the game can be measured by the awards he has received….

 

> Selected as MLB’s Executive of the Year three times (1972, 1983 & 1989).

 

> The New York baseball writers presented him with the prestigious William J. Slocumb Award.

 

> The Honors Award from the Baseball Coaches of America.

 

> In 2011, the Baseball Hall of Fame selected him as only the second recipient of the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary efforts to enhance the game’s positive impact on society. Presented in Cooperstown, the honor is bestowed upon an individual whose efforts broadened the game’s appeal and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the late O’Neil, the former negro league player who passed away in 2006 at age 94.

 

You would think that a person with this history might be slightly full of himself, but if you meet Roland, you find that the exact opposite is true. During our visit, he told a little tale on himself from the 1970’s. One of the other AL teams was attempting to get a pitcher through waivers late in the season, so they could trade him to a contender. Sometimes teams will put in a claim in these situations in order to block the prospective deal and then the original team will just pull the player back. Roland put in the waiver claim and then the team didn’t pull back the player. When he informed his staff, the first thing they said was, “where are we going to get the $20,000 for the claim?” If that doesn’t show you how the business of baseball has changed in the last 40 years, nothing will. Of course, they found the money and the Pitcher won 20 games in both of the next two seasons.

 

Roland’s mlb.com bio also tells you about what it was like to be a GM in during that 25+ year span. The stats say that he negotiated 135 trades involving 428 players. In just the first few years in Chicago, there were deals including Ron Santo, Dick Allen & Goose Gossage. During his Orioles tenure, trades show the names of Brady Anderson, Curt Schilling, Fred Lynn & Harold Baines. The best piece of trivia, however, might be that in 1976, Roland traded Tony LaRussa.

 

The history of the game comes in many shapes & sizes…and people. It’s nice to know that even men who didn’t wear the uniform can still be baseball treasures.