Saturday, December 5, 2020

Goodbye Tzu-Wei Lin

Well I am officially ending another mini player collection now, though it will not stop me from picking up Red Sox cards of him if they should catch my attention.  Tzu-Wei Lin has signed a minor league contract with the Twins after being let go this offseason.  I kind of suspected this was going to happen, but I had hoped Boston would re-sign him due to his versatility.  Lin has not done much with the bat the last couple of seasons, so his time was limited.  In 101 games with the Red Sox, he has hit .223/.298/.316 with one home run, 12 RBIs and two stolen bases.  Not the kind of numbers that keep one in the Majors.  It has been his versatility that has been his best quality though.  Lin has appeared at every position except for first base.  Yes, he has even caught and pitched.  

I am very disappointed this has happened, but not surprised.  I wish him luck, and maybe he could return at some point. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Diamond King Roundup: 1995

I am doing something a little different with this series. I have mentioned before that the Diamond Kings subset is one of my favorites of all time. The purpose of the subset is to highlight one player from each team who has made a big impact on the team. It is also true that sometimes the choices were a little suspect. I wanted to go through and look at the choices each year and determine which are the strangest choices. Then I will grade the picks in the context of the team, only. For this series, I only want to examine the years when there was one pick per team. In the mid 1990's, the set kind of went off the rails.

 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX - FRANK THOMAS


For the second year in a row, Thomas was named the A.L. MVP in 1994.  He led the league in runs scored (106), walks (109), on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (1.217).  He hit .353/.487/.729 with 38 home runs and 101 RBIs in the strike-shortened season.  He was also an All Star and won the Silver Slugger.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  By far.  Thomas was terrific in 1994 and the team's WAR leader by almost three wins.  Jack McDowell was second on the team in WAR.  He had a 10-9 record with a 3.73 ERA, striking out 127 and walking 42 in 181 innings pitched.  Wilson Alvarez was third with a record of 12-8 and a 3.45 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 62 walks in 161.2 innings pitched.  Among other hitters, Robin Ventura hit .282/.373/.459 with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs.  The ageless Julio Franco hit .319/.406/.510 with 20 home runs and 98 RBIs.

GRADE: A.  Thomas was an easy choice here.  He had a monster season in 1993 that would have been even better had it been a full season. 


HOUSTON ASTROS - JEFF BAGWELL


Bagwell was the N.L. MVP, an All Star and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.  Bagwell led the league in runs scored (104), RBIs (116), slugging percentage, OPS (1.201) and total bases (300).  He hit .368/.451/.750 with 147 hits, 39 home runs and 15 stolen bases.  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Bagwell was the league leader in WAR for position players.  Craig Biggio was second, hitting .318/.411/.483 with six home runs and 56 RBIs.  He led the league in doubles (44) and stolen bases (39) and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.  Doug Drabek was third in WAR, making his first All Star team and finishing with a 12-8 record and a 2.84 ERA.  He struck out 121 and walked 45 in 164.2 innings pitched.  Ken Caminiti had a big season as well, hitting .283/.352/.495 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs.

GRADE: A.  This one is really easy.  Bagwell was easily the best player in the league in 1994, much less the team.


CALIFORNIA ANGELS - CHILI DAVIS


Davis was an All Star in 1994, for the first time since 1986.  The Angels' designated hitter hit .311/.410/.561.  He led the team in average and slugging percentage as well as runs scored (72), hits (122), home runs (26), RBIs (84) and walks (69).  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Davis was actually second in WAR, behind Chuck Finley, but Davis's traditional numbers look much better.  Finley had a record of 10-10 with a 4.32 ERA.  He struck out 148 batters while walking 71 in 183.1 innings pitched.  In third place was Tim Salmon, who hit .287/.382/.531 with 23 home runs and 70 RBIs.  Spike Owen had a surprisingly good season, hitting .310/.418/.422.

GRADE: A.  As I said, Chuck Finley had the better WAR, but Davis had much more impressive traditional stats and was close enough in WAR to give it to him.


COLORADO ROCKIES - DANTE BICHETTE


Bichette led the league in games played (116) and at-bats (484).  He made his first All Star team and hit .304/.334/.548 with 147 hits, 74 runs scored, 33 doubles, 27 home runs, 95 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.  Bichette led the team in hits, doubles, RBIs and stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Bichette was kind of a terrible defensive player, so his WAR ended up being eighth on the team.  The team's WAR leader was Marvin Freeman, who pitched in just 19 games, but had a record of 10-2 with a 2.80 ERA.  He struck out 67 batters while walking 23 in 112.2 innings pitched.  Freeman led the league in winning percentage.  Andres Galarraga was the team's best position player as he hit .319/.356/.592 with 31 home runs and 85 RBIs.  He led the team in slugging, home runs and runs scored (77).  Mike Kingery was third as he somehow hit .349/.402/.532.

GRADE: C+.  Bichette was decent and certainly had some good numbers, but he mostly trailed Andres Galarraga.  Marvin Freeman came out of nowhere to put up terrific numbers as well.  


OAKLAND ATHLETICS - RUBEN SIERRA


Sierra was an All Star and received some low MVP support in 1994.  He hit .268/.298/.484 and led the team in hits (114), home runs (23) and RBIs (92).  He also contributed 71 runs scored, 21 doubles, one triple and eight stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Sierra was not among the top 12 in WAR for the A's in 1994.  He was third in OPS and fourth in OPS+.  The team's WAR leader was Stan Javier, primarily due to his defense.  Javier hit .272/.349/.399 with ten home runs, 44 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.  Rickey Henderson was second, after hitting .260/.411/.365 and stealing 22 bases.  Steve Ontiveros won the ERA title despite starting just 13 games out of 27 games pitched.  He had a 6-4 record and a 2.65 ERA in 115.1 innings pitched.  Among the more impressive hitters were Geronimo Berroa (.306/.379/.485, 13 home runs, 65 RBIs), Troy Neel (.266/.357/.475, 15 home runs, 48 RBIs) and Terry Steinbach (.285/.327/.442, 11 home runs, 57 RBIs).

GRADE: C+.  This could have been lower, but the A's did not have a lot of great candidates.  This probably could have been a career achievement Diamond King for Rickey Henderson or Dennis Eckersley.  Sierra did lead the team in home runs and RBIs though.


FLORIDA MARLINS - JEFF CONINE


Conine, who was selected in the expansion draft because the Royals really wanted to keep David Howard for some reason, was selected to the All Star Game for the first time in 1994.  He led the Marlins in several statistical categories including hits (144), doubles (27), RBIs (82) and batting average.  He hit .319/.373/.525 and hit 18 home runs.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Conine was first on the team in WAR.  In second place was third-baseman Jerry Browne, who hit .295/.392/.398.  Gary Sheffield was third, hitting .276/.380/.584 with 27 home runs, 78 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.  Robb Nen turned in a nice season as the closer, with a 2.95 ERA, 15 saves and 60 strikeouts to 17 walks in 58 innings pitched.

GRADE: A.  Conine was on his way to becoming "Mr. Marlin" and turned in a great all-around season.


NEW YORK YANKEES - PAUL O'NEILL


O'Neill won the batting title in 1994.  He was named to the All Star team and finished fifth in the A.L. MVP vote.  O'Neill hit .359/.460/.603 and led the team in home runs (21), RBIs (83) and hits (132).  O'Neill also scored 68 runs and hit 25 doubles.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  While he was third on the team in WAR, he was only 0.2 behind the leader, and he was first in OPS.  The batting title pushes him over the edge.  Wade Boggs was first in WAR, hitting .342/.433/.489 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs.  Boggs won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards and was an All Star.  Jimmy Key was second with a record of 17-4 and a 3.27 ERA in 168 innings pitched.  Key led the league in wins and finished second in the Cy Young vote.  Mike Stanley had another good season, hitting .300/.384/.545 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs.

GRADE: A.  I am giving this one to Donruss, although I do think Jimmy Key had a very good argument.  Key was never a Diamond King and there were several seasons he probably deserved it.


NEW YORK METS - BOBBY BONILLA


Bonilla hit .290/.374/.504 while moving permanently to third base (for the season anyway).  Bonilla led the Mets in runs scored (60), doubles (24), home runs (20), on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (.878).  He was second in hits (117) and RBIs (67).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Bonilla was second on the team in WAR, but was nearly three wins behind Bret Saberhagen.  Saberhagen made a big comeback to be named to the All Star team and finish third in the Cy Young vote.  He went 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA, striking out 143 and walking just 13 in 177.1 innings pitched.  Jeff Kent was third on the team in WAR, hitting .292/.341/.475 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs.  Bobby Jones was fourth, with a record of 12-7 and a 3.15 ERA.

GRADE: B.  Bret Saberhagen would have been a clearly better choice here, but Bonilla had a good year.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS - JOE CARTER


Carter was an All Star and finished tenth in the MVP race.  Carter hit .271/.317/.524 and led the Blue Jays in slugging percentage, home runs (27) and RBIs (103).  He had 70 runs scored, 118 hits, 25 doubles, two triples and eleven stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Carter was not among the top 12 on the team in WAR, due to his poor defense and was fourth in OPS due to his low on-base percentage.  Pat Hentgen was the team's WAR leader, finishing with a record of 13-8 with a 3.40 ERA.  He struck out 147 and walked 59 in 174.1 innings pitched.  He was an All Star in 1994.  Paul Molitor was the team's best hitter, with a stat line of .341/.410/.518 with 14 home runs, 75 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.  Molitor was also an All Star.  John Olerud hit .297/.393/.477 with 12 home runs and 67 RBIs.  Roberto Alomar hit .306/.386/.452.

GRADE: C.  Donruss was kind of blinded by the home runs and RBIs here.  Carter was one of the more overrated players in history and was simply not that good beyond his power.  The RBIs are a result of hitting behind players like Paul Molitor who were constantly on base.  Pat Hentgen or Molitor should have been the selection.


MONTREAL EXPOS - MOISES ALOU


Alou finished third in the MVP vote in 1994.  He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger Award.  Alou hit .339/.397/.592, leading the team in all three categories.  He was also the team leader in hits (143), triples (five) and home runs (22).  He drove in 78 runs and scored 81.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Alou tied for the lead in WAR, but had a significantly higher OPS than the player he tied.  Marquis Grissom was that player, hitting .288/.344/.427 with eleven home runs, 45 RBIs, 96 runs scored and 36 stolen bases.  Larry Walker was not far behind, hitting .322/.394/.587 with 19 home runs, 85 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.  Among pitchers, Ken Hill had the best season, going 16-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 154.2 innings pitched.

GRADE: A.  This time Alou deserved it.  1994 was kind of the last gasp for the Expos and the team would be broken up over the next couple seasons.


CLEVELAND INDIANS - KENNY LOFTON


Lofton was an All Star and a Gold Glove winner while finishing fourth in the A.L. MVP race.  Lofton hit .349/.412/.536 and led the league in hits (160) and stolen bases (60).  He scored 105 runs, and hit 32 doubles, nine triples and 12 home runs.  He drove in 57 runs.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Lofton was the team's WAR leader behind his massive offensive season and his impressive defense.  Albert Belle was second and had another huge season, hitting .357/.438/.714 with 36 home runs, 101 RBIs and led the league in total bases (294).  Dennis Martinez was the team's best pitcher.  He had a record of 11-6 with a 3.52 ERA in 176.2 innings pitched.  Carlos Baerga hit .314/.333/.525 with 19 home runs and 80 RBIs.  

GRADE: A.  Lofton was extremely impressive in 1994 and stood out among all of the great players on this team.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS - MATT WILLIAMS


One of the big stories behind the strike in 1994 was not being able to see whether Williams would challenge the single season home run record.  He led the Majors with 43 home runs and hit .267/.319/.607 and drove in 96 runs.  He was an All Star and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.  He was the runner-up for N.L. MVP.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  As good as Williams was, Barry Bonds was better.  Bonds hit .312/.426/.647 with 37 home runs, 81 RBIs and 29 stolen bases.  He was fourth in the MVP vote and only trailed Williams in home runs and RBIs.  Mike Jackson had a terrific season out of the bullpen with a 1.49 ERA, 51 strikeouts and eleven walks in 42.1 innings pitched over 36 games.  Rod Beck saved 28 games and had a 2.77 ERA.

GRADE: B+.  I get what Donruss was thinking with Williams.  The home runs were certainly impressive, but Barry Bonds was not THAT far behind and was a significantly better all-around hitter.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS - KEVIN SEITZER


Seitzer missed a little bit of time in 1994, but he led the Brewers in average and on-base percentage.  He hit .314/.375/.453 with five home runs and 49 RBIs.  Seitzer also had 97 hits, 44 runs scored, 24 doubles, two triples and two stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Seitzer was 11th on the team in WAR since he was kind of a brutal defensive third-baseman.  He was the OPS leader though.  Ricky Bones was the team's WAR leader.  He had a record of 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA, striking out 57 and walking 45 in 170.2 innings pitched.  Greg Vaughn was the team's home run leader, hitting 19 home runs and contributing a line of .254/.345/.478.  He drove in 55 runs.  Dave Nilsson led the team in hits (109), doubles (28) and RBIs (69), while hitting .275/.326/.451.  

GRADE: B.  This one is tough.  Looking solely at WAR, this is a bad pick but Seitzer's average does kind of stand out and no one else really does.  The Brewers were not very good in 1994.  Ricky Bones probably has a better argument, but I cannot really say that the Seitzer pick was truly wrong.


CHICAGO CUBS - SAMMY SOSA


Sosa hit .300/.339/.545 in 1994, career highs in all three categories to that point.  He led the Cubs in average and slugging percentage.  Sosa also led the Cubs in runs scored (59), hits (128), triples (six), home runs (25), RBIs (70) and stolen bases (22).  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Sosa had the best season of his career to that point, and was easily the best player on the team.  He was the team's WAR leader.  Steve Trachsel was second behind a record of 9-7 and a 3.21 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 54 walks in 146 innings pitched.  Mark Grace was third and was the only other hitter with a positive OPS+.  Grace hit .298/.370/.414.  

GRADE: A.  Sosa was really the only reasonable choice.  He had a great season when everyone else was just kind of average.


BOSTON RED SOX - SCOTT COOPER


Cooper was an All Star for the second season in a row, and was the team's only representative both seasons.  He hit .282/.333/.453 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs.  He also had 104 hits, 16 doubles and 49 runs scored.  He led the team with four triples.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Definitely not.  Cooper was sixth on the team in WAR.  The leader was Roger Clemens, who bounced back after a bad 1993 season to go 9-7 with a 2.85 ERA and 168 strikeouts to 71 walks in 170.2 innings pitched.  John Valentin was second with a batting line of .316/.400/.505 with nine home runs and 49 RBIs while playing good defense at shortstop.  Mo Vaughn was the big slugger, leading the team with 26 home runs and 82 RBIs while hitting .310/.408/.576.  He led the team in OPS (.984) and OPS+ (147).  

GRADE: C.  Cooper was very much an average player in 1994 and was not really the most deserving All Star.  Any one of Roger Clemens, John Valentin or Mo Vaughn would have been better selections.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS - RAUL MONDESI


Mondesi was the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1994, the third straight Dodgers player to win it.  Mondesi hit .306/.333/.516 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs.  He also contributed 63 runs scored, 133 hits, 27 doubles, eight triples and eleven stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Mondesi was eighth on the team in WAR.  Kevin Gross was the leader with a record of 9-7 and a 3.60 ERA.  He led the team in strikeouts (124) while walking 43 in 157.1 innings pitched.  Mike Piazza was second.  In his sophomore year, he hit .319/.370/.541 with 24 home runs and 92 RBIs while finishing sixth in the MVP vote.  Ramon Martinez had a 12-7 record with a 3.97 ERA, 119 strikeouts and 56 walks in 170 innings pitched.  Brett Butler hit .314/.411/.446 and stole 27 bases.  Tim Wallach hit .280/.356/.502 with 23 home runs and 78 RBIs.

GRADE: B.  I could have given this a lower score, but Mondesi's Rookie of the Year was given extra points.  I still think Mike Piazza would have been a clearly better selection.


TEXAS RANGERS - WILL CLARK


In Clark's first season in Texas, he returned to All Star form and received some low-ballot MVP consideration.  Clark hit .329/.431/.501.  He led Rangers hitters in average, on-base percentage, runs scored (73), hits (128) and doubles (24).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes, Clark was the Rangers WAR leader, though he was second slightly in OPS.  Second in WAR was Ivan Rodriguez who blossomed into a good hitter.  Rodriguez hit .298/.360/.488 with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs.  In third place was the OPS leader, Jose Canseco.  Canseco hit .282/.386/.552 with 31 home runs and 90 RBIs.  The team's best pitcher was Kenny Rogers, who had a record of 11-8 with a 4.46 ERA.  He struck out 120 batters and walked 52 in 167.1 innings pitched.

GRADE: A.  Clark returned to the form that made him such a great hitter in San Francisco in his first season in Texas.  


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - LEN DYKSTRA


Dykstra was named to the All Star team, but slumped from his numbers the previous season.  Dykstra hit .273/.404/.435 with five home runs and 24 RBIs.  He scored 68 runs and stole 15 bases to lead the team.  Dykstra also led the Phillies in doubles (26), triples (five) and on-base percentage.  His 86 hits were second.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Dykstra was fifth on the team in WAR and second among hitters in OPS.  Danny Jackson was the WAR leader with a record of 14-6 and a 3.26 ERA.  Jackson struck out 129 and walked 46 in 179.1 innings pitched.  Darren Daulton was the team's best hitter.  He had a slash line of .300/.380/.549 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs.  Closer Doug Jones had a great season, saving 27 games with a 2.17 ERA.  John Kruk hit .302/.395/.427.

GRADE: C+.  Dykstra was not bad in 1994, but he was not great either.  This should have been either Danny Jackson or Darren Daulton.


MINNESOTA TWINS - KIRBY PUCKETT


Puckett finished seventh in the MVP race, was named to the All Star team and won a Silver Slugger Award in 1994.  The center-fielder hit .317/.362/.540 with a team-leading 20 home runs and 112 RBIs.  He also tied for the team lead in hits (139) and accumulated 79 runs scored, 32 doubles, three triples and six stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Puckett was third on the team in WAR and second in OPS.  Chuck Knoblauch was the WAR leader and was an All Star.  He hit .312/.381/.461 with five home runs, 45 doubles, 51 RBIs and stole 35 bases.  Shane Mack was second in WAR and was the OPS leader.  Mack hit .333/.402/.564 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs.  Kevin Tapani was the leading pitcher, with a record of 11-7 but with a 4.62 ERA in 156 innings pitched.

GRADE: B.  Puckett was very good, but Chuck Knoblauch or Shane Mack might have been choices, particularly Knoblauch.


CINCINNATI REDS - HAL MORRIS


Morris received some minor MVP consideration in 1994 after hitting .335/.385/.491 with ten home runs and 78 RBIs.  Morris led Reds hitters in average, hits (146), doubles (30) and RBIs.  He also had 60 runs scored, four triples and six stolen bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Morris was seventh on the team in WAR and second in OPS.  Barry Larkin was the WAR leader, but that had more to do with his defense than his offense.  Larkin hit .279/.369/.419 with nine home runs, 52 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.  Kevin Mitchell was second and he was the team's OPS leader as well.  Mitchell hit .326/.429/.681 with 77 RBIs and led the team with 30 home runs.  Reggie Sanders was third, hitting .263/.332/.480 with 17 home runs, 62 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.  Bret Boone had a nice season, hitting .320/.368/.491 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs.

GRADE: B.  Morris was pretty good, but there were several better options.  Kevin Mitchell would have been the best pick if I were picking.


DETROIT TIGERS - TRAVIS FRYMAN


Fryman was an All Star in 1994 at third base for the Tigers.  He led the league in at-bats (464) and strikeouts (128) while hitting .263/.326/.474 with 18 home runs and 85 RBIs.  He also had 66 runs scored, 122 hits, 34 doubles and five triples.  He led the Tigers in doubles.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No, 1994 was a bit of a down season for Fryman.  He was fourth on the team in WAR and seventh in OPS.  The Tigers' best player, both in terms of WAR and very close in OPS was Tony Phillips.  Phillips hit .281/.409/.468 with 19 home runs, 61 RBIs, 91 runs scored and 13 stolen bases.  Lou Whitaker had a decent season, hitting .301/.377/.491 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs.  Kirk Gibson had a good year as well as the 37-year-old hit .276/.358/.548 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs.  

GRADE: C+.  Fryman really was not very great in 1994.  He remained one of the better young players for the Tigers, but 1994 was a bit of a down year.  Tony Phillips would have been the best choice.


ATLANTA BRAVES - GREG MADDUX


Maddux won his third straight Cy Young Award in 1994 by leading the league in wins (16-6), ERA (1.56), complete games (ten), shutouts (three), innings pitched (202) and WHIP (0.896).  He struck out 156 batters while walking 31.  Maddux was also an All Star, finished fifth in the MVP vote and won a Gold Glove.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Easily.  Maddux was the Braves' WAR leader in 1994 by almost four wins over the second player.  That player was Fred McGriff.  McGriff hit .318/.389/.623 with 34 home runs and 94 RBIs.  He was an All Star and finished eighth in the MVP vote.  In third place was David Justice, who hit .313/.427/.531 with 19 home runs and 59 RBIs.  

GRADE: A.  I am not sure why it took so long for Maddux to finally be a Diamond King.  He had been snubbed many times.  1994 was a terrific season for him and one of his best.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES - RAFAEL PALMEIRO


Palmeiro received some minor MVP consideration after hitting .319/.392/.550, leading the O's in all three slash line categories.  He also led the team in runs scored (82), doubles (32), home runs (23) and RBIs (76).  He was second on the team with 139 hits.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Palmeiro was the best position player when WAR and OPS are considered.  He was second on the team in WAR though, behind Mike Mussina.  Mussina was an All Star and finished fourth in the Cy Young vote.  He had a 16-5 record with a 3.06 ERA.  In 176.1 innings pitched, he struck out 99 batters and walked 42.  Mussina also received some low MVP votes.  Cal Ripken Jr. tied Palmeiro for second in WAR, but he was helped by his defense.  Ripken hit .315/.364/.459 with 13 home runs and 75 RBIs.  Ben McDonald also had a good season, with a record of 14-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 157.1 innings pitched.

GRADE: B+.  Mike Mussina would have been the better choice here, but Palmeiro had a great season at the plate.  


SAN DIEGO PADRES - TONY GWYNN


Another casualty of the 1994 baseball strike was missing out on whether Gwynn could hit .400.  He had to settle for a line of .394/.454/.568.  He obviously led the league in average, but also led in on-base percentage and hits (165).  He hit 12 home runs, 35 doubles and drove in 64 runs while scoring 79.  Gwynn was an All Star, won the Silver Slugger and finished seventh in the MVP vote.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Gwynn was an amazing hitter, particularly in 1994.  Andy Ashby was second on the team in WAR, going 6-11, but with a 3.40 ERA, 121 strikeouts to 43 walks in 164.1 innings pitched.  Andy Benes was third.  He also had a poor 6-14 record, but had a 3.86 ERA and 189 strikeouts versus 51 walks in 172.1 innings pitched.  Bip Roberts had a decent season, hitting .320/.383/.397, as did Derek Bell, with a line of .311/.354/.454.  Bell also hit 14 home runs, driving in 54 and stealing 24 bases.

GRADE: A.  Kind of hard to miss on Gwynn, especially on this team.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS - DAVID CONE


Cone won the A.L. Cy Young Award in 1994.  He was also an All Star and finished ninth in the MVP race.  He had a record of 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA.  In 171.2 innings pitched, he struck out 132 batters and walked 54.  He pitched four complete games and three shutouts.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Quite easily.  Cone was the team's WAR leader.  The Royals had some good pitchers, with their top three players in WAR all being starters.  Kevin Appier had a record of 7-6 but had a 3.83 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 155 innings pitched.  Tom Gordon's record was 11-7 with a 4.35 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 155.1 innings pitched.  The team's best hitter was Rookie of the Year Bob Hamelin.  Hamelin hit .282/.388/.599 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs.  

GRADE: A.  Holy crap, Donruss got one right with the Royals.  Given the company's track record I am kind of shocked they did not go with Bob Hamelin.  It would have been an understandable choice, but still very wrong.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES - AL MARTIN


Martin, the third-place finisher in the 1993 N.L. Rookie of the Year vote, hit .286/.367/.457.  In 82 games, he had 48 runs scored, 79 hits, 12 doubles, nine home runs, 33 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.  He tied for the team lead with four triples.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  By WAR, he was the third-best pick and by OPS he was the second-best.  The Pirates' WAR leader was Jay Bell, who hit .276/.353/.441 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs and led the team in hits (117), runs scored (68), doubles (35) and tied Martin for the lead in triples.  Zane Smith was second in WAR behind a record of 10-8 with a 3.27 ERA in 157 innings pitched.  Dave Clark was the OPS leader, hitting .296/.355/.489 with ten home runs and 46 RBIs.

GRADE: C+.  Martin was decent, but he missed quite a bit of time.  His numbers also look very ordinary.  The Pirates did not have a lot of good choices, but Jay Bell probably would have been the best choice.


SEATTLE MARINERS - KEN GRIFFEY, JR.


Griffey led the American League in home runs (40) and was the runner-up in the MVP vote.  He was an All Star and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.  He hit .323/.402/.674 with 94 runs scored, 140 hits, 24 doubles, 90 RBIs and eleven stolen bases.  He led the Mariners in most major offensive categories.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Griffey was the team's WAR leader and their best player.  Randy Johnson was second on the team in WAR.  He led the league in strikeouts (204), complete games (nine) and shutouts (four).  He had a record of 13-6 with a 3.19 ERA in 172 innings pitched.  Jay Buhner had another good season, hitting .279/.394/.542 with 21 home runs and 68 RBIs.  Edgar Martinez hit .285/.387/.482 with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs.

GRADE: A.  Griffey was one of the biggest stars in the game and had a huge season.  He could have won the MVP over Frank Thomas had the Mariners been a better team.  


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS - GREGG JEFFERIES


Jefferies was an All Star for the second time in a row in 1994 and received some minor MVP consideration.  He hit .325/.391/.489 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.  He stole 12 bases and accumulated 52 runs scored, 129 hits and 27 doubles.  He led the team in hits and all three slash categories.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  By WAR he was not a great pick, but he was the team's OPS leader.  The Cardinals' WAR leader was Mark Whiten.  Whiten hit .293/.364/.485 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs.  In second place was Ray Lankford, who hit .267/.359/.488 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs.  Ozzie Smith came in third, primarily based on his defense, as he hit .262/.326/.349.

GRADE: A.  I am going to give this one to Donruss.  Jefferies was the OPS leader and none of the players with higher WARs had eye-popping stats.  Mark Whiten or Ray Lankford would have been understandable choices.


RECAP

Donruss did a much better job at giving the award winners in this set.  The only one they missed was the A.L. Rookie of the Year, but because he was on the same team with the Cy Young winner, that is understandable.  There were six Hall of Famers in this set, along with Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa, who have outside chances at some point.  

BEST PICK:  Greg Maddux.  Maddux was the Major League leader in WAR.  Donruss snubbed him for far too long, but 1994 was one of his best seasons.  Runner-up is Jeff Bagwell, who really deserved his MVP award.

WORST PICK:  Ruben Sierra.  The A's lacked anything resembling a decent option, but Sierra had the lowest WAR (and it was not close) and lowest OPS of any of the picks.  Yes, even lower than Scott Cooper, who gets the runner-up.  Cooper's numbers were very average, but his defense raised his WAR to a halfway decent number for the strike-shortened season and his OPS was at least higher than Sierra's.

BIGGEST SNUB:  Barry Bonds.  I understand why Donruss picked Matt Williams over Bonds, his chase for 61 home runs was a huge story, but Bonds was better in every other way.  Bret Saberhagen gets the runner-up vote and really should have been the pick over Bobby Bonilla.

WEIRDEST PICK HISTORICALLY:  Scott Cooper.  Cooper was a two-time All Star, but did not really deserve it.  He spent seven seasons in the Majors, never led the league in any category, and had a line of .265/.337/.386 with 33 home runs and 211 RBIs.  He had a 6.2 career WAR.  Al Martin is the runner-up with eleven seasons in the Majors, a career 7.4 WAR, zero All Star appearances, and never led the league in any category.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Random Trade Post

Since packs have been so hard to come by this year, I decided to start trading for my needs.   


Up first is a couple of cards from this year's Topps Fire, which looks like a design straight out of 1988.  Fire has kind of an odd player selection with random retired players thrown in.  I do like that Nathan Eovaldi appeared in it.  He should show up some more next year, but has been kind of missing a lot in sets.  There are also a bunch of Donruss Optic cards in the first scan.  These are cards from last year.  And finally there is a Topps Chrome card of Andrew Benintendi.


And in here I have the last few base cards from Topps Big League that I needed and a few inserts.  I love the Pedro Martinez card, which uses the 1976 Topps Traded design.  I will always remember that one as the first set with Ferguson Jenkins with the Red Sox.  The last card is an insert of pitching prospect Bryan Mata.  Mata has been making some waves recently and looks like he could make his Major League debut next season.  Boston has had some issues developing pitching over the last decade-plus.  So it would be great if he can make it to stay, along with Tanner Houck.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Topps Now: September 5, 2020

There were not a lot of Red Sox Topps Now cards this year.  There simply were not many major highlights during this down season for the Red Sox.  I still have not grabbed all of them, but there were a few I absolutely had to have, and this is one of them. 


There are two players pictured here, that each helped Boston come back to win 9-8 over the Blue Jays.  The Red Sox were down 8-7 with Anthony Bass on the mound for the Jays going into the bottom of the ninth.  Xander Bogaerts immediately tied the game with a home run to center field.  And thus he appears on the left.  After a walk, a groundout and a stolen base, new acquisition Yairo Munoz came up and hit a sharp ground ball to third, that eventually scored the winning run.  And Munoz appears on the right.

The primary reason I picked up this card is Yairo Munoz.  This is Munoz's first card with the Red Sox.  Munoz played in just 12 games with the Red Sox, but he was impressive.  He hit .333/.333/.511 with five doubles, a home run, two stolen bases and four RBIs.  Munoz played left, right and designated hitter but has played second, shortstop, third and center field in the past.  He looks like a good bet to come to camp and win a utility job next season.  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Jason Varitek Quest for 1,000: #968

One of my all-time favorite Varitek photos came out this year.  It was the 2020 Stadium Club photo.  Of course I have to get as many of the parallels from it as I can. 


This is the Red Foil parallel.  There are several more parallels to go yet, but this is my second variation of the card.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Field Generals and the Jason Varitek Quest for 1,000: #967

I love the Field Generals insert set from Allen & Ginter this year.  Any insert celebrating great catchers is automatically going to capture my attention.  And when it has Sandy Alomar Jr. and the two guys in the scan, it is that much better. 


Jason Varitek and Carlton Fisk are the two greatest catchers in Red Sox history.  Fisk is number one obviously as the only one of the two that is in the Hall of Fame, but Varitek has played more games as a catcher than Fisk and lasted longer in Boston.  Varitek played his entire Major League career in Boston, despite being drafted by the Mariners.  Fisk spent the first eleven seasons of his illustrious career in Boston and really should have been in Boston longer except for a contract snafu with management.  Fisk did hit what is possibly the most famous home run in Red Sox history, walking off Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.  Varitek's biggest contribution to history is probably catching four no-hitters, which is a record that has been tied by Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies.    

These are the obvious choices from the Red Sox to include in this insert set.  Unfortunately it was a pretty small set.  I would have loved to see a larger set with many more players in it.  Let's see some guys like Christian Vazquez, Rich Gedman, Sammy White, Rick Ferrell, Bill Carrigan and others.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Failed Prospects Pt. 18: Sam Travis

 Just a one-card post to show off today, and I figured it would be a good time to talk about Sam Travis.


Sam Travis was a second round draft pick by the Red Sox in the 2014 draft.  He was immediately successful in the minors.  In his first season, he hit .316/.351/.467 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs.  He followed that up with an even better season in his second year in the minors, reaching Double A and hitting .307/.381/.452 with nine home runs, 78 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.  At this point he looked like the team's first-baseman of the future, and given that he was already in Double A, that future looked soon.

He spent the entire 2016 season in Pawtucket, but his hitting took a step backward.  He hit just .272/.332/.434 with six home runs and 29 RBIs.  Some of that was due to injuries as he played in just 49 games.  But his numbers were going in the wrong direction.  Instead of looking like he would become the first-baseman in 2017, the team brought in Mitch Moreland.  Travis started the 2017 season back in Pawtucket.  His numbers again declined, to .270/.351/.375 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 82 games.  Despite that, he did get a call-up to the Majors, playing in 33 games, but hitting just .263/.325/.342 with no home runs and one RBI in 83 plate appearances.

2018 saw Travis back in Pawtucket for a third season.  Again, his numbers failed to impress.  He hit .258/.317/.360 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs.  His speed was completely gone by now, as he stole just one base.  He again played in the Majors, but for just 19 games, hitting .222/.263/.389.  He did hit his first Major League home run and drove in seven runs.  In 2019 he had a little bit of an uptick in his numbers, hitting .275/.362/.432 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 68 games.  He was given a longer look in the Majors, but despite some increased power, he still could not get much going.  Travis hit .215/.274/.382 with six home runs and 16 RBIs.  

Unfortunately, that was it for Sam Travis in Boston.  In January, he was shipped to Texas in exchange for reliever Jeffrey Springs.  In his career with Boston, Travis hit .230/.288/.371 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs.  He just was not able to take the next step after Double A.  He failed to live up to his early promise and did not hit nearly enough to be a regular first-baseman at the Major League level.  Travis did not appear in the Majors with Texas in 2020 and was released last month.  His future is very much up in the air.