27 February 2008

Ugggghhhhh....the 2008 Royals' pitching PECOTAs

Simply put, I don't really like the PECOTA system when it comes to pitchers. Last year's projections were absolutely brutal -- the lowest WHIP projection on the team was 1.37 from Joel Peralta and most of the pitchers were projected with ERAs in the 5s and WHIPs in the 1.5 range -- basically projecting the Royals as up there with the worst pitching staffs of all time. The Royals weren't good last year, I freely admit that, but they weren't absolutely horrible on the mound. And the biggest bonus this year is that I have 99.9 percent confidence the names Scott Elarton, Todd Wellemeyer and Odalis Perez will not have anything to do with the Royals pitching staff in 2008. This year has a whole other set of challenges, like who's gonna be the #4 and #5 starters, can Soria and Yabuta be the end-of-game tandem to rely on, can the middle relievers hold leads and put out fires, etc. Anyway, at first glance the projections are no kinder this year, and I assume it's not just because these are the Royals who most of the baseball world seems to enjoy snickering at. Meche, Bannister and Soria, for three, blew away their PECOTA weighted mean projections last season. But the projections are there and worth picking at, so let's go. I'll break it down into starters, relievers and the current farm guys. Again, these are the weighted mean projections from Baseball Prospectus and PECOTA guru Nate Silver -- an average projection that could be low or could be high.


Gil Meche -- projected 29 starts, 10-11 record, 4.47 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 131 Ks and a .302 BABIP (
batting average on balls put into play by batters -- takes defensive support into consideration) in 180 2/3 IP. One factor that may have hurt the Royals' projections is that nothing was done to improve the defense behind the pitchers this offseason. Callaspo is not a defensive upgrade over Grudz, Pena can only do so much and DeJesus isn't really a top-flight defensive guy. Jose Guillen isn't a good defensive outfielder and, even if Billy Butler does earn the 1B job, I doubt with his build and speed he's gonna be that rangy. The stated goal of bringing in Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones was a nice thought, but didn't happen, so is now moot. Anyway, Meche's projection cuts his innings from '07, bumps up his ERA and WHIP, but does give him more Ks. His BABIP is projected to be about the same, which with no defensive upgrades is understandable. My guess is he'll at least meet his 75th percentile projection of a 4.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 11 wins. That's still worse than last year, but I'll take it, and it would be better than league average in ERA. The future projection is no rosier for Gil as PECOTA has him dropping off somewhat in year 5 of his current $55 mill deal with KC -- I say at least that's better than having it happen in year 3. His comps in the system are the '07 Vicente Padilla, which isn't good, at the top, although the '85 Jack Morris is in his top 10 and I wouldn't mind if he was a Jack Morris for the Royals.

Brian Bannister -- 22 starts, 6-9 record, 5.16 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 62 Ks and a .302 BABIP in 124 IP. A pretty sour prediction for a guy who had a 3.87 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 5 more starts and 40 more innings in 2007. Plus, the BABIP is way higher than in 2007. PECOTA is basically calling that a fluke with this line. It really seems to not like what Bannister brings to the table. As with Meche, I predict Bannister will at least meet his 75th percentile projection of a 4.4 ERA and 1.4 WHIP with 8 wins. That's not too much to ask -- many talk about how Bannister is a smart pitcher and that's one thing that shouldn't change. I just hope he holds up physically. His projections are dismal, and his comps are pretty bad, too, including such names in the top 10 as Chad Ogea and Brian Moehler, although the '82 Mike Scott is on there, and if Meche is Morris I'd like to see Bannister be a mid-80s Mike Scott. I doubt Bannister will rack up the Ks Scott did, however.

Zack Greinke -- 28 starts, 9-10 record, 4.48 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 128 Ks and a .303 BABIP in 164 1/3 IP. This actually may end up to be a fairly accurate prediction for Zack in '08. It's refreshing to see a somewhat favorable projection for a Royals guy. I'd take this line from Zach but I'd also take it if he pitches the whole season in the rotation and is anywhere near average. Getting a solid #3 guy there is enough at this point. The future projections have Zach staying fairly solid over the next seven years before dropping somewhat at age 28 in 2012. His top comp -- and I like this one, too -- is the 1969 Don Sutton with the '51 Robin Roberts also in the top 10. His #2 comp is the '60 Ralph Terry, and Terry ended up having a decent career. #3 is the '82 Frank Pastore and we don't want much similarity to career there for Zach. A future Don Sutton, tho, I'll take.

Jorge de la Rosa --
30 games (11 starts), 3-6, 5.53 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 52 Ks, .320 BABIP in 75 1/3 IP. Here's where we get into dangerous waters with the unknown #4 or #5 guys. Those ERA and WHIP numbers would be about what he put up in 2007. To tell the truth, I can't see him being consistently good enough to do much better. PECOTA does see him being consistently mediocre over the next 7 years. I think those first couple months of last year gave the fans and organization false hope, and with the Royals we've seen that false hope turn into keeping guys around well past their expiration date. At this point I say deal him or dump him and let's move on. His top comp is the wife-swapping master '72 Mike Kekich, who had a good year that season then fell into oblivion the next season. I don't see de la Rosa matching Kekich's '72 numbers. If the Royals weren't swimming in OK bullpen lefties, I'd say put de la Rosa in middle relief if they're gonna hold on to him.

Kyle Davies -- 27 games (19 starts), 5-9 record, 5.87 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 80 Ks and a .315 BABIP in 112 1/3 IP. Another projection that, sadly, would actually be an upgrade over a guy's 2007 stats. Davies' pitching wasn't pretty in KC last season. His top projection in PECOTA is for a 4.29 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, and they give that a 10 percent chance of happening. I'd like to hope he could maybe be the #4 or #5 guy, but I'm not counting on it. His numbers aren't projected to get any better any time soon, either. But he's 24 and still has time to maybe figure something out. More of some of that false hope, perhaps? Nobody too remarkable on his list of comps -- most promising is #5, the '93 up-and-coming Darryl Kile. I guess he's worth keeping around to some extent, but not for long if he's gonna put up those numbers from season to season.

Brett Tomko -- 33 games (11 starts), 4-6 record, 5.11 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 56 Ks and a .311 BABIP in 89 2/3 IP. Unfortunately, this line seems all too possible for Tomko coming over into the more hitter-friendly AL. I'd feel lucky if KC got Tomko's 75th percentile line of a 4.6 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, but I'm gonna count on his numbers being closer to the mean projection. PECOTA has 3 years left in Tomko's tank and his top comps are a declining Bobby Witt, the '01 Tim Wakefield (too bad Tomko's not a knuckler), and an end-of-the-line Don Robinson. I see another John Thomson here.

Brian Lawrence (NRI guy) -- 26 games (16 starts), 6-6 record, 4.66 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 54 Ks and a .301 BABIP in 94 1/3 IP. I think Lawrence is kind of a dark horse coming into camp as his shoulder injuries derailed his '06 and '07 seasons. I wouldn't mind these numbers at the end of the rotation, and hopefully Lawrence can return to his 2004 form somewhat. He's on the downside of his career and his top comp is the 1998 Armando Reynoso, which is nothing great but isn't awful either. Good #5 guy numbers, perhaps.

Luke Hochevar -- 34 games (18 starts), 6-9 record, 5.53 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 80 Ks and a .307 BABIP in 124 1/3 IP. Hochevar is the same basic age as Davies. If he can put up his 75th percentile numbers of a 4.37 ERA and 1.4 WHIP, I say put him in the rotation. Hopefully the reported improvements he's made over the offseason result in less gopher balls being served up. PECOTA has him slowly improving over the next few years, but Hoch seems like the type that maybe can show leaps of improvement if he can work out the kinks. He already strikes guys out and has a decent K/BB ratio. He's just gotta keep guys from getting supersolid contact somehow. His top comp is a developing '99 Kris Benson with the '07 Justin Verlander a distant 9th on his list. After last season's troubles in AAA, Hochevar has something to prove in 2008.

Mike Maroth (NRI) -- 27 games (7 starts), 3-4 record, 5.08 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 31 Ks and a .308 BABIP in 59 1/3 IP. I think Maroth is another dark horse rotation candidate. His numbers were horrible last year, there's no other way to put it. If he can meet his 75th percentile projection of 4.38 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, I'd say that's good enough for an end-of-the-rotation slot. If he and Lawrence can both be average, that allows KC to perhaps let Hochevar start the year in the pen and work his way into the rotation over the course of the season. But that could also be pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking and probably is. It may be too much to hope for anything from Maroth, but we'll see how he does this spring.

Hideo Nomo also got a hideo-us projection from PECOTA I won't go into. Everybody seems to be in universal agreement that Hideo is done.


Joakim Soria -- 65 games, 4-6 record, 35 saves, 3.16 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 79 Ks and a .285 BABIP in 72 2/3 IP. PECOTA likes itself some Soria. The mean projection is a slight dip from his 2007 numbers but would still be very nice. He also projects out well over the next 7 years. Hopefully he stays healthy. His comps are a mixed bag -- top comp is the '00 Scott Williamson, whose promising career has been majorly hampered by injury, and, on the flip side, the '77 Bruce Sutter. Soria is probably Dayton Moore's best pickup to date and I think he'll continue to prove that in 2008.

Yasuhiko Yabuta -- 43 games, 2-3 record, 3 saves, 4.79 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 31 Ks and a .299 BABIP in 50 IP. I think Royals fans are hoping for a little more than that from the first Japanese Royals player since Mac Suzuki. Most would probably like him to come a little closer to the 75th percentile projection of a 3.96 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. He is 35, so PECOTA only has him having 3 years left in the tank. Comps are mostly all end-of-the-line guys. I have no idea what to expect out of Yabuta, but I'm leaning toward something between the mean projection and that 75th percentile projection. Maybe a 4.2 ERA and 1.4 WHIP???

Joel Peralta -- 48 games, 3-3 record, 4 saves, 3.88 ERA, 1.3 WHIP, 43 Ks and a .287 BABIP in 59 1/3 IP. Looks like PECOTA foresees another solid season out of Jo-el after he's put up back-to-back seasons of decent numbers. PECOTA has him on this trend for another two seasons before he hits the skids to some extent in 2011. Peralta has given me no reason to think he can't put out the projected mean line this season or close to it.

Jimmy Gobble -- 56 games, 2-2 record, 4 saves, 3.57 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 49 Ks and a .289 BABIP in 53 1/3 IP. That would be an upgrade in WHIP, at least, from 2007 and would mark another bearable season out of the pen for Jimmy. He seemed to find his niche to some extent in 2007 out of the bullpen, so hopefully that continues. PECOTA keeps this trend running through the next seven seasons with a slight decline. He's your basic stock lefty reliever guy.

John Bale -- 40 games, 2-2 record, 4 saves, 3.87 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 41 Ks and a .310 BABIP in 45 2/3 IP. Supposedly the Royals are mulling maybe using Bale in the rotation, but I don't see that working any better than Tomko, Maroth or Lawrence would. His first year in Royal blue was held back by injury and he didn't look too great when he finally did hit the mound in KC. PECOTA foresees a bounce back this season and then gradual decline thereafter for the next 4 seasons. He joins Gobble as another lefty in the pen along with Ron Mahay and possible Jorge de la Rosa. I'd think something's gotta give there.

Ron Mahay -- 43 games, 2-2 record, 3 saves, 4.52 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 35 Ks and a .306 BABIP in 43 1/3 IP. PECOTA doesn't see Mahay duplicating his nice bullpen efforts in Texas and Atlanta from 2007. Basically it's saying his effectiveness stops now before he peters out within the next couple seasons. I'd like to think Mahay can do better, but he is 37 and at some point, the effectiveness goes. With Bale and Gobble already here, I'm not even sure why Moore signed him.

Ryan Braun -- 40 games (2 starts?), 2-3, 2 saves, 5.19 ERA, 1.6 WHIP, 36 Ks and a .315 BABIP in 49 2/3 IP. Braun looked to possibly be the closer of the future while in Omaha but hasn't done well on the big stage. Soria's emergence has made Braun's identity a little cloudier. He'll have to pitch better than this projection if he wants to stick, but he's found MLB hitters to be a completely different animal to try and take down.

Neal Musser -- 39 games, 1-2, 2 saves, 4.97 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 23 Ks and a .300 BABIP in 33 2/3 IP. He had some trouble in KC last season but I think he could exceed these numbers, although probably not by much.

Leo Nunez -- 32 games (9 starts), 3-5, 1 save, 5.06 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 52 Ks and a .300 BABIP in 73 IP. Nunez was one of the nicer surprises of 2007 and has room for improvement as he's only 24. I can easily see him exceeding these numbers and being a dark horse set up guy out of the pen, perhaps. PECOTA sees him hovering around average for his career.

Chin-Hui Tsao -- 41 games, 2-3, 1 save, 4.99 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 39 Ks and a .284 BABIP in 57 IP. I'm rooting for Tsao to make the bullpen out of ST. He's had some injury problems but pitched OK in a limited stint with LA last year. I think he could outshine Bale, Mahay and possibly Yabuta when all is said and done, but we'll see what happens.

Brandon Duckworth (NRI) -- 25 games (6 starts), 2-4, 1 save, 5.4 ERA, 1.6 WHIP, 32 Ks and a .316 BABIP in 53 2/3 IP. If he makes the team, and that's a huge IF, I don't have much confidence that Duckworth is gonna do even this well in KC.

Minors guys (these will be shorter)

Daniel Cortes -- PECOTA has him near 6 in ERA and at a 1.74 WHIP this season if he pitched in MLB, and I agree he's not quite ready. For some reason, tho, it doesn't have him getting much better as the years go by. I do like his #4 and #6 comps -- the '67 versions of Catfish Hunter and Jim Palmer, with '01 Jon Garland sandwiched between. I'm excited to see how he turns out after his great '07. He'll start this year in NW Arkansas, I'd assume, with a shot at a September call???

Rowdy Hardy -- the emergent pitching favorite in the minors for KC in 2007; PECOTA isn't so enthused. It projects a 6-point ERA and 1.7 WHIP with it not getting much better and him being out of baseball in five years. So much for that hope for another Jamie Moyer. His PECOTA page is a bummer for any Rowdy fan.

Julio Pimentel -- another one PECOTA sees going nowhere anytime soon. I think he's got potential but has his work cut out for him at NW Arkansas, if he starts there.

Carlos Rosa -- Ditto, although I think it's kinda pointless at this point to be projecting the mid-level minor league pitchers. They haven't even pitched at major-league level yet and we're already predicting horrible numbers? I like to see that #10 on Rosa's comps is the 2003 Brandon Webb. It'd be nice if Rosa panned out as well as Webb has thus far. Rosa will likely start at Omaha or NW Arkansas with a chance, maybe, at a late callup, I figure.

Blake Wood -- the '74 Goose Gossage is among his top 10 comps. He took a big step forward from the looks of things in 2007 and if he can stay healthy, who knows. He should be in AA this season to start.

Matt Wright -- For somebody that appears on the cusp of major-league service, PECOTA doesn't like his potential. He is 26, I guess, which is kinda old for a prospect. He might be one on the Omaha-KC shuttle bus this season.

Roman Colon also got the PECOTA treatment but I really don't see him contributing in KC, so I'll just leave it to say it wasn't pretty.

All in all I guess I'd say I'm not as horrified as I was with last year's KC pitching PECOTAs, but I'm yet to be convinced of their effectiveness. Looks like the top 3 of the rotation could be OK and the bullpen should find a way to be solid. It's the #4 and #5 guys that will make-or-break a potential .500 season in KC, which we as Royals fans all pretty much knew. The next month should be interesting. I'm hoping Dayton Moore might have a couple deals left to pull out of his hat.

26 February 2008

Let the games begin..../ Royals position PECOTAs

Spring Training officially "gets real" Wednesday when the games start for the Royals and lineups, apparently, have been set. The first one is a charity game vs. Surprise stadium-mates Texas. New manager Trey Hillman originally penciled in Brett Tomko to start, then switched to Jorge de la Rosa, and now has settled on John Bale to start the opener. Luke Hochevar and Brian Lawrence are supposed to pitch two innings each before Ron Mahay, Yasuhiko Yabuta and Carlos Rosa throw an inning each. Supposedly the first indecision on the starter had something to do with lefty/righty workload and when and how Hillman wanted it to work, then the switch from de la Rosa to Bale came because de la Rosa was under the weather a little bit. The first game lineup has also been set at CF David DeJesus, 2B Esteban German, LF Mark Teahen, DH Shealy, 3B Gordon, 1B Butler, RF Shane Costa, C John Buck and SS Tony Peña. Jose Guillen and Mark Grudzielanek will be held out of action until March 8 according to the KC Star. The Star also made news out of the fact Gordon is gonna bat #5 instead of #7...personally as I've noted before, I'd like to see him earn the #3 spot, but time will tell. As for Friday's game with the Padres.....Gil Meche is supposed to start that one with Hideo Nomo scheduled to work two innings followed by Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, Joakim Soria and Brandon Duckworth. The Royals then get back with the Rangers for games Saturday and Sunday. Zack Greinke is supposed to start Sat. followed by Mike Maroth against Texas. Brian Bannister is set to start Sunday followed by Kyle Davies. The Star has been reporting a few dings here and there on the roster, including a groin pull for IF Angel Sanchez as perhaps the most serious injury thus far. Other than that the most recent news has probably been that Justin Huber's gonna be a LF this year after allegedly bringing both his catcher's mitt and first baseman's glove to Surprise. There's too many guys in the mix at first. Personally, I'd like to see him beat out Shane Costa for an extra OF spot but he's gotta do the job this spring to earn it.


Also, the guys and gals at Baseball Prospectus, a great baseball web site, have churned out the 2008 PECOTA projections for the big leaguers. To rehash last year's explanation....

For people unfamiliar with PECOTA (it stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm), it is a BP-created statistical prediction system that uses a player's statistical similarity to other players over baseball's history as a way to weigh out the player's performance for the coming year and future years. For Royals fans, there is some sentimentality attached to the system as, of course, utility player extraordinaire Bill Pecota was part of the Royals in the somewhat dog days of the late '80s and '90s and the system reflects his last name.

I figured I'd take the time here to run through the short version of the PECOTA predictions for significant Royals players and make a short comment on each. I'm using the weighted mean version of each player's predicted stats, as PECOTA gives a prediction for the 10th to 90th percentile for each player with the 10th being a kind of worst-case scenario and the 90th being a breakout-type best-case scenario season. The mean is the middle of the spectrum, the best guess average of the system:


John Buck -- projects at .238 BA/.309 OBP/.396 SLG, 9 HR, 40 RBI in 315 PAs. Considering that last year he was projected by PECOTA to hit .253 with a .730 OPS and actually put out a .222 BA and .737 OPS, I'd say this line is pretty likely. I guess the Royals are gonna have to take it as I don't see a lot of good options out there....it's probably wishful thinking that KC could somehow get Jarrod Saltalamacchia from fellow Surprise guys the Rangers. Anyway, PECOTA projects Buck to hang around a .700 OPS for the next several years, with declining PAs each season from here out. Yawn.

Miguel Olivo -- projects at .242/.274/.390, 8 HR, 39 RBI in 312 PAs. Hopefully he hits a little better than that and maybe slugs a few points higher. Not looking very rosy at the C position in KC, tho. PECOTA credits Olivo's defense slightly more than Buck but pretty much has Olivo's numbers projected out this crappy for the future, too. Oddly, #2 on Olivo's PECOTA comparables list is none other than Jason LaRue. That's not a good sign, although I think the Royals expected more out of LaRue last year, too.

PECOTA also spat out crappy projections for Matt Tupman and NRI-guy Ken Huckaby. I can see Tupman doing better than hitting .225 with a .535 OPS, but unless Olivo gets hurt, I don't see Tupman getting much of a shot. The Royals have been muttering about maybe playing Olivo in LF (why I'm not sure), which would give Tupman a shot. He put up good OBP numbers at Omaha last year so, honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing either Buck or Olivo say bye-bye to give Tupman some time. Still, there's no Carlton Fisk walking through that door for the Royals right now.


Ross Gload -- .295/.340/.445, 21 2B, 8 HR, 48 RBI in 363 PA. As I stated last year when Gload had an even better projection (that he couldn't quite live up to), I'd still take this from him, although I hope he's more of a backup 1B/OF guy than THE guy at first base. He plays solid defense, too, so he's not a bad guy for the 25-man, but as starter......I hope Billy Butler is serviceable. PECOTA has the 32-year-old Gload's numbers on a gradual decline from 2008 onward.

Ryan Shealy -- .250/.318/.426, 9 HR, 36 RBI in 259 PA. After Shealy's disappointing 2007, I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I'd like to think he could get closer to the 75th percentile projection of .268 with a .798 OPS but I thought he'd break out in 2007, too. The projections don't get much rosier than this for Shealy, either, as PECOTA doesn't look kindly on his defense. It also projects he'll only get 15 percent of the PT at 1B. I wouldn't think his 2008 could be much if at all worse than his 2007 was.

Billy Butler -- .287/.353/.455, 34 2B, 18 HR, 85 RBI in 622 PA. This could be the year Billy puts himself on the map in a big way for KC and earns some future millions. If he met his 75th percentile projection of .305 with an .864 OPS, 21 HR and 92 RBI, I wouldn't be surprised, as the kid can hit. PECOTA has him listed at DH so there are no defensive projections, but I'd bet those wouldn't be too great. His future projections are also very nice as PECOTA has this as the first year of a great career for Billy, peaking at 26 HR and 105 RBI, which I think he can exceed. Plus he's only 22 so hopefully KC can play this one right. His comp list includes guys like Greg Luzinski, Gary Carter, Paul Konerko and Prince Fielder among the top 6. I think Konerko could be a fairly decent comparison.

Pipeline favorite Mike Stodolka also has a projection at 1B in PECOTA and actually manages a mean projection of a .722 OPS, although with slightly sub-par defense. If something happens to Gload I could see him maybe getting his first taste of MLB this season. Of course, he has to worry about Omaha somewhat first. Gabe Gross, Phil Nevin and Jack Cust pop up among his comps, so we'll see how he pans out this season. I'm rooting for him.


Mark Grudzielanek -- .276/.314/.381, 19 2B, 4 HR, 35 RBI in 329 PA. Grudz exceeded his projection in 2007 although he did suffer some injury problems. His defense wasn't what it was in 2006, however, and isn't really expected to rebound. For some reason the PECOTA system does having him put up slightly better numbers in '09 and '10, which is weird. I hope Grudz is phased into a backup for Alberto Callaspo this season, personally.

Alberto Callaspo -- .273/.328/.373, 20 2B, 4 HR, 36 RBI in 383 PA. Callaspo has gotten the job done in the PCL, which leaves only his adjustment to the majors. I'd like to see him perform somewhere between his 60th percentile projection of .280 with a .721 OPS and his 75th percentile projection of .291 with a .751 OPS. Of course, PECOTA has his defense as subpar and not getting any better. He does switch-hit, tho, gets on base and doesn't strike out. I foresee better things for Callaspo than PECOTA does, but 2008 will set the tone for that, I hope. He's never gonna be the guy to carry the team, but he should be a good lineup piece down the road, as were some of his comps -- Walt Weiss, Joey Cora, even Omar Vizquel. I wish his defense was more Vizquel-like, although if it was he'd more likely be playing short.

Esteban German -- .275/.356/.388, 21 2B, 5 HR, 38 RBI in 434 PA. PECOTA predicts German will outhit Callaspo, altho with worse defense, 5 more years of mileage and as a righty only hitter. Last year's numbers were a couple steps down from his standout part-time '06 numbers and his projected numbers would be a slight rebound from 2007. He also projects with a little more pop than Callaspo for 2008 and on. Top comp is former Royal Kevin Seitzer, which is favorable for Esteban. Heck, Paul Molitor is #6 on his comps, altho German doesn't have the pop or OBP that Molitor did. The Royals have moved from the old days of having 5 1B/DH types in the mix to more middle IF fringy types. Something needs to give for Callaspo and German to split the 2B spot, so we'll see what, if anything, happens with Grudz.


Alex Gordon -- .269/.345/.463, 34 2B, 18 HR, 73 RBI, plus 113 Ks in 551 PAs. I really think Alex's 2007 K total of 137 was misleading, and I'd like to think that'll be his career high. PECOTA seems to, too, but still has him in the 105-120 range every year, which I think is still high. I think his range will be between 85-100 from year to year. PECOTA puts Gordon's defense at about average for the next three years and in decline thereafter. Actually if Gordon's numbers play out like projected, I think it'd be a disappointment for Royals fans, although his numbers are still projected as solid. I'd think Royals fans would lean more toward the 90th percentile projection of .309 with a .943 OPS, although that may be asking a little much at this point. His top comp is Eric Chavez with Hank Blalock also in his top 5.

Callaspo and German will also be in the mix at third for KC, I'm sure. The only other 3B listed by BP was Mario Lisson, who projected for 2008 at a not-ready-for-prime-time .653 OPS building up to the .700s in his prime while playing solid defense at third. Since Lisson's only at AA, I'd say the chances of him being anything other than maybe a September call up are slim to none.


Tony Pena Jr. -- .257/.287/.348, 18 2B, 3 HR, 36 RBI in 402 PA. Good defense, but those numbers are hard for me to take at the plate. Those numbers roughly match his 2007 totals, altho with less XBH. PECOTA also has his defense as declining gradually through 2012. He doesn't get on base at all. PECOTA has him putting up sub-replacement level stats every year, and his defense only marginally makes up for that.

Angel Sanchez -- .236/.286/.301 in only 86 PA. Pretty brutal projected numbers for Angel with OK defense, but he is coming off elbow surgery. I'd agree that he spends most of the year in Omaha, just for recovery purposes if nothing else. PECOTA has his defense stable and offense improving before he's out of baseball by the time he's 28. The answer for KC at shortstop may be in Mike Moustakas, or it may be on another team, be it pro, high school or college. Sanchez had a good year two seasons ago in Wichita but coming off elbow reconstruction he has a hike to make to get back on track.

Speaking of Moustakas, he and Aw-hell Berroa also have PECOTA projections at short on BP's site. Berroa is penciled in for his usual low-OBP, low-pop, ungood D output for four more seasons. Moustakas is also projected with poor D at short but steadily improving plate work, as PECOTA only goes through his age 25 season. Derek Jeter is #4 on Moustakas' comps while B.J. Upton is 7th. I'd say where he's gonna play is one of the biggest question KC needs to find an answer to in 2008.


Mark Teahen -- .274/.346/.424, 30 2B, 11 HR, 63 RBI, 108 Ks in 539 PAs. Those numbers would be down in BA and OBP but up in power from 2007. PECOTA still has him in right with good defense, altho it looks like he's gonna be in left. I'm still lukewarm on Teahen -- I mean, he runs the bases well and hits OK but just doesn't hit me as a guy that's gonna be anything more than ordinary in the majors. I think the .517 slugging percentage in 2006 was remarkable but ain't coming back. PECOTA actually has his numbers fairly stable for the foreseeable future -- around a .350 OBP and .420 SLG. I remain unconvinced.

Justin Huber -- .251/.321/.415, 11 HR, 49 RBI in 373 PAs. I put Huber here in left even though I don't think he's gonna get a shot in KC to start the season, and maybe not during the season. Why would the team's approach to him change now? PECOTA also rates him as subpar, altho at 1B, and the Royals have already pretty much ruled that position out for Huber. He's projected to be in the .320 OBP, .420 SLG area for the foreseeable future, altho at this point I wish the Royals would either give him a shot or deal him while he still has some kind of value. Basically, he's a fringe guy.

Chris Lubanski also gets a PECOTA projection this year. BP actually has him projected at a .717 OPS with about average defense. I actually think this is pretty favorable for Lubanski, who has had some consistency problems in his minor league career. Maybe the fact KC left him unprotected for the rule 5 draft will give him some motivation. PECOTA never has his OBP hitting .350 but does have some pop in his bat of the doubles type, with HRs in the teens. I never know what to expect out of Lubanski, and it's hard to remember he's still only 23 years old.


David DeJesus -- .274/.346/.395, 28 2B, 8 HR, 53 RBI in 558 PAs. PECOTA ratcheted back its projections for DeJesus this year, as this line roughly equates to what he did in 2007, although it does have him entering his prime. The system also isn't a big fan of David's defense as he's projected to be subpar and get no better in the future. I'd say this line is probably about right. DeJesus has established what he can do and doesn't seem to really deviate from that, but he did slug better prior to 2007. We'll see if that's a trend that continues.

Joey Gathright -- .280/.351/.335 in 296 PAs. Another guy I like but, like DeJesus and Teahen I'm cooling on. He hits for singles but doesn't walk a lot, use his speed to much advantage or play great centerfield. I loved how he played in Omaha last year, and if he could do that at KC somehow, I'd be all for bumping DeJesus out of center. PECOTA actually has Gathright continuing to improve through age 33 although not in a full-time role. His defense is projected to stay only ordinary before declining around the 2013 time frame. 2008 is likely a make-or-break year for Joey.

Mitch Maier also got a projection in center altho I think he's more of a corner OF type in the majors. He's projected at under .700 OPS until 2010 with poor defensive projections in center, hence my thoughts. His peak numbers are projected at age 31 in 2013. Looks like another year in Omaha for Mitch unless Costa or Huber, or both, vacates the premises.


Jose Guillen -- .280/.335/.446, 25 2B, 16 HR, 69 RBI in 497 PAs. I'm hoping for more of the 75th percentile range of .293/.349/.475 with 26 2B, 17 HR and 84 RBI. The big free agent acquisition for KC is projected for poor defense in right. Not surprisingly, PECOTA has Guillen's numbers in slow decline from here. Luckily the Royals only have him locked up for the next 3 years -- maybe even 2 years and then a deadline move in 2010 to another team. The main question is if Guillen pulls a Meche and earns his keep or pulls a Sweeney and blows it.

Shane Costa -- .275/.331/.415, 21 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI in 342 PAs. Costa obviously has got AAA down, and if he can live up to this projection that'd be one giant leap from his crappy 2007 numbers in KC. The system has him entering his prime this year, albeit with not good defense. He's still your typical fringe/AAAA type, but if he can hit as projected, he'll shut up a few of the people that wonder why he's gotten so much rope from the organization. I'll believe it when I see it.

NRI-guy Damon Hollins also got PECOTA'd for 2008 but at age 34 doesn't have much more in the tank.

All in all not the most exciting projections, although I am excited to see what Gordon, Butler and Guillen do this season plus seeing how Callaspo, Gathright and German fit in. Unfortunately the Royals had a pretty paltry offense last season and didn't do much to improve it this offseason, which doesn't bode for many more wins than the 69 racked up last season. I plan to get to the pitching PECOTAs ASAP. That's a lotta acronyms right there.

20 February 2008

Cover to Cover:::::Haunted Baseball

Just less than a month ago, a Pipeline reader and Red Sox fan named Dan Gordon dropped me an e-mail telling me about a new book he wrote with co-author and Yankee fan Mickey Bradley (I joked to Dan that a Red Sox and Yankee fan banding together for anything was a scary thought) and asked if I'd be interested in a review copy. I said sure, gave him my address and, about a week later, an envelope came in the mail that held "Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends, and Eerie Events."

I'm an avid reader, and I'll read pretty much anything about baseball. I also don't mind a ghost story every now and then, so after I finished my last book (Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, as a matter of fact -- great book), I figured I'd do my part for a reader and dug into Haunted Baseball, which was printed by The Lyons Press out of Connecticut and features the cool blue cover of a Wrigley Field scene shown above and to the right. Some of the subject matter I'd heard of before (Cubs' curse of the Billy Goat, Red Sox's BS Curse of the Bambino, etc.) but some of the stories were new to me. The book includes 29 chapters on different supernatural happenings in connection with baseball diamonds across the U.S. The first 19 chapters are on "Ghosts, Spirits and Unexplained Events" while the last 10 are about various "Curses" that harangue MLB teams. There were several chapters I found more interesting than others -- Jim Thome's connection with a frequent ballpark visitor; stories of hauntings of the visiting team's hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., for Tampa Bay games; the story of the New York teams' experiences after the Sept. 11 attacks; a doctor's crusade to clear the name of one of the banned Black Sox; stories of Roberto Clemente's and Lou Gehrig's premonitions of their own fates; former Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee's connection with what he feels is the spirit of one-time Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey; and, my personal favorite, the lesser known "Curse of Eddie Grant" that revolves around the San Francisco Giants.

The stories hit a little of everything. The Cubs, Yankees, White Sox and Red Sox get heavy time but so do the Devil Rays and Dodgers. Even if your team isn't featured prominently in its own chapter, players from many teams were interviewed by the duo for the book. A couple stories also have to do with spring training venues and the minor leagues, so it's not all just the big names. The book was a fairly quick read, but I read kinda fast. The subject matter is fairly clean -- any curse words dropped by the players and people interviewed (few and far between in the first place) are censored by the authors, so it's probably fine for maybe even a middle schooler to read. There were some spooky stories but nothing I found would be disturbing to almost anyone. As a Royals fan, there was no direct Royals content included but there were some Royals and former Royals quoted. Kevin Appier got a few mentions, as did Johnny Damon. One Royal I'd like to forget, Jose Lima, even has his own chapter about the time he felt somebody from his native Dominican Republic put a curse on him to ruin his 1999 season (we've yet to find an excuse for what he did to the Royals in 2005).

Really I have nothing negative to say about the book. The only thing I felt could have been done differently would have been to switch around the final chapter, which references the Angels' history of odd injuries, with the chapter about the Curse of Eddie Grant in San Francisco. I felt the Angels' chapter was an odd one to end the book with and the Eddie Grant story would have been a more interesting finish. The Grant story revolves around an ex-Giant from the New York days who was killed in action in World War I. A monument honoring him was placed in deep center at the Polo Grounds and stayed until the team moved west in the late '50s. Somehow during the move the monument disappeared and was never found and the Giants' regular season and postseason miseries since are detailed. The story starts the curses section of the book but would have made a great ending to the book, in my opinion. That's a small gripe, tho.

The book touches on more than just ghosts and the supernatural. It goes into the deep connections players and fans have with baseball and the heart and emotion put into it by many. It also goes into how much the history of the game echoes through today. I got an inkling from Gordon in our communications that a sequel might be released someday, and it would be a welcome one. The title of the book in the first paragraph links to the Amazon page for the book, and you can see the price is right at only $10. Anyone looking for a book to read while waiting out spring training or wanting to have a book to read this fall when the cold winds are blowing away another season of baseball and Halloween is nearing should grab a copy.

19 February 2008

Set Spotlight::::Bowman Draft baseball

Thought a good new card feature for the site would be a spotlight on the history of a set. For the first one I picked Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects baseball. The good old Bowman brand returned in 1989 with an oversized set. Bowman peaked in 1992 with the big Manny/Piazza/Delgado/Mariano RCs and continued it's momentum in '93 with a Derek Jeter RC. Bowman's Best and Bowman Chrome were added in the mid-90s, as 1995, 1997 and 1999 were solid years for the Bowman brand.


2000, a new set entered the Bowman family, as Bowman Draft and Bowman Chrome Draft were available via factory set. The regular set came with 111 cards -- 110 base cards and an autograph card. As seen at right, Adrian Gonzalez was the first "poster boy" for Bowman Draft. He and Mark Buehrle along with Kaz Sasaki were the early investments to go for in buying a set. Another rookie in the set that was highly touted at the time but was far from his peak status was Grady Sizemore, who today counts as the highest valued card in the set. Oddly, Sizemore doesn't have a card in Bowman Draft Chrome as his card, #109, went to Brad Wilkerson instead. Sizemore's auto in the set has reached $300 in Beckett. Another card with an odd history in both sets was Rocco Baldelli, who was once valued higher than Sizemore but his injury history has dropped his values back to equal with current Royals non-roster invitee Chin-Hui Tsao among the set's RCs. One of Barry Zito's first major-brand autos can also be found in 2000 Bowman Draft. The Chrome set features Buehrle as the highest-valued card at $8 in Beckett, but the absence of Sizemore makes it one of the rare instances where the regular set is a better buy than the Chrome set. Sizemore, plus a chance at his autograph, or a Chrome set that's got some good players in it but nothing too great? That's an easy choice. As a Bowman collector, I have yet to buy one of these sets, although I did pick up the Sasaki RC in a trade.


In another funny twist, there was no Bowman Chrome Draft in 2001 as Bowman Heritage debuted instead. Bowman Draft Picks was again issued as a factory set, this time with 112 cards -- 110 base cards plus an autograph and, new to the set, a game-used card featuring either a Futures Game relic or a regular game relic. With the emergence of game-used cards in the late '90s, Bowman entered the fray in 2000 and Bowman Draft Picks was no exception for its 2001 product. In the year of Ichiro and Pujols, only Ichiro made the Bowman Draft set as Pujols had debuted in the regular 2001 Bowman set. Ichiro was the first big get and was probably enough reason for a lot of people to invest in the set. Another early headliner of the set was then-hot-prospect Joe Borchard, who has since faded back into just another rookie card in the set. Now the big guns are the Chase Utley RC (right) and the debut cards of Erik Bedard and Coco Crisp (then still listed with his first name, Covelli). Bedard and Utley also have Futures Game relics in the set (Utley's books at $40), as do Miggy Cabrera and Hank Blalock. The autograph inserts feature an early Roy Oswalt auto as well as a Garrett Atkins auto that boasts the highest Beckett value in the set at $60. Overall I'd say the lineup of RCs is better than 2000, as Utley plus Ichiro trumps Sizemore at this point. Throw in Bedard, Brad Hawpe, Crisp, Bobby Crosby and a late bloomer in Kelly Johnson and the gap grows. $40 for all those guys plus the possibility of an Oswalt auto and an Utley Futures Game jersey makes it an even better buy. I don't have much in the way of '01 Bowman Draft but a set sure sounds good about now, even if it is hard to pick up the player's name in a scan of the card.


2002 was when Bowman Draft hit its prime. For the first time, it was packed
out rather than distributed via factory set. The set was wisely combined with Bowman Chrome Draft as each pack included 2 chrome draft cards. Game-used and autos were back, as were the first parallels in the brand. Regular draft had thick gold-border and gold sig foil one-per-pack insert cards while chrome refractors #d/300, gold refractors #d/50 and x-fractors #d/150 were included in chrome draft. What pushed the set over the top was the debut of chrome autographed RCs of 10 prospects, most namely poster boy Khalil Greene. Most of the autos and memorabilia in the regular set are pretty forgettable as far as big names go. The Signs of the Future auto insert debuted in regular draft and the highest booking cards are Chad Tracy, Lance Niekro and Todd Linden at $15. Francisco Liriano's Fabric of the Future relic is the only game-used card in the regular set that lists in Beckett, and it's only $10. One thing that's not forgettable is the lineup of rookies in 2002 Bowman Draft. Early headliners were B.J. Upton, Jeff Francoeur and the Jeff Francis and Greene Chrome auto RCs, as the auto RCs seeded out at odds of 1 per 45 packs. Over the years some other rookies have emerged from the set including Cole Hamels (I pulled his Chrome RC from the set, which still books at $40, my best Bowman Draft pull yet), Dontrelle Willis (once the hottest card in the set, it has cooled over the past couple years), Matt Cain, Nick Swisher and James Loney. The roster of auto'd Chrome RCs hasn't stood the test of time as well as only 4 regularly list in Beckett -- Greene, Francis, Joe Saunders and Scott Moore. The lineup of rookies, though, makes boxes of the product still go at upwards of $200. The refractor parallels are also big draws for people hoping to pull a high-dollar card. If 2000 and 2001 established the Bowman Draft set in the industry, the 2002 set pushed it way up on the scale of hobby impact.


The bar had been set high with the 2002 set, but with the formula of Chrome cards in every pack, plus auto'd Chrome RCs and refractors, plus regular set game-used cards and autographed inserts, Bowman Draft had become almost a guaranteed hit when it returned to the market in 2003. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, the poster boy of the set, 2003 first-rounder Ryan Harvey, hasn't been a hit as he still hasn't advanced past A-ball. The lineup of rookies in the set perhaps doesn't measure up to 2002, but there are some big cards to be found. Early headliners were Cubs prospect Felix Pie and Yankees prospect Robinson Cano, but the biggest hit in the set has become Ryan Howard, whose regular card books $30 and Chrome RC from the set books $60. Cano has hunt in with the better cards in the set, and 2007 emerging stars from the set included Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (regular card booking at $12, Chrome $30) and now Rangers C Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Pie, John Maine, J.J. Hardy and now A's 1B prospect Daric Barton also made their debut in 2003 Bowman Draft. This time, the lineup of game-used and autograph inserts has stood the test of time a little better as the regular set featured Fabric of the Future Futures Game jerseys of Howard, Joe Mauer, Cano, Khalil Greene and Pie. Chase Utley has a game-used card in the Prospect Premiums relics set. At this point, however, none of the Signs of the Future autos from the 2003 set are listed individually in Beckett. The Chrome Draft autographed RC lineup has done better in '03 than the '02 group has done, value-wise. Brandon Wood and Delmon Young lead the crew along with Nick Markakis, Rickie Weeks, Matt Murton and Chad Billingsley. The refractor parallels are built-in collector's items, as usual. All in all, the 2003 Bowman Draft set has some potential, but the Howard, Papelbon and Cano don't put the entire set on equal footing with the 2002 set, in my opinion. Thrown in an advantage in the Chrome auto RCs, however, and 2003 Bowman Draft puts itself pretty close to its 2002 predecessor.


2004 was another year of the status quo in Bowman Draft, for the most part. A new attraction was added, however, with the inclusion of redemption cards for a set of players who played in the AFLAC high school all-star game. This set of 12 most notably features the first cards of now Marlins prospect Cameron Maybin, Pirates prospect Andrew McCutchen and Marlins prospect Chris Volstad. The set was issued in regular, chrome, chrome refractor, chrome x-fractor and chrome autograph refractor versions. The auto refractor version features an early card of 2005 #1 pick Justin Upton that currently books at $800. Other than that, and the inclusion of printing plates from the set, Topps stuck to the winning formula with Bowman Draft. The problem with evaluating the set as we get closer and closer to modern day is that most of the players are low-minor-league prospects who haven't necessarily gotten their shot to shine yet. A bonafide big dog has yet to emerge from the set, as the highest booking card in either the regular or Chrome set is of Mariners hot pitching prospect Felix Hernandez, and it's not even a RC as he had regular Bowman and Bowman Chrome cards in 2004. Some names are slowly starting to work their way into major league lineups, most notably A's closer Huston Street, White Sox 3B Josh Fields, and Indians starter Fausto Carmona. Other hot prospects from the set have been A's C Kurt Suzuki, Rockies 1B Joe Koshansky, Rangers pitcher Eric Hurley, Mariners IF Matt Tuiasosopo and Rockies OF Willy Taveras. The Chrome autographed RC lineup is middling with big hits in Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey. Poster boy #1 pick Matt Bush hasn't worked out as the Padres planned as he has been converted from SS to pitcher. Rangers P Thomas Diamond, Pirates C Neil Walker and White Sox P Gio Gonzalez are also among the auto'd RCs who have shown potential but haven't cracked the major league ceiling. One new parallel was added for the 2004 set with "red" 1-of-1 cards made for all regular and Chrome refractor versions. The game-used and autograph inserts are again underwhelming, although Hernandez, Cano and David Wright have Futures Game jersey cards included. The Prospect Premium relics all book no higher than $10 while O's pitching prospect Adam Loewen currently leads the values in Signs of the Future autographs at $15. One thing keeping Bowman Draft popular in 2004 was its low per-pack price, as Topps expanded an already large family of Bowman sets in 2004 with the high-end Bowman Sterling product that featured autographed and auto'd game-used RCs of many of the same prospects featured in Bowman Draft at a much higher per-pack price. What one could get a set of 2000 Bowman Draft for brought a collector one pack of Bowman Sterling in 2004.


Bowman Draft showed some differences in 2005, as Topps shoehorned another regular parallel and two more chrome parallels into the set, because if we've learned nothing from the demise of Donruss/Playoff in the baseball card field, it's that the more parallels there are, the better. Sarcasm, there. The usual set structure was back, although Topps did drop all the game-used sets other than the Futures Game jerseys. New to Bowman Draft in 2005 were regular white parallels of each card #d to 225 as well as chrome blue refractors #d to 150 and SuperFractor 1-of-1s to for some reason go along with the red refractor 1-of-1s already in place. All the varied refractor variations were recreated for the second year of the AFLAC exchange set, which in 2005 included 14 rather than 12 cards. None of the prospects in that set have made a major impact yet, although some like O's prospect Billy Rowell and Angels prospect Hank Conger have been hyped. For all the perceived drawbacks of the added parallels, the base set in '05 Draft and Chrome Draft ranks among the best in the history of the set. Maybe it's the karma of the first poster boy to be a big league regular since Greene was on the 2002 boxes, as Ryan Zimmerman made a quick impact in the Washington infield. The regular cards feature the first cards of Troy Tulowitzki, Reds hot prospect Jay Bruce, McCutchen, Red Sox hot pitching prospects Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, Justin Verlander, Micah Owings and Melky Cabrera, not to mention now D'Backs OF Chris B. Young. The Chrome auto RCs are THE draw of the set, easily, however, as Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Colby Rasmus and John Mayberry Jr. are all big hits from the expanded 15-card subset, which had traditionally been 10. The Futures Game jersey is even packed as Young, Francisco Liriano, Verlander, Russ Martin, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Wood and Jeremy Hermida are among those included. Somehow, though, with all these big names in the other sets, only one of the Signs of the Future autos has been able to earn a Beckett listing in the form of Homer Bailey's $25 auto. Other than that, none book higher than $10 currently. On the whole, I'd say 2005 Bowman Draft more than measures up with the 2002 pinnacle set of the brand. The lineup of Chrome auto RCs is, simply put, awesome, and even the base set RCs have a lot of potential. Twenty years from now, these two sets may be among the best mid-level sets of the decade.


Unfortunately, 2005 may be the best Bowman Draft set we'll ever see as the MLBPA and card companies enacted the Rookie Card logo program in 2006 and threw the state of all Bowman products into a measure of chaos. No longer could the low-minors-prospect cards be included in the base set (under the new program), so Topps made separate "prospect" insert sets in all the 2006 Bowman products. Bowman Draft was no different, as a new "draft picks" set was included and seeded into each pack along with the chrome draft and chrome draft draft picks cards. Basically, the change made every opened pack of Bowman Draft an ordeal of separating out all the different sets, as the parallel cards continued to further muddy the waters. In my mind, they shoulda just dropped the base parallels and kept the chrome refractors in. In all, 16 different sets and insert sets of cards are listed in Beckett for regular 2006 Bowman Draft, with another 24 listed for 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft. 40 different incarnations of cards! And also, for some reason, it was decided to add another refractor to the chrome set as orange refractors #d/25 were included in 2006. How does that make sense? Needless to say, the results of all the changes are hit-and-miss. The regular and chrome base sets include only three cards individually listed in the Beckett Baseball Card Plus -- RCs of Sox pitcher Jon Lester and Mets P Michael Pelfrey and a non-RC rookie-card-logo card of Jered Weaver. The AFLAC exchange set disappeared from the set in 2006, and the new draft picks semi-insert set has yet to produce any big names yet, although it does include Rowell, Blue Jays prospect Travis Snider, Conger and Phillies P prospect Kyle Drabek. The Futures Game players were given their own subset including all the various parallels. One highlight for the regular set cards was the Futures Game relics, as Phil Hughes, Maybin, Hunter Pence, Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Stephen Drew, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are all included, among others. A dual autograph of ARod and Justin Upton was also seeded into packs at very-high odds. The Signs of the Future autos actually had a strong year as Gordon, Bruce, Koby Clemens, and Micah Owings are all included. Another change was made in the Chrome draft pick autos, as the number was expanded from 15 in 2005 to 25 in 2006. The lineup includes Rays prospect Evan Longoria (poster boy for the set), Dodgers prospect Clayton Kershaw, and Padres prospect Matt Antonelli as the big hits, although all of the players included have yet to climb the ladder to MLB. In another puzzling decision, Topps decided to do Futures Game chrome cards and all the chrome parallels as well, although I guess if you're gonna go to the trouble in the base set you might as well in the chrome set. Nothing like overkill. At this point, the dropoff from 2005 to 2006 Bowman Draft is noticeable and, unfortunately, for the most part isn't necessarily Topps' fault. It can maybe be argued that, with the onset of the Rookie Card logo program, maybe Bowman Draft should have been scrapped, but as I'm sure it has been a great seller, that decision would be very hard to make. I guess if people still shell out the cash, there's not much drawback to putting it out.


In the second year of the Rookie Card logo program, the situation improved somewhat for Bowman Draft. Mainly the improvement was due to a solid group of actual rookies who qualified for the RC logo and a solid draft class featuring the usual hyped prospects. Other than that, it was the same as 2006 only with an updated card design, Futures Game patch cards to go along with the normal jerseys and Chrome Futures Game game-used cards featuring a chunk of base. As in 2005, Topps was able to grab an established top young player from the season as Astros OF Hunter Pence graced boxes and packs of 2007 Bowman Draft. Pence is one of the several good cards to be found in the base set of the product, although his card isn't one of the true RCs in the set. The main names among actual RCs are Justin Upton, Tim Lincecum, Cameron Maybin, Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain, with Ryan Braun and Phil Hughes carrying non-rookie RC logo cards in the set. For some reason, Topps also short-printed the regular Bowman Barry Bonds card and seeded a regular and chrome version into Bowman Draft at high odds. All the varied parallels plus the Futures Game prospects set are back. Early frontrunners in the 2007 draft picks portion of the set are #1 pick David Price, #2 pick Royals farmhand Mike Moustakas, Brewers draftee Matt LaPorta and Braves draftee Jason Heyward. LaPorta and Price will likely be the first among the group to hit the big time along with Nats draftee Ross Detwiler. The Futures Game jersey set features Chamberlain and Jacoby Ellsbury as the lone listees in Beckett while the patch version is #d to 99. Other good players in that set include Buchholz, Luke Hochevar, Kershaw, Longoria, Bruce, Maybin and Justin Upton. The Head of the Class dual autos were back for a second season with Heyward included on one card while Hochevar and Price are featured on another. The biggest pull among the Signs of the Future autos is Mets farmhand Fernando Martinez with some other lower-level prospects mixed into the set. The group of 30 Chrome auto draft picks isn't as gaudy as it could be, as Price, Moustakas, Heyward and LaPorta are all left out. Detwiler is included as is fellow Nats draftee Michael Burgess and Red Sox draftee Nick Hagadone. I've bought a chunk of the '07 Bowman Draft product in retail packs and haven't been disappointed. I guess maybe I got used to all the sorting out from the 2006 product, although I wish it wasn't as necessary. It'd be oh so nice to go back to the way the Draft sets were set up from '02 to '05, but it seems like the RC logo program may be here to stay, which may keep the product from ever living back up to what it once was. Without the draft picks cards being true RCs of each player, it's gonna make future classification of each player's catalog of cards confusing. Just trying to make sense of how the 2006 and 2007 sets are set up is confusing to some extent.

Royals are in camp, I'm back from the flu

*** It's been a solid 10-11 days since my last post. In that time period I had the flu for the first time in a long time. Not a fun week last week. That's one of the perks of having three kids in school.....every germ in town pays a visit to your house. Did get over it in time to get to a card show last weekend, but it was fairly lackluster compared to past shows. I picked up a few vintage football RCs I'd been looking for ('76 Nat Moore, '74 Lynn Dickey, '76 Robert Brazile plus an upgrade to my '76 Ray Wersching) for a buck total, and some packs, out of which I didn't get anything to write home about. I'd gone wanting to maybe pick up a big hit, maybe a USFL Steve Young RC, whatever was older and caught my eye. I only saw one Young USFL RC at the show and it was fairly bad off-center, so I didn't really consider it. The search continues....

Meanwhile, the Royals are in camp in Surprise and, from all reports, healthy as can be expected. Everybody is in except Alberto Callaspo, who has some minor visa delays from Venezuela. Not a whole lot to report yet. Miguel Olivo said he was "disappointed" he was coming in as the #2 catcher behind John Buck, which I can understand. It's not like Buck hammered the ball the last half of last year. He hit under .200 and slugged .290. He hit .320 in April and didn't hit higher than .239 in any other month.....after May he didn't hit higher than .218. He hit for a .606 OPS at home. Sorry, but that doesn't automatically earn you the benefit of the doubt for a starting job. Hopefully this motivates Olivo, which in turn pushes Buck to do his job at the plate. Billy Butler is hoping to hold down the job at 1B instead of being full-time DH. Time will tell. It's so far, so good with Jose Guillen as he appears to be joking with the guys -- I don't know what some fans are expecting. I guess since he's had some clubhouse problems elsewhere he's gonna be a problem from day 1? That doesn't make much sense. Games don't start until next week, which is when speculation will slowly start to congeal into reality. Who's gonna be the fourth and fifth starters? (Personally I'd like to see Mike Maroth and either Luke Hochevar or Brian Lawrence step up.) Is Grudzielanek's knee gonna hold up as he has another year of mileage on it? Can Alex Gordon and Billy Butler develop into the middle-of-the-lineup guys fans hope they are? Will Mark Teahen hit like a #3 slot guy or a #7 slot guy? How is Alberto Callaspo gonna fit into Hillman's plans (which ties into the Grudz question, too)? Is Hillman gonna make us all forget about every manager since Hal McRae, like at least I hope he will? Questions abound....

I've also signed on to be a contributor over at the Spring Training '08 website, which kinda puts pressure on me to churn out posts more often. It may be my first and last foray into other blogdom.

08 February 2008

Some quick hits

A few quick hits while I wrap up the work week with a little down time....

*** The Royals got their last 2 players under contract Thursday by signing Zack Space Case Greinke and Mark Teahen to 1-year deals to avoid arbitration. Dayton Moore said on 810 yesterday morning that Greinke was gonna be given a chance to start again in '08. Hope the leash is somewhat short, because he was a great set-up guy last season. I saw a projected batting order for 2008 the other day (for the life of me can't remember where) and it had Teahen batting third, which confounds me. I think he's more of a 6-7 slot guy, leaning toward 7. But there isn't really anyone on the team that's a natural #3 batting order guy right now. I can see Gordon getting there, but not quite yet. Somebody has to hit there, I guess. Moore also said the goal in the offseason was to get Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones, plus Jose Guillen. Obviously neither signing happened (Hunter or Jones). Woulda been nice to see one of them (I'd prefer Hunter) in the new powder blues. No matter what happens, as of right now it's oh so nice to have baseball right around the corner.

*** Been updating the links section to the left.....added the entire list of Countdown links, plus some card blog links (of all those, I gotta say I like Cardboard Junkie the best so far), plus some new video links. We'll see how long those stay good. Find a dead link? Let me know by e-mail (link in picks to click) or the comments.

*** Speaking of comments, I hardly ever get any of them. Like the blog? Don't like it? NPB Notes drone on too long? Card talk not up your alley? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I know people are reading it, but don't get a lot of feedback, other than a kind word here and there.

*** One short card-related note -- opened 8 packs of retail 2007 Topps Update baseball today and pulled 2 Joba Chamberlain RCs (unfortunately neither was the reverse negative version), a Grady Sizemore gold parallel and a Ryan Howard all-star jersey card. Not too shabby.

*** Getting ready to start some posts at some point about good books, probably mostly sports-related but maybe not all. The first one I'm gonna post about was written by a Pipeline reader, so look for that in a couple weeks or so.

07 February 2008

TriStar Prospects Plus blaster #2

As usual, I decided to go for another blaster box of TriStar after lucking out with the Brackman SP auto in the first box. Nothing like pressing your luck. Well.....luck sufficiently pressed. Here's how it broke down:

pack 1

Jonathan Bachanov PD 52
Ben Revere PD 43
Chuck Lofgren ProTential PT-CL
Joe Savery PD 61
Ryan Dent PD 8
Matt Wieters PD 53 -- at least I got another Wieters

pack 2

Duke Welker PD 39
Bubba Bell 95
David Kopp PD 75
Mitch Hilligoss 98
Will Kline PD 46
Nathan Vineyard PD 74


pack 3

Andrew Cumberland PD 51
David Price ProTential PT-DP -- nice hit there
Jordan Zimmermann Farm Hands auto -- not a very big payoff, but OK
David Price DP 1 -- another solid pull
Brad Suttle PD 89
Mitch Canham PD 68

that pack made up somewhat for pack 2

pack 4

Blake Beavan DP 73
Phillippe Aumont DP
Mike Moustakas ProTential PT-MM -- keeper
Nick Noonan PD 57
Michael Burgess PD 26
Tim Alderson PD 15

nice Moose insert

pack 5

Chris Withrow PD 40
Sam Runion PD 19 -- keeper
Madison Bumgarner DP 47
Matt Dominguez PD 10
Casey Weathers PD 5
Jon Gilmore PD 50

pack 6

Ross Detwiler PD 9
Travis D'Arnaud PD 25
Josh Vitters PD 31 -- another decent pull
Danny Payne PD 41
Wendell Fairley PD 29
Kellen Kulbacki PD 18

pack 7

Ed Easley PD 60
Jeff Larish 86
Landon Powell ProTential PT-LP
James Simmons PD 65
Devin Mesoraco PD 32
Yung Chi Chen 100

hard to live up to the 2 autos in the first blaster, but it was OK -- the Moustakas insert helped...and who knows, maybe Zimmermann pans out for the Nats or somebody else. Not a bad sig either. I need to get hooked up with a scanner. This is probably just enough to maybe hook me in for blaster #3.

03 February 2008

No 19-0 //// TriStar Prospects Plus blaster break

I was rooting for history tonight, so it was tough to watch the Patriots get beat by the Giants. It's nice to see Eli get some respect, tho.....he had a great run in the playoffs. I just wanted to see the '72 Dolphins shut up. I doubt 18-1 is gonna do it. Pats' O-line and Brady had a rough night, for sure. Anyway, I came home and got over my very minor depression by opening a couple packs of 2007 Bowman Draft baseball and a blaster box of TriStar Prospects Plus baseball. I wasn't disappointed.

BDP pack 1

Bonds 237 (SP???)
Matt Brown BDP34
Trevor Pippin chrome BDPP5
Phil Hughes gold chrome refractor BDP49 -- #d 9/50 (can't complain there)
Steven Souza gold BDPP35
Matt West BDPP22
Derek Norris BDPP23 -- Kansas kid

BDP pack 2

Jesus Flores BDP9
Justin Upton BDP3 -- nice one, too
Matt LaPorta chrome BDPP64 -- could be great pull
Colby Rasmus chrome BDPP109
Ryan Pope gold BDPP45
Darin Mastroianni BDPP8
John Ely BDPP16

TriStar Prospects Plus blaster pack 1

Travis Snider 97 -- pulled his auto from TPP in '06
Clayton Mortensen draft pick 7
James Adkins Farm Hands auto -- supplemental rd 1 pick by Dodgers, P from Tennessee
David Mailman pro debut 94
Anthony Rizzo PD 85
Corey Brown PD 23

pack 2

Josh Smoker PD 69
Jose Tabata 91
Fernando Martinez Protential insert PT-FM
Ryan Dent PD 8
Matt Wieters PD 53 -- nice pull there
Corey Luebke PD 35

pack 3

Ben Revere PD 43
Nick Hagadone PD 27 -- another could-be good one
Kyle Lotzkar PD 13
Will Kline PD 46
Nathan Vineyard PD 74
Joe Savery PD 61

pack 4

David Kopp PD 75
Jonathan Bachanov PD 52
Andrew Brackman Protential PT-AB
Brad Suttle PD 89
Mitch Canham PD 68
Mitch Hilligoss 98

pack 5

Andrew Cumberland PD 51
Duke Welker PD 39
Bubba Bell 95
Wendell Fairley PD 29
Kellen Kulbacki PD 18
David Price DP 1 -- another great pull

pack 6

Josh Vitters PD 31 -- high Cubbies draft pick
Franklin Morales Protential PT-FM2
Andrew Brackman Farm Hands auto -- ahhhh yeah short print
Michael Burgess PD 26
Tim Alderson PD 15
Danny Payne PD 41

pack 7

Phillippe Aumont DP 67
Ross Detwiler PD 9 -- could be good pull
Travis D'Arnaud PD 25
Casey Weathers PD 5 -- top 10 pick
Jon Gilmore PD 50
Nick Noonan PD 57

I'll take 2 autos when 1 is guaranteed and an SP one that books early at $40, to boot. Plus a David Price, Matt Wieters and Josh Vitters. And to top it off the Hughes refractor #d/50. Not bad for 9 packs.

02 February 2008

Welcome to Canton, Art Monk and Darrell Green

Art Monk and Darrell Green were two of my favorite players growing up, so it was nice to learn today that both were named to the 2008 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Monk was a key part of the Wild Bunch Redskins in the '80s, and shoulda been in the hall a few years back -- he did retire as the all-time receptions leader, after all, even if he has since been passed. I remember him as a Marvin Harrison-type (altho I guess Marvin would be an Art Monk type) -- not much flash but he got the job done, week in and week out. A quick look at his Pro Football Reference page proves as much. He only played less than 10 games three times, and one was the final year of his career. Looking at the stats doesn't give the clearest picture of his greatness.

And Darrell Green was the prototype shut down corner. The main memory I have of him is winning the NFL's Fastest Man competition seemingly every year. There's a video on YouTube of him running a 4.2 40 at 40 years old. Unreal. The one below is of one of his punt returns. Like Monk, he was also durable for the Skins and only had two seasons in which he didn't play 10 games. Both were also class acts on and off the field. It's nice to see them get their just desserts today, so congratulations go out to both -- hell, all 6 of the guys that got in today -- I also liked Fred Dean (former Niner) and Andre Tippett from the old school Pat the Patriot Pats.

I'm also happy to own Monk's and Green's rookie cards, as well as Dean. Need to scan the Green, tho. I am always on the lookout for Monk cards, as he's on my player collections list.