Thursday, October 23, 2014

Royals and random stuff.

In recognition of the Royals win last night I am posting this signed 1978 Topps Jim Sundberg card. I got this card signed in person at the Rangers FanFest this past spring. Of course, Sunny was also the Royals starting backstop when they won it all in 1985. Hope to see another Royals championship this year as well. Since they didn't win game one the odds aren't with them. Odds don't seem to really bother this KC team though.

Been doing a little work on the trade list over the past week. I now have team names listed in the misc, rookies, and minis categories. Some of the players I am sure everyone knows the teams for but I think it's easier for team collectors to scan for their team rather than for specific players. Also eliminated a player or two from the list. Some of the Pudge game-used are on hold for a possible trade but the rest of the list is still available. Take a look and let me know if you see anything you like. The off-season is rapidly approaching and a few trades would make the long winter a lot easier.

Also, if you have a card blog yourself and would like it added to my links list, let me know. I'll take a look and see what I can do. I would like to add some more team oriented blogs in particular but any card blog is a good blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Big news, Big cards.

So, I got a phone call from Mark the Royals fan last Friday night. He was pretty pumped and had some big news to share. He had tickets to the World Series. One for game one and two each for two, six, and seven. That is some big news. Mark scored the tickets for face value. That's big news as well. The story of getting the tickets was pretty neat but that's Mark's tale to tell. Needless to say, he was really looking forward to heading off to Kaufman and seeing the series. Can't blame him, I would be pretty excited as well. Hopefully he sees a Kansas City title. I'm pulling for the Royals this year and really want to see them come out on top.

During the conversation Mark mentioned he just made a rather large trade with a Mets collector we've both been trying to reach to propose trades. Mark has quite an extensive Royals collection and had a bit of a hard time coming up with enough he needed to round out the trade. He hit my wantlists and filled out the trade with Rangers. He wanted me to know to be expecting a box.

The box arrived Monday and it was big. Well, it had this 1990 Topps Big card #127 featuring Rafael Palmeiro in it. That and about two hundred and fifty other Rangers cards. Mark was right, he hit my wantlists. The box shrank my wantlists by almost four pages and completed ten team sets. That's big. Bigger than anything I have to send in return.

Me not having anything to send in return is probably the biggest thing about this. Mark mentioned the box on Friday night in order to tell me not to send him anything in return. Nothing, just enjoy the cards and cross them off the list. Now that's big. Thanks Mark.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1978 Topps - Mike Hargrove.

Coming into 1978 Mike Hargrove, seen here on #172 of the 1978 Topps set, was looking to build on his successful 1977 season. Hargrove had managed to improve defensively and offensively in 1977. If he could make more improvement he might be able to get back to his 1974 form.

Hargrove appeared in 146 games for the Rangers in 1978. All but six of those games were at first base. Four more were as the Designated Hitter and two were pinch-hit appearances. Over the 1124.2 innings Mike played at first he made 17 errors and ended the season with a .987 fielding percentage. That was a six point drop from 1977 and five points below the league average.

Mike made 616 trips to the plate for Texas and put together a .251 batting average and a .388 on-base percentage. The batting average was a 54 point drop from the previous season and the on-base percentage fell by 32 points. Hargrove's power also deserted him as he hit 24 doubles, one triple, and seven home runs. All were less than in 1977 and the home runs fell by over half. Perhaps the brightest spot offensively for Mike was his league-leading 107 walks.

Well, Hargrove hadn't been able to build on his 1977 success. He was quickly developing a pattern of doing well on odd-numbered years and stumbling on even numbered ones. If the pattern held true then 1979 should be an up year. The question was, would the Rangers have the patience with Mike to give him another year?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Minor League Monday - Felipe Castillo, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Felipe Castillo, shown here on ProCards Tulsa Drillers card 1150, was signed by the Rangers as a free agent at age 19 in 1986. He started his pro career the same year with the Gulf Coast Rangers in Rookie ball.

The four years between the start of Felipe's career and the issuing if this card were not easy ones for Castillo. He got his ERA below 4.25 only once: 2.78 in a 23 game stint with the Low A Gastonia Rangers in 1988. Somehow he kept climbing and ended up with Double A Tulsa for the 1990 season.

Up to 1990, Castillo had been primarily a starter. That obviously wasn't working out well so the Rangers transitioned him to a relief role in 1990. He made 20 appearances out of the bullpen for the Drillers and tossed 46 innings. Felipe posted a career low 2.35 ERA while striking out 39. His 1.457 WHIP was a reason for concern but the improvement with the move to the bullpen had been dramatic. That was good for Castillo because he needed a dramatic improvement to keep his Major League dreams alive.

The improvement was enough to earn Felipe a promotion to Triple A Oklahoma City for the remainder of the 1990 season. He came out of the bullpen 19 times and made one spot start for the 89'ers. Over 28.2 innings he compiled a 3.45 ERA and an 1.744 WHIP. Apparently that was enough for Texas, Castillo would not be back in 1991.

Following the 1990 season is where Castillo's career takes an unusual turn and the lack of minor league information becomes frustrating. It appears he was out of organized baseball for four years. I can't even find any record of him playing in Japan.

In 1995 Felipe re-surfaces at age 28 with the Tulsa Drillers, still a Rangers farm team. This is clearly a comeback attempt, not a spot appearance. He pitched 33 innings over 14 relief appearances and posted a 3.82 ERA and 1.606 WHIP. Not too shabby for a guy missing for four seasons and suddenly jumping back into Double A ball. That's it though. He's gone again after 1995.

Castillo's back again in 2001 though. Still a reliever at age 34, he appears in ten games, evenly split between the independent Fort Worth Cats and the Triple A Mexican League Cordoba Cafeteros. Felipe got hammered over 4.1 innings with the Cats to a tune of a 6.23 ERA and a 2.077 WHIP. He did a little better with the Cafeteros as he posted a 3.18 ERA and an 1.941 WHIP. That was it. He finally hung up the spikes for good after 2001.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Senators Saturday - Frank Howard, 1967.

Frank Howard appears with a bat on card 255 of the 1967 Topps set. Probably an accurate depiction of his career. At the plate is where The Capitol Punisher earned his nickname.

Howard was the Senators starting left fielder in 1967 and appeared in 149 games. 141 of those games included playing left field and three included right field. He also played first base in four games which opened the possibility of moving him to that position sometime in the future. It was the first time Hondo had played first since 1961.

Over the 1086 innings in the outfield (only 3.2 innings were in right field and he saw no action), Howard committed just three errors en route to a .986 fielding percentage. That was ten points higher than the league average and a very pleasant surprise. His range in the outfield was significantly lower than your average American League outfielder though. At first base Frank played 17 innings without a miscue. Once again, his range was limited compared to most first basemen around the league.

Hondo made 585 trips to the plate in 1967, second only to Ken McMullen in plate appearances on the team. He batted a team best .256 and got on base at a .338 clip, also a team high. Frank's .511 slugging percentage was not only a team best, it was 5th in the American League. He hit 20 doubles, two triples, and 36 home runs (team best). He came in third in the American League in home runs. His 89 RBI led the team and was 4th best in the AL. Howard might have had a higher on-base percentage if he wasn't such a free swinger. He struck out a league-leading 155 times.

The Senators got what they were looking for from Frank Howard in 1967. He was hitting for power and that's why they traded for him. If he could cut down on the whiffs it would be nice but Hondo was a free swinger when he arrived from Los Angeles. The above average fielding percentage was an added bonus, Howard was on the roster for his bat. If he could cut down on the strikeouts in 1968 and maintain his defense, he would have a successful season. Due to his size any increase in range in the outfield was not going to happen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rangers roster begins off-season change.

The Rangers have begun their off-season moves. J.P. Arencibia and Kevin Kouzmanoff already took their free agency rather than start 2015 in the minors. Alex Rios won't be with the team in 2015 either it doesn't look like.

Texas announced on Wednesday morning that they won't be picking up Rios' $14 million option for the 2015 season. Instead the team opted to buy him out for one million and send him on his way as a free agent. As I mentioned in my 2014 season review, this move really doesn't surprise me. Chalk one up for my prediction skills I guess.

Alex didn't have a bad year in 2014, he just didn't have a really good one either. The Rangers figure they can get a decent year from one of their young outfielders at a fraction of the price Rios would have cost. What will be interesting now is how much Rios, seen here on card 85 of the 2014 Topps Heritage set, will get on the free market.

Right now the plan calls for Shin-Soo Choo to move from left to right field to replace Rios. Barring a trade or free agent signing, that will leave Michael Choice, Jake Smolinski, Daniel Robertson, Ryan Rua, and Jim Adduci duking it out for the left field spot. The runner-up will likely end up as the fourth outfielder.

There are some big name free agent outfielders on the market. Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis, Torii Hunter, Nori Aoki, and former Ranger Nelson Cruz. Since Texas is going to be looking to shore up the pitching staff I really don't look for them to make a play for any of these guys. If they do, Aoki would probably be the only one they would seriously look at.

The Rios move frees up some cash for a possible pitcher signing. I like that. It does take an experienced bat out of the lineup though so it's a bit of a gamble. It's probably the right move though. Texas has a lot of hungry young outfielders right now and can afford to bet at least one of them comes through to replace Alex.

Speaking of replacements, the Rangers announced the replacement for manager Ron Washington yesterday. Like many, I expected bench coach/interim manager Tim Bogar to get the nod. Instead the club went with Pirates bench coach Jeff Bannister. From the outside it seems that Bannister must have really wowed the front office to get the nod over Bogar. Hopefully he can wow the players and fans as well in 2015 and beyond.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Early off-season.

The off-season is trading time. All the teams engage in wheeling and dealing. I know, the off-season doesn't officially start until the World Series is over but we're close enough. I haven't had a trade in awhile and would like to remedy that. Of particular interest would be Rangers game-used and autographs I don't have. They don't have to be stars, ones like this 1996 Leaf Authentic Signatures card of Matt Whiteside would be fine. This section of my collection is a bit thin and I'd like to bulk it up a bit.

Of course, I'm also still trying to knock out the Rangers base team sets. I'm always interested in trading for any cards off my wantlist. Senators are welcome too, especially off the Washington wantlist. I'd even consider a blind team lot trade, if anyone is interested.

Other than the Rangers, I occasionally pick up cards of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Stan Musial. I'd also consider any Royals parallels or inserts. Mark the Royals fan has most of the base cards already so it doesn't do me much good to pick them up. Of course, if you have anything of Jon Matlack from the Matlack wantlist be sure and let me know.

I've been slowly revamping my tradelist so if you see anything there you might be interested in, now is the time to speak up. Some of the cards listed will be disappearing in the coming weeks. I'd like to trade base for base, vintage for vintage, inserts for inserts, etc. but if you make an offer I'll listen. I'll even look through your tradelist if you see something off mine you like. I also have some Ivan Rodriguez memorabilia not listed on the trade list that I'd like to get traded to a good home so let me know if that catches your interest.

Well, that's my attempt to kick the hot stove season off to an early start. Let me know if we can work a deal.