Friday, March 1, 2013
1976 Topps - Jim Sundberg.
Under normal circumstances Sunny's .228 batting average and .285 on-base percentage would not be good. However, they represented a 29 point and three point improvement over the previous season. Jim could still use some work with the bat but he appeared to be making improvement and getting past the sophomore slump he fell into in 1975.
It's fitting that Topps uses a catcher in full gear as there position icon for Sundberg in 1976. Defense is where he was shining. In 140 games Jim played 1204.2 innings behind the plate and handled 815 chances while committing just seven errors. That gave him a .991 fielding percentage, a full ten points higher than the league average. Considering Sunny's range factor was 34 points higher than the league average, he was not only committing fewer errors than most catchers, he was handling more chances. Jim also continued to nab would-be base stealers. He caught 42% of runners trying to steal on him, 8% more than the league average.
After watching three of his runners get gunned down on September 17th, A's manager Chuck Tanner weighed in. He called Sundberg "the best defensive catcher in the league." He wasn't the only one who thought so, Jim received his first Gold Glove in 1976.