Saturday, September 29, 2012

1976 Topps - Roy Howell.

Roy Howell appears here on card 279 of the 1976 Topps set. Gotta love the old school glasses.

In just his second season in the Majors, Roy would appear in 140 games for Texas in 1976. 130 of those games were at third base, eight were at designated hitter, and two were presumably pinch-hitting appearances. Clearly Texas was trying to make Roy Howell their starting third baseman.

Howell would put in 1,111.1 innings at the hot corner. He would commit 20 errors for a .926 fielding percentage. That was 27 points below the league average. It also was a slight drop from the year before.

On offense Roy also struggled. In 531 plate appearances he posted a .253 batting average. That was one point higher than the previous season but his on-base percentage dropped 27 points to .295. Howell's power was a bit of a mixed bag. His doubles climbed to 28, his triples held steady at 2 and his home runs dropped to 8. Perhaps more ominously for Howell, his walks dropped by nine from the previous season to 30 while his strikeouts skyrocketed by 27 to 106 on the season.

Roy had plenty to work on if he wanted the Rangers plans to make him a fixture in their infield to succeed. His defense had to improve significantly. He also needed to improve either his power or his on-base percentage. Both would be nice but a significant upswing in one or the other might be enough to help him hang on.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

1976 Topps - Toby Harrah.

Toby Harrah, shown here on card 412 of the 1976 Topps set, nailed down the starting shortstop position in 1976.

In 155 games Harrah would play 1,318.1 innings at short as compared to just 45 innings at third base. Aside from a few games as the designated hitter those were the only two positions Toby played. With a .955 fielding percentage at second (12 points below league average) and a .923 fielding percentage at third (30 points below league average) it was clear that Harrah wasn't making his way in the world with his glove.

Unfortunately for Toby, his bat also developed some problems. In 688 plate appearances his batting average came to just .260. That was a 33 point drop from 1975. His on-base percentage also dropped by 43 points to .360. The one thing that didn't drop significantly for Toby was his power. He hit 21 doubles, 1 triple, and 15 home runs.

In spite of the drop-off season Harrah was still selected to the All-Star team for a second straight year. That was probably due to the previous season's performance. Toby needed to get back to his 1975 form if he wanted to keep going to the midsummer classic.

Friday, September 21, 2012

1976 Topps - Mike Hargrove.

Mike Hargrove, shown here on card 485 of the 1976 Topps set, found himself back at first base for the 1976 season. The starting first baseman, Mike would appear only at first and as the designated hitter.

Hargrove played 1,259.2 innings at first in 1976. He made an astounding 21 errors for a fielding percentage of .984. That was eight points below the league average.

On offense The Human Rain Delay would make 654 time consuming trips to the plate. For the first time in his Major League career his batting average would drop below .300. In spite of his .287 average, Mike's on-base percentage would go up by two points to .397. That was due in large part to his league-leading 97 walks. Hargrove also hammered 30 doubles - the highest of any Texas starter.

In spite of the drop in batting average, things were looking up for Mike Hargrove. He had the first baseman's job nailed down. If he could fix his glove issues he could probably keep it. Sooner or later some of those doubles would start to drop over the fence for home runs and the ability to work walks would always come in handy. 1977 had the potential to be a good year for Mike.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

1976 Topps - Steve Hargan.

Steve Hargan, seen here on card number 463 of the 1976 Topps set, was the workhorse of the Rangers bullpen in 1976. He also served as an occasional spot-starter.

Filling a long relief role, Steve pitched 124.1 innings in 35 appearances.  While the appearances didn't lead the bullpen, the number of innings pitched did.

Hargan did pretty decent in those 124.1 innings. He managed to drop his ERA and WHIP from the previous season. The ERA totaled to 3.62 and his WHIP to 1.327.

All in all Steve Hargan seemed to have made the adjustment from starter to reliever. At least the newly-formed Toronto Blue Jays thought he had. They claimed Hargan from Texas on November 5th in the 1976 expansion draft. Texas then traded Roy Howell to the Blue Jays to get Hargan back along with Jim Mason and $200,000 on May 9, 1977.

Steve would make six appearances for the Rangers out of the bullpen before the end of the 1977 season but his 8.76 ERA brought little relief. On December 13, 1977 Texas sold Hargan's contract to the Atlanta Braves. This time he wouldn't be back.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

1976 Topps - Bill Hands.

By the time Bill Hands appeared on card number 509 of the 1976 Topps set his Major League career was over. Perhaps if Bill knew this would be his last card he might have tried to look a bit more cheery.

Following the 1975 season Texas had traded Hands to the Mets on February 24, 1976. In return the Rangers had obtained George Stone. Neither Stone nor Hands would see Major League action after the trade. As a matter of fact, neither would even play in the minors again.

I have to confess that I am a bit baffled by the fact that both players' careers ended just after the trade. For one player in a trade to hang up the spikes is not unusual. For both to disappear from the active player ranks is strange.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

1976 Topps - Tom Grieve.

Tom Grieve, shown here on card 106 of the 1976 Topps set, had five Major League seasons under his belt going into the 1976 campaign. He had yet to nail down a starting job. After some modest success in 1975, this was Tag's chance to grab an outfield spot.

Grieve would play in a career-high 149 games in 1976 and make a career-high 600 plate appearances. Unfortunately the results were mixed. Tom led the team in home runs with 20. He also hit 23 doubles and three triples. His 81 RBI were second best on the team. Those were the positive numbers. On the other side of the equation was his .255 batting average and .301 on-base percentage. Both were lower than the previous year. One contributing factor was his 119 strikeouts, up from 74 in 1975.

Unlike the previous year, Tom only played the two corner outfield positions in 1976. All told he put in 431.1 innings over 52 games in the outfield. His .983 fielding percentage was just two points higher than the league average.

If Tom Grieve had a starting job in 1976 it was at Designated Hitter. He played in 96 games there, 95 as a starter. Unfortunately his bat betrayed him. At 28 years old the former first round draft pick appeared to be headed back to a back-up role in 1977.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

1976 Topps - Jim Fregosi.

Continuing in his role as a utility player, Jim Fregosi appeared in 58 games for the Rangers in 1976. He appears here on card number 635 of the 1976 Topps set.

Topps again lists Fregosi as a third baseman. Again the truth is not quite as clear-cut. Jim played at first and third and as a designated hitter. His most common position was first base where he put in 193 innings and committed just one error for a fielding percentage of .995. Next was designated hitter, an assignment Fregosi handled for 18 games. Lastly was third base where he logged just 14 innings and one error.

Jim made 160 trips to the plate on offense and saw his batting average tumble almost 30 points to .233. Due in part to his 23 walks his on-base percentage actually climbed over the previous season to .342. Neither of those numbers are particularly good for a DH or a corner infielder. Fregosi's almost total lack of power didn't help. He hit just seven doubles, no triples, and two home runs in the course of the season.

1976 had seen the continuation of a steady decline for Jim Fregosi. At 34 years of age his injuries were starting to catch up with him. On June 15, 1977 the Rangers would trade him to the Pirates for Ed Kirkpatrick. In 1978 the Bucs would release him and end his playing career.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

1976 Topps - Steve Foucault.

After a down 1975 season Steve Foucault, shown here on card 303 of the 1976 Topps set, lost his closer role for the Rangers in 1976.

Returning to the middle of the bullpen meant at least a partial return to his 1974 form. Foucault appeared in fewer games than in 1975 but he seemed to handle the workload better. His ERA dropped .79 points to 3.33 and his WHIP dropped almost .2 points to 1.229.

Steve seemed to be on the road back. A little bit of improvement in 1977 could see him back in the closer's role and on top of his game. That improvement wouldn't happen in a Rangers uniform though. On April 12, 1977 Texas sent Foucault to Detroit in exchange for slugger Willie Horton.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

1976 Topps - Bill Fahey.

While John Ellis was having a rough season in 1976, Bill Fahey finally shook the injury bug. After serious injuries in 1973, 1974, and 1975 Fahey, shown here on card 436 of the 1976 Topps set, avoided the Disabled List in 1976.

Unfortunately for Fahey, the effects of his injuries lingered. Not that they effected his performance but they had allowed Jim Sundberg to pass him in the organizational depth chart. With Sunny starting, Fahey was relegated to a back-up role.

In that role he played in 38 games and put in 228.1 innings behind the plate. He made just one error for a .993 fielding percentage. That was much higher than the league average .981. Fahey could be stolen on though. He caught just 32% of runners trying to steal on him. He nabbed 11 would-be thieves but there were 23 successful grabs.

On offense Fahey made 94 trips to the batter's box. He would post a .250 batting average and a .348 on-base percentage. He didn't demonstrate much power with just two doubles and one home run.

Bill Fahey had turned in a decent performance in 1976. It wasn't enough to get him the starting gig but it demonstrated that he could stay healthy and be effective. The one area that he really needed to improve in was his ability to gun down base-stealers. If he wanted to challenge Jim Sundberg for the starting job in 1977 he had to be practically flawless on defense and with the throws to bases.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

1976 Topps - John Ellis.

Catcher/first baseman John Ellis, shown here on card number 383T of the 1976 Topps Traded set, came to Texas from Cleveland in a December 9, 1975 trade. In return the Rangers sent Ron Pruitt and Stan Thomas to the Indians. Ellis' role was supposed to be as a back-up for first baseman Mike Hargrove and catcher Jim Sundberg.

What actually happened was that Ellis served as designated hitter in three games and spent seven games at catcher.

John put in 39 innings behind the plate without committing an error. He also caught two of the four runners trying to steal on him.

On the other side of things, Ellis posted a .419 batting average in 31 plate appearances. He didn't work a walk but a .419 on-base percentage isn't bad. His lone home run came in the second inning of a May 9th game in Boston. That home run came at a good time as it helped Texas win their eighth straight and keep a hold on first place.

Coming up in the 5th inning of the same game, Ellis singled. Up came Toby Harrah. Harrah hit a bounding ball to second base. Ellis thundered down to second and slid in hard to try and break up the double play. The slide was too hard and John was still on the ground as the dust cleared. Coming in to the bag he had dislocated his left ankle and broken his leg.

That was it for the season for John Ellis. The rest of the year was spent in healing and therapy. He was determined to play again in 1977 but it would be a long haul.

Monday, September 3, 2012

1976 Topps - Mike Cubbage.

The front of card number 615 in the 1976 Topps set lists Mike Cubbage as a third baseman. The back lists him as playing third and second base. The back of the card is correct for 1976.

Cubbage played in 14 games for Texas in 1976. Six of those games were at DH. Five more were at second and in one game he played at third. In 35 innings at second base Mike was perfect with no errors. His one inning stint at third base was also perfect but that was because he saw no action there.

At the plate Cubbage was struggling to say the least. In 39 plate appearances he stayed just north of the Mendoza Line with a .219 batting average. The seven walks he picked up bumped his on-base percentage up to .346. He had no extra base hits and just one stolen base.

In 1976 Texas was looking to make a move. The club was trying to regain their 1974 form and was willing to deal to make it happen. Mike Cubbage was a piece the franchise was willing to part with. On June 1, 1976 Mike was sent to the Minnesota Twins as part of a deal that brought Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson to Texas.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thanks and No Thanks.

Well, judging by the comments on my last post, it looks like there are a lot of people who have thoughts on my recent lack of posts.

Some like Play at the Plate have been encouraging. Thanks for hanging in there man, I appreciate the support. Others like Jim from Downingtown have offered sound advice. I would do a series on the starting nine in 1972 Jim but I have already posted my 1972 Topps set. Need to find another 1972 set before I can undertake that.

Then there are some I don't know exactly how to take. Not defunct James, were you asking, prodding, or complaining?

Still others I know how to take and am not sure what I did to irritate them. Sorry Dave, not canceled. Not sure exactly "how long it really takes" George. Moving one's family 500 miles and starting a new job is a rather fluid situation. The job is going well but I'm not yet out of training so that is taking a lot of time. The family is still 500 miles away from me so I am doing the long-distance husband/father thing. That takes even more time.  How much time? I don't know and I have a feeling you don't either. Thanks for asking though.

Anyway. To all out there, supporters and others, I'm back. Sort of. Most of my cards are still boxed up. That's part of not having a permanent living arrangement yet. I still have my Topps book out though. My present plan is to work my way through some team sets while I wait to find out how long this relocating thing really takes.