Saturday, October 31, 2015

Senators Saturday - Ed Stroud, 1970.

Smiling Ed Stroud appears today on card 506 of the 1970 Topps set. Ed appears pretty happy in spite of his card being dramatically mis-cut.

Stroud appeared in 129 games for the Senators in 1970 and made 479 trips to the plate. He posted a .266 batting average (second best on the team) and a .331 on-base percentage (third best in the starting lineup). Ed whiffed 79 times and walked just 40 but he really wasn't a slugger. He did put up 11 doubles, five triples (tied for most on the team), and five home runs but the triples were probably due more to speed than power. Stroud led the Senators with 29 stolen bases. He scored 69 runs while sending in 32 RBI.

Ed's primary position on the team was as the starting center fielder. He played 848.2 innings in center field over 106 games. He committed just two errors and ended the season with a .992 fielding percentage. That was much better than the .985 league average for center fielders. That's more impressive considering Stroud had more range than the average center fielder. Ed also played 51 innings in ten games in right field and 24 innings in nine games in left field, both with no errors.

Obviously Ed Stroud was just what the doctor ordered on defense in 1970. Offense was more of a mixed bag. The batting average, stolen bases, walks, runs, RBI, and doubles all moved in the right direction. On-base percentage, strikeouts, and caught stealing went the wrong way. That indicated Ed needed some work with the bat. The year of the pitcher was fast fading into memory. With the lowered mound, position players were expected to post higher offensive numbers and power was taking over from speed in the American League. Stroud needed to get all his numbers moving in the right direction if he wanted to stay with Washington.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Odd and ends.

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week. Had some things come up that needed to be taken care of and that created a time squeeze. Back to business now though and keeping up with the World Series and the Rangers off season. Here's a random Rangers game-used card of Hank Blalock from the 2006 Bowman Sterling set for today.

After a truly epic Game 1 win and a blow-out last night, the Kansas City Royals are up 2-0 as the series heads to New York for Game 3 tomorrow. The Mets have got some ball to play if they want to get back into things. They've shown in the past they can though so the Royals better not let up.

Meanwhile in Texas, the Rangers off-season continues. The club is saying Adrian Beltre's thumb surgery went well and he should be ready for Spring Training. That's extremely good news. The Rangers also activated the still rehabbing Jurickson Profar and sent him to Arizona to play Fall Ball. He's apparently doing well. Prince Fielder was named the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year for his 2015 campaign. Glad he won that, he worked hard to get back from his neck surgery.

On the other side of the ledger, the team assigned catcher Carlos Corporan to Triple A. He declined the assignment and is now a free agent. That reduces the team's depth behind the plate and leaves Robinson Chirinos as the clear front-runner for the starting job. It appears unlikely the club will pick anyone up via free agency since front line catching is at a premium in the Majors right now.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Senators Saturday - Jim Shellenback, 1970.

Jim Shellenback spent the most of the 1969 season with the Washington Senators after coming over from Pittsburgh in a May trade. Makes it a bit strange that Topps had no pictures of him in a Washington uniform. Instead, Shellenback appears hatless in his Pirates jersey on card 389 of the 1970 Topps set.

Jim was one of two long reliever/starters to operate out of the Senators bullpen in 1970, Jim Hannan being the other. Both got double digit starts with Shellenback starting 14 of the 39 games he appeared in. Over the 117.1 innings he pitched, Jim compiled a 3.68 ERA and a 1.347 WHIP. Both were noticeable drops from 1969. Shellenback struggled with his control though, he walked 51 opposing batsmen while striking out just 57. Surprisingly for a swingman, he tossed two complete games, one of which was a shutout. Jim ended the season with a 6-7 record.

All in all, Jim Shellenback's 1970 season was middle of the pack. He was in the middle in ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched for Senators relievers. While he had made progress from his numbers the year before, Washington was looking for more out of its pitching staff than in years past. That was going to put pressure on everyone to keep their spots. Shellenback was in a good position, thanks in part to his versatility, but he needed to keep his numbers moving in the right direction to stay away from Triple A.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starting the off-season.

With the Rangers season over it's now time to follow the other clubs through the playoffs and look forward to the 2016 season. Already the winter moves have started for several teams. The Nats have fired manager Matt Williams and his coaching staff while Don Mattingly and the Dodgers have parted ways. The off-season is also a great time to send out autograph requests for retired players.

In the playoffs it's now down to the Royals, Blue Jays, and Cubs. Hopefully the Royals will finish off the Jays tomorrow and set the slate for the World Series.

On the Rangers front, Colby Lewis and Adrian Beltre have already had surgery. Lewis on his knee and Beltre on his thumb. Both should be ready for Spring Training. Beltre is still under contract but Lewis is a free agent. Texas is interested in bringing him back but it's not a sure thing.

As far as sending out cards for autographs, this 1961 Topps card of Senators pitcher Joe McClain was among my latest success stories. I recently sent out several cards to the former Senators players and have been very pleasantly surprised by the response. I sent this card and a 1962 Topps card to Mr. McClain on August 25th of this year. He graciously signed both and I got them back on October 19th. Very awesome to get the older players to sign. Thanks to Mr. McClain for his time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Minor League Monday - Bryan House, 1990 CMC.

Sorry about the lack of posts over the past few days. Guess I had post-season hang over. Anyway, on to Minor League Monday.

Bryan House, shown here on card 164 of the 1990 CMC set, had six seasons of minor league experience under his belt by the time he arrived in Oklahoma City. All six were in the Chicago Cubs system. I'm not sure of the why and how in the move from the Cubs to the Rangers system.

The front of the card says infield, but House played only at second base for the 89ers. Over 118 games he saw 615 chances and committed 18 errors. That gave him an unsightly .971 fielding percentage.

Over all, Bryan appeared in 126 games and made 558 plate appearances for OKC. He put up a .277 batting average and a .329 on-base percentage. House was a top of the order speed merchant type of player. He hit 26 doubles, eight triples, and no home runs. He scored 79 runs while knocking in just 36 RBI. He also stole 30 bases but did get caught 13 times as well. More disturbing were Bryan's 70 strikeouts and only 37 walks.

On the surface, Bryan House had a decent 1990 season. There were issues though. His glove work was pretty far below par and he had a troubling tendency to strikeout and get caught stealing. All three of those problems were visible at Triple A and would be magnified under the lights of a Major League stadium. The Rangers had several other options in the middle infield and there would be no call to send send House down I-35 to Arlington. 1990 wouldn't be his year. It would be the only season he spent in the Rangers system and the last he spent as a player in pro ball.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rangers done and out.

Well, the Rangers post season run is over after their League Division Series game five loss to the Blue Jays last night.

I really didn't expect Texas to win the series but the two wins to start things off gave me a sense that there was a possibility they could do it. Then came two losses at home and the final loss in Toronto. That was a sudden stop and the way the team gave away game five with four unearned Toronto runs just added to the pain.

It's done though and there's no point in saying it should have turned out different. The team is still fairly young and, if everyone stays healthy, they look to have a good group next season. This season wasn't supposed to be a contending season and just the appearance in the LDS was a bonus. That thought and this 2002 Fleer Authentix game used card of Ivan Rodriguez should help cheer Rangers fans up. I don't know about you, but I'm still in. No renouncing the team as a co-worker of mine did. I have 32 years of following the club and can't see taking up another team. With that many next years in the past, one more isn't going to kill me.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Minor League Monday - Nick Capra, 1990 CMC.

Apparently the Texas Rangers had an on again, off again type relationship with Nick Capra, seen here on card 166 of the 1990 CMC set. Texas drafted Capra in the third round of the 1979 draft. He had been drafted by the Expos in 1976 but didn't sign. He did sign with Texas. The club started Capra at Double A and he worked his way up to Arlington. Brief stints with the Rangers came in 1982, 1983, and 1985. In October of 1985 Nick was granted free agency. He signed with the White Sox in January of 1986 and spent that season at Double A.

In January of 1987 Capra returned to the Rangers as a minor league free agent. He passed the 1987 season with Triple A Oklahoma City before again being granted free agency. 1988 and 1989 saw Nick with the Kansas City Royals, mostly at Triple A, but in 14 games with KC in 1988. In January of 1990 Capra again signed with the Rangers as a minor league free agent. He was back for his third stint in the Texas system.

Over all, Nick appeared in 122 games for the 89ers in 1990 and made 530 plate appearances. He put up a .277 batting average and a .375 on-base percentage. The on-base percentage was helped by the 68 free passes Capra worked while striking out only 61 times. There was also a little power in his bat as he compiled 26 doubles, three triples, and five home runs. Those hits helped him score 80 runs while driving in 45. Even at 32 years old, Nick had some speed. He stole 35 bases but also got caught 15 times.

On the defensive side of things, Capra spent most of his time patrolling the outfield. In 115 games cover the outfield he made just five errors. That gave him a .980 fielding percentage. There were also two cameo appearances at third base that went off without an error.

All told, 1990 was a decent season for Nick Capra. He put up some respectable numbers and seemed to be more than holding his own in Triple A. The problem for Nick was two-fold. First was the crowded Rangers outfield. It was going to be hard to break in without some Ruthian type numbers. Second was Capra's age. He still hadn't played more than 14 games in the Majors in any given season. At 32 years of age he still retained his rookie status. That wasn't a good thing. 32 is old for a minor leaguer who has never established himself in the Majors. Time was running out for Nick Capra to get a permanent call to The Big Show.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Headed north.

So, the Rangers kick off their half of the American League Division Championship Series this afternoon in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Going to be a tough series.

The Rangers have played well on the road all season and have a winning record overall against winning ballclubs. On the other hand, the Blue Jays were the hottest team in the American League since the All-Star break. Also, the Rangers do not have a winning record this season against the Jays.

I really don't know what to expect from this series. Some hard played ball probably. Hopefully a Rangers advance. Could go either way though and things will likely get tight.

To do my part to help the guys out, I am posting this signed 1999 Topps card of Rangers great Rusty Greer. Mr. Greer signed this card for me through the mail in 2014. During his playing career Rusty embodied the never say die style of gritty play Texas is going to need to get past Toronto. This season has shown the team has the grit, now's the time to use it. Best of luck guys, trounce Toronto.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

1979 Topps - Richie Zisk.

As shown on the front of 1978 Topps card 260, Richie Zisk was coming off an All-Star 1978 season as the club reported for Spring Training in 1979. Zisk won the 1978 season opener for Texas with a home run in the ninth inning to beat the Yankees. He ended up missing three weeks with a sprained wrist but still put up good enough numbers to get the All-Star nod. Texas was hoping for more of the same, without the injury, in 1979.

The season started off on a sour note for Zisk as he came down with strep throat after the club played a damp, cold season opener in Detroit. That benched Richie for five games before he hit a game-winning pinch-hit home run. In spite of that, Zisk's season started off slowly and it took time for him to get his bat going.

Over the 144 games Richie appeared in for Texas in 1979, he made 563 plate appearances. He posted a .262 batting average and a .336 on-base percentage. Those were almost identical to the previous season. Known as a slugger, it is not surprising Zisk led the team in strikeouts with 75. However, he also led the club in walks with 57. He knocked 21 doubles, one triple, and 18 home runs (part of a three-way tie for team best) en route to scoring 69 runs and bumping in 64 RBI.

The team's primary right fielder, Richie played in 127 games in right. He committed just five errors over the course of 1020.1 for a fielding percentage of .978. That was just a hair below the .980 league average. Zisk also covered left field for 116 innings over 15 games. He had less success there, tallying a .913 fielding percentage due to his two errors. That was much lower than the average left fielder's .980 fielding percentage. Richie also appeared in three games as the Rangers designated hitter.

On the surface, Richie Zisk almost managed to duplicate his 1978 season in 1979. He didn't get selected to the All-Star team though and there were a couple of worrisome signs. The most concerning was Zisk's home run totals. They were down by four from the previous season and, for the first time since 1974, below 20. Was it a stumble or was the 30-year-old starting a power decline? The Rangers held on to Richie for the 1980 season but would be keeping their eye on his offense.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Made it! (Finally.)

Going into the final three games of the 2015 season the Rangers needed just one win or one Astros loss to clinch the American League West divisional title. They let the Angels slip away in a 2-1 in a squeaker on Friday night. On Saturday they reprised Game 6 of the 2011 World Series with the Halos standing in for the Cardinals. Eventually the stunned Rangers lost 11-10. Meanwhile, Houston decided they would rather have the division than a wild card slot and refused to lose. Suddenly Texas was looking at one game left in the season and the possibility of game 163 to determine the division/wild card spots.

Cole Hamels initially did little to soothe the fears of Rangers fans as he allowed two runs in the first inning yesterday to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Cole calmed down though and that was it for Anaheim. Hamels cruised through the next eight innings without allowing any more runs. Meanwhile the Rangers offense picked up a run in the bottom of the first. That was it through four and a half. With the Rangers trailing 2-1, Adrian Beltre once again put the club on his shoulders and hammered a two-run shot in the fifth to give Texas a 3-2 lead. Meanwhile the Astros were refusing to die in Arizona. Angels starter Garrett Richards left the game after six with the score still at 3-2. In the bottom of the seventh it all fell apart for the Halos bullpen. Texas exploded for six runs as Anaheim ran five pitchers to the mound before finally stopping the bleeding. It was more than enough though. Final: Texas - 9, Anaheim - 2.

Shortly after the Rangers victory, word came in that the Astros fell to the Diamondbacks 5-3. That mattered only to Houston and the Yankees though. Texas already won the American League West and was headed for the American League Division Championship Series. Most of the players are different, but the celebration was very similar to the one pictured on the front of this 2010 ALDS program. Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton, Colby Lewis, Mitch Moreland, Derek Holland, and several of the coaches are still around from that 2010 team and they all have unfinished business in the post-season. The quest to finish that business starts Thursday in Toronto.

I admit it, this team has been a huge, and very pleasant, surprise. After the loss of Yu Darvish in Spring Training, I had them pegged at 81-81 on the season and a third place finish in the West. After the loss of Derek Holland for several months on Opening Day, I figured they would have to really work to meet my prediction. When they traded for Cole Hamels I expected the impact to be first felt only in 2016. Instead they never ever quit and are now back in the play-offs for the first time since a brief wild card appearance in 2012. That exceeds my expectations for the season by several lengths and it's all a joyride now. Do I expect them to get to the World Series? Honestly, not really. Would I be surprised if they do? Pleasantly. Whatever happens, I'm going to enjoy the ride as far as the guys can take it and then be grateful to this group of players and coaches for restoring post-season baseball to Arlington.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Senators Saturday - Ken McMullen, 1970.

Ken McMullen, shown here on card 420 of the 1970 Topps set, had anchored the Senators at third base since he arrived in the Frank Howard/Claude Osteen trade during the winter of 1964-1965. Well known for his golden glove, Ken's bat had been steadily declining over the past few seasons leading into 1970. The Senators really needed for him to get it going again.

In the first 15 games of 1970, McMullen continued to demonstrate his excellence in the field. He played all 15 games at third and committed just two errors over 143 innings. His .971 fielding percentage was head and shoulders above the league average .949.

The problem was Ken's bat. Once an integral part of the Washington attack, it just didn't have the same sting anymore. In 64 plate appearances McMullen posted a .203 batting average and a .266 on-base fielding percentage. He struck out ten times while working five walks. If Ken's bat still had power, those numbers might have been tolerable. It didn't though. He hit just two doubles and no other extra base hits.

The Senators had a problem. Ken McMullen's offensive skills appeared to have suddenly declined and opened a gaping hole in the already weak Washington lineup. The front office decided to move him while his glove still had value and the early stage of the season didn't rule out a turn around. On April 27, 1970 Ken McMullen was shipped off to the California Angels in exchange for Rick Reichardt and young Aurelio Rodriguez. The Senators hoped to use Rodriguez to replace McMullen at third. Reichardt could play all three outfield positions and looked to be a decent backup. After six full seasons, the longest serving Senators third baseman was no longer with the club.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Almost back.

Ok, last pre-scheduled post for awhile. I am planning on being back to regular posting after today.

Posting this 2002 EX Behind the Numbers game-used card of Ivan Rodriguez in hopes of keeping the Rangers luck running. Even though the card only shows a very small piece of Pudge's jersey, it's still a nice card.

Would love to see Pudge throwing out the first pitch again in another post-season series in Texas. In spite of my pre-season predictions, this might be the year. This team definitely didn't play the .500 ball I was expecting and that is a nice surprise.