Tag Archive | "Darvish"

Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – 2013 Topps Opening Day

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – 2013 Topps Opening Day

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Tim Danielson

BikeSpokes

Per Box Items:
36 Packs per box
7 cards per pack

The standard sized 220 card base set cards feature a full color action shot of the player. Bordered in white, the card fronts have the player name and team logo at the bottom. The card fronts are trimmed with the team’s primary color. The card backs are photo-less and are horizontal in design. The card fronts also have teh Opening Day logo. The backs include moderate biographical information, a ‘career chase’ statistic, complete career statistics, and brief career highlights or a player quote. The backs are also trimmed with the team’s primary color. This is the same design as 2013 Topps Series 1 and 2013 Topps Stickers.

What I pulled:
252 total cards
1 duplicate
211/220 base set cards = 96% of the base set
7 serial numbered parallels
33 other inserts

Base card front and back:

scan0007

Insets and parallels: (not all scanned)
7 Superstar Celebrations
7 Playhard
7 Ballpark Fun
4 Team Mascots
8 Opening Day Stars (3D card, incl. Strasburg, Darvish, Trout, Miguel Caberea)
7 Sparkle Blue parallels #/2013

scan0008

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I really like the design of this year’s Topps cards. The very simple clean design is very appealing. I think that the photography from Topps has really improved over the past couple of years. Topps again uses occasional horizontal card fronts when the shot dictates. Topps really appeals to younger collectors with the Play Hard, Mascot, and Ballpark Fun insert sets. There are 10 variations available. Most of these subjects are star players on there new teams at a press conference. There are not many rookie cards, but again this product is made with a younger fan in mind. The Topps Opening Day set set is loaded with inserts and parallel sets. I would have liked to see a few less inserts to get that many more base set cards. That being said though it will not be difficult to complete the base set and some of the inserts look pretty cool!

The Bottom Line:
I give 2013 Topps Series 1 a buy rating. It will be very easy to complete a base set with a box, and some light trading. There are lots of inserts and parallels to chase.

The Final Score:
Final Ratings (Out of 10):
Base set collect-ability: 9/10
Big-hit Hunter: NA
Prospector Hunter: 6/10
Value: 10/10
Overall Quality: 10/10

Overall: 35/40 (88% = B)

Thanks to Topps for making this review possible!

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DOs And DONTs: Texas Rangers

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DOs And DONTs: Texas Rangers

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Jeff Coleman

Greetings once again, baseball and fantasy fans! In this edition of DO’s And DON’Ts, we will be taking a look at the AL Champion Texas Rangers. Coming off a stellar run in the 2011 Regular Season, the boys from Arlington ran into the tenacious St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic. Playing tooth and nail with their opponents, the Rangers ended up just short of capping a season of hope and promise with the World Series title they failed to nab in 2010.

Some folks like Texas more than others...

The Rangers have made some interesting moves in the off-season, and some pieces of their puzzle have shuffled off to elsewhere (apparently C.J. Wilson, pictured above, didn’t find enough to like about Texas). But we are hoping to sort through the craziness and give you some people to play, and people to maybe not like so much:

  • DON’T look for Yu Darvish to be the next Cy Young (instantly).

The Japanese phenom was the Rangers’ biggest pick-up in the offseason as they tried to offset the losses of Wilson and Brandon Webb to free agency. The (Hokkaido) Nippon Ham Fighters’ ace put up straight amazing numbers in his Pacific League career, tallying over 1000 Ks in five years, winning no less than 12 games, and averaging an ERA of 1.72 and a WHIP of 0.890. Numbers like that would be enough to make any team thrilled to have his services, and Texas got the luck of the draw. However, the track record for pitchers coming over from Japan is spotty at best. Darvish has the raw talent and seasoning to be a multiple All-Star caliber talent. The thing he does NOT have is Major League experience. The talent levels ARE different from Japan to the States, and it will take Darvish some time to establish a repertoire against MLB-style batters. The Rangers will likely throw him into the rotation immediately out of need and talent, and he will struggle to start as he gets into the groove. If someone has the stomach to handle the downs as well as the ups (especially in a keeper league), Yu Darvish will come into his own and be a major boon for them.

This one is a little hard to read, but there are several facets to Josh Hamilton’s potential year. He dealt with a broken arm (ouch) in April and May of last year, but recovered well. He had surgery to repair a sports hernia (again ouch) this past November, but stated at Rangers camp recently that the rehab went well. He is coming off of a second relapse in his substance abuse recovery earlier this year, but seems to have found renewed strength, drive, and determination. Plus, he is coming into his free agency season, but has stated that he will not discuss his contract once the Regular Season starts. It’s not hard to cheer for a guy to succeed in the face of so much chaos, but it is hard to see where there might be a bright side. Purely stats-wise, Hamilton’s numbers in 2011 were a few shades lower than his career averages, but were certainly no low water marks: Sporting an OPS of .882, a BAbip (Batting Average on balls in play) of .319, and slugging 25 HR in a year where you miss the majority of the first two months is nothing short of eye-catching. You have to dig deep to find a statistical flaw in Hamilton’s game; his infield pops have been on a consistent rise in his career (7% last season, up from 5% in 2010), and his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.6 and RAR (Runs Above Replacement) of 38 were nearly halved from 2010, a campaign that saw him have only a handful more plate appearances (571) than 2011 (538). Stats like those are a long way to go to find a vulnerability in someone’s game. The bigger deciding factor this year for Hamilton’s performance will be his mental character and toughness. Will the off-field distractions upend him? Will he be able to keep his focus on baseball with contact talks looming? I will be pulling for Hamilton to persevere, but I have seen stranger things happen.

  • DON’T expect a big year from Ian Kinsler, but DON’T be too surprised by one either.

Kinsler is one of those talents that you feel hasn’t come into his own, mostly due to injuries suffered in almost each of his six seasons in the Majors (he wasn’t put on the DL at all last year, but was on paternity leave briefly in June for the birth of his second child). The surface number of a .255 BA from last year did not show that he took advantage of being on the field for the most games in a season (155) in his career, but career numbers in runs (121), total bases (296) and walks (89) show some promise. Kinsler is tough to pin down; he has not put together two back-to-back seasons where he has played over 125 games. His power numbers seem to peak when his average is low, and when he bats better, he has less punch. His game is very Jekyll / Hyde, or maybe more appropriately Bruce Banner / Incredible Hulk, and there seems to be very little consistency. However, digging deeper, his OPS has stayed relatively steady (anywhere from .794 to last year’s .832, with the .893 from ’08 as the outlying stat), and his WAR / RAR numbers have been largely similar after his rookie year. It is hard to say which Kinsler we’ll get this year (by the stats, he’s due for a higher average / lower power season), but last season proved that he can play just about the entire year. Another full, DL-free season could start normalizing his numbers and give a more accurate fantasy picture of Kinsler’s worth. All that being said, he’s a definite draft in the earlier rounds, and will provide some statistical boosts. He might hurt you in some categories, but it is that hint and hope of the five-tool player that makes him an attractive draft target.

  • DO take a flyer on Adrian Beltre, but DON’T mortgage the farm on him.

Beltre is one of those players that has shown consistency in the past, scattered with flashes of astounding brilliance and holes in his game that people learned to accept. Blessed with B+ / A- power with 310 career HRs, he’s also shown little patience as power hitters tend to, “sporting” 1219 Ks and a K/BB ratio of 2.24 through his 14 seasons. His early career showed glimpses of secondary tools in his arsenal with his above-average speed, though that is starting to fade later in his career. His defense is a relative liability, though that won’t factor in most fantasy leagues. The bigger concern in my eyes is an inconsistent batting average. His career average is .276, but he’s hit below that in nine out of 14 seasons, including six seasons of .265 or below. Your heavy power hitters still should have an above-average… Uhm… Average; a consistent .275 makes just that many more opportunities for good things to happen. At a 38% XBH career clip, Beltre has a very good tendency to turn hits into big trouble for opposing pitchers. If he could perform like he has the past two seasons in average (.321 in 2010, .296 in 2011), Adrian Beltre will be a HUGE boon for the Rangers. Age and durability are a key, but he has said he’s feeling good, with no lingering effects from the bruised knee that he sustained in last year’s postseason. If the Rangers have Beltre’s services for over 135 games this season, they will be a beast to handle in the AL.

Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction used to be a fickle thing. In 1974, when Dr. Frank Jobe first performed the procedure on the slick, sinker-balling southpaw known as Tommy John. The chances of a pitcher recovering enough to ever throw again were 1-in-100. As of ’09, the procedure has a complete recovery rate of anywhere between 85 and 92 percent. With a combination of increased conditioning and the pure fact that there is a strong ‘ligament’ in place as opposed to the degrading UCL, most pitchers find that they’re able to throw close to what they could at the peak of their careers after the approximately year-long recovery. Joe Nathan is now 2 years out, and he is ready to get back to business. Last year was obviously an off year for Nathan, the months of April and August being rather damning in the final picture. But still, the (career-wise) anomalous 4.84 ERA was netted with 14-17 saves converted, 43 Ks, a .222 average against, and only walking 14. Looking into the deep stat lines, you can see a 79% contact rate (that includes hits AND fouls), a sharp jump from the 67% rate in ’09. Also evident are a dip in his K ratio (32.8% to 22.5%), a jump in his extra base ratio (6.3% to 9.4%), and also his balls-in-play ratio (55% to 64%) is elevated. This seems to indicate that Nathan was still finding his stride after recovery, or that maybe he was coming back too soon. I firmly believe that Joe Nathan is in-line to get back to his better days; going to a team where he has already been told that he’s the closer without a shadow of a doubt is good for one’s psyche. He has the tools and experience to pitch lights out. With the Tommy John well-behind him, and a full off-season and Spring Training in the realm of “normal”, I expect Nathan to hit the Arlington mound running and not look back.

As I stated in my last article about the Indians, don’t look at this as a Bible to evaluate the talent of the Rangers for your own fantasy roster. Only the fantasy GM knows best what their needs and play style are. However, look at this article (and the other DO’s And DON’Ts articles our excellent writers have published) as “food for thought” and a general guide of insights.

Did I miss a spring stud that looks to bust out in a big way? Did I tout someone that is looking to hit the skids, or worse: the waiver wire? Go ahead and hit the comments below, or find me on Twitter at @JCPronkFan48.

(As a side note, I would like to send my heartfelt sympathies and blessings to the victims of last Friday’s rash of storms and tornadoes. I managed to volunteer in Henryville, IN as a representative of the Air Force Reserves on Saturday the 3rd, and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Baseball fans, if you can help these unfortunates in any way at all, please do so… Any little bit helps.)

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So You’ve Got The First Pick

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So You’ve Got The First Pick

Posted on 10 February 2012 by Ryan Van Bibber

Having the first overall pick in your fantasy baseball draft is a bit like crafting that perfect status update for your Facebook page. Sure, maybe you really are one of those people who just throws up a mention that you had a delicious turkey sandwich with your dad on Saturday and walks away without thinking about it.

More than likely, you’re posting your status update for a reason. You have a message for one or more of your followers.

Maybe you need to get a message to that girl from accounting; “man, these size 28 jeans are the perfect fit!” Maybe, you need to tell the old high school chums how you so aren’t one of them anymore; “Best. Pinot. Ever.” Whatever your reasons, that message is changing because you need to define yourself with one quick electronic swoop.

Your first pick in your fantasy baseball draft is much the same. The first player on your roster says something about you and just how deadly serious you are about winning this season. It’s a weighty action. Picking first overall carries even more existential heft.

The last time I had the first pick in a fantasy baseball draft was 2003, my first season managing a pretend roster of any kind. My fellow bar flies had purposely given me the top spot as a test. They wanted to see if I was the kind of guy that would stand on a pair of a sevens, a greenhorn who could be fleeced with some regularity. I picked Barry Bonds … I think.

I lost that season, but it was a fairly respectable fantasy loss. A more responsible person might even call it a learning experience, teachable moment.

I wish I would have learned something because I’m picking first again this year.

As part of an effort to work through the neurosis of the top spot, I thought I’d make a quick and easy set of considerations to help the unlucky one-in-twelve of us get through first ninety seconds of our draft without a complete freakout.

Your Choices
Sure, you can really over-think this thing and grab Yu Darvish, but there are only five viable options for the first overall pick. Let’s meet these potential cornerstones.

  • Miguel Cabrera – One of the safest bets in all of fantasy baseball. You can almost wager your mortgage that this guy is going to contend for the league-best in homers, runs, RBI and average. The only thing he won’t get you is stolen bases. He’s even batting next to Prince Fielder in that lineup. What makes Cabrera especially enticing is a said move to third base. If he can make it 20 games (the position requirement in my league), he’s worth the first pick in no small part because of a shallow pool of talent at third.
  • Matt Kemp – Again, the numbers are all there. The stolen bases are too. Kemp is even 27. Most projections show Kemp’s numbers falling off from last season, a mere 30-30 guy. That’s still pretty good. The issue I have here is that he plays outfield, a much deeper position. Still, numbers are numbers, and you need those in your lineup.
  • Albert Pujols – He seemed more like a plain old superstar rather than the God of Baseball last year. He could be due for a rebound, or he could be due for a decline.
  • Troy Tulowitzki – This is the status update equivalent of saying “come and wave at me in my ivory tower.” He is a shortstop capable of producing excellent fantasy numbers. He is not what Hanley Ramirez used to be as a first-round pick because he doesn’t steal bases at the same clip as Hanley used to in his hey day (which may or may not return).
  • Jose Bautista – So I guess that whole power hitting thing was the real deal. Oh, he also plays third base.

Now which of these guys do you take? Hey, when that clock starts ticking down from 90 seconds and the sweat starts gumming up the Doritos residue on your hands, you are alone in the universe. You’ll have to choose which one is right for you. I know who I plan to pick.

Position Scarcity
One of the downsides of picking first is that long wait until the draft snakes back to you, assuming your league uses the standard snake draft. In a 12-team league, that means 22 of the best players available will be off the board before you make your second pick. Twenty-two players, almost a full major league roster.

Among those players likely to be off the board will be all of the good shortstops or third basemen or second basemen. One or two of the top five players, the guys in the upper echelon of talent, at one or two of those positions will be gone by the time you make your second-round pick. Third base is particularly thin; shortstop is not much deeper.

That means you have to do some homework prior to the draft. Make sure you focus intensely on that second tier of players at those thinner positions. Do not overlook the under-the-radar types, a guy due for a bounceback season, like David Wright or Chase Utley. If you draft a player like that after the first or second round, it might end up being more valuable than that first overall pick.

Do Not Be The Smartest Guy In The Room
When draft starts and you queue up your player and make the first overall pick, do not get crafty. Save the breakout candidates, pitchers, catchers and your favorite sentimental attachment picks for later in the draft. Forget about upside; this is not the NFL draft. Pick a hitter that will produce with a high degree of predictability, like one of the guys mentioned above.

Stars like the Cabrera, Pujols or Bonds back in the day, are the guys that will get you by from week to week. These guys are dependable, even if they are not the best player in the league that season. Baseball teams pay them a gazillion dollars for much the same reason you will draft them first overall.

You have the first pick, congratulations. Don’t screw it up.

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