Monday, June 18, 2018

A Less-Bitter Blaster of 2018 Topps Series 2

More Series 2, this one in Blaster Form. I'm fine with this set, I'm just not a fan of its downsides. And there are a few. I will still be counting Unneeded Cards, starting over from 0. I might count doubles of ones I already counted from the hanger box if I'm feeling especially grouchy.

GUARANTEED MANUTHINGY: Byron Buxton, Twins. Manufactured Flag. Lovely.

Pack 1-
361- Astros combo dupe
471- Josh Harrison dupe
481- RONALD TORREYES! There's a Yankee that was drastically missing from last box.
575- Adrian Gonzalez as a Met. Photoshopped, and sadly...a finite image, too
Salute Legends of TED WILLIAMS...BLACK PARALLEL #'D TO 299! Very nice! I'll even overlook the Red Sox aspect
Instant Impact of Ryan Braun. It's a bit harder to stomach pulling inserts of him nowadays.
Aaron Judge insert. I don't know what I'm gonna do with all of these, to be honest.
676- Chad Green, our current middle-relief whiz
427- Jordan Montgomery. GUMBY! Yes, injured, but still
411- David Price, back to his old tricks

Pack 2-
3 dupes from box one, including Taylor Motter and Danny Valencia. I'll give you a two-for-one discount. Unneeded Card #1
635- Cody Allen. Kind of an overrated closer, sad to say
391- Ben Zobrist, who's still fantastic for the Cubs, and has a great shot here
FUTURE STARS of Rhys Hoskins. Not an original insert set, but it looks pretty cool, and I'll never turn down a Rhys card
571- CJ Cron. Surprisingly nice PS job on this.
500- Kris Bryant, still awesome
353- Yan Gomes, a pretty pathetic defensive catcher if we're being honest.

Pack 3-
Two dupes from last box
642- Ben Revere. This is a tricky one, as Revere signed with the Reds pre-season, but they dropped him post-Spring which point the Angels, who he's pictured with, picked him up. So...technically he's still with them, he just hasn't made his season debut yet. Although, seeing how the injuries are piling up in Anaheim, it could happen any moment, so it's not Unneeded.
600- Noah Syndergaard. THOR!
518- Andrew Toles. Also hasn't made his season debut yet, but unlike Revere, isn't likely to for a while. Unneeded Card #2
83T of Ozzie Albies, who's having a great 2018
Aaron Judge insert
390- Jesse Chavez. Pictured with Angels, now with Rangers. Unneeded Card #3
445- Trevor Cahill. Pictured with Royals, now with A's. Unneeded Card #4
557- Jacoby Ellsbury. Hasn't debuted yet on the season due to injuries, but probably will.

Pack 4-
Dupe of Tyler Clippard, which I'll allow
352- Reds TC
468- Rays TC
Salute Throwbacks of Adam Duvall
501- Clayton Richard GOLD #D TO 2018
Future Stars of Manny Margot, who's not having a great sophomore season
519- Reyes Moronta
587- Chris Davis. I could be mean and say Unneeded Number 5, but I won't
689- Jeurys Familia
438- Stephen Vogt. Hasn't debuted this year, and probably won't because of his season-ending injury, but since it might be a CAREER-ending injury, I'll allow it. But beware, the next card that pisses me off might heighten the tally.

Pack 5-
3 dupes
608- Kurt Suzuki. BEAUTIFUL card. Great horizontal shot
552- Kyle Hendricks
503- SHINY Josh Donaldson
Longball Legends of Giancarlo Stanton. A kinda weak insert set. Since it's about a homer he hit as a Marlin, I'll allow the dated uniform.
Legends in the Making of Justin Verlander as an Astro. I still really like these
439- Dustin Pedroia
654- Trayce Thompson. As a Dodger. Since that was THREE UNIFORMS AGO, I will say this is Unneeded Card #5, 6 and 7. That's what you get for not keeping up, Topps

Pack 6-
2 dupes
588- David Wright. This might end up being his final tribute card, so I won't comment.
423- Astros TC
Future Stars of Aaron Judge. That...on top of the insert set with his name on it...MIGHT BE A LITTLE EXCESSIVE, TOPPS.
Legends in the Making of King Felix. He would be if not for his last few seasons
589- Adam Duvall
564- Joey Rickard
406- Kelvin Herrera
627- Matthew Boyd

Pack 7-
683- Adam Eaton dupe
512- Mike Napoli. Pictured with Texas, currently back with the Indians in the minors. Unneeded Card #8
536- Giants TC
614- Twins TC
83T of Sandy Alcantara...who hasn't debuted yet for the Marlins, and we don't know whether or not he'd earn an insert...but okay Topps. Just for that, Unneeded Card #9
Judge insert. I'd include these as Unneeded, but...I'm trying to be just a smidge generous
374- Bradley Zimmer
533- Kennys Vargas. Currently in the minors, but...still played for the Twins this season, so..
435- Matt Holliday as a Yankee. Not unneeded because this is probably his final tribute card...and it's a card of him as a Yankee, so yes, it is needed.
619- Jeremy Hellickson. He's pictured in an O's uniform, which wasn't documented last season, so...I'm torn, but I guess it's needed. I just think most people would want to skip to his Nats tenure.

Pack 8-
513- Mike Zunino
613- Cody Gearing
616- Greg Garcia
Salute Throwbacks of Keon Broxton, who was demoted preseason and has yet to factor into the Brewers' outfield. Unneeded Card #10
Future Stars of Harrison Bader, having a nice debut for St. Louis
Future Stars of Luiz Gohara, whose debut has been alright at best
417- Yolmer Sanchez. Apparently he now goes by Carlos? Alright then?
678- Chad Bettis dupe
667- Jonathan Lucroy. Like the Hellickson, I'll accept it because we don't have documentation of his Rockies tenure as a Topps card.
431- Charlie Blackmon

Pack 9-
592- Gorkys Hernandez
673- Adam Frazier
572- Dillon Maples
492- Jon Jay. Since he actually played in some games for KC pre-Rays-trade, I'm saying this one still has a reason to exist
618- LOU GEHRIG SP. I pulled the Gehrig SP last year, too. Yay for consistency, I guess. Better than pulling a Red Sox SP.
Instant Impact of Trea Turner
Judge Insert
511- Wade Davis, well-shopped into a Colorado jersey
451- Ubaldo Jimenez. .....REALLY, TOPPS? Unneeded Card #11
413- Trevor Bauer. Great card. He looks happy here.

Pack 10-
503- Josh Donaldson. I got the shiny one, so this is technically a dupe?
699- Drew Smyly. It's looking like this guy will get to pitch this year, but I still hate Topps' confidence in him.
550- Corey Seager. GREAT CARD OF THIS GUY.
382- Brandon Guyer. Another nice one, and it's a shame he hasn't produced since the 2016 postseason.
Future Stars of...Trevor Story? I think he's a star by now, guys.
Legends in the Making of Clayton Kershaw. Of course.
441- Danny Santana
448- Max Kepler
666- Eric Sogard

So, obviously this box had the edge in terms of unnecessary cards, but...still, this product isn't bad, it's just flawed. There's still great photography, and a ton of great star cards. I'll probably get more if I need to...just maybe not for a little while.

Bombs Over Beantown

The Magic Number is three.

No, not a playoff magic number. I mean there are only 3 people on the Red Sox' lineup right now who haven't hit more than 10 home runs right now. And they're Jackie Bradley, Eduardo Nunez and Christian Vazquez.

Everyone else, save for Rafael Devers, is hitting over .250. Including 2 players, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, hitting over .300.

Even as a Yankee fan, I have to stop and say...Holy Shit.

You look across the board in Boston, in terms of the batting and pitching, and with only a few exceptions...everybody's doing really well. It's the kind of team unity that helped them out in 2013--they were all the same page, they all grew beards together and everything. Now...they're all really good at hitting home runs and stopping the Blue Jays from scoring runs.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the guys who are surging is Andrew Benintendi, who, after his come up season last year, is finally producing like a veteran, and bringing in hits for average, alongside all of the home runs. But there are a lot of no-brainers playing well. Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez, Craig Kimbrel. They're all showing very few signs of fatigue, and only getting stronger as the season goes on.

The only snag I can see in the Red Sox' plan is, once again, the Yankees. They're just as good as the Sox are, and at times they're a bit luckier. Right now they're in first, but knowing the Sox it may be insanely short-lived. The Sox need to figure out how to outlast the Yankees, because at this point it may just be the two of them until the very end. Once they figure out how to completely stifle them, then they might be in the clear.

Coming Tonight: Pre-season, he cut off his long hair and pissed me off, as I had adopted long hair as a tribute to him. Whatever, he's still a great pitcher or something.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Rocky Recovery

Regardless of how alright the Rockies are doing right now, it's amazing to see Chad Bettis surging again after his cancer scare last year. The guy's a talented enough pitcher, and he's a breath of experience in a mostly-youth-based rotation. And yes, Kyle Freeland is slightly more of a standout here, but Bettis is durable, and can stymie batters without trying too hard, which is in opposition of Jon Gray, a hard-throwing strikeout artist.

However, it's not just Bettis who's recovering from a setback. The Rockies themselves, who started the month at first thanks to a huge slide from the D-Backs, have wound up back in third, thanks to the Arizona resurgence, and the surprise comeback from the Dodgers, a team that most everyone had counted out. So a lot of the momentum that carried them to the lead has completely evaporated.

Surprisingly, it's the rotation that's carrying the team. Freeland, Gray, Bettis, Tyler Anderson and...occasionally German Marquez are doing well enough to stay consistent despite the higher home run percentage of Coors Field. Even parts of the bullpen, like Wade Davis, Adam Ottavino, Jeff Hoffman and Jake McGee, are working for them. It takes away from the fact that the lineup, for the most part, is resulting in a lot of empty space.

And yes, before you cut me off, a lot of players are doing well enough offensively, especially the usual suspects like Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu, but...even more players are slacking in the defensive categories, and bringing WARs down, like Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez. This team is not built for defense, nor is it built for RBI-based offense. And so, as the Dodgers begin to show signs of their own organization's life, the Rockies might not have a place in the overall battle that's going to take place in the NL West. They could snap back into it with a few shifts in ideology from players, may take more work than they're intending.

Coming Tomorrow- One of Boston's Killer B's, and possibly the most surprising standout.

A Bitterly-Reviewed Hanger Box of 2018 Topps Series 2

You'll notice that there's been a shortage of baseball card-related material on this baseball card blog.

To be honest, it's not even my fault. We've just finished off the most dry card spell of the season, with a lot of products (like Gypsy Queen, Opening Day and Pro Debut) that I don't have a ton of interest in, give or take a few singles. Also, it's seeming more and more like Topps doesn't especially care about its card output, as early looks at the checklist proved that there were some glaring flaws of logic in the execs' thinking, ones that weren't ever going to be rectified.

So this hanger box of Series 2 (followed tomorrow by a blaster of it) is just out of necessity, really. The 2018 Topps set has been, while a technical and photographical improvement on 2017, another step backwards in terms of general creativity. To be honest, I've already become kind of mad at the fact that this set was produced in, like, January, and a lot of things have happened since that have rendered these cards obsolete. As a matter of fact, I'm gonna count all the cards that either have the wrong uniform or simply don't need to be there (combos and team cards don't count).

So, here's the hanger box:

424- Matt Wieters. It's theraputic that my first card of the series is a guy who took 7 years to get a Topps card.
404- Alex Claudio
544- Yadier Molina. I agree that the abundance of facemask flaps is ruining batter's box action shots on cards. How can you gauge the excitement if most of the face is obscured?
488- Joe Panik.
361- Middle Infield Marvels- Altuve/Correa CL
471- Josh Harrison. I still don't like the fact that the twitter handles take more space from the stats. Not at all.
505- Taylor Williams. All of these are fine so far.
388- Taylor Motter! AHA! Unneeded Card #1. He's pictured with Seattle, and is currently in the Twins organization.
414- Danny Valencia. Unneeded Card #1. He's currently floundering with Baltimore, instead of his picture M's uniform.
523- Matt Bush. Perhaps he should have stuck to hitting
656- Brian Goodwin
671- Tyler Clippard. Unneeded Card #3- Pictured with Astros, now with Blue Jays.
543- Luis Castillo. Proof that the Reds' pitching is in dire need of improvement.
462- Paul DeJong. Injured, but still a key part of this up-and-coming Cards team.
422- Victor Caratini
698- Ryan Sherriff. Excessive rookies don't count as Unneeded.
655- Andre Ethier. Nor does this. This is a pretty striking and beautiful final tribute for the legendary Dodger, who's probably hanging it up (unless someone signs him).
683- Adam Eaton. Glad to see he's finally healthy, and surging.
669- Matt Chapman, the A's anchor right now
460- Robert Gsellman. I do really enjoy the horizontal photography here.
549- Alex Gordon, who FINALLY remembered how to hit
415- Jace a Yankee??? Unneeded Card #4. Yanks released him in April.
522- Guillermo Heredia
609- Austin Hedges
465- Padres TC. Once again, we don't need to carve out space to print Twitter/Insta handles that are too f--king self-explanatory. Are you doing this for the stupid people who wouldn't think to just google 'What's the Padres' twitter handle?'. "OHHH, IT'S (A) PADRES!!! I HAD NO IDEA!!!"
442- Jesus Aguilar, a cool action shot that looks better sideways.
629- Max Scherzer...the best pitcher in baseball. Yep.
665- Tommy Pham
690- Cardinals TC
425- Shelby Miller, with a nice horizontal walk-up card. One could argue that this one's also Unneeded, as he's not debuted yet this season, but...I'll be generous and allow this one.
516- Ken Giles in a cool closer-catcher card
680- Enquire Hernandez
474- Jeff Mathis
Salute Legends: Roberto Clemente. Still not a fan of the simplicity of this insert set, but I won't turn down pulling a Clemente card.
83T- George Springer AS. Great reproduction of the AS cards, always a nice one.
400- Jose Altuve...shiny. Okay then.
533- Kennys Vargas...INDEPENDECE DAY PARALLEL, #'D TO 76. Considering that I literally saw this guy play for Rochester the other day, it was very nice to get a parallel of him, especially so low.
Instant Impact of Jose Abreu, a guy I always enjoy pulling cards of.
2 Aaron Judge inserts I'm not gonna go over because you're all sick of him
Legends in the Making of Kyle Schwarber. One of the few inserts I enjoy in this set, and Schwarber, considering his 2018 season, is a good choice
371- Cole Hamels. Still among the best
457- Hanley Ramirez. Borderline, but not Unneeded, seeing as he just got released a week or so ago. Pity, too.
359- Wade Miley. Hasn't played a game in a Brewers uniform yet, and he is. Alrighty then. Unneeded Card #5 it is.
464- Travis Jankowski
360- Taijuan Walker, who's currently on the DL, but at least pitched this year, ergo he deserves a card this year.
437- JJ Hardy. Unneeded Card #6. He didn't even retire gracefully, so no Sunset Card needed for him.
450- Joey Votto. Class act. Probably a future HOFer, too
432- Albert Almora.
570- Trevor Williams, having a big comeup for the Pirates this year
446- Lucas Duda. I'm 90% sure this is a photoshop job, but even if it is, it's one of Topps' better ones
678- Chad Bettis, FINALLY BACK for Colorado
545- Nicholas Castellanos. The fans ADORE this guy in Detroit, and with his swing I can see why.
472- Matt Garza. Another guy that didn't really need a sunset card. Unneeded Card #7
508- Ryon Healy. Not a great PS job.
617- Doug Fister. Marginally better PS job, but wondering where they got the all-red uniform from. Probably Boston, but looks more like an Angels uniform, which...I could have SWORN he pitched for, even if they did sign him and dropped him before he could start a game.
507- Zack Greinke, still one of the best
606- Jake Arrieta. I seriously doubt this is a photoshop job, because...I mean, it's Arrieta as a Phillie. They got a real photo, I think. Which is nice.
530- Jason Vargas. THIS ONE, THOUGH...not a great PS job. If you're gonna rush out players in new uniforms, at least put some f--king effort into them.
509- Santiago Casilla.
510- Freddie Freeman. MVP?
358- Brad Brach
520- Jim Johnson. If there's no twitter/insta, they paste a big #TOPPSBASEBALL on there, like it's a big MAGA or something. Why do they think that wasting card space for something like a #TOPPSBASEBALL thing is a good idea? It's barely practical. Twitter shit like that is disposable. Cards last longer than that.
670- Asdrubal Cabrera. Finally back to his old tricks
583- Tommy Joseph. Hasn't played in the majors yet this year, or for Philly...or Texas, or whoever he's with right now. Unneeded Card #8
534- German Marquez
369- Chris Taylor
362- Miguel Rojas
538- Jason Castro. Got injured post-Opening Day, so still deserves the card
515- Greg Bird. Glad to see he's finally hitting
504- Scott Schebler.

So...while there's a lot of good base stuff, and a few good inserts (and a nice parallel), Topps Series 2 is more of the same from Topps. Laziness, lack of creativity, and a lot of unneeded cards that will only be rectified by Update...which then won't have any room for the other cards that Update is meant for. But that's a rant for another day.

I also bought a blaster of this, and you'll see that tomorrow.

Always Be Closing: Edwin Diaz Edition

I wanna start a new feature here where I talk about closing pitching, and the statistical comparisons of why it's working now, or not working now, for some teams. And I think you kind of need to start with the guy who's leading the league in saves, Edwin Diaz.

Edwin Diaz has 26 saves right now, and a 2.43 ERA, which is slightly high considering some other closers (like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman). Diaz is coming off of a season where he pitched 35 saves (with 5 blown), preceded by a rookie year with 18 saves (with 3 blown). So his track record is slightly similar to the guy the Mariners had employed the year before his debut, Fernando Rodney, who would give you several saves, but at the cost of 7 or 8 blown ones.

Diaz' blown saves may not always be his fault, though, as he is definitely a strikeout artist. His 3 blown saves this season might be attributed to cause of the amount of...non-blown ones. And here is where I talk about the surging, incredible Seattle Mariners, who until recently were in first.

The Mariners are a great team, with a ton of great bats, a pretty sharp pitching staff, and some generally awesome momentum. However, looking at a lot of their wins, I see that they're a bit close, with several different games across the hot streak NEEDING the use of a closer. So this could be attributed to the fact that while the Mariners can hit, they're not exactly great at blowouts quite yet. So, they'd need someone like Diaz more than usual, hence the 26 saves in June.

So, back to Diaz. With the close-game tendency of the Mariners, does Edwin Diaz deserve to be the best closer in baseball right now? Well...he sort of does. Diaz is a perfectly good closer, and while I don't think he's at the level of the elites of closing (Kimbrel, Chapman, Kenley Jansen before I get yelled at by Dodger fans), I do think this season is audition to be considered at that level. It could backfire, and he could go the route of Trevor Rosenthal, but if the question is 'does he have 26 saves because he's good, or because the Mariners are good?', I'd say yes to both. I don't think he's a fluke. I think this has been building for the last 2 years, and COULD be the new normal.

I might keep this section going everytime I write about a closer. It's rather fun to analyze this sort of thing.

Coming Tonight: After a season of medical leave, he's heading up a rotation for a team that has fallen a bit in the last month.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bryant Humble

Kris Bryant is still one of the best players in baseball. It's just that you're not hearing about it as much.

Kris Bryant is still as well-rounded as you can get. He hits home runs, he's great as a third-baseman, he can hit for RBIs, and he has seriously decreased his amount of strikeouts.

The only issue is that this isn't really a Cubs team that involves someone needing to stand out. Looking across at this lineup, everybody's doing pretty well, to the point where even if Bryant is doing a hell of a job, it's not like he's standing head and shoulders above everyone else, or pulling them on his back, to the point where sportswriters are going 'hey, look at this guy!'. He's simply realized that the team is much better as an ensemble, and does his best to stick to the background when he needs to.

It's also better than other players, like Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell, can also have hero moments as well, instead of just leaving them all for Bryant. Albert Almora's starting this year, and he's been stellar as a defensive outfielder as well as an average-hitter. Ben Zobrist is, once again, primarily used off the bench, but he's still as powerful as he was in 2016. Tommy La Stella might be the single most valuable bench player in baseball, as well. The only player in the starting lineup that's not hitting above .250 is Anthony Rizzo...who's hitting .249. And rising.

The lineup is so good this year that standing out shouldn't need to be a priority. And yes, the well-balanced nature of the team is a stark contrast to the more-performance-based Brewers team, but there's a reason they're both fighting for first. Both teams are excellent because they know exactly what they are.

The Cubs, thanks to Kris Bryant and a host of others, are only going to continue to get better.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the best closers in baseball? And one that isn't Aroldis Chapman??

The Twins' Plan Backfires

The Twins were planning on competing this year. I'd like to make that especially clear.

They went out and got Logan Morrison, Rays hero from last year, to bolster the lineup, they signed free agent pitchers Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi to help the rotation, they got a bonafide closer in Fernando Rodney, and made an effort to keep as much of their current lineup around as possible, in order to outdo their 2017 Wild Card finish.

And...lots of things went wrong.

Firstly, their ace, Ervin Santana, got injured. Then their catcher, Jason Castro, got injured. Both for long periods of time. Then, all of the big players they signed for the year started tanking. THEN...all the star players they were banking on, like Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Brian Dozier, started tanking. And the Tigers, who are just as flawed but have more upward momentum, snagged second place from them.

So...the Twins are sitting in third, without any huge newsmakers, and without a real clue of what to do for the rest of the year. Which is the exact opposite of where they thought they'd be this year.

The good news is that some lower-key players, like Eddie Rosario, Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza are all playing pretty well in the absence of concrete stars. Hell, the closest thing the Twins have to a star right now is Jose Berrios, who's picked up the ace distinction and is doing a pretty nice job heading up the rotation. Hell, Kyle Gibson ain't doing too badly either. It's just that the good parts of this team are diluted by the mediocre rest of it.

Hopefully Santana and Castro will return soon, and help this Twins team at least look semi-alright by the season's end.

Coming Tonight: Two years post-MVP, he's still one of the best players in baseball. He's just being a bit quieter about it.