Could Kyle Schwarber become the next Keith Moreland?

Comparison of Keith Moreland and Kyle Schwarber
Every Cubs fan is very excited to have slugger Kyle Schwarber back in 2017. The first-round draft pick has been out for the season with a torn ACL and LCL after just two games into the 2016 season.

We all awed and oo’ed at Schwarber launch a playoff homerun ON TOP of the Jumbotron at the playoffs in Wrigley Field. I saw it in person. Initially I thought it was just a REALLY high pop-up, but that ball had distance as well as height. It was incredible.

With that Shwarber-bomb the Cubs outfielder/catcher etched himself into team lore. What will Schwarber do in the 2017 season? How many rockets will he launch?

A critique of Cubs players who went bust included Keith Moreland. This description eerily reminded me of Kyle Schwarber.

8. Keith Moreland, RF, 1986: .271/.326/.384 (156 games)
Moreland was a pretty good hitter for a catcher, but he wasn’t a good enough glove to play regularly, and he hit decently for a third baseman too, but didn’t belong there either. If you put him in the outfield pigeons would roost on him. The Cubs tried to make the best of it, moving him around and hoping the ball wouldn’t find him, and in gratitude some years he would bust out with a .300 average and 15 or 16 home runs.

Ok, we expect Schwarber to hit a lot more home runs thank Morelands 15 or 16. But doesn’t the rest of the description of Moreland sound a lot like Schwarber? Good hitter as a catcher, not really a good fielding outfielder. Even Moreland’s body type kinda reminds me of Schwarber. For his time in the 80s, Moreland was one of the slightly more heavy players. Schwarber today at 23 years old is already a big boy.

Both Moreland and Schwarber are like your All-American fratboy choice for favorite player. Moreland never lived up to great numbers. Will Schwarber follow in his footsteps? We only have one MLB season to compare Schwarber’s numbers to Morelands, so let’s look at Moreland’s first season.

Keith Moreland’s first two seasons in 1978 and 1979, he played 1 game and 14 games. So let’s look at his first more full season in 1980 with 62 games. That matches rather nicely with Schwarber’s 69 games played.

Stats of Keith Moreland and Kyle Schwarber compared

Schwarber Moreland rookie stats

Moreland’s rookie batting average of 314 was a much better than Schwarber’s 246. However, Schwarber’s OBP caught up to Moreland’s, and even passed him up a bit. Schwarber walked 36 times, compared to Moreland with only 8. That’s incredible, right? But Schwarber also struck out a TON more. 77 strikeouts to Moreland’s 14. Ouch. Moreland and Schwarber also had the exact same OPS+ their first season, both had 113!

Schwarber’s rookie season matches up quite a bit with Moreland’s first season. However, Schwarber was 23, Moreland 26. So Schwarber has more room to grow. Schwarber was also the first round pick, while Moreland was a 7th round.

I would love for Schwarber to become the next Babe Ruth. But he might also become the next Keith Moreland.

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Median print run for Topps Throwback Thursday

Topps Throwback Thursday

Topps is producing another on-demand card series, Throwback Thursday. Every Thursday they release a six-card set of baseball players in vintage card designs. Each set is available for one week only. The print runs are announced once the sale is done.

Beckett reports on the designs used:

2016 Topps Throwback Thursday looks to use a variety of old designs with a different one each week. The set kicked off with six cards of current players placed inside the wood television set look of 1955 Bowman Baseball. That was followed up in week two with power-hitting outfielders done with the 1958 Topps Baseball design.

It’s not just baseball designs that are being used in 2016 Topps Throwback Thursday. For the third batch, Topps went with a Flamethrowers theme, using the design from 1958 Topps TV Westerns. The last release of June honored six Hall of Famers who served in the military. This time around, 1955 Topps All-American Football was the inspiration.

Of the 12 sets released so far, the median print run is 772 cards. The Topps Now median is 402 cards printed. As we’ve seen there are dealers who buy in quantities of 25 or more. Just how many collectors are out there buying these cards? Maybe about 300 or so–and that’s guessing high. What if the card industry had only 300 regular collectors?

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The median quantity for Topps Now is 402 cards

Ichiro reaches 3,000 hits. The next day Topps is selling a card. These cards from Topps are on-demand printing featuring the latest events. 360 such baseball cards exist so far. 24 hours is the window to purchase the latest card. Last night Jason Heyward hit the game-tying single in the 9th and the walk-off single in the 13th inning. Topps is selling a card for that. 17 hours left to purchase it. Topps will only print as many cards that are bought. The quantities are kept a secret only until the 24 hours are over.

There’s a card for some Sox player’s grand slam. Mookie Betts hits 3 HR in one game, and he gets a card. It’s almost like these cards are publishing the news. Some Royal got the game-winning hit in a 14-inning game. That’s a card.

Don’t get me wrong. I think these cards are fantastic. I wish all Topps cards told you the exact day and at bat that the photo was taken. With technology these days, you can totally look at the timestamp, and I’d imagine there is a database containing the timestamp for every single MLB pitch.

The on-demand nature of these makes them rather interesting. The Royal card got only 343 printed. I just extracted all the data from these pages to sort by the quantities.

360 cards have been produced so far (with the on-demand). Four cards have hit quantities of over 4,000.

11,550 ICHIRO SUZUKI - 8/7/16 TOPPS NOW CARD 327A

The four lowest cards are:

180 CHASE D'ARNAUD - 7/17/16 TOPPS NOW CARD 257

The median quantity is 402.

Does the popularity of these cards raise as the season goes on? thus, quantities increase. Or have people gotten tired of this format, and thus the quantities decrease? Answer: neither. The median quantities for each month:

  • April: 364
  • May: 438.5
  • June: 365
  • July: 374
  • August: 489

Here’s an interesting wrinkle in the Topps Now cards. I was curious how the Ichiro 3,000 card was selling on eBay. In theory, since it has the highest quantity, it shouldn’t have the highest price. In fact, with so many of these cards flooding the market, it should be selling for less than $10. Lo and behold, it is selling for less than $10 on eBay. The lowest “Buy It Now” price is $6.99 with free shipping. However, I don’t think it’s the increased supply that is causing this. Rather, it’s Topps “buy multiples of this card” for cheaper that is driving this lower price.

20 cards for $89.99, is $4.49 per card.

20 cards for $89.99, is $4.49 per card.

From the card dealer perspective it’s pretty obvious. Buy a bunch of cards for $5, and sell them for $7. Especially when regular collectors see the the value of the card as $10.

If Topps foresaw this sort of market activity, it’s kind of brilliant. Topps gets to sell more cards, plus they get to please the dealers with this situation. The savvy card buyer will realize that he/she can buy the card on eBay for $7 instead of $10 through Topps. The only person that gets ripped off is the regular card collector who doesn’t research on eBay.

The Anthony Rizzo tarp catch card is currently going for $7.95 Buy It Now, with free shipping. There’s one auction where a guy has sold 27 Rizzo cards for $8.99

And if you are curious how Rizzo’s catch ranks. It’s #36. Right in between:

  • Qty 1,169: AARON JUDGE (CALL-UP) – 8/14/16 TOPPS NOW CARD #356
  • Qty 1,126: ANTHONY RIZZO – 8/16/16 TOPPS NOW CARD #361
  • Qty 1,120: BARTOLO COLON – 8/15/16 TOPPS NOW CARD #360

To put the 1,126 number in perspective. That seller on eBay who has sold 34 of his cards already–that’s 2% of the cards made! I think that’s a rather high percentage for one seller to be able to sell. Interesting that the seller calls himself “Topps_Now” has his store name as “Official Topps Now Store”

Official Topps Now Store on eBay

Clearly this is not official. Just read his bio talking about being a Toy Palace. Clearly, this seller used to sell toys, and then pivoted over to selling Topps Now cards. He changed his store name, but he forgot to update his eBay store bio! I won’t be buying any cards from this particular eBay seller.

Have you purchased any Topps Now cards? If so, did you get them directly from Topps or from eBay? Maybe even Check Out My Cards.

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Shawon Dunston didn’t strike out THAT much

1988 Donruss Shawon Dunston
We all remember Shawon Dunston as striking out a lot, but he was only in the top ten once, in 1986. In fact, Ron Santo had more seasons with 100+ strikeouts than Shawon Dunston. Sandberg has the same number of 100+ strikeout seasons as Dunston with two.

Cubs with 100+ strikeouts in a season
Name                 Yrs
Sammy Sosa            11
Alfonso Soriano        6
Derrek Lee             6
Ron Santo              4
Anthony Rizzo          3
Starlin Castro         3
Corey Patterson        3
Rick Monday            3
Geovany Soto           2
Kosuke Fukudome        2
Alex Gonzalez          2
Henry Rodriguez        2
Jose Hernandez         2
Shawon Dunston         2
Ryne Sandberg          2
Ron Cey                2
Dave Kingman           2
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Cubs Scorecard June 3, 2016

Scorecard from Chicago Cubs June 3, 2016 game at Wrigley Field

Another action-packed scorecard from a Cubs game. Simple and clean scorecards are nice, but I much prefer a scorecard that has lots of observations, factoids, and drawings mixed into the square boxes.
I always look forward to keeping a scorecard at Wrigley to create a unique perspective from the game. This year is extra exciting, because the Cubs have the best record in baseball!

Cubs leaders
In fact, many of their players rank in the top ten for league stats. Along the players names, I wrote down as much as I could find about these leaders.

  • 1st best team OBP : Cubs
  • 2nd best OBP: Dexter Fowler
  • 6th most SB: Jason Heyward
  • 1st best OBP: Kris Bryant
  • 7th most runs: Kris Bryant
  • 7th most HR: Kris Bryant
  • 8th most RBI: Kris Bryant
  • 2nd most HBP: Anthony Rizzo
  • 6th best AVG: Ben Zobrist
  • 9th best OPS: Ben Zobrist
  • 8th most IBB: Miguel Montero
  • 1st best team ERA: Cubs
  • 7th best WHIP: John Lackey
  • 4th most Holds: Pedro Strop

Getting photographed in the Chicago Tribune
My dad wearing his pin-covered Chicago Cubs hat
Chicago Cubs fan Mati Maldre adjusts his cap before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field Friday, June 3, 2016, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)The main illustration in this card is buried beneath the Diamondbacks boxes. Once the National Anthem ended, my dad was putting his pin-covered hat back on his head. A Chicago Tribune photographer a couple rows behind us captured this moment. The image is published on the Chicago Tribune website. Pretty cool to have my dad’s hat immortalized. So I drew the photo in my scorecard. The only real empty space left was in the Diamondbacks section, because frankly, they had no action in the game, leaving their boxes mostly empty. Read the full story about the Chicago Tribune got both my dad’s first name and last name wrong when publishing the photo.

Dress warm at Wrigley
Even though it was sunny and 72 degrees, we were sitting in the shade on the third base side (Aisle 211, Row 4, Seat 103). With the win blowing in off the lake, it felt 20 degrees cooler. When going to Wrigley, always dress 20 degrees cooler than the actual temperature.

The Diamondbacks really stink
Javier Baez scores on throwing error over dugout!
In the 8th inning they had two throwing errors. One of the throws was from second base that landed in the stands above the dugout, causing Javier Baez to score on his double. The Diamondbacks also intentionally walked XXXX-hitting Miguel Montero to get to Javier Baez. What team in their right mind does that?! I was like, PLEASE WALK MONTERO. Of course, Montero scored when Baez hit his double. The Cubs batted around the order in the 8th inning. This might have been the first time I scored a game with a 10+ batter inning.

 

My wife and a ripped Mark Grace card

August 2, 2013: My wife and a ripped Mark Grace card

Mark Grace is a jerk
Old “Mr. Cub” of the 90s Mark Grace. He left the Cubs, badmouthing the organization and the fans, joining the Diamondbacks as a player. He continued to speak poorly of the Cubs through the years, even as a broadcaster for Fox. Grace is now the Assistant Hitting Coach for the Diamondbacks wearing his old number, 17. Seeing the new heart-throb of the Cubs, Kris Bryant wear his old number must really get to Mark Grace. He surely must have thought his number would be retired when he was playing for the Cubs. He was the second coming of “Mr. Cub,” after all! But leaving on bad terms has caused the Cubs to never retire his number. Now the great Kris Bryant wears it.

With Bryant up to bat, Mark Grace was on the steps of the Diamondbacks dugout. How do I know? From our vantage point we could see into the visiting team’s dugout. When Kris Bryant struck out there, was ONE player in the Diamondbacks dugout clapping. That guy was the coach wearing #17. He walked away with his back to Bryant as he was clapping. Almost like all Grace cared about was seeing Bryant strike out.

I collected Mark Grace’s cards when I was in high school. A couple years ago when my future wife and I went to our first Cubs game, the giveaway was a set of Cubs cards featuring players from past and present. I had her take out the Grace card and rip it in half.

 

Anthony Rizzo shoves catcher Welington Castillo
Welington Castillo hitting Rizzo on helmet with throw back to pi
Anthony Rizzo playfully shoves catcher Welington Castillo
One of the things I didn’t see during the game was Welington Castillo hitting Rizzo on helmet with throw back to pitcher in first inning. Rizzo playfully shoved his former teammate, and then they had a good laugh. (MLB video)

 

Cubs win 6-0 on National Donut Day
Cubs win 6-0 on National Donut Day

Cubs have the best record in baseball 39-15
Cubs have the best record in baseball: 39-15

NL All-Star Voting has all-Cub infield: Rizzo (1B), Zobrist (2B), Russell (SS), Bryant (3B)
NL All-Star Voting has all-Cub infield: Rizzo (1B), Zobrist (2B), Russell (SS), Bryant (3B)

First time with my Nikon D610 at Wrigley Field
First time with my Nikon D610 at Wrigley Field

First Cubs game wearing my Death Star hat at Wrigley Field!
First Cubs game wearing my Death Star hat at Wrigley Field!

A few other highlights from the game:

  • Diamondbacks 24-33. 4th place, 11 games back
  • 2nd best start in Cubs history
  • Won 9 of last 10
  • 3 hours 0 minutes
  • 38,813 attendance
  • The all-gray Diamondback uniforms makes them look like mechanics.
  • Beat the Streak picks:
    • Fowler: went 0-4 (my streak ends at two)
    • La Stella: 2-4
  • Fowler almost the only starting Cub to not reach base.
  • Cubs starting pitching has 2.33 ERA. In last eight games: 0.98 ERA.
  • Javier Baez scores a hat trick with three strikeouts
  • Anthony Rizzo has game-winning RBI double in 6th inning.
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My dad’s Cubs hat featured in the Chicago Tribune

It’s always cool when a newspaper photographer takes your picture and then the photo makes it into the newspaper. A Chicago Tribune photographer stood a few rows behind us at Wrigley Field snapping away photos of the pre-game for the Cubs versus Diamondbacks. His mega-telephoto lens was amazing. In person they look cartoonish, like a bunch of cardboard tubes stacked inside each other.

After the National Anthem is sung, the photographer introduces himself to my dad. He explains that he got a really cool shot of my dad’s hat. He asked for my dad’s name for permission if the Chicago Tribune decided to use the photo.

I was tempted to tell the photographer that I also work for the Tribune, but I didn’t want to jeopardize any chances of Tribune using the photo. Although, what are the chances of the Tribune using this photo? We didn’t think much of it at the time. Surely this guy takes lots of photos of the fans. Our seats were nice, but not super-close. The mere fact that he photographing back in the second section of the stadium was curious. The angle must have been nice for the photographer.

After every game, I do a recap on my scorecard, enhancing it with details of the game. The Chicago Tribune and MLB websites are great sources for images to recreate scenes from the game.

Chicago Cubs photos from June 3, 2016

As I’m flipping through the Chicago Tribune photos for the June 3rd game, I wondered if the Tribune included the photo of my dad. The images in their gallery are in reverse chronological order—which makes for a bit of an odd experience to relive the game in backwards time. First you see all the congratulations photos, then various plays.

Clicking through a Chicago Tribune gallery takes some time, especially when there are a good amount of photos, in these case 20 photos. When I got to photo #19, there was my dad with his floppy hat covered in pins!

Chicago Cubs fan Mati Maldre adjusts his cap before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field Friday, June 3, 2016, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

The photo is really nice, it shows my dad putting his hat back on after the National Anthem. His hands are readjusting the hat, while they are still clenching onto his scorecard and scoring pencil. The hat is covered in pins with the Ron Santo pin reflecting the light to gain the spotlight.

Seeing this photo in the Chicago Tribune gallery after 100% player photos is rather surreal. It’s like my dad’s hat is one of the players on the team!

At every ballgame he attends, it’s a tradition for him to get a new pin for his hat. With each pin there is a story behind the day that he got the pin. Certainly with some pins, he won’t recall when he got it. For future Cubs games, I’ll bring a sharpie with me, so we can mark the date of when he acquired that particular pin. One of these days I’m going to take a photo of each side of my dad’s hat; and highlight every pin on the hat.

The next pin on his list to acquire is the 2015 Cubs Wild Card winner. Last Friday he asked around to several vendors for this pin, and none carried it. Maybe this will make a nice Father’s day present. 😃

Since this photo appeared on the Chicago Tribune’s website, I figured there might be a slim chance that the photo made it into the print edition of the newspaper. Alas, it didn’t. Especially since the paper covering the game was the Saturday edition—a very, very slim paper.

Chicago Tribune caption error for June 3, 2016 Chicago Cubs game

Now, I’m just trying to get the Chicago Tribune to fix the misspelling of his name. The caption reads, “Chicago Cubs fan Matt Madre adjusts his cap before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field Friday, June 3, 2016, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)”. It’s pretty normal for people to spell his first name wrong. Mati, being an Estonian first name, is not very common in America. But they also got our last name wrong!

Maldre, again is an Estonian name. People often ask me if I’m Spanish, because my last name sounds like madre, which means “mother” in Spanish. To see one name typo is understandable, but to have BOTH his names incorrect is rather remarkable. I reported the error to the Chicago Tribune. We’ll see if they fix it.

For now, it’s cool to see my dad’s floppy hat immortalized in the Chicago Tribune’s photo archives. And in the future, the pins on the hat will only grow in multitude with stories to tell for each pin.

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Shane Victorino is in my Hall of Fame

Shane Victorino Cubs Twitter

Shane Victorino signed minor league deal with the Cubs. A great signing, even though the Cubs are full of outfielders already. He’s the type of player that I really enjoy.

  1. He doesn’t strike out much
  2. Can steal bases
  3. Is good defensively

Those three pieces of criteria is what I use to determine who is in MY Hall of Fame. You have to be good with a baseball bat (and that doesn’t mean pure power, it means being able to put the bat on the ball consistently), be a good runner on the basepaths, and be good in the field. All three basic elements of being a baseball player.

To make it into my Hall of Fame, you have to be in the top 10 at least once for AB/SO, SB, and Def Zone Runs. Shane Victorino has done accomplished all three categories:

Twice for AB/SO

  • 2009 NL 8.7 (7th)
  • 2011 NL 8.2 (10th)

Five times for SB

  • 2007 NL 37 (6th)
  • 2008 NL 36 (6th)
  • 2009 NL 25 (9th)
  • 2010 NL 34 (3rd)
  • 2012 NL 39 (4th)

Once for Zone Runs

  • 2013 AL 18 (4th)

He’s been in the top 10 for those three categories a total of 8 times. That places him as #15 in my Hall of Fame. Just above Al Kaline and Hank Aaron.

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