The Legend

The Legend

Thursday, June 30, 2016

FIP'd Off (Kershaw is Awesome, Pirate Pitchers not so Much)

We are getting to the point of the season where buyers and sellers begin to take shape.  Unfortunately for my Buccos it is looking like the latter.  10 of the next 13 games are against the Cardinals, Cubs and Nats. That is a tough stretch.  Realistically you have to think the Buccos need to win 8 or 9 to keep their heads above water.  I'm really hoping this happens as the Pirates have a long run of below .500 teams on the schedule after the Nats series.

Obviously losing Gerrit Cole and Francisco Cervelli has been a huge blow, but injuries aside one glaring deficiency shows up.  The starting pitching has been horrendous.

One of the best stats to measure a pitchers worth is FIP (fielding independent pitching).  The idea of FIP is to give a better picture of a pitchers true performance. ERA has too many variables outside the pitchers control to give a proper estimate of a pitchers true worth. FIP takes all the stats a pitcher can control like K's, walks, hbp etc and assumes league average defense. Here is a good measuring stick.

Above Average3.50
Below Average4.10

Now lets look at the FIP leaders.

Top 3 qualified starters
- Clayton Kershaw  1.68 (WOW!!!!!!!)
- Noah Syndergaard  1.92
- Jose Fernandez  1.98

I always snicker at people who dismiss new stats because more times than not they prove what many people already know.  No matter how you measure it, Kershaw is in a league of his own. He is essentially worth the equivalent of two aces.

Here is a link to the top 30

Until this year the Pirates have had good luck turning pitchers around that had historically high ERA's (Burnett, Volquez, Liriano).  They would buy low on such players realizing that their FIP or XFIP was much lower than the actual ERA.  Add in the Pirates extreme shifting and many of these pitchers would go on to have career years.

This year has been a different story for the Buccos. Regression can be a bitch sometimes and the Pirates are getting it from 3 guys currently in their rotation.

Of qualified starters the Pirates currently have the 2nd (Jon Niese), 3rd (Francisco Liriano) and 18th (Jeff Locke) in worst FIP standings. Basically what this is saying is that these guys have been terrible even with good defense behind them.

For the Pirates to get back in the race they need Liriano to find his control.  This had been an issue with him before, but during his Pirates tenure he would counteract that with high k rates.  Now he is walking guys then giving up crucial homeruns.

Jeff Locke will likely be replaced at some point this year by Tyler Glasnow. I'm assuming Jon Niese will be give the whole season to right the ship, or else the Pirates will decline the team option next year.

The unfortunate part in all this is that the Pirates will do little to try and improve the team this year.  The Cubs have about a 95% chance of winning the division.  It really makes no sense to trade minor league assets to make the run at the second wild card. As Pirate fans know the wildcard is a crazy coin flip situation in which you will likely run into an ace type of pitcher.  The last three years we've faced Cueto, Bumgarner and Arrieta.  Trading a minor leaguer to get bullpen help doesn't help you much against those guys.

The silver lining in all of this is that maybe the young pitchers help the Pirates get back in the race this year.  If not, the Pirates can trade all of their expiring contracts to supplement the core for next year.

Embrace Analytics!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guilty Pleasure

My Mom is from Louisville Kentucky. One of my fondest memories growing up is going to see my aunt during the holidays and once school ended for the year. My aunt never had kids of her own so she would spoil us to death and let us watch whatever we wanted. This is where I was introduced to one of the weirder movies of all time, Howard the Duck.

The movie was based off a comic book, but rather than making it an animated feature they chose live action. Long story short it was blasted by critics and lost a shit ton of money. Elementary school aged Matt didn't care about any of that.  All I needed to know was that their was a talking duck and people getting possessed by devil like creatures.  In some ways I was probably a more honest critic when I was young.  Now it is impossible to avoid knowing how good or bad a movie is before you even step foot in the theater. I swear I thought I already seen The Revenant before I actually watched it.  Thanks Internet.

Ed Gale is the actor who played Howard.  He has actually been in some popular movies like Spaceballs and Chucky.  I took a glance at his Wikipedia page and he said he by far gets the most fan mail about his portrayal of Howard the Duck. It is funny how some movies lose so much money in theaters, but gain cult classic status later. Another one of my all time favorites is Big Trouble in Little China and it had a similar path into cult classic movie.

If you haven't seen Howard the Duck you should check it out.  It will change your life. As for the card it only cost a couple of bucks. I thought it would be funny to send to my brother for a nice trip down memory lane.

Do you have a guilty pleasure movie?

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

King Kang, Playing Detective and Furniss'd

It is always fun to sort through a trade package that you know someone put a ton of thought in.  Such was the case of a recent mailing from frequent trade partner Ptown Tom.

This was the first card that caught my attention for obvious reasons.  Jung Ho Kang is one of the harder Pirates to find good deals on. This is extra special since it is such a high end set.  Thank a ton Tom. I will not say anything bad about the Cubs for a least 24 hours.

Tom has sent me a ton of ip autos over the last couple of years. Since Bay is one of my all time favorites he wanted me to compare some certified autos to this 2005 Donruss.

Time for some detective work.

When examining the autos closely Bay's signature changed a little over the years. The UD Premier signature is really close to the IP auto you sent my way.  I think it is close enough to call it a winner.

Humberto Cota was part of the long line of catchers that had trouble producing like Jason Kendall. It really wasn't until Russell Martin came through until the position became more stable.

Jose Guillen had one of the best arms I have ever seen.

 E-XL!!!!! I love mid 90's cards. The Kendall "Pouncing" is my favorite.

 Flair was so classy when it came out.
 Troy Glaus was good......JJ Davis not so much.
SPx was one of the sets I remember being around, but only dreamed about buying. I remember seeing it at mall card shows thinking how great they would be to own. Tom makes dreams come true.

In case you don't remember Tom made a significant purchase at an estate sale. Like any bulk purchase you are bound to get duplicates.  May I introduce Eddie Furniss.

Furniss flamed out (see what I did there) in AA. The cool thing is he ended up going back to medical school and now practices family medicine in his hometown. Furniss'd

Thanks for all the great cards Tom.  Looks like it is my turn to hit you back really hard since you also won the contest!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Dreaded Supplies Purchase (Feedback Welcomed)

One of the great aspects about our awesome community is that we often send out cards to each other unprovoked.  Unfortunately like everything else in our great hobby it comes at a cost. I thought I would show a few places I order supplies from that have helped me save a little money.

When I first started trading on a regular basis I needed to find a good place to purchase envelopes in bulk. Stores like Staples and Walmart were just to expensive when you broke down the cost per envelope. As with most things in our hobby I found that eBay was a good source.

Here is a link to a seller that deals in just about every type of packing material you can think of. This is my go to for bubble mailers.  The link is to the 4x8 size, but they have just about everything. For most items the seller offers free shipping so their are no hidden fees.

I'm a big fan of team bags when I send cards. It is a nice way to prevent cards from slipping out of top loaders and it beats using a bunch of tape to try and keep the content secure. Many of my higher end cards are in Ultra Pro One-Touch Magnetic cards so I usually buy the bags that are made to hold those cases.  These also work great when shipping cards as you can fit quite a few cards in each bag.

Here is a link to one of the sellers I use.
Here is another
Both of these sellers ship extremely fast.

I haven't price out regular top loaders in a long time because between buying cards online and trading I've accumulated quite a few. Maybe someone can leave a comment below on some good places.

Above I mentioned that I like using One Touch Magnetic cases for higher end cards. Over the years I've been good at finding auctions for bulk purchases at fractions of the cost of the cases new, but those are few and far between.  These are items that are best purchased in bulk.  I only order them every couple of years or so and often use my eBay Bucks to help defer the cost.

Here is a link to one of my favorite sellers.

In case you don't know Ultra Pro makes cases for just about every type of card including booklet cards.

I think of all the supply purchases I hate the most it would be monster boxes.  Over the last couple of years I've been slowly putting my Pirate cards in albums, but still accumulate cards that need proper storage until they can be filed away properly. For me the monster box has become a necessary evil.  I have two industrial looking shelves in my basement where these can placed for easy access.

Before when I purchased these I would just get one as I needed them. This past year I decided to make one bulk purchase because I knew I would not stop buying cards and would eventually need them.

Here is a link to a seller I used to buy 8 monster boxes.

The last item that is a painful purchase is 9 pocket pages. For those who frequent flea markets and yard sales this might be an easier purchase.  For me this is always a hard one to find locally. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a decent auction, but for me it was easier to buy and bulk. 

I have a few friends that collect that live close to me so went together and bought a case. Since I've only done the order once I don't really have a good recommendations. The best sellers price a case at around $125.  

So with all that being said where do all of you go for your supply needs? Anybody else have any hidden gems that are good for these type of purchases? Maybe this will be a nice resource to share some ideas. 

Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Just Commons Delivers a Rarity

Last week I was browsing Just Commons for some Black Bear cards. I had posted that I was going to try and accumulate as many cards featuring the Black Bears uniform as possible.  So far I had only explored eBay and figured it was time to branch out.

The first mass distributed set that featured Black Bears was Pro Debut.  No autos were made so I'm only chasing the base cards and inserts.  When I searched Kevin Kramer I was surprised to see this listed.

Kevin Kramer 2016 Pro Debut Black 1/1

The seller had it listed for $25.  SOLD! I'm not sure what this would have sold on for eBay, but it felt like a good deal.  Lesson learned, make sure to check all reputable sites. 

As we speak I'm driving to Ohio for wedding. Nothing is more fun then going to an outside wedding in 95 degree heat. 

Thanks for reading. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

When a Good Day Becomes a Stressful Day.

Yesterday my buddy and I decided to take the day off and head to Pittsburgh for some day baseball. Nothing beats having a Ferris Bueller day.  We've done this several times over the years without a hitch.  It is one of my favorite things to do in all the world.

The day turned out to be one that challenged our normal sunny outlook.  First, the drive in was plagued by torrential downpours. Being that I'm from West Virginia I'm use to driving in all types of inclement weather, but this rain was so hard that it basically killed your visibility and traction. About 45 mins into the trip we were witness to a pretty serious 5 car wreck.  It happened about 30 seconds ahead of us. The person in front of me hit their brakes hard so I had to do the same and cut really hard left so I wouldn't rear end them.  Thankfully we came out unscathed.  It was one of those moments where you don't say anything for a few minutes and then let out a deep breath.  We continued to drive in torrential rain until we arrived in Pittsburgh.

With the close call behind us we were ready for an early lunch.

A Bloody Mary calms the nerves.

The extra bonus for this game was that it was a bobblehead giveaway.

Gerrit Cole camo!

The game itself was kind of a dud. The Pirates are in quite a tailspin. Both starting and relief pitching has been sub par and McCutchen has been a shell of himself so far this season. The Pirates really need to go on a nice run before the All Star break or else they will become sellers at the deadline. I guess the silver lining is that the core is all signed and the Pirates will probably call up a good bit of their young pitching.

Some pics from our seats.  I was kind of surprised how good the crowd was.  30k for getaway day is top notch for the Buccos.

Since the game was over a little before 4pm we figured we head home before rush hour. It was a poor choice. Between what was likely another wreck and road closures it took me over an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the highway.  The distance was probably the equivalent of two miles.  Between the shitty weather and more road closures it took me over 3 hours to make it home.  Normally the ride home is just a shade over an hour.

The experience didn't change my view about games, it is still my favorite thing to do. I guess if you do something enough you will always have that one time where things don't work out.  Such is life I guess. Next time I'm going to casino right after the game and letting traffic die down.  I might be broke by the time we leave but I won't be sitting in my car!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jean-Claude Van Damme and I are Upset

If you read my drivel on a semi-regular basis you are likely aware of my love for the silver frame parallels from Topps.  At first these were /20.  While rare, they tend to pop up on a regular basis since everyone opens up flagship Topps.  My focus mainly is on more obscure Pirates that don't get a lot of cardboard love.  

This Cervelli is right in my collecting sweet spot. Cervelli doesn't get much love in the way of higher end cards so this is about as good as it gets. Prices tend to fall in the $5-$15 range for middle tier players. It is the perfect balance of rare enough to where you have fun hunting them down and cheap enough to not hurt the bank account all that much. 

Here is where things start to get a little annoying....

Once 2016 flagship came out I read that the silver parallels were going to be numbered to /16. It really wasn't that big of a deal, it just seemed odd to produce four less of a card.  At first pricing was a little higher, but after the initial eBay rush most of the silver frames were selling around the same area as the /20 version.  No harm no foul

Here is where Topps starts trolling my collecting habits.

In 2016 Series 2 the silver frames are 1/1's.  Ughhhhhhh.

Here is a reenactment of me reading the checklist of Series 2 and finding out the silver frames are 1/1's. 

This is essentially pricing me out on most of the players that I would want to chase.  The weird thing is Topps still has the platinum 1/1's too.  Just for a pricing frame of reference I saw a silver frame Chris Ianetta sell for over $60.

In the grand scheme of things this is not a big deal.  It is just a little upsetting to have something you enjoy collecting taken away for the sake of scarcity.   At least they haven't changed the clear acetate cards to 1/1's yet. I'm half scared to read the checklist for Topps Update....

Thanks for reading!