Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.
1. The Standings, and How Teams Stand According to Them
2. The Corey Kluber Society, Its Current Status
3. How 1987 Baseball Card Values Compared to Actual Player Value
4.Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
5. Today’s Complete Schedule
There are a dozenish contests remaining in the regular season, and fourteen teams with legitimate playoff aspirations, several of them owing to the Texas Rangers. According to FanGraphs’ very own playoff odds, the NL Wild Card is and has been resolved, and the Rays, Indians and Rangers are the leading contenders to have their playoff hopes determined by a single game.
But good teams are boring, and besides, they have a whole month to themselves, called “October.” The far more interesting race right now is the one at the bottom, as teams vie for the coveted top-10 draft pick, and the consecrated draft protection such picks provide teams interested in signing their very own Kyle Lohse. The current standings (asterisk denotes clinched):
|New York Mets||67-82||(2)|
|Los Angeles (A)||73-77||4.5|
A summation of the current state of baseball: the San Diego Padres, eleven games below .500, hold the median record in the National League.
The Corey Kluber Society’s planned meeting today has been postponed until Sunday, September 22. Corey Kluber will continue to exist and act as according to his own nature, but appreciation of his talents must be done in private, and preferably in the company of someone trained in first aid and CPR. We apologize for an inconvenience this may have caused.
It is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1987 baseball card set, perhaps the finest year in the junk wax era. Not only were the sets aesthetically appealing, between the classic woodgrain of Topps, the edgy black-bordered Donruss, and the modern fading-blue stripes of Fleer, the packs of 1987 cards hid a surprising wealth of rookie talent. The set contained two Hall of Famers (Larkin, Maddux soon), three who would have made it if not for steroids (Palmeiro, McGwire, Bonds) and several other players who are in the upper echelon of the Hall of Very Good (Kevin Brown, Will Clark, David Cone, Chuck Finley).
Of course, all baseball cards are now worthless, and are shipped en masse to Greenland for use in barrel fires and for feeding caribou. But at the time, many of these cards were trophies for the hypothetical elementary-school child. So the question is: how did the value of the cards match up with the value of the players on them?
Because (I am told) GIFs rake in the page views, and because ten graphs seemed excessive, I created an animation of the scatterplots of every rookie in the 1987 Donruss set. The X-axis represents the player’s career WAR, and the Y-axis represents the value of the card (in mint condition) in December of the given year, according to Beckett Baseball Card Monthly.
You may look at these graphs and think, “Those are quite poorly done!” You may also be thinking, “It seems unfair to judge the value of a card based on their past future deeds. I mean, Pete Incaviglia hit 30 home runs his rookie season. How could America not love him?” This is true. For the latter readers I present a second set of graphs, this time comparing card value to the value of the player at that point, and for the first five years post-1987.
Both graphs, the reader will quickly determine, look like a blob of blue dots, though a few outliers are worthy of mention. Fans couldn’t know that Bo Jackson would stop being Bo Jackson, but it turns out that much of his value derived from hype and that one home run. Ruben Sierra also skews the graph with his post-Texas meltdown.
It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that baseball card values follow an exponential trendline rather than the usual linear variety. Economically speaking, this is because demand is stupid, and people only want the best of anything. Those players seen as being the “greatest” of the year (and that title changed hands regularly over the first fifteen years) saw prices well above what you would expect, while players below (like poor Chuck Finley) were dramatically underpriced.
Here is a graph of the R-squared values for both sets of graphs, in non-animated form:
Even at the time, it took four years of data for the values of the baseball cards to approximate any kind of reliability in terms of player value. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering that in 1987 the game-winning RBI still existed. Still, of the five players with Hall-worthy numbers, only one, Mark McGwire, had a rookie card in 1987 as valuable as Dave Magadan. Barry Bonds, that little dot on the far right ruining all the correlations: he led the way with 8.6 WAR in 1987. His card was worth $0.45.
Seattle at Detroit | 19:08 ET
There are important baseball games taking place today, contests between talented and competitive teams with much at stake. There is also this game. Brandon Maurer (72.2 IP, 133 FIP-, -0.3 WAR) symbolizes much of what has gone wrong for the Mariners this season, jumping straight from AA to the team’s starting rotation out of spring, mostly because it is against the rules not to have a starting pitcher. Instead of spending in the year in AAA Tacoma, lazing about and “developing”, Maurer has bounced between the rotation and bullpen to keep the team pertinent, which he failed to do and which also proved impossible.
Starting against him is Anibal Sanchez, who is better than Brandon Maurer.
Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: the laughter of a small child, or, if one’s team is included in the aforementioned standings, autotuned Carl Sagan singing about our relatively miniscule presence in the universe.
There are many other games worth your consideration, almost too many to list. But it would be criminal for me to neglect to mention Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura, whose fastball and weight might conceivably be compared to wasps. It would be easily to imagine a variation on today’s notes comprised solely of previewing Ventura’s prospective achievements, if I had any prospecting expertise whatsoever.
Here’s the complete schedule for all of today’s games, with our very proprietary watchability (NERD) scores for each one.
Due to the surfeit of NotGraphs writers that will inhabit this space over the course of the week, I will offer the reader a respite from hilarity and provide genuine NERD scores for today’s slate of games. Note, however, the spirit of today’s notes, and the Seattle fandom that may or may not form the root of the present author’s prejudices, or sense of rebellion. As such, team and game scores for NERD today will reflect the draft pick race, and not the playoff race to which you are already surely accustomed. Tread warily.
|Mike Minor||ATL||8||0||1||0||5||WAS||Dan Haren||13:05|
|Freddy Garcia||ATL||4||0||0||0||7||WAS||Tanner Roark||19:05|
|Brian Flynn||MIA||2||0||5||7||5||PHI||Roy Halladay||19:05|
|Eric Stults||SD||4||9||6||0||3||PIT||Jeff Locke||19:05|
|Andy Pettitte||NYY||5||1||7||9||9||TOR||R.A. Dickey||19:07|
|Brandon Maurer||SEA||4||6||4||0||9||DET||Anibal Sanchez||19:10|
|Scott Feldman||BAL||3||0||0||0||3||BOS||Ryan Dempster||19:10|
|Yusmeiro Petit||SF||7||10||10||8||6||NYM||Zack Wheeler||19:10|
|Alexi Ogando||TEX||5||0||0||0||4||TBR||Jeremy Hellickson||19:10|
|Jef Samadzija||CHC||7||2||7||8||7||MIL||Marco Estrada||20:10|
|Mike Leake||CIN||4||0||0||0||3||HOU||Jordan Lyles||20:10|
|Corey Kluber||CLE||10||0||1||0||8||KCR||Yordano Ventura||20:10|
|Mike Pelfrey||MIN||1||3||2||0||5||CHA||Jose Quintana||20:10|
|Joe Kelly||STL||4||0||6||10||4||COL||Juan Nicasio||20:40|
|Zack Greinke||LAD||7||0||1||1||9||ARI||Patrick Corbin||21:40|
|Garrett Richards||LAA||6||2||1||0||9||OAK||Sonny Gray||22:05|
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