Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Calling all cards Pt. 2

Since I'm posting everything else that crosses my mind baseball-wise here, I may as well post this as well. I've finally had to accept the realities of what can be found for Royals (and my Fantasy team) players as it pertains to baseball cards. So, with that in mind, I've decided to just get what I can find, as the desire to add the cards I can get outweighs my disappointment in the cards I can't.

These are the players and years I intend to start collecting. I will mainly be shooting for base cards, as I don't plan, nor want, to spend alot of money. This isn't something I'm wanting to do as an investment, but mainly as another way for me to enjoy my favorite team, and my fantasy players.

Kansas City Royals - all players 2005 to present
The Whippets (my fantasy team listed below) - cards from 2010 where possible, older if not available

Thats it. :) Not an enormous list by any means, but I'm sure it'll keep me occupied and entertained trying to track them down. Since I'm just going for base cards, I can't imagine it'll be too difficult (why do I tempt fate by even saying that?) to get what I'm looking for. I am sure I'll end up buying packs here and there of whatever product happens to catch my eye when I've got a couple dollars in my pocket, so hopefully I'll end up with some stuff to trade away for what I'm looking for. Otherwise I'll probably just pick cards up as singles.

Now, you may be asking yourself, Why only Royals from 2005 to present? Well, I only started following baseball, and the Royals, in 2005 so I figured I'd collect cards of players I've watched. Once I get caught up on the players I've seen here for the past 5 seasons, then I might work my way backwards. If I stumble across some of those cards now, I'll be happy about it, but I'm not concentrating on them.

If anyone has base cards of the players above that they have no desire to keep, let me know, I can find a good home for them. :) Hopefully I can return the favor at some point. With that said, I'm off to try and find a list of these cards so I can get a figure on how many I've just committed myself to trying to find lol.

How I Score Games - The Basics

Now that we are less than a week away from the start of the regular season, and I mentioned in my fist posting that I would be scoring every Royals game this season, I figured I'd talk a little bit about that.

Over the past couple seasons I played with a variety of scorecards that I found on the internet, and even a scorebook that I bought from a sporting goods store. While all were pretty good, over the course of scoring lots of games, and then going back during the cold winter months to relive a particular game I'd scored, I found them to be missing some critical information. For me, a scorecard really needed better pitch information to really come alive. I had come across http://www.baseball-reference.com/ awhile back, and decided to incorporate the way they showed pitches into a scorecard of my own design. The pitch short hand that they use, and that I've copied, is as follows:

C = Called Strike
S = Swinging Strike
F = Foul Ball
B = Ball
X = Put into play by batter
T = Foul Tip
K = Strike of Unknown Type (happens when listening to the radio sometimes)
I = Intentional Ball
H = Hit Batter
L = Foul Bunt
M = Missed Bunt Attempt
N = No Pitch (Balk/Interference)
O = Foul Tip on Bunt
P = Pitchout
Q = Swing on Pitchout
R = Foul Ball on Pitchout
U = Unknown or Missed Pitch (again, happens sometimes when listening to the radio)
1 = Pickoff attempt to 1st Base
2 = Pickoff attempt to 2nd Base
3 = Pickoff attempt to 3rd Base
> = Runner going on Pitch
_ = Blocked by Pitcher/Pitch in the dirt
+n = Pickoff attempt from Catcher
, = Marker for play not including the batter (player change)

I've attached a picture that illustrates the above. The picture is from the top of the 1st inning, Indians V Royals, 22APR09. My actual scorecard is done by hand, but since I don't have a scan of it handy, I recreated it here to show what I'm talking about.

If you are familiar with scoring a game, then most of this picture needs no explanation. The twelve boxes below the diamond might however. I try to score every move the pitcher makes during a given at bat so I can accurately replay it later. In this example, Crisp comes up to bat, the first two pitches are called strikes, the third is a ball in the dirt, and on the fourth pitch he puts the ball into play, a double to deep left field. Next, Mike Aviles comes up, takes a called strike, then flies out to right for the first out of the inning, but deep enough to move Crisp to third. David DeJesus comes up to bat, hits the first pitch thrown to him to deep right field for the second out, and Coco scores from third. Last in this example is Billy Butler, he shakes off a couple of early called strikes to end up drawing a walk after a total of 9 pitches thrown to him. This is just a small portion of the entire scorecard, but I think you get the idea. Replayability using this pitch system seems better than what I'd used before.

Just to give you an idea of how my scorecards looked before I went to this system, check this out, same game, same inning, same everything.

It basically gives the same information, and actually it is probably easier to see that the count at one point was 1-2 against Billy Butler, but you can't tell what actually happened on those 3 pitches. Was the first pitch to Billy a swinging strike, a called strike, a foul ball? For me, the first example works better, and gives me what I'd like to see, you might like something entirely different.

So this is where I get back to that part about sharing the scorecards. I'm having some issues with my scanner, and if I can't get them resolved soon I'll just have to go buy another one, as I plan to scan and share all my scorecards on here. If you also score games, and would like to share them as well, scan them in and send them to me. I'm always interested to see how other people do it, and it also gives me the opportunity to go back and replay games that the Royals aren't a part of. Looking forward to seeing some of those cards folks.

The Whippets - Fantasy Team

I decided with the amount of travel I will be doing for work this year, not to join a Fantasy League. Obviously that decision didn't last too long as I joined a free public league at http://www.espn.com/ a couple days ago. The draft was last night, and here is what I ended up with:

Round: 1 - Hanley Ramirez SS
Round: 2 - Felix Hernandez SP
Round: 3 - Ian Kinsler 2B
Round: 4 - Kevin Youkilis 3B
Round: 5 - Jon Lester SP
Round: 6 - Kendry Morales 1B
Round: 7 - Bobby Abreu RF
Round: 8 - Torii Hunter CF
Round: 9 - Brandon Webb SP
Round: 10 - Cole Hamels SP
Round: 11 - Raul Ibanez LF
Round: 12 - John Lackey SP
Round: 13 - Jose Valverde RP
Round: 14 - Brad Hawpe RF
Round: 15 - Jair Jurrjens SP
Round: 16 - Erick Aybar SS
Round: 17 - Todd Helton 1B
Round: 18 - Jorge Posada C
Round: 19 - Lastings Milledge LF
Round: 20 - Cody Ross CF
Round: 21 - Leo Nunez RP
Round: 22 - Matt Capps RP
Round: 23 - Kelly Johnson 2B
Round: 24 - Kurt Suzuki C
Round: 25 - Jon Rauch RP

Not a single Royal on my team, I'll have to rectify that at some point this season. I'm not planning to take this league too seriously, but just have some fun with it. It's a great way for me to have an excuse to watch more than just the Royals games if my wife ever asks lol.

6 Days and Counting

Just 6 more days until Royals baseball picks back up in Kansas City. I unfortunately will not be able to attend the home opener on April 5th against Detroit, but I will be listening on the radio, I'm really looking forward to hearing the call from Denny and Bob.

Still no definitive word on the injury to Alberto Callaspo, hopefully that isn't bad news. Gil Meche apparently had a good workout and maybe it's true that his shoulder isn't too serious. I still can't shake the feeling that this is just a precursor to him missing significant time again this year though. I sure hope I'm wrong.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Calling all cards, Anthony Lerew, where are you?

As I mentioned in my earlier post Stage 2: Wanting the Cards, I had looked for a baseball card set that wasn't full of inserts, short runs, alternate cards, etc., as I didn't really want any of that stuff. My search had been partially in vain. What do I mean partially? Well, I have learned that Topps apparently puts out a Topps Baseball Factory Set each year. This set basically compiles all the base cards from their Series 1 and Series 2 sets for the year into one. That sounds great! No unwanted chase cards, or extraneous stuff that I'm not really interested in. Now, comes the partially part.

If you take a look at this blog, I think it would be pretty easy to see that when you boil it down, I'm really a Kansas City Royals fan. Sure, having cards for other players is cool and all, but what I would really like is a set of basic cards that includes every player, for every team. Why every team? Well I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who would like to have a card for every player on their team for a given year, and if I'm gonna ask for every Royal, I imagine someone else wants every Cardinal. I apologize if this sounds greedy, but if you ask my wife, she would say my completist attitude is annoying to her as well. :) To make matters worse, I'm not only a completist, I'd also like them to have the same format, not some being hologram cards, or a card splashed with gigantic ribbons of color, you get the idea I'm sure.

So, after discovering the existence of these Factory Sets I did a little research. I wanted to see how many players from the 2009 Royals are actually in the 2009 Topps Factory Set. I found a total of 21 players listed for the Royals. Of those 21, only 19 actually played in a game for them in 2009. That left 26 players who DID play a game for the Royals without a card in the set. They are, in order of number of games played:

Alberto Callaspo........155
Mitch Maier.............127
Willie Bloomquist.......125
Yuniesky Betancourt......71
Jamey Wright.............65
Brayan Pena..............64
Juan Cruz................46
Josh Anderson............44
John Bale................43
Roman Colon..............43
Kyle Farnsworth..........41
Ron Mahay................41
Luis Hernandez...........37
Robinson Tejeda..........35
Horacio Ramirez..........19
Ryan Freel...............18
Bruce Chen...............17
Tug Hulett...............15
Sidney Ponson............14
Yasuhiko Yabuta..........12
Dusty Hughes..............8
Victor Marte..............8
Carlos Rosa...............7
Lenny DiNardo.............5
Doug Waechter.............5
Anthony Lerew.............3

I can understand some of these guys not having cards, Anthony Lerew only played in 3 games after all. I'm probably one of the few folks, other than Anthony Lerew, who wants this card. Some I don't understand, Alberto Callaspo played in 155 games and has no card in this set? Sure, I'm naive and don't understand all the business ins and outs of player deals with card companies, I'll admit that, I just know what I want. I'd like to see maybe a Series 3 set from Topps, that throws a card in there for all the players that weren't in Series 1 or 2 and played a game in the Majors that year. Tall order I know, but with Topps being the exclusive Official Baseball Card Company of Major League Baseball, its something I'd like to see.

Barring the ability to get a card for every player on a team, for a given year, in a single set, I'm wondering if someone out there has a database that shows what set a player IS in for a given year, or if that player even has a card in existence. For example, is there someplace on the internet that I can go to and:

1. Select Kansas City Royals - 2009
2. See every player that played (even Anthony Lerew) that year
3. See what set they have a card in
4. If no card exists, tell me that

If I could find that, I could at least feed my completist monster. :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Bad Surprise

Wow, I just don't know what to think about this one.

Danny Duffy, one of the Kansas City Royals top pitching prospects, up and walked away from baseball on Tuesday night. From what I've read the team doesn't think it is related to his strained left elbow, but who knows for sure what causes a top prospect to walk away from it all. It's odd to see him make this choice as it looked like he was on a fast track to the Majors, so I can't imagine it was a lack of future with the team. I will say this though, Zack Greinke walked away from baseball for a time, got things taken care of, and it looks to have paid off well for him. Hopefully Danny Duffy can do the same. Until he comes out and lets everyone know what the deal is, or just takes care of whatever the issue is, it'll just be pure speculation on why he made this choice. Looking forward to seeing you in a Kansas City Royals uniform again someday Danny.

To add to this theme a little, it seems like we have seen alot of injuries this year. I'll admit, none of them "appear" to be major, but we all know how teams keep things pretty hidden, remember Joakim Soria last year? Below is a list of the injuries I've heard about so far this year:

Alex Gordon: Broken thumb. Alex will not be on the starting day 25-man roster according to Trey Hillman. A broken thumb isn't the end of the world, but Alex was also injured right after the start of last season. Even though these injuries are not related, it makes me think.

Gil Meche: "stiff shoulder". Gil will not make his next spring training start, but says he will be ready for his first home start on April 7th. I sure hope this isn't a prelude to bad things for Gil, I still remember what happened to his shoulder last year.

Rick Ankiel: Ankle. Hopefully Rick will be back soon, haven't heard much more than his ankle is "sore".

Edwin Bellorin: Strained Quadriceps. Edwin is projected as the starting catcher for Class AAA Omaha.

Mike Moustakas: Pulled Oblique. Currently planned to start the season with Class AA Northwest Arkansas, Mike might miss up to 2 weeks, and the start of the season.

I don't pretend to have a long history of baseball, but this sure seems like alot of injuries to have before the start of a season for one team. Maybe it's just the nature of things, it still makes me nervous.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stage 2: Wanting the Cards

I mentioned in my earlier post that I had a few other baseball interests. I'd like to talk a little about one of those interests now.

In my route to baseball discovery I went through a few stages that I'm sure every baseball fan goes through, normally at a much younger age than myself however. These are the stages I went through:

1. Loving the Game (play, field, team)
2. Wanting the Cards (favorite players, teams)
3. Obsessed with the Numbers (scoring, stats)

I talked a little about Stages 1 and 3 in my first post, now I'd like to talk about Stage 2: Wanting the Cards.

Everybody knows about baseball cards. Most kids collected them if they had any interested in a ball team or player. Since I came into my baseball enjoyment later in life I never bought any cards as a kid. A few years back when I really gained an interest in baseball I figured, heck, I need cards for the guys on my favorite team, the Kansas City Royals. Talk about a can of worms. There were so blasted many card sets to choose from I didn't even know where to start! I looked online, I looked in card shops, but could never decide which cards I wanted to collect, so I never bought any. The selection was too diverse, or too expensive, or didn't have the players I wanted. I was frustrated. Why can't someone just print a set of baseball cards that has all the players for all the teams. Print one set at the beginning of the year with initial line-ups, then print a second set to update near the end of the year? I don't care about game-used jersey swatches, or chucks of a baseball bat, or dirt from the pitching mound. If someone does/did print one like that, I must have missed it. Am I alone in wanting a nice looking baseball card, with a large, clear picture of the player, some stats on the back, and reasonably priced? No way, I refuse to think I'm the only one who wants that.

Now, about this same time I got into my first rotisserie league. I'm pretty computer-literate, and like to think I have a decent eye for design, so I figured I would just MAKE my own baseball cards for the players on my rotisserie team since I couldn't seem to buy what I wanted. I built up a template, created a nice logo for my team, and proceeded to create them. While doing this I started to look around on the internet and found that I wasn't the only one creating custom cards. Goose Joak happened to be doing the same thing, albiet with a better design asthetic, and he was apparently a Royals fan also. I have lurked his blog for the better part of a year now. :)

My only stumbling block came when I decided, how cool would it be to have some of my custom cards signed by the players? Kind of a one-off fantasy baseball card set for just little ol' me. I decided that I didn't know the legality of using someone elses photos and presenting them to a ball player for an autograph, and scrapped the whole project.

So now I've come full circle on Stage 2. I still want baseball cards of the players on my team, and my fantasy team, I know that all the players I want will not have a card created for them for the 2010 season, and I don't know if I'll have the gumption to create them for myself. Even if all the players I want will have a card created, they will likely be from ump-teen different sets. Won't someone think of the casual baseball card collector like me who doesn't give a flip about jersey swatches and super-duper high-end collector sets? I'm not trying to make a fortune on old cards, I just want what I want. :)

Why am I Here?

Well, where to start? Let's start near the beginning. I was raised in western South Dakota and there are no professional sports teams to speak of in that area. So my interest in sports was mainly in the ones accessible through school, basketball, football, and track. Baseball was not something I ever played growing up, sure I played "catch" with a buddy once in awhile, seeing who could chuck a ball the furthest, and it was entertaining for an afternoon. However the ability to actually play, or watch, a game was limited at best. I would have rather been outside running rampant through the woods than sitting inside watching something as boring as baseball on television.

Jump forward about 15 years. I have served my country with the US ARMY, lived all over the world, and seen many places and things. The backwoods of South Dakota seem a long ways away from where I am now. I'm living in the Kansas City area, and while I've become a big fan of the local football team, baseball is still a little too slow for my taste.

Four years after moving to Kansas City, some friends invited me to join them at Kauffman Stadium for a game. I figured what the heck, beautiful weather, a few adult beverages, some time with friends, sounds like fun. Little did I know how fun it would be. It was July 23, 2005, Royals V Blue Jays, evening game. The weather was absolutely fantastic and the ball field was one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen in my life. We sat up in some nosebleed cheap seats, watched the game and had a great time. Even though the Royals ended up losing that game 9-4, I was hooked, and I was determined to learn more about this beautiful game.

For the next few months I spent alot of time on the internet learning more and more about the Royals, and baseball in general. I bought a few books to read, and watched every Royals game I was able to that year. After the season ended, and there was no longer a ball game to be watched every night, I felt like there was something missing from my baseball experience/education. I had noticed during the Royals broadcast there would at times be these cryptic graphics show up on the bottom of the screen when a player came up to bat. What the heck did that stuff mean? Back to the internet I go, and very quickly an entirely new part of the baseball experience is opened before my eyes.

Scoring a baseball game seemed like the perfect way for me to learn more. So I found a few scorecards online that I could download and print out and got myself prepared for the 2006 season by watching a few replayed games over the winter and attempting to score them. Scoring was fairly easy for the most part, until I was watching a game and some odd things happened. How do you score a rundown when the guy is caught between 3rd and home and 5 guys had touched the ball to get the out? I persevered, learned alot, and discovered that I really enjoyed scoring games.

I went through about 6 or 7 different scorecards that I found online that year, and found that none of them gave me the re-playability of a game that I desired when I went back to look at a game from months before. What was missing? The ability to know that the 3rd pitch was a called strike, not a foul ball, or a swinging strike. That the pitcher had thrown to first to hold a runner on, etc. Those were the things that to me, helped bring a game to life months or years later when looking at a scorecard. During my time in learning to score games I had stumbled upon a terrific website full of information http://www.baseball-reference.com/. If you went to the boxscore of a game, you could see the exact information that I felt was missing from my scorecards. So of course, I designed my own printable scorecard and incorporated an area for that information. I was set.

Now that you've read a little of my personal discovery of baseball, and how to score a game, why am I writing a blog? I just want to share my enjoyment of the game with others, and hopefully they will share with me also. I intend to score every game of the Royals 2010 season on my own printable scorecards, and share them here. I have no idea if anyone else but me is interested in these things, but I love seeing how other folks score a game. It's also a great way for me to pull up a game from the past, sit down for an hour, and replay it in my head. Call it therapy through baseball. :)

I do have a few other interests in baseball, but I'll save those for another posting. If you would like to share your scorecards from your home teams for the 2010 season, or previous seasons, by all means scan-em and post-em, I'd love to see them.