A while back, I wrote about how I was trying to fill in some missing Topps baseball card sets. Mission accomplished, and I now own every Topps set from 1978 through 2005. A key set that comes out every year is the Topps Traded set. Not only does this set show their player in the correct uniform at year end (so Placido Polanco has a card in a Tiger uniform, while in the base set, he was in a Phillies attire), it also have all of the rookies that debuted during the season and it also has a card for each of the draft picks. So I believe Felix Hernandez’s first card is in this set as is Justin verlander’s.
One thing they did change is, it’s no longer the “Traded” set, it’s the “Updates and Highlights” set. And it’s a lot larger. This year’s set checks in at 330 cards, while a lot of the older sets barely topped the 100 card mark. I liken this to Series 3 of the Topps set.
The problem is, they’re not sold in sets. I bought a couple of boxes of packs from Sports Card Central. My local card shop closed up and I found Sports Card Central through ebay and I’ve been using them ever since. Very professional and if you buy enough stuff, they’ll eat the shipping.
Anyway, I’ve been busy opening up and sorting my cards. I bought what I thought was well more then I needed to complete the set and I was pretty much correct. I say pretty much, because I now have a dilemma.
I’m missing one card. Carlos Lee’s Homerun Derby card. And the odds of a card shop having loose cards this soon for this set are pretty slim. So my options are to wait and hope I can pick up the card from someone, or buy another box of packs, which could produce a second set. I’m still on the fence.
What I did find was how much fun I had going through them. It’s something I miss, and now I think instead of buying factory sets, I’ll buy packs and build my own sets. This is beneficial because you get some special inserts now and then and you also get extras. So even though I’m a card short of the set, I have three Felix Hernandez cards. Not too shabby.
Well, I finished the sorting last night (Wed) and it looks like I do only need the one card.
Alright, hopefully everyone had a nice, safe holiday weekend because it’s back to business and I’m going to beat a dead horse. Unfortunately, it’s a dead horse that Tiger fans cling too, and that’s the record breaking 35-5 start that the 1984 Tigers a known for. I have yet to find a team that had a 35-5 stretch at any point in their season, so when the Tigers did it to open things up in 1984, it bordered on magical.
And when ESPN did their top 20 franchises a couple of years back (it was part of their 20th anniversary), only the 1986 Mets and the 1998 Yankees made the cut as far as baseball teams. I thought the 1984 Tigers were snubbed. They led the division wire to wire, they had a dominating playoff run and they won 104 games.
How impressive is 35-5? The Tigers were 30 games above .500 after only 40 games. I did a pretty unscientific search for teams that might have had as good of starts. I focused on some of the best teams of all time, and I’m also throwing in the great Tigers teams as another reference point. I’m also throwing in the 2005 White Sox because a lot of people felt they had a great start. I’m listing them in order of the least amount of games the team needed to hit 30 games over .500 and I’m also adding in the date and the final record of the team as a reference. If I’m missing someone, let me know. If I put them in bold, it’s because I thought it was particularly interesting (either a great team that got off to a mediocre start or just someone I wanted to highlight). Also, I apologize for the formatting. My lack of webskills are pretty apparant here.
1984 Tigers 35-5 5/24/84 104-58
1939 Yankees 40-10 6/17/39 106-45
1928 Yankees 40-10 6/12/28 101-53
1946 Red Sox 41-11 6/14/46 104-50
1912 Giants 41-11 6/21/12 103-48
2001 Mariners 42-12 6/2/2001 116-46
1955 Dodgers 42-12 6/11/55 98-55
1907 Cubs 42-12 6/21/07 107-45
1902 Pirates 42-12 7/1/02 103-36
1998 Yankees 43-13 6/6/98 114-48
1909 Pirates 44-14 6/29/09 110-42
1929 Athletics 45-15 6/25/29 104-46
1969 Orioles 47-17 6/19/69 109-53
1931 Athletics 49-19 7/1/31 107-45
1927 Yankees 50-20 7/1/27 110-44
1986 Mets 51-21 7/1/86 108-54
1970 Reds 51-21 6/27/70 102-60
1954 Indians 52-22 7/4/54 111-43
1906 Cubs 54-24 7/12/06 116-36
2005 White Sox 56-26 7/5/2005 99-63
1975 Reds 59-29 7/11/75 108-54
1961 Yankees 63-33 7/26/61 109-53
1934 Tigers 67-37 8/8/34 101-53
1935 Tigers 68-38 8/15/35 93-58
1961 Tigers 69-39 8/6/61 101-61
1915 Tigers 69-39 8/17/15 100-54
1968 Tigers 71-41 8/8/68 103-59
1909 Tigers 73-43 8/26/09 98-54
1907 Tigers 86-56 9/26/07 92-58
1945 Tigers (Never 30 Games Over .500, Finished 88-65)
1940 Tigers (Never 30 Games Over .500, Finished 90-64)
1908 Tigers (Never 30 Games Over .500, Finished 90-63)
A pretty impressive set of teams, and the Tigers sit well ahead of the bunch. The 1927 Yankees were further down the list then I would have expected. The 1955 Dodgers were highlighted because they were one of the few teams with such a nice start to not finish with 100 wins. The 1934 Tigers had the second best start that I could find (again, I didn’t look at every team for every year), and a few of the Tigers teams that won the pennant never even made it to 30 games above .500.
And if I missed a team, feel free to drop it in the comments or send it to me via email.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you order a copy (or more) of the upcoming Hardball Times Baseball Annual. In my opinion, the Hardball Times is the best “free” site out there and while I know I’m a little biased but I said the same thing last year before I started writing for them. Anyway, here’s what you get.
The book is supposed to ship this week, so be sure to order your copy and help keep the site going.
The International League manager of the year, Larry Parrish, is going to return to Toledo to manage the Mud Hens again. Parrish led Toledo to it’s first International League championship since 1967. To manage a AAA team has to be tough, because at any given time, you could see that team’s hottest player simply disappear in a call up.
Both Jeff Jones and Leon Durham will also return to be on Parrish’s coaching staff.
I really got into Minor League Baseball last year. MinorLeagueBaseball.com now has live radio feeds (and in some cases, video feeds) of just about all of the minor league games, so I found myself with the Tigers’ game on mute while I listened to either the Mud Hens or the SeaWolves on the computer. They had Arizona Fall League games as well, but they were always on during the day so I never got a chance to listen in.
None of the Tigers really shined this year. While Chris Shelton won player of the year last year, no Tiger hit .300 this year. Don Kelly led all Tigers with a .294 average and Kody Kirkland was just behind them at .293. Humbarto Sanchez was solid on the mound. He was 1-0 in six starts and struck out 29 in 29 1/3 innings.
John Sickels did a brief run down of the AFL and is planning on doing something more detailed soon. He also had a nice thread about the Tigers farm system. John runs a great blog and his book is now up for presale.
I mentioned it several times… Something about the 2005 White Sox reminded me of the 1984 Tigers. Regular Tigerblog reader Dan, whose hatred of all things White Sock is both obvious and quite laudable from this Tiger fan’s perspective, disagreed at least to some extent, and I think he has some valid points. But I think I have found what it is that brought those ’84 Tigers to mind: Win pattern. The Tigers had that great 35-5 start, a statistic that no Tiger fan will forget. Hell, I even remembered when the Braves set a record in 1997 for the most wins in April with 19… But they were 19-6, and I recalled those beloved ’84 Tigers finishing April at 18-2. Off the top of my head. Without looking it up. 18-2 beats the hell out of 19-6, but I have now digressed from the topic at hand. No, the White Sox didn’t race out to a 35-5 start. Indeed, they weren’t 10 games over .500 until 14-4, weren’t 20 games over until 39-19, and didn’t reach 30 games over until 56-26 on July 5th. But still, they had a pretty good start and jumped out to a big lead in the AL Central Division right from the beginning. Then, as the “dog days” portion of the season approached, they went through a period of downright mediocre performances, including an astounding 12-16 record in the month of August (the Tigers of ’84 slipped some in August, too, though they squeaked out of the month with an above-.500 mark of 16-15). But as the end of the season approached, the White Sox seemed like they flipped the switch. Their last 5 series went like this: Took 2 of 3 in Minnesota, dropped 2 of 3 at home to Cleveland, won 3 of 4 at home against the Twins, dropped the first 2 and won the last 2 in their 4-game split in Comerica, then swept the final 3 games in Cleveland (despite the games being important to the Indians, and not so much to the Sox), an overall mark of 11-6. The ’84 Tigers in their last 5 series? Took 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays at home, swept the Brewers at home (clinched the AL East during this series), took 2 of 3 from the Yankees at home, won 2 of 3 in Milwaukee, and split a 4-game year-ender in Yankee Stadium, for an 11-7 finish. We all know about the White Sox’s 11-1 record in the playoffs, much like the 7-1 record the Tigers compiled in their post-season.
But that’s a big pile of words… Let’s have ourselves a picture, shall we?
That shows it pretty clear… Most of the ascents align with each other quite well, as do the periods of stability (stretch of near-.500 baseball), with the exception of the White Sox tailspin toward the end there. Then I got to wondering about putting some other teams on there, just as a contrast, to show that other playoff teams from other years had dissimilar patterns. In other words, why other teams have not reminded us of the ’84 Tigers. At first, I wanted the last team from each league with a better record than the 104 wins of the ’84 Tigers, then I went for the last team to finish between 99 wins (’05 White Sox) and 104 (’84 Tigers). I came up with this chart:
Shows pretty clearly that the ’01 Mariners just plain never had a patch of mediocrity, and that the ’04 Cardinals and ’04 Yankees had their patches of mediocrity, but in an entirely different part of the year from where the ’84 Tigers and ’05 White Sox had theirs.
The Tigers sold John McDonald to back to the Blue Jays just a week after they sent the Jays cash when they purchased him last year. McDonald played a lot of shortstop when Carlos Guillen was on the shelf.
This week, I’m going to take yet another look at the 35-5 start that the Tigers had, putting it in a perspective that I’ve never seen before. I’m going to pick a few of the all time great teams and compare when all of these teams were first 30 games above .500. I got the idea when I was helping the Tom Seaver Fan Club with some preliminary work for his 1986 Mets diary (and I saw when they were first 30 games above .500). I’ll be looking to wrap things up Wednesday, but I just got back in from out of town, so my schedule is going to be a little weird the next couple of days as I get caught up.
I’m also looking to get my first Detroit Tigers season lookbacks. If you want to check out the format, I’ll be following what Black Sox Blog has been doing for their White Sox Teams. Here’s a link to the 1901 White Sox season lookback.
Last winter, Ryan Sosin of Tigers Central and Billfer at Detroit Tigers Weblog and I had a chat one evening to try to lay out the groundwork to establish a network of sorts for Detroit Tigers bloggers. While things sort of sputtered during the season, Billfer did do a nice job of arranging a set of postseason awards that I and a bunch of Tigers’ sites took part in.
Placido Polanco took home player of the year as he put together a very nice season after the Tigers acquired him in a trade that involved Ugueth Urbina. It was a trade I initially felt we got the short end of, and I’m now eating crow about (while being happy about it).
Jeremy Bonderman won pitcher of the year. This was the one award that I deviated from the crowd as I picked Kyle Farnsworth. Chris Shelton was the consensus pick for breakout player of the year.
All this leads us to this years upcoming BBWA awards. Here are my picks for who’s going to take home their prospective trophies…
AL Manager of the Year – Ozzie Guillen – I know he had the rough August and September, but the White Sox came out of nowhere.
NL Manager of the Year – Bobby Cox – All he does is keep on winning, and this year he did it with a ton of rookies. It’ll be interesting to see how he does next year without Leo Mazzone.
AL Rookie of the Year – Robinson Cano – This is one of those things where I think the voters will go one way, when I could see a guy like Scott Kazmir walking away with the award.
NL Rookie of the Year – Ryan Howard – Filled in nicely after Jim Thome went down and helped the Phillies come to within one game of the NL Wildcard.
AL Cy Young – Bartolo Colon – I think Johan Santana should walk away with his second straight Cy Young, but Colon will nab it because he came out ahead in the more popular win column.
NL Cy Young – Roger Clemens – He just keeps on going, and going, and going…
AL MVP – Alex Rodriguez – I think he’ll edge Big Papi
NL MVP – Albert Pujols – I think you can make a strong case for Derek Lee, but the writers have been itching to give Pujols an MVP. The fact that he was the best player on a 100 win team will push him ahead of Lee.
The Tigers exercised their option on Jamie Walker and they’ll retain the services of the left hander in 2006. He’ll make $1.25 million next year, which is a pretty good bargain for a quality left handed arm.
Walker does his job, and that’s get left handers out. His split stats are a little extreme. In 26 2/3 innings against lefties, he has 23 strikeouts. In 22 innings against righties, he has had seven strikeouts. He led the team in games pitched (66) and I envision Jim Leyland using Walker similar to how he’s been used the last three years.