Tuesday, July 24, 2007

1974 Topps #284

Dave Duncan has a lot to be proud of these days. Son Chris has hit .294/.384/.569 for the Cardinals so far this year, and even if he is a little butchertastic in the outfield, he's certainly shut up some of the nepotism cries heard last fall when he was called up from Memphis to join the big league club with dad for good.

Shelly Duncan, however, had to wait a little while longer with the Yankees. He tore up AAA ball this year to the tune of a .957 OPS to force his way on the Yankee roster this month and has hit 3 home runs in just 17 at-bats. I was telling Will recently that I'm not worried about the Red Sox's recent .500ish record or the Yankee's recent surge but Shelly Duncan is exactly the kind of hitter Kevin Maas was in 1991 or Shane Spencer was for 27 games in 1998. It's easy to point out that those hitters starting falling off a cliff the following April because pitchers soon figured out how to get them out. But while the rest of the AL East is trying to figure out Shelly Duncan out, they'll pitch to him and when he's pitched to, he can hit a ton. It's not hard to imagine a Massesque rest-of-the-way from Shelly and bringing him up was vintage Brian Cashman, the kind of brilliantly useful filler moves he used to make all the time before George Steinbrenner started making more executive decisions. Bringing up Shelly plus giving Andy Phillips a full-time job instead of dicking around with some putrid combination of Miguel Cairo/Josh Phelps/Whatever's Left of Douggie Mientkiewxyz at first has been paying off for the Yanks, when you consider that an upgrade from a collectively shitty first baseman to a merely average one is still a pretty good upgrade in and of itself.

Me, I'm encouraged by what I'm now convinced is Dave Magadan's brilliance as a hitting coach. First, he fixed Covelli Crisp and according to this, he's fixed David Ortiz's swing as well. Has he cured Julio Lugo, too? The shortstop is finally hitting like the player the Red Sox signed, with a 14-game hitting streak as of blog time. The pitching rotation is 7 deep with Jon Lester's comeback completed, the bullpen has been stabilized with Manny Delcarmen's promotion and Prince Theo has a valuable trading chip in Wily Mo Pena to net something before next Tuesday's trading deadline.

Know who's actually a bit underrated? Daisuke Matsuzaka. There are over 75 starting pitchers in the American League but you can't name a dozen better than what Daisuke has been this year. Go on, try and name a dozen.

1976 Topps #550

It won't be much longer now, Hank. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

1989 Topps #49

In what was one of the more shameless pursuits of meaningless individual goals by a team player in recent memory, Craig Biggio finally hit his 3,000th career hit last week. If he retired 5 years ago, he would still make the Hall of Fame, considering that this was once a great player whom Bill James convincingly argued was better than Junior Griffey. But his performance over the last couple years has been borderline pathetic and if you're hip to new-fangled stats like VORP, then Biggio is ranked 31st among all Major League second basemen, which is amazing when you consider that there are only 30 starting second basemen jobs to be had in Baseball. A .400 slugging percentage is acceptable if you're playing that position in the NL, but not if you're barely OBPing .300.

I would love to see a study of how much a player in pursuit of a second-rate record or a milestone can directly impact a team's attendance. After all, if it's counter-productive to play Biggio at second when you have other (and better) internal options, then you should at least be getting a bit more coin out of it, right? But since I'm not aware of any such study, I guess I'll have to conduct one of my own.

Attendance for Games Minute Maid Park, June 2006

06/08 - 35752
06/09 - 37097
06/10 - 41808
06/11 - 39523
06/16 - 36328
06/17 - 39048
06/18 - 39867
06/20 - 32713
06/21 - 33243
06/22 - 43769

The sudden spike for the last home game of June, in case you were wondering, was for Roger Clemens's season debut. The average attendance per game comes out to 37,915. If you determine that Rocket's first start was an abberation, then it averages out to 37,264 per.

Attendance for Games at Minute Maid Park, June 2007

06/01 - 36784
06/02 - 39234
06/03 - 40483
06/12 - 33637
06/13 - 34611
06/14 - 42024
06/15 - 37322
06/16 - 41974
06/17 - 42019

At this point, the Astros went on a 9-game road trip, with Biggio stuck at 2989 hits. Biggio collected 8 more and upon their return to Minute Maid, Biggio went 5-6 to put him over 3,000. The last three games:

06/28 - 42537
06/29 - 42861
06/30 - 43071

It would be safe to assume that many fans purchased advanced tickets during the days before in anticipation of witnessing history but at any rate, there's clearly an attendance increase when Biggio was closing in on that arbitrary number that people think is so great because it's a "3" with a "0," a "0," and another "0" after it. But how much difference does it really make to the Houston's bottom line?

The average home attendance for June of this year is 39,713, a 1,798 difference from last year. The average ticket price at Minute Maid is $26.66, which translates to an extra $47,934.68 for the month of June. You can add a few dollars when you consider money spent on parking and hot dogs but we can't really add any extra revenue from fans who purchased Biggio jerseys to remember the experience by; the new Collective Bargaining Agreement declares that all money made from merchandise gets divided into 30 and shared among all teams. And I have no idea how much revenue they gained through advertising and television. But really, a measly extra 50 grand? Especially when you consider that more people showed up for Clemens's debut last year than for any of the games where Biggio was anticipated to hit his 3rd thousand.

Attendance for Games at Minute Maid in July 2007, So Far.

07/01 - 35260
07/02 - 28973
07/03 - 37993
07/04 - 39993

And now people are back to caring less about the Astros.