Saturday, November 30, 2019

SLU - The Lost Years (a 12 Days of Christmas preview)

This December, The Collector will be celebrating Christmas with a look at some of my all-time favorite toys, games, and gifts. Included in the series will be sports action figures such as McFarlane SportsPicks and Kenner Starting Lineup. I wrote a post about SLU figures in general a few years ago and my 12DOC post(s) will expand on my experiences collecting them as a kid. 

In the meantime, I've been working on something adjacent for years. It always fascinated me that Kenner produced MLB, NFL, and NBA figures starting in 1988. However NHL figures were not produced until 1993. (The 1989 NBA "set" is another topic I'd love to tackle someday.)  

I thought we could fill in the gaps with a mock checklist of figures from every team from 1988-1992. Since we can't create custom figures, I've enlisted the help of Gavin to create some custom cards for each "lost" year of Kenner SLUs. 

In 1988, Kenner produced figures for 132 MLB players, 137 NFL players, and 85 NBA players. (h/t Hockey isn't nearly as popular as those sports in the United States, and that was also true thirty years ago. That being said, one third of the 21 NHL teams at the time were based in Canada - and the top teams and players of the mid-late 1980's were Canadian as well. And so our checklist will be roughly the size of the 1988 NBA series - 80 players. Here they are:

Adams Division:

Boston Bruins (4) 
  • Ray Bourque (Norris trophy winner led Bruins with 81 points)
  • Reggie Lemelin (4th in NHL with 2.93 GAA in 1987-88)
  • Ken Linseman (2nd on Bruins in reg. season scoring, 1st in playoff points)
  • Cam Neely (led Bruins with 42 goals in 1987-88)

Buffalo Sabres (3) 
  • Dave Andreychuk (Sabres' scoring leader with 78 points in 1987-88)
  • Tom Barrasso (Runner-up for Vezina trophy tied for 5th in NHL with 25 wins)
  • Phil Housley (led all NHL defensemen with 29 goals, tied for third on team)

Hartford Whalers (3) 
  • Kevin Dineen (tied for team lead with 25 goals in 1987-88)
  • Ron Francis (led Whalers in scoring with 75 points, co-leader in goals)
  • Mike Liut (3.18 GAA ranked 7th in NHL, 25 wins tied Barrasso for 5th)

Montreal Canadiens (6) 
  • Chris Chelios (led all Habs defensemen with 20 goals, 61 points, 172 PIMs)
  • Claude Lemieux (second on Montreal with 31 goals in 1987-88)
  • Mats Naslund (second on the team with 83 points, won Lady Byng trophy)
  • Stephane Richer (50 goals tied for 6th in NHL in 1987-88, led team)
  • Larry Robinson (40 points in 53 games, second among Canadiens blueliners)
  • Patrick Roy (2nd team NHL All-Star led league in save %, 3rd in GAA)

Quebec Nordiques (2) 
  • Michel Goulet (led Nordiques with 48 goals, 2nd team All-Star)
  • Peter Stastny (tied for 5th in NHL with 111 points in 1987-88)
custom card by Gavin

Patrick Division:

New Jersey Devils (3) 
  • Aaron Broten (57 assists tied for team lead, second on NJ with 83 points)
  • Kirk Muller (led the Devils with 94 points in 1987-88, 14th in NHL)
  • Pat Verbeek (team leader in goals with 46, second in PIMs with 227)

New York Islanders (4) 
  • Pat LaFontaine (Islanders' leader with 47 goals, 92 points in 1987-88)
  • Denis Potvin (led Isles defensemen with 51 points in his final season)
  • Billy Smith (4-time Stanley Cup winner was 8th in NHL with 3.22 GAA)
  • Bryan Trottier (second on Islanders with 82 points in 1987-88)
custom card by Gavin

New York Rangers (4) 
  • Marcel Dionne (scored his 700th career goal in '87-88, finished second on team)
  • James Patrick (45 assists was third on Rangers, first among defensemen)
  • Walt Poddubny (led Blueshirts with 38 goals, 88 points in 1987-88)
  • John Vanbiesbrouck (4th in NHL with 27 wins, 3rd with 1,513 saves)

Philadelphia Flyers (4) 
  • Ron Hextall (3rd among NHL goalies in wins and games played, 2nd in saves)
  • Mark Howe (All-Star was 3rd on Flyers with 43 assists, 4th in points with 62)
  • Brian Propp (Flyers' leader in assists and points in 1987-88)
  • Rick Tocchet (31 goals led the Flyers; 8th in NHL with 299 PIMs)

Pittsburgh Penguins (3) 
    • Paul Coffey (5th among NHL defensemen with 67 points in just 46 games)
    • Mario Lemieux (NHL MVP led league with 70 goals and 168 points in 1987-88)
    • Dan Quinn (second on Penguins in goals with 40 and points with 79)

    Washington Capitals (4) 
      • Mike Gartner (led Capitals with 81 points, tied for 9th in NHL with 48 goals)
      • Clint Malarchuk (6th in NHL with 3.16 GAA, tied for NHL lead with 4 shutouts)
      • Larry Murphy (second on Caps with 53 assists, 22nd in NHL among all skaters)
      • Scott Stevens (Norris trophy runner-up led Capitals with 60 assists)

      Norris Division:

      Chicago Blackhaws (4)
      • Steve Larmer (41-goal scorer in 1987-88, finished second on Chicago with 89 points)
      • Denis Savard (All-Star finished 3rd in NHL with 87 assists and 131 points)
      • Rick Vaive (second on the Blackhawks with 43 goals in 1987-88)
      • Doug Wilson (led 'Hawk defensemen with 24 assists, 32 points in just 27 games)

      Detroit Red Wings (4)
      • Gerard Gallant (second on Red Wings with 73 points, third on team in goals)
      • Glen Hanlon (tied for NHL lead with 4 shutouts in 1987-88, 9th in sv% & GAA)
      • Bob Probert ('88 All-Star led NHL in penalty minutes, led Red Wings in playoff points)
      • Steve Yzerman (team leader in points with 102, scored 50 goals in 64 games)

      Minnesota North Stars (3) 
      • Brian Bellows (North Stars' All-Star finished second on team in goals and points)
      • Neal Broten (4th on Stars with 30 assists, 5th in points with 39 in 54 games)
      • Dino Ciccarelli (led Minnesota with 45 goals and 86 points in 1987-88)

      St. Louis Blues (3) 
      • Bernie Federko (7th in NHL with 69 assists in 1987-88, led St. Louis in points)
      • Doug Gilmour (Blues' second-leading scorer led team with 17 playoff points)
      • Tony McKegney (led Blues with 40 goals, third on team in points and assists)

      Toronto Maple Leafs (4) 
      • Al Iafrate (Toronto's All-Star in 1988 led Leaf d-men with 22 goals and 52 points)
      • Ed Olczyk (Maple Leafs' leader with 42 goals and 75 points in 1987-88)
      • Borje Salming (Leafs' elder statesman was second on team with +7 rating)
      • Ken Wregget (5th in NHL with 1,490 saves, tied for 5th in games played)

        custom card by Gavin

      Smythe Division:

      Calgary Flames (6)
      • Hakan Loob (1st Team All-Star scored 50 goals and led Flames with 106 points)
      • Al MacInnis (second among Flames defensemen - and NHL defensemen - with 83 points)
      • Joe Mullen (5th straight 40-goal season in 1987-88, finished 5th on Flames in points)
      • Joe Nieuwendyk (Rookie of the Year led Flames with 51 goals, 5th-best total in NHL)
      • Gary Suter (led all NHL defensemen with 91 points, 6th among all skaters with 70 assists)
      • Mike Vernon (second among goalies in games played and wins, 4th in saves)

      Edmonton Oilers (6) 
      • Glenn Anderson (one of six Oilers in the All-Star game, 4th on team with 88 points)
      • Grant Fuhr (Vezina trophy winner played 75 of 80 games, led NHL in wins & saves)
      • Wayne Gretzky (Playoff MVP led league in assists with 109, traded in September '88)
      • Jari Kurri (shared team lead in goals with 43, 3rd among Oilers with 96 points)
      • Mark Messier (second on Oilers - and 5th in the NHL - with 74 assists and 111 points)
      • Esa Tikkanen (5th on team with 74 reg. season points, 4th in postseason points)
      custom card by Gavin

      Los Angeles Kings (4) 
      • Jimmy Carson (scored team-leading 55 goals as a 19 year-old in 1987-88)
      • Bernie Nicholls (3rd on Kings with 32 goals and 78 points in 65 games)
      • Luc Robitaille (L. A.'s All-Star led team with 111 points, tied for 5th in NHL)
      • Dave Taylor (Kings' captain scored 67 points in 68 games, 4th on team)

      Vancouver Canucks (3) 
      • Greg Adams (Vancouver's All-Star was second on team in goals and points)
      • Stan Smyl (Canucks' captain was 4th on team with 37 points in 57 games)
      • Tony Tanti (led Canucks with 40 goals and 77 points in 1987-88)

      Winnipeg Jets (3) 
      • Randy Carlyle (led Winnipeg blueliners in goals, points, and PIMs)
      • Dale Hawerchuk (Jets' captain finished 4th in NHL with 77 assists and 121 points)
      • Thomas Steen (fan favorite was 6th on Jets in assists and points)

      I would assume that the Gretzky figure would have been re-painted in Kings colors once the trade went down, but the card would be left as shown. Also I tried to include every team's top players but some lesser names were left out (such as Mike Bullard) if I didn't think they were "collectible" enough. 

      In my next edition of "SLU - The Lost Years" we'll look at the 1988-89 NHL season and series. Perhaps I'll cut down on the stats for that one :-)

      Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


      Tuesday, November 26, 2019

      Investment Update!

      I just made my biggest single-card purchase of the year (which you'll see at the end of this post) and since it's a red-hot rookie card it got me thinking about some other cards I purchased as investments. Some I sold way too soon, some (not many) sold at the right time, while others are still in my collection - appreciating (or depreciating) in value.

      On the rare occasions when I sell cards it's almost always to raise money for other cards. COMC 'flipping' is much easier than eBay and since the big Black Friday sale is coming up I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of my hits and misses in flipping cards on the site.

      Let's start with my first year as a regular user of the site, 2014...

      I hadn't started using the site frequently until July, and I only flipped four cards that year. Here they are:

      The Madbum was a win, coming right after the Giants' third World Series title in five years. That was negated by selling too soon on the Hater and Altuve - which lists for $17+ on the site today.

      In 2015 I sold 2,790 cards on COMC - far more than every other year combined. 50 of those cards were flips. Here are three of the more notable ones:

      Yup, sold that one way too soon. The hype may have died down on Aaron Judge, but I'd gladly pay $70 to have that card back. 

      Back in my prospecting days I grabbed a few Bobby Bradley cards, including this low #d parallel. I'll know in a year or so if this was a hit or miss; Bradley got called up to Cleveland this past season.

      I picked up this Leon Draisaitl parallel when the Oilers were unsure if he was NHL ready. There was no indication he'd develop into a 50-goal, 100-point scorer, but that's exactly what happened. Now this rookie year card lists for $48.75 - nearly ten times more than I sold it for. Oops.

      Moving on from the horror show of 2015 into 2016..(like that wasn't an awful year, too) 64 of the 389 cards I sold that year were flips. I ventured into vintage this time..

      Why on Earth would I not bring home this high-grade Fergie? At least I kept his Fleer Greats auto. 

      This Tommy Henrich was beat. But if Shane had started his 1950 Bowman set build back then, I would have brought it home and sent it to him. Sorry, Shane! :/

      At least Fuji benefited from my poor judgement. (Note to self: stop selling Yankee cards!)

      In 2017 I sold slightly more singles - 419 - and made twice as much cash/credit. Was I finally starting to figure out this whole flipping thing? You decide..

      Dammit Chris, what did I tell you about selling Yankee cards? I should have brought that sucker home and had it graded. Oh well, at least I made a decent profit. 

      You're going the wrong way! It's sad that Cory Schneider wasted his best years on a bad Devils team and now that they're.. still bad but kind of promising.. he's no longer an NHL-caliber goalie. 

      Here's another instance where keeping the card would have been much more valuable than the meager profit I made. The cheapest copy on COMC today is $13.25, and the one I had was much cleaner. I mean, look at this beauty:

      Let's just move on to last year, shall we? I stopped sending cards to COMC by 2018, and so all but four of my 28 single-card sales were flips. I think I finally got it right:

      I had to charge a balance on my credit card to pay for this gem. I'm just glad COMC didn't hold up the transfer of funds for 45 minutes. That's happened to me before, thankfully not when I had my eyes on a flippable card.

      These Thunder Clap gold medallions are so rare that I probably could have asked for more - but I didn't want to be greedy. Since I'll never "own" one again (they're all sold out on COMC) let's take a closer look at this Carter card:

      Here's a pair of memorabilia cards #d to 99 that I bought/sold for about the same price:

      One more from last year's batch:

      I bought it before Hunt was suspended for beating a woman and I was happy to get rid of it afterward. 

      In 2019 I have flipped a grand total of five cards. That might become six after this weekend, though I would be happy to bring that card home. We'll see how it goes.

      Now, for my latest investment.. this was a card I considered buying during one of COMC's previous sales. I can't remember if it was Black Friday or Spring Cleaning 2019, all I know is that it was listed at around $20 and I passed. 

      Cut to this month, when I had to sell my 1962 Topps Hank Aaron card and pay $20 to secure a graded copy because they were selling so freakin' fast! So basically I gave away the Aaron because I didn't buy this when I should have. 

      All's well that ends well, as I'm now the proud owner of a Luka Doncic Panini Prizm rookie card:

      Doncic has been dominating in his second year with the Mavs. He's averaging nearly a triple-double per night and he's second in the NBA in both points and assists. And he's only 20 years old! I can't imagine how much better Doncic could get.. but it's possible he hasn't hit his ceiling yet. (And as Michael Jordan once said.. the ceiling is the roof.)

      When I bought this card, Luka had just dropped 35 on the Warriors in a blowout victory. In the time it took for the seller to ship it and the Post Office to deliver it, he scored 30 against the Cavaliers and then out-dueled the league's leading scorer James Harden with 41 against the Rockets. 

      Doncic and Dallas face Kawhi and the Clippers tonight. We'll see if I've now cursed the kid or if he can continue his wicked hot streak. 

      And with that, I'm going to take a bit of a blogging break until December 1 or so. I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and more importantly (ok, not quite) I hope you all find some great deals on COMC or wherever you do your Black Friday shopping. 

      Thanks for reading!


      Sunday, November 24, 2019

      All-Time Teams: Royals

      In my rush to complete the L.A. teams by Thanksgiving, I almost forgot Kansas City. Here's the Royals' All-Time Team:

       Manager: Ned Yost
      Home: Kauffman Stadium

      Leading off for the Royals.. the Center Fielder.. Amos Otis

      Amos Otis is second on the Royals' career list in WAR, total bases, and runs scored. A five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Otis finished third in AL MVP voting in 1973. The speedy center fielder stole a league-leading 52 bases in 1971 and all but one of his 341 career swipes were with Kansas City. I thought that Willie Wilson would be starting here but Amos had a bit more pop and a better on-base %. His 193 home runs and 992 RBI are third in team history, and he has more career hits than Wilson and Frank White.

      Batting second for Kansas City.. the Third Baseman.. George Brett

      The only Royals player inducted into Cooperstown, George Brett is the franchise standard-bearer in nearly every statistical category. His 3,154 career hits are 18th all-time, and he's the only player in history to win a batting title in three different decades. Brett was a 13-time All-Star, a three time Silver Slugger winner, and was named the 1980 AL MVP after batting .390 and leading the Royals to their first World Series. Brett was ALCS MVP in 1985, a year in which he finished second in league MVP voting, won his only Gold Glove, and led the Royals to their first Championship.

      Batting third.. the Right Fielder.. Danny Tartabull

      A Royal for just five seasons, Danny Tartabull nonetheless leads the franchise in career OPS, OPS+, and slugging. His .376 on-base % is third in team history. Tartabull smashed 124 home runs for the Royals in just 657 games, more than any right fielder and all but two full-time outfielders in team history. In 1991, Danny led the majors in slugging with a .593 % and made his only appearance in the All-Star Game.

      Batting fourth.. the First Baseman.. Mike Sweeney

      Mike Sweeney represented the Royals in five All-Star games through their lean years of the early aughts. A steady high-average hitter, Sweeney batted .300 or better five times, including .340 in 2002. His .299 average as a Royal is third in team history, and only George Brett has more homers with the club. Originally a catcher, Mike moved to first base and eventually became a full-time DH - one of the few positions where the Royals have depth. Sweeney finally made the playoffs at the very end of his career, with the 2010 Phillies.

      Batting fifth.. the Designated Hitter.. Hal McRae

      Moving Mike Sweeney to first base is Hal McRae, one of the game's first great designated hitters. McRae made three All-Star teams, finished fourth in AL MVP voting twice, and won a Silver Slugger in 1982, after leading the league in doubles and RBI. McRae batted .300 or better in six full seasons, accumulating 2,091 career hits. Hal is second in team history with 449 career doubles and fifth among all Royals with 169 home runs. He also managed the club for four years. We'll make sure he sticks to swinging the bat on this All-Time team.

      Batting sixth.. the Left Fielder.. Alex Gordon

      The #2 overall pick in the 2005 draft, Alex Gordon has produced more career WAR than that year's #1 and #3 picks combined. His 36.6 total is fourth in Royals history and a good chunk of that has come from his stellar defense. The seven-time Gold Glove award winner and three-time All-Star was perhaps the best defensive left fielder of the decade. Gordon could also hit a little bit, smacking a league-leading 51 doubles in 2012. His 186 career home runs are the fourth-highest total in Kansas City history.

      Batting seventh.. the Catcher.. Salvador Perez

      Salvador Perez has caught more games than anyone in franchise history - and he's still just 29 years old. The 2015 World Series MVP caught all 31 of the Royals' playoff games in 2014 and 2015, and is one of the few remaining players from that title-winning team on the current Royals roster. In just eight seasons, Perez has made six all-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and hit 20+ home runs in each of his last four seasons. The only reason "Salvy" bats behind Gordon here is because Gordon gets on base at a higher rate.

      Batting eighth.. the Second Baseman.. Frank White

      This Royals' All-Time team is strong on defense - which would be beneficial considering they wouldn't score many runs. Frank White won eight Gold Gloves in his eighteen years with Kansas City. The five-time All-Star was named ALCS MVP in 1980, collecting six hits in eleven at-bats against the Yankees. White won his only Silver Slugger at age 35, tying a career high with 22 home runs in 1986. His games played and hits totals are second in Royals history.

      Batting ninth.. the Shortstop.. Freddie Patek

      Freddie Patek was a three-time All-Star for the Royals in the 1970s. He finished sixth in AL MVP voting in 1971, when he led the majors with 11 triples. The speedy shortstop stole 30 or more bases eight consecutive seasons from 1971-78, and his 336 swipes as a Royal are third in team history. Patek's career on-base percentage was higher than Frank White and Salvador Perez, however "The Flea" was small in stature and had zero power. Patek would have been a perfect fit for the Golden Age of baseball. Here, he's a slightly better option than U.L. Washington.

      The Starting Pitcher for the Royals.. Bret Saberhagen

      Bret Saberhagen was one of the top starters in the American League when healthy (and in odd-number years.) A two-time Cy Young award winner and three-time All-Star, "Sabes" was the MVP of the 1985 World Series, allowing just one run in two complete game victories against the Cardinals. He has the lowest WHIP in franchise history, the lowest ERA among Kansas City starters, and the second-highest WAR. Bret's career total of 58.8 is higher than Hall of Famer Whitey Ford.

      Now let's take a look at the Royals' bench and bullpen:

      Catcher: Darrell Porter
      1st Base: John Mayberry
      Infield: Kevin Seitzer
      Outfield: Willie Wilson
      Designated Hitter: Billy Butler

      Porter was a four time All-Star who played a near-equal amount of games for three different teams. Mayberry finished second in AL MVP voting in 1975. Seitzer had a .380 OBP across six seasons in Kansas City. Wilson has more stolen bases than any Royal, and his 688 career steals are 12th all-time. This is the first All-Time team without a fifth outfielder; Butler was a better option than David DeJesus, and I had to get "Country Breakfast" in here somehow.

      #2 Starter: Kevin Appier
      #3 Starter: Dennis Leonard
      #4 Starter: Paul Splittorff
      #5 Starter: Mark Gubicza

      Appier leads all Royals pitchers in WAR and strikeouts, and his 130 ERA+ is highest among K.C. starters. Leonard was an innings eater, tossing more complete games and shutouts than any hurler in team history. Splittorff leads the franchise in starts, wins, and innings pitched. Gubicza is in the team's top three in WAR, wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, and shutouts. He's also the franchise leader in walks allowed, and his WHIP was higher than Splittorff's.

      RH Reliever: Steve Farr
      RH Reliever: Kelvin Herrera
      RH Reliever: Joakim Soria

      RH Reliever:
      Jeff Montgomery
      RH Reliever: Greg Holland
      RH Reliever: Dan Quisenberry

      Farr edged out Doug Bird based on a lower ERA and a higher K/9 ratio. Soria had a sub-2 ERA and 40+ saves in 2008 and 2010.  Montgomery earned 304 saves, most in Royals history. Holland's 47-save season in 2013 included a 1.21 ERA and a 342 ERA+. Quisenberry led the AL in saves and finished top-3 in Cy Young voting four straight seasons.

      I'm going to hit 'pause' on the All-Time Teams series until after the holidays. I've got plenty of other sports card-related topics to discuss, including recent purchases before and after Black Friday. I've also got a 12 Days of Christmas series in the works, which will dive into Starting Lineup and McFarlane sports figures, as well as some of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts. 

      Thanks for reading these All-Time Teams posts!


      Saturday, November 23, 2019

      All-Time Teams: Astros

      Today we'll look at the first of two franchises that have competed in both the AL and the NL. Here's the All-Time Team for the Houston Astros:

      Manager: A.J. Hinch  Home: Astrodome

      Leading off for the Astros.. the Center Fielder.. Cesar Cedeno  

      This was a very tough call. Cesar Cedeno pushed Jim Wynn to right field (and eventually to L.A.) in the early 1970s and wins the spot here as well. Cedeno slashed .289/.351/.454 over 12 seasons with the Astros. The four time All-Star won five Gold Gloves and holds the franchise record for career stolen bases with 487. Cedeno's career WAR of 52.8 is slightly less than Wynn's, but his WAR total with the Astros is 49.6 - eight points higher than "The Toy Cannon" and fourth in franchise history.

      Batting second for Houston.. the Catcher.. Craig Biggio

      Houston's all-time greats are highly concentrated at three positions. Luckily, Craig Biggio was versatile enough to accommodate a current superstar. The Hall of Fame second baseman began his career with five seasons behind the plate, where he won the first of five Silver Slugger awards. A seven-time All-Star and four time Gold Glove winner (all at second base) Biggio is second in Astros' annals with 414 stolen bases. His 1,844 runs scored, 3,060 base hits and 1,014 extra base hits are all first in franchise history.

      Batting third.. the First Baseman.. Jeff Bagwell

      Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell is the Astros' career leader in home runs, RBI, OPS+, and WAR. His career total of 79.9 is sixth-best among all first basemen. The 1991 NL Rookie of the Year won three Silver Slugger awards and was named NL MVP in 1994. Bagwell also stole his share of bags, racking up two 30/30 seasons and a career total of 202 stolen bases. He led the league in runs scored three times, and his 969 extra-base hits are second in Astros history.

      Batting fourth.. the Designated Hitter.. Lance Berkman  

      The Astros' career leader in on-base percentage, Lance Berkman was named to more All-Star teams (6) than Jeff Bagwell (4). Berkman succeeded Bagwell at first base and also played all three outfield positions in his 15 year-career, but we'll pencil him in as the DH on this roster. Berkman finished third in MVP voting in 2002 and 2006, when he set career highs in home runs. "Big Puma" led the NL in doubles twice, and posted six seasons of 100+ RBI from 2001-2008. He won a World Series ring (and NL Comeback Player of the Year)  with the Cardinals in 2011.

      Batting fifth.. the Second Baseman.. Jose Altuve

      It might be a stretch to move Craig Biggio behind the plate, but there's no way I could leave Jose Altuve on the bench. The 2017 American League MVP led the league in hits four consecutive seasons, and his career total of 1,568 is already sixth in Astros history. In addition to his three batting titles and five Silver Slugger awards, "Tuve" won a Gold Glove in 2015 and ALCS MVP honors this past season. Jose has accumulated 38.5 career WAR, making him one of four second basemen in the Astros' all-time top ten.

      Batting sixth..the Right Fielder.. George Springer

      This was another tough call. George Springer has only played five full seasons and his OPS+ as an Astro is equal to Jimmy Wynn's. Springer's slash line of .270/.361/.488 gives him the edge here. In the last three seasons alone, Springer has won two Silver Slugger awards, earned three AL All-Star nods, played in two World Series and earned MVP honors in the 2017 fall classic. He set career highs in 2019 with 39 home runs, 96 RBI, a .292 batting average, and a .591 slugging percentage. He already has an astounding 15 home runs in 50 postseason games.

      Batting seventh.. the Left Fielder.. Jose Cruz

      A star for the Astros well into his thirties, Jose Cruz won two Silver Slugger awards, made two All-Star teams, and finished top ten in NL MVP voting three times - all after his 32nd birthday. Cruz batted .300 or better six times and led the NL in hits with 189 in 1983. He's third in Houston history in hits, games played, plate appearances, stolen bases, and WAR. Cruz's career 54.4 total is 19th all-time among left fielders - one spot ahead of Berkman.

      Batting eighth.. the Shortstop.. Carlos Correa

      Carlos Correa was the #1 overall pick in 2012 and the AL's Rookie of the Year in 2015. In that season he smashed 22 home runs in 99 games at age 20. Named to the AL All-Star team in 2017, Correa finished that year with career highs in batting average, on-base %, and homers. His career .489 slugging percentage is sixth in Astros history. Correa has hit 20 or more homers in four of his five seasons, including 21 in just 75 games this past season. In addition, he has smacked 11 long balls in 50 postseason games.

      Batting ninth.. the Third Baseman.. Doug Rader

      I'll be honest, I don't feel great about these choices. I looked at Alex Bregman at third base and decided he hadn't played long enough - even though he already has a higher WAR for Houston than Doug Rader does. I set an unofficial minimum of five seasons - which Correa has and Bregman doesn't. However, Correa has only played 29 more games in that time and totaled only 0.2 more WAR. So it would be fair to ask - where do I draw the line? Five seasons I guess, regardless of total games played. Anyway.. Rader won five Gold Gloves in the 1970s. He hit 20+ home runs three times.

      The Starting Pitcher for the Astros.. Nolan Ryan

      Nolan Ryan pitched one more season for Houston than he did for the Angels, earning 1,866 of his all-time record 5,714 strikeouts in his nine years as an Astro. In that time, Ryan led the NL in ERA twice, strikeouts twice, and made the All-Star team twice. Ryan's ERA and ERA+ were slightly better in California (though his walk total was a lot higher) and you could argue that he should be anchoring the Angels' All-Time rotation. Call it a gut feeling, or a product of being an 80s kid, but I just think Nolan belongs with a Texas team.

      Now let's take a look at the Astros' bench and bullpen:

      Catcher: Brad Ausmus
      1st Base: Bob Watson
      Infield: Bill Doran
      Outfield: Jimmy Wynn
      Outfield: Terry Puhl

      Ausmus won three Gold Gloves, and while he provided little value at the plate it wasn't significantly less than Alan Ashby. Watson made two All-Star teams in the 1970s. The last thing this team needs is another second baseman, but Bill Doran's WAR total with the Astros was noticeably higher than third basemen Ken Caminiti and Enos Cabell. Wynn had seven seasons of 20+ home runs for the 'Stros.

      #2 starter: Roy Oswalt
      #3 starter: J. R. Richard

      #4 starter: Larry Dierker
      #5 starter: Mike Scott

      Oswalt is first among Astros pitchers in WAR, second in strikeouts and wins, and finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times. Richard compiled back-to-back 300+ strikeout seasons and led the league in FIP twice before suffering a stroke at age 30. Dierker started more games and pitched more innings than anyone in Houston history. Scott led the NL in strikeouts and ERA in his Cy Young award-winning season of 1986.

      RH Reliever: Ken Forsch
      RH Reliever: Will Harris
      LH Reliever: Joe Sambito
      RH Reliever: Brad Lidge
      RH Reliever: Dave Smith
      LH Reliever: Billy Wagner


      Forsch is third on Houston's all-time list for appearances and was used as both a starter and reliever. Harris has been lights out in his five Astros seasons, with a WHIP of 0.987 and an ERA+ of 175. Sambito had a sub-2.00 ERA in 1979 and 1981. Lidge had three straight 100+ strikeout seasons including 157 in 2004. Smith saved 216 games and posted a career 2.57 ERA. Wagner is sixth all-time in saves and his rate stats are higher than several Hall of Famers. Every pitcher in this bullpen has made at least one All-Star team.

      Stay tuned for our next All-Time Team, the Kansas City Royals.

      Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!