A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Rating the Rookie Cups - a Refresher + the Best of All Time



As some of you may remember, I have a very large Topps All Star rookie cup collection.  It's not complete because I am still missing about 30% of the 60s cards and a handful from the 70s, but I am 100% finished from 1980-2020.  This includes cards that do not have cups because Topps in their infinite wisdom decided to not put them on their cards for several years despite continuing to pick the teams.  Go figure.

This series is about looking back at the selections from each year and seeing whether the selection to the Cup Team was warranted, looking at some guys that probably should have made it, seeing how rookie years and careers stacked up against peers, and other fun stuff.  Before my hiatus, I made it through around 15 or so years.  I will probably re-do those for a couple of reasons one of which I will go into detail a little further down.  Another reason is that careers have changed since 2013.  When I analyzed the 2011 Topps team, they were only 3 years into their careers, but now most of them are past their peaks and we can more readily compare them to greats from the past.  I will keep the old stories on the blog even when I redo the years, because I am not a fan of deleting knowledge at all.  Plus I worked pretty hard on the old stuff, so I just don't want to delete it.  But I do want to update it.  

The way I rate the rookie cups is on a 1-10 scale.  Nothing fancy or too specific.  For example, if there are 60 shortstops, the top 6 would be 10s, the next 6 would be 9s, and so on.  And I do that for both the rookie year and for an entire career.  That way you can see that even though someone like Pat Listach whose career did not work out well, he could still have a high number for the season.  Conversely, someone like Joe Mauer that made the team despite only playing a month would not look good in the season comparison, but in the career category would be much higher.  

The main thing that is different is that last time I basically just used my gut feeling for assigning number ratings to a player.  This time I built and maintain a spreadsheet with full stats for each rookie cup recipient.  Yes, I am a dork, why do you ask?  The stats I use will not be something that frequent visitors to Fangraphs will think highly of for the most part.  I use the stats that are on the back of the baseball cards instead of some algorithm that decides who would be best if the seasons were played 10,000 times in a vacuum.  I do use WAR as one of the categories just to show that I am not completely old school.  Although the WAR does change for past seasons often, which is one reason I don't put much stock in the stat.  Pete Rose's hit total in 1973 will never change, so why should his WAR from the same year?  But I digress.  I just do a simple roto style points system to figure out how Player A compares to everyone else at the same position.  With pitchers, I use the right handed and left handed that Topps has always used, but I also go back and moved relievers into the comparable relief pitcher category to make comparisons more equal.  

As a reward for making it this far, I will showcase the #1 player at each position based on my system.  This will be the #1 guy for the rookie year only, not the career.  I am saving that for the individual year posts.  You can use this information as a measuring stick for how reliable my system is or is not.  I'm not changing it regardless, but at you can think I am a moron if you want to.

Catcher - Mike Piazza (1993)

First Base - Alvin Davis (1984)

Second Base - Dan Uggla (2006)

Third Base - Dick Allen (1964)

Shortstop - Hanley Ramirez (2006)

Outfield #1 - Mike Trout (2012)

Outfield #2 - Tony Oliva (1964)

Outfield #3 - Fred Lynn (1975)

Right Handed Starter - Dwight Gooden (1984)

Left Handed Starter - Gary Peters (1963)

Relief Pitcher - Dellin Betances (2014)

The two 1965s are Google images, but the rest are mine.  There you have it.  My selections for the best at each position are just by the numbers, but that doesn't make them infallible either.  Do you have a pick that you think is a better choice?  Is there a particularly surprising choice among the groups?  If there isn't, then you have some kind of weird psychic thing going on, because I know I was surprised multiple times when calculating.  

For example, Gary Peters was particularly surprising, but Fernando Valenzuela would have easily taken the spot if his rookie year were not marred by a strike that cost him about 10 starts.  Even with that handicap, Fernando still ranks 4th among LHPs of all time.  A similar handicap will forever mar the 2020 rookie cup winners as well. 

I was also surprised that there were two winners from three different sets.  I figured with 61 different years there would be more diversity.  Man, that Marlins double play combo was surely something special.  It's a shame they had to play for a franchise that didn't care about winning.

I am going to start next week with the individual year ratings and hopefully you can stop in and enjoy my attempt at analysis.  

Thanx for reading.


gcrl said...

the 1985 gooden is a great card, but how much better would it have been if topps had given it the rookie cup......

Daniel Wilson said...

Looking forward to this series as I am somewhat fascinated by the Topps Rookie Cup and have a collection project of my own, not to the extent of yours, but I want the Rookie Cup card of the best overall player (career) from each set.

Fuji said...

I love that you're diving into this topic... because it's such an interesting one. Where did you find the Rookie Cup players for the years that Topps didn't print them on the cards? Is it on their website somewhere?