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Monday, December 31, 2007

Player Focus: LaMarcus Aldridge

The Blazers were one of the hottest teams in Dec, going 13-2 (including winning 13 straight). Why then is their young star LaMarcus Aldridge's rookies falling in value? Maybe it's because the Blazers had their recent surprising success in spite of Aldridge. His stats in Nov, when the team went 5-10, were 18.5 ppg & 8.3 rpg. They then fell in Dec, when the team hit it's hot streak, to 16.9 ppg & 5.9 rpg. He also missed 5 games right in the middle of their 13-game W streak, due to a foot injury, showing collectors that he currently isn't as instrumental as people may have previously thought to the team's success.

Here is a list of some of his key 06-07 rookies that dropped in value from Nov to Dec: SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 299 fell from $54.76 to $49.46; SP Authentic Auto #'d 299 fell from $59.60 to $47.67; Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch #'d 99 fell from $480.95 to $416.77; E-X Auto #'d 199 fell from $41.55 to $32.16; Hoops Hot Prospects Auto/Patch #'d 150 fell from $54.25 to $34.01.

I don't mean to take anything away from the potential that Aldridge has. I do think that he, along with Brandon Roy, are the future of this franchise. I just think that people wanted to rush the idea of his "stardom" a little too prematurely. He is definitely improving, and should continue to evolve into a star. Portland has a very young line-up who will help them to become a Northwest division title contender before we know it. Aldridge is a very decent investment for the future, and at current market values, is becoming a pretty good buy also.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

NBA Briefs
  • Dwight Howard has back-to-back 20+ rebounds games. He grabbed 21 against Charlotte on Saturday, and 21 against Miami on Friday, giving him six 20+ rebound games this season. If anyone had any doubts, I'm sure they're convinced now that Howard is the next dominant "big man" in the NBA. At only 22 years old, he's averaging 23.3 ppg & 15.1 rpg for the Southeast-leading Magic. His 04-05 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 750 is averaging $160.25 in December, up from $124.26 in November. Most recent sales have been in the $170-175 TAC range. His Ultimate Collection Auto RC #'d 250 has been averaging $274.46 this month. I don't think that his rookies have reached their max value yet. There's still room for growth.
  • Bucks' star Michael Redd is been averaging 23.8 ppg, down from his 26.7 ppg in 06-07 and 25.4 ppg in 05-06. I expect to see Redd increase his scoring average as the season moves forward, as he's done every single year he's been in the league (as long as he stays healthy). His 00-01 Fleer Autographics Auto has been a pretty consistent seller in the $8-10 TAC range this season. His 00-01 E-X Auto #'d 1-500/1500 is averaging $18.22 this month, down from $25.72 in November. In my opinion, Redd is one of the more underrated players in the hobby, kind of like Paul Pierce (until recently). Maybe he, like Pierce, will have to wait until the Bucks become a better team, or until he gets traded to a contender, in order for his hobby status to rise.
  • After losing some of the spotlight to rival point guard Deron Williams last season, Chris Paul seems to be making a comeback this year. He's averaging 21.5 ppg, 10 apg & 2.9 spg (compared to Williams' 19.4 ppg, 8.7 apg & 1.2 spg). His Hornets are also having a great start. With a 20-10 record, they're currently #2 in the tough Southwest division, only 1 game behind the Western Conference-leading Spurs. So why are his cards dropping in value? His 05-06 SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 750 is averaging $74.75 this month; down from $90.84 in November. His SP Authentic Auto #'d 1299 is at $49.50 this month; down from $57.25 last month. Even his Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch #'d 99 is down by over $500. I've only seen his Ultimate Collection Auto #'d 250 rise this month, from $81.27 to $102.79. Paul and Williams are the point guards of the near future. It wouldn't hurt to have a few of their key cards in your collection.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Paul Pierce's Elusive Rookie-Year Auto

I hadn't seen ANY of Paul Pierce's sole rookie-year autos listed on auction for the past couple of years, and this month I saw two! Of course I'm talking about his 98-99 Topps Auto. The first one sold on 12/4 for $67 TAC, and the second was on 12/11 for $36. I had both on my watchlist, but forgot to bid!

Pierce leads the top-ranked Celtics with 21.1 ppg, and also has 5.3 rpg & 5.0 apg. His 98-99 SP Authentic RC #'d 3500 has been on the rise. Last month it averaged $25.83 TAC, and this month it's up to $29. Pierce has been one of those star players that has cruised under the radar, due to poor team performance. Expect him to jump a few notches on the hobby charts this season as Boston competes for Eastern Conference dominance.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Padres Roll the Dice, Add Prior to Their Rotation

Less than a month after the Cubs cut their injury-plagued ace Mark Prior, the Padres signed on to bring him to his hometown of San Diego. I still remember pulling his 01 UD Prospect Premiers Auto XRC from a pack at the local card store back when the product was first released, thinking who is this guy? Since his debut in '02, Prior has been a dominant strike-out pitcher. Even with his ups & downs the past few years, he's still averaging a career 10.37 K's/9IP. Unfortunately, he only had one full, healthy season back in '03, when he won 18 games & had 245 K's in 30 starts. Being that he missed the entire '07 season while still pulling in $3.5 + million in salary, it's not too surprising that the Cubs decided to let him go. I'm glad to see that there's still interest in Prior, despite his health problems, and to join such a great rotation (with Jake Peavy, Chris Young & Greg Maddux) is just an additional plus.

Prior's best base rookie cards from '01 are his Ultimate Collection Auto #'d 250, SPx Auto #'d 1500, Donruss Elite XRC #'d 556 (only avail through redemption) and of course his UD Prospect Premiers Auto XRC #'d 1000. There have been very few on auction during Prior's absence this past season, probably meaning that sellers haven't lost hope that he & his cards will make comeback (otherwise we would have witnessed a large-scale dumping on the market by now).

On they're saying that he's been throwing on flat ground without any pain, and he should be able to return to play by mid May at the earliest. If he can stay healthy, I think that playing alongside other top-notch pitchers will help him to regain his form back. It would be very interesting to see if he, Peavy & Young were all able to compete for the Cy Young in '08, since they all have the talent to do so. I've been a Prior fan since I pulled that XRC several years ago, and I'm excited to see his comeback.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Nats Take Risk, Acquire Dukes From Tampa Bay

On 12/6, it was announced that the Nationals had acquired the 23-year-old slugger Elijah Dukes from the D-Rays, for top pitching prospect Glenn Gibson. Many collectors had high hopes for Dukes this past season (his rookie year), but his problems off the field took him away from the game, both physically & mentally. His problems ranged from possession of marijuana to assault on his wife. He only hit .190 for the season with 10 HR & 21 RBI (of which 7 HR & 15 RBI were hit in the month of May), but 43% of his hits were for extra bases, which isn't too bad. What was bad was his striking out every 4.2 AB's.

After Dukes' decent May, his rookie cards started to fall as his problems started to mount. His 07 Bowman Auto RC averaged $17.72 TAC is June, then fell to $9.85 in July, and $8.36 in August. In October, he seemed to receive a little boost as that same rookie moved up to $10.01. I haven't seen any sell yet this month, but there are two ending within the the next week. We'll see if this recent news will help to spark some renewed interest in his cards.

There's no question that Dukes has potential to be an offensive force at the plate. The basic concern is whether or not he can keep his personal problems at a minimum. Hopefully this move to Washington, away from his home state of Florida, will provide him with the fresh start he needs. He's still young enough to turn things around and have a long & successful major league career.

The Nats seem to be planning for success in '08, with off-season signings of players like OF Lastings Milledge, C Paul LoDuca, IF Aaron Boone, OF Wily Mo Pena and others. This could be an opportune situation for a player like Dukes to reemerge as a focused & developing ball player.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Player Focus: Kevin Garnett

After enduring back-to-back losing seasons with the T-Wolves (despite averaging 22.1 ppg, 12.8 rpb & 4.1 apg), Kevin Garnett is finally on a top-tier team. His stats have come down compared to his previous seasons (which is to be expected now that he's sharing offensive responsibilities with Paul Pierce & Ray Allen), but it seemed like as long as he kept his scoring average over 20 and rebounds over 10 (and the Celtics kept winning), collectors were more than happy to bid up his 05-06 Finest RC value.

In Nov, Garnett averaged 20.1 ppg & 11.8 rpg, and his Finest RC averaged $54.25 TAC. From Dec 1st through 11th, he posted 17.5 ppg & 7.5 rpg, and his Finest RC dropped to $49.54. Then, from Dec 12th through 20th, he averaged 17.0 ppg & 6.5 rpg. Even though the Celtics are still winning, his Finest RC continues to fall along with his stats, now down to $37.46.

I guess the only way to maintain a superior value level is for a player AND their team to continuously perform. I'm just happy to see KG finally winning. He deserves to take a breather once in a while! The last two Finest RC's that I saw on auction this past week sold for $36 TAC. I don't expect prices to fall below the $30 mark. Hopefully they'll go back up and stay in the $45-55 range where they belong, especially since this is his best base rookie, and it's the only year that Finest didn't have refractor parallels for the rookies.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who's Craig Smith?

A week or so ago I was doing my usual rounds on and clicked on the T-Wolves game against the Wizards to see how up-and-coming star Al Jefferson was doing, and noticed that this guy named Craig Smith scored 36 with 8 boards. A few days later he scored 30 with 10 rebounds against the Bucks. Who the heck is Craig Smith?

Smith, a 24-year-old 2nd-year player out of BC, was only averaging 8.5 ppg & 4.3 rpg in 16.8 mpg during the month of November. This month, he's increased his playing time to 27.9 mpg, and has upped his stats to 15.1 ppg & 5.4 rpg so far in December. In the 3 games that he's played 30 or more minutes, those stats go up to 27.3 ppg & 8.7 rpg. He and 22-year-old teammate Jefferson could potentially make-up a strong two-man scoring-rebounding duo for years to come.

I guess Smith has had his following of fans, but I had never heard of him. He was the 36th overall pick in the '06 draft, which would partially explain the lack of hobby interest in his cards. From looking on ebay (his cards aren't listed in Beckett since they're considered commons), it looks like he has quite a few rookie-year Auto's. Two that I've been watching are his 06-07 SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1199 & Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch #'d 225, which have been selling in the $10 and $25-40 range respectively. I wouldn't say that Smith is going to be a guaranteed hobby star, but there is a possibility. At only 6'-7" and playing the PF position, he may have a tough time matching up against some of the bigger guys out there in the long run.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Haren Traded to D-Backs, Rookie on the Rise

On Friday it was announced that Dan Haren was heading to the D-Backs in an eight-player trade. Toward the end of the '07 season, Haren's 03 Bowman's Best Auto RC was on the slide, dropping down below $20 in October, from a high of around $40 in June, as his bid for an AL Cy Young diminished due to his fall in performance. In November, there seemed to be renewed interest in Haren, and his BB Auto RC jumped to the mid $30's range. At first, I just dismissed this sudden rise as a fluke, but in early December, another one sold for $34.40 TAC. A day after the announcement of his trade, one sold for $45.75 (even higher than when he was at his peak last season!). I guess the prospect of him playing for a real contender, alongside NL Cy Young runner-up Brandon Webb and possibly future HOF'er Randy J0hnson, is sparking some real hobby buzz.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Aren't Bynum's Rookies Hotter?

The Lakers' 20-year-old Center, Andrew Bynum, has been improving by leaps & bounds. He's now a lot more aggressive under the basket, which not only leads to more boards, but more second chance points. Depending on what the situation demands, he can have a soft touch to lay the ball in, or dunk it with force (unlike injured Kwame Brown, who seems to have an aversion to dunking!). He's also wowing the crowd with alley-oop dunks.

I was watching the Lakers-Warriors game tonight, and had the pleasure of witnessing Bynum score 6 pts & grab 10 boards in his first 11 minutes of the game (he out-rebounded the entire GS team in the 1st Qtr), helping the Lakers to a 28-17 lead after the 1st. He dominated GS starting Center Andris Biedrens and back-up DJ Mbendga. Including tonight, he has 11 double-doubles this season, while only averaging 26 mpg.

Action on his 05-06 Auto rookies is just starting to pick up. Last month, his SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 1299 averaged $24.34 TAC, and his SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1499 was at $25.79. His Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch RC #'d 225 was going for around $214. This month, his Exquisite RC is up some, selling in the $250-260 range. You can still find both his SPA & SPx in the mid $20's. If you really want a special card, look for his SPA Auto/Patch #'d 1-100/1299. I saw one sell in November for $124.48 TAC; none so far this month.

If you haven't already read my post from last season on 11/27/06, "Player Focus: Andrew Bynum Auto Variations", check it out to see which of his rookie-year cards have his different autograph variations ("AB#17", "A Bynum" & "A Bynum #17").

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Arenas, No Problem

The Wizards' star guard, Gilbert Arenas, has been out with injury since 11/17. The team went 3-5 with him, and has gone 6-5 in his absence. Two big reasons for the team's relative success without their top scorer are Caron Butler & Antawn Jamison. Both of these players have eluded the hobby's interest for years, but I think that it's about time for them to get their share of the limelight.

Butler averaged 22.5 ppg this season with Arenas on the court. Without Arenas, 24.7 ppg (excluding the game on 11/20 where he only played 26 min). I became a Butler fan when he played for the Lakers in the 04-05 season, watching him slash to the basket, despite multiple defenders hammering him, and just observing his hard work on the floor. Butler has 5 base Auto rookies from 02-03: Bowman Signature Auto/Jsy #'d 999, Finest Auto #'d 999, SP Authentic Auto #'d 1500, SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 999 & Ultimate Collection Auto #'d 250. All are selling for under BV, and all have at least one parallel (coolest one is the Ultimate Collection Auto/Patch #'d 25).

Jamison averaged 16.5 ppg this season with Arenas. Without him, 23.75 ppg & 10 double-double's in 12 games (4 out of 8 with Arenas there). From day one in the NBA, Jamison seems to have been overshadowed by classmate & fellow Tar Heel Vince Carter. He only has 2 #'d base rookies from 98-99: SP Authentic #'d 3500 & SPx Finite #'d 2500. There weren't any base Auto rookies that year, but he does have 7 insert Autos (including 3 Co-Signers, matched up with Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby & Vince Carter). Just like with Butler, all of Jamison's cards can be found for less than BV.

I can't say for sure that these guys will be hobby stars anytime soon (or ever for that matter), but they should be. I'm thinking that their only chance is if they can continue at this current level of production after Arenas returns, and the Wiz need to make a run at the Eastern Conference title. Then the trio could maybe have the hobby-star package deal going on, kind of like the Suns, with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire & Leandro Barbosa (well, Phoenix almost has it).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Johan Santana Receives Renewed Hobby Spark

With all of the trade discussions going on recently, Johan Santana is receiving some renewed hobby interest. His 00 Finest RC #'d 3000 was a steady seller in the $55-70 range throughout the season. Now, with the possibility of Santana going to a true contender (Boston or NYY), that same rookie has been averaging $106.75 so far in December. His 00 Bowman's Best RC #'d 2999 averaged in the $50-60 range this past season. I haven't seen any for sale this month, but you can bet they'll be selling at elevated levels as well.

Back in July, Santana was my top pick for "Top Pitcher Investments: Age 28 to 30", and nothings changed since then. I still think that he is, and will be the best in his age group (and age groups above & below him) till the day he retires. Since becoming a full-time starter in '04, he has 983 K's in 912-1/3 IP (9.7 K's/9 IP), a 2.89 ERA, a 70-32 record, and has only allowed 1.95 BB/9 IP.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

MLB Season Wrap-Up: Part 2

Here's part 2, showing the real average market pricing, or TAC, for some of the players that I've been watching. The first price is for September, second is October, and third is November.
  • 02 UD Prospect Premiers Prince Fielder Auto: $147.49 -> $113.03 -> $105.50
  • 03 Bowman's Best Dan Haren Auto: $22.96 -> $17.39 -> $34.99
  • 04 SP Prospects Hunter Pence Auto #'d 600: $203.62 -> $199.54 -> $166.76
  • 04 Donruss Elite EE Yovani Gallardo Auto #'d 803: $44.04 -> $41.32 -> $37.44
  • 05 Topps Rookie Cup Troy Tulowitzki Auto #'d 399: $41.24 -> $74.50 -> $49.00
  • 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Ryan Braun Auto: $164.45 -> $130.85 -> $137.44
  • 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Clay Buchholz: $21.25 -> $11.68 -> $11.59
Prince Fielder broke out this season in a huge way, slamming 50 HR & 119 RBI for the almost-cinderella Brewers. He was one of the hottest players in the hobby before the break, and his UD PP Auto XRC was selling for around $200. After the break, teammate Ryan Braun took over the spotlight, and that same card dropped every month till the end of the season, and beyond. Fielder is gonna be great for years to come, so why sell for so cheap? This card will definitely be back well above it's current $100 range in no time.

Braun's BCD Auto RC also experienced a similar cycle, peaking around August in the $180-200 range, before slowly falling to it's current level. He hit .324 with 34 HR & 97 RBI, in only 113 games this season, helping him to win the NL ROY. Braun was 7th in the majors for fewest at-bats per HR (13.26 AB/HR). I think that his cards are still quite high, so you'd have to watch the market pretty closely to find a deal out there.

Dan Haren
finished the season with a very decent 15-9 record & 3.07 ERA. But, what most collectors saw was that at the end of June, he was 9-2 with a 1.91 ERA, so basically things went downhill in the second half of the year, driving his BB Auto RC's value down from it's high of around $40 in June, to it's low of around $17 in September. It looks as if collectors are either regaining faith in Haren, or are just buying without real-market knowledge (since there haven't been many for sale recently), because I saw one sell for $34.99 TAC in November.

Hunter Pence
was a red-hot commodity through mid-July (hitting .330, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 8 SB), with his SP Prospects Auto RC peaking in the $300+ range. Then he got injured and was out for almost a month. His values dropped during his absence, and never really recovered after his return, as his performance lost a step or two through the end of the season. If you're a Pence fan, this off-season might be a good time to stock up on his cards. I'm guessing that he'll be back strong in '08.

The Brewers' 21-year-old pitcher Yovani Gallardo showed that he has talent. He had a few blow-up games here & there, but overall did quite well. At the end of July, he had a 3-1 record & 2.72 ERA after 9 outings. His DE EE Auto RC hit its peak around that time in the $55-60 range. August was disastrous for Gallardo, with especially 3 terrible starts, pushing his ERA up to 4.66. Despite having a good September (3-1, 1.36 ERA for the month), his card values continued to slowly erode, falling into the current $30's range. I would rate Gallardo to be a strong buy for the future. He's playing for a young team that should be leading the NL in a couple of years.

Troy Tulowitzki
, the NL ROY runner-up, caught the hobby's interest in the latter part of the year, as he & the Rockies started to heat up and make a miraculous run for the postseason. His cards peaked in October, and dropped off after his team lost the World Series. 05 Topps Rookie Cup produced his only rookie-year base auto, but unfortunately they made too many parallel variations of it (NNO, #'d 399, 299, 199, 99 & 50).

When Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz tossed a no-no vs. the Orioles on 9/1, his 05 BCD RC became the hottest thing on the market for a couple of days, selling in the $25-50 range, before coming back down to earth less than a week later. If he had pitched in the postseason (he was injured), he might have had a chance to extend his hobby popularity (or do the opposite). Collectors seem to be keeping a close eye on Buchholz, possibly with the belief that he has a bright future in the majors. The last BCD that I saw sell this month went for $18.51 TAC.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Is Dwight Howard the Top Big Man in the League?

With a shortage of "true" big men in the NBA, we've seen guys, who might have been power forwards back in the day, stepping into the center position (Tim Duncan used to be the Spurs' PF, when David Robinson was there). Dwight Howard is emerging as one of the best, averaging 23.2 ppg, 15.1 rpg & 3.0 bpg so far this year. Through is first 20 games, he has 17 double-doubles; 12 games with 15+ rebounds, and 3 with 20+. He's been a great rebounder since day one, but now he's showing that he can score too (he has 6 games with 30+ points).

Howard has 4 Auto base rookies from 04-05. The two most common ones are his SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 750 and SP Authentic Auto #'d 999. In November, his SPx RC averaged $124.26 TAC, and his SPA RC $130.64. Through the first 4 days of December, those averages have already risen to $158.57 and $160.87, respectively. I expect those values to maintain their strength, as long as Howard & the Magic continue to play well. Unfortunately, the team has failed to beat 3 out of the 4 division leaders that they've faced (they lost to Detroit, S.A. & Phoenix twice), making Boston the only top-tier team that they've been victorious against. I think that in time, they will be able to compete against those other teams that have been playing together for a while, and could challenge for the Championships in seasons to come.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

MLB Season Wrap-Up: Part 1

Now that we're over a month out of the postseason, let's take a look at how some players' rookie values have changed during the September through November period (all prices listed below are average TAC for each month; Sep, Oct, Nov).

  • 94 SP Alex Rodriguez: $100.85 -> $99.80 -> $120.50
  • 95 Bowman's Best Vladimir Guerrero: $34.85 -> $34.13 -> $34.13

  • 95 Bowman's Best Andruw Jones: $18.81 -> $20.82 -> $28.99

  • 99 Topps Traded CC Sabathia Auto: $54.09 -> $46.83 -> $31.02

  • 99 Ultimate Victory Josh Beckett: $19.19 -> $30.28 -> $25.62

  • 99 Topps Traded Carlos Pena Auto: $37.70 -> $28.36 -> $18.00

  • 01 Bowman Chrome Ref Jake Peavy: $46.83 -> $38.26 -> $46.28

ARod's SP RC was up at the end of the season (as it should've been), but started to fall when he and the Yankees failed to move past the 1st round of the postseason. It started picking up steam in November with all of the contract renewal & breaking the HR record discussions ensued. I expect it to come down again before the '08 season starts.

What can I say about Vladimir Guerrero? His BB RC has been a steady seller (kind of like how he's such a steady performer).

After a subpar season for Andruw Jones, interest in his BB RC started climbing when speculation of what team he might land him hit the news. Jones' cards will fluctuate as they always do, so buy 'em when he's slumping! Being a Jones fan, I'm holding on to my collection regardless of how his values fare.

C.C. Sabathia's values dropped in each of past three months (kind of like his performances). Winning the Cy Young didn't seem to help his slide either. Beckett's values continued to rise through the World Series, but came down some after he disappointedly didn't win the Cy Young.

Carlos Pena had a spectacular power year, hitting 46 HR & 121 RBI, and was the most improved player in the league (and probably the entire majors). After holding strong value throughout a lot of the season, collectors lost hope on his future prospects and dropped his TT Auto value down to about 1/3 of it's peak price.

Jake Peavy's BC Ref RC card value trend was pretty clear. He had an awesome season, so his values were up in September. He then flopped in the final game of the season vs. the Rockies, blowing his team's chance to go to the postseason: his values dropped. Then he unanimously won the NL Cy Young. You guessed it: values back up again.

Part 2 coming soon!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Who You Gonna Blame, the Player or the Team?

As a most-of-the-time starter last year on a struggling Boston team, Al Jefferson had a break-out season averaging 16 ppg & 10.9 rbg in 33.6 mpg. Despite his Celtics going 24-58, we saw Jefferson's hobby status elevate into star territory. Now, with the just-as-bad T-Wolves, he's continuing to improve and is posting up 20.7 ppg & 11.2 rpg in 36.5 mpg. This time though, his rookie values seem to be heading south, along with his team's record (2-12).

Maybe in order to reach that first hobby star level it's enough for the individual player to to do well, regardless of his team's performance. But to reach that next level and/or to even sustain their current star status, they also need to show that they can lead their team to success. One example favoring this theory is Kevin Garnett (ironically the player that Jefferson was traded for). KG averaged 22.1 ppg, 13.0 rpg & 4.6 apg over his last 3 years in Minnesota, but the team still had a 109-137 record. KG's 95-96 Finest RC, in turn, could be easily found for under $20 before this season. Now that he's leading the Celtics to success (and only averaging 20.1 ppg, 11.8 rpg & 4.0 apg), that same rookie card averaged $54.25 TAC for the month of November. Before the team had their first loss on 11/18, it was averaging $64.59, with a high of $87.55 (on 11/17).

Jefferson's 04-05 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1999 averaged $38.30 TAC during the first half of Nov, then dropped to $31.83 in the second half, with it's most recent sales below $30. All this dropping in value and Jefferson is playing better than ever.

Jefferson is still very young (only 22 y.o.), and he will no doubt find the right situation to succeed in. Hopefully it won't take him as long as it did for KG to do so.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What About the Pistons?

I received a comment in response to saying that the Celtics are the best team in the East, saying that I forgot about the Pistons. First of all, thank you for reading, and for giving your feedback. I didn't forgot about Detroit, but I do think that their time in the spotlight is coming to a close. They've been a dominant force in the East for several years now, but I don't see them beating a team like Boston in a playoff series (they did lose to the Cavs in last season's Conference Finals 4-2). Unlike the Spurs (who have successfully endured over the years, and continue to do so), who have received some youth-infusion with Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili, the Pistons pretty much have the same aging line-up (not to say that Billups, Hamilton, Prince & Wallace aren't all excellent players, especially when playing together).

I do think that Detroit will be in the playoffs this year, and with the few number of decent teams in the East, they should move past the first round (unless they falter into the #7 or #8 spot). But I don't see them going to the Championships. I could very well be wrong (wouldn't be the first time!), but I'm predicting the Celtics to win the East.
Player Focus: Leandro Barbosa

Leandro Barbosa became of hot hobby commodity last season, as he went on to average 18.1 ppg in 32.7 mpg, coming off the bench for the Suns. So far this season, he hasn't lost a beat. Through his first 12 games, he's averaging 19.1 ppg in 33.7 mpg, again most of the time coming off the bench. Collectors have definitely taken notice . I saw one of his 03-04 Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch RC #'d 225 sell for $275 TAC last week, up from $200 just 2 weeks earlier. I also saw an 03-04 Topps Rookie Photo Shoot Auto sell for $111 last week, up from $94 just 1 week before.

My favorite Barbosa rookie is still his 03-04 SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1999. It's one of his few base rookies that show his extended signature (opposed to just "LB" or "LB#10"), and you can find them for pretty affordable prices ($15-20 TAC). His SPx RC peaked out last season in the $30's range, with a couple selling for $40+. I think that this card has the potential to reach $50+ this season, if he keeps up the hard work.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mighty Celtics Trio
By adding two veteran stars, Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen, to a healthy Paul Pierce, the Celtics have seemingly transformed themselves into the team to beat in the East. While enroute to an 8-0 start this season, we witnessed KG's 95-96 Finest RC (his best base rookie) average $64.60 TAC through 11/17, with a high of $87.55 (on 11/17). Then came the team's first loss on 11/18. His Finest RC has dropped to an averge of around $51 since then. We need to keep in mind though, that for the past how many seasons, this card could be easily found for less than $20 TAC.

Ray Allen's best base rookie, his 96-97 Topps Chrome RC, has not experienced the same growth in value that KG's has. It's been a steady seller this season for around $10-15 TAC (before & after the Celtics' 11/18 loss). Since Allen has rookie-year autos (which KG doesn't), collectors seem to be going after those cards instead. Allen's two rookie-year autos are his 96-97 Skybox Autographics and Skybox Emerald Auto; both with BV of $60. Right before the season started, I saw one of his Emerald auto's sell for $24.04 TAC. I then saw one of his Autographics auto's sell for $116.49 on 11/13. That's quite an amazing jump (384%) for just a two-week period of time.Paul Pierce hasn't seen any significant changes in his rookie values (maybe because he wasn't a new addition to the team?). His 98-99 SP Authentic RC #'d 3500 has consistently sold in the mid $20's since the preseason. One card that should really garner some big bucks is his 98-99 Topps Auto (his only rookie-year auto), if you can find one. I've been keeping my eye out for one for the past couple of years, and haven't found any.

Barring any injuries, I believe that the Celtics will be able to overcome the reinvigorated red-hot Magic to finish the season #1 in the East. They may even have a chance to beat the Spurs or Suns, or whoever ends up winning the West. My hobby prediction is that KG will continue to benefit the most from this newly created super-team, with Allen & Pierce finally getting at least a little of the hobby attention that they've always deserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Player Focus: Grant Hill

Grant Hill had a solid pre-season with the Suns, and has been averaging 14.9 ppg & 4.8 rpg in 34.9 mpg through his first 12 games of the regular season. Not too bad considering all that he's been through in the last several years. I'm just glad to see him back, healthy & playing well. Looking at the market, it would seem that collectors either still feel that Hill isn't playing up to expectation, or that his time has past and he is no longer hobby-viable. His 94-95 Finest RC, once a hobby must-have card, is only averaging around $7.50 TAC. Normally I would say this card is a steal at that price, but there is quite a bit of risk if you're planning on buying it as an investment. If you're just a Hill fan, go ahead and buy away!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2007 Cy Young Winners

Earlier this month C.C. Sabathia stunned many with his AL Cy Young win over World Series Champ Josh Beckett. Today, Jake Peavy became the first unanimous NL winner since Randy Johnson did it in '02 (12th ever in NL history).
Sabathia's sole rookie-year Auto, his 99 Topps Traded Auto, was a pretty consistent seller throughout the season, ranging from $42-54 TAC. Before the season, you could find them for around $30-40. I've only seen one for sale so far this month, currently listed for $39.99 (+$2.50 S&H), ending on 11/21. Beckett's 99 Ultimate Victory RC experienced significant growth at the end of the season, jumping from around $20 to the $30's range in October, before settling into the $20-25 range this month. His 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500 got a lot of hobby attention, jumping from $50 in September to the low $70's in October. Now they're selling for around $60 TAC.
Peavy's 01 Bowman Chrome Ref RC stayed in the $40-50 range for most of the season (no surprise since he was probably the most consistent pitcher in the majors this year), before dipping to around $38 in October, after he blew the tie-breaking Wild Card game against the Rockies. His 01 Topps Fusion Auto (his only rookie-year Auto) fell from around $160 in September, down to $107 in October.

For all three of these pitchers, their key rookies have become pretty scarce since the season ended. I'm guessing that prices will soften in the next few months (unless demand spikes with the holidays - well, maybe not with gas prices hitting record highs!), and there will be deals to be had for those who are patient. All three of these pitchers were listed on my "Top Pitcher Investments" posts back in July, on my blog & Sportslizard, so of course I think that all 3 of them will be baffling batters for years to come.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rookie Photo Shoot Autograph Cards

Up until this year, Topps had the lock on the "very unique" autographed cards from the Rookie Photo Shoot. Now Upper Deck has decided to get in into the game with their Rookie Debut Autographs, also signed at the Rookie Photo Shoot. They have print runs ranging from 77 to 130, and were inserted in packs of 07-08 Upper Deck, released last month.

Topps' inaugural set was introduced to the hobby in the 03-04 year, which turned out to be a prime choice of seasons with its stock of up-and-coming stars. The only downside was that it lacked the biggest rookie of that year, Lebron James (an Upper Deck auto exclusive). This set continued in 04-05 (again missing the top star of the class - Dwight Howard, another UD excl). In 05-06, they added some spark to the set with dual & triple Auto's (but it again missed the top star - Chris Paul, for the same reason). Last year, in 06-07, I would say that Topps had their biggest miss in the set's four-year history. It was missing Brandon Roy, Tyrus Thomas & LaMarcus Aldridge (I think all UD excl again).

I guess UD decided that it wasn't enough to just sign up the top stars from each class in exclusive Auto deals. They wanted to compete head-to-head and go after a piece of what little market share Topps still has in Basketball. I'm sure the Marketing team at UD did their homework and found that the Topps Rookie Photo Shoot set was still ranking pretty high in hobby stature, so naturally this would be their next course of action).

I'm not a collector of the Rookie Photo Shoot Autos, but I'm sure that those who are will jump all over this new offering from UD. There's a nice photo of the set in the November Beckett (pages 6-7). The big name missing is Greg Oden, who Topps signed an exclusive deal with, but since he's out for the season, I don't think it'll be that much of a turn-off for collectors (good try, but yet another miss for Topps!).

Topps had the right idea to insert these gems in their cheapest product line (which is probably heavily reliant on sales volume due to it's low pack price) in order to boost the brands' numbers. Kind of like how UD did with it's industry-pioneering game jerseys back in 97-98.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New & Improved Dodgers?

I heard on the news yesterday that there was a possibility that Andruw Jones and/or Johan Santana had a chance of going to the Dodgers. I'm a huge Jones fan, and I'd be thrilled to see him flourish under the leadership of Joe Torre & Don Mattingly. Maybe he'd be able to get back to hitting 40+ HR/season, like he did not too long ago. And anyone who's read my past postings about pitchers knows that I think Santana is one of the best 30 & under aces in the game. How many other 28-year-olds have 1381 K's in their career thus far? Not many (if any).

Both of these stars have spent their entire careers with the same team, and both have experienced frustrations recently, stemming from disappointing team results. A change in scenery might do them good. Los Angeles needs a spark or two (or three...), and these players could provide what they're lacking.

Jim, you asked not too long ago about Jones' 95 Bowman's Best RC card. I think that the Dodgers would provide a good platform for Jones' hobby status to relaunch from. LA is definitely going to get more attention next season, so it'll be a perfect chance for him to rejuvenate his game. His BB RC has averaged in the $19-22 range for the past several months. I think that it's potential value is probably in the $30-40 range, short term (over the next year).
Santana's top rookies from 00, Finest & Bowman's Best, have held pretty steady in recent, selling in the $65-70 & $55-60 TAC range respectively. Under the right circumstances, I think that these cards could potentially approach the $100 mark.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jenkins Not Returning to Brewers; M's Stupid to Let Guillen Go?

I was sad to hear that the Brewers aren't bringing Geoff Jenkins back next season. After being drafted by Milwaukee in '95, and getting called up to the bigs in '98, he went on to hit 212 HR over his career there (2nd most in team history behind Robin Yount, who had 251). For a lot of years, it seemed like Jenkins was the only big hitter the Brewers had. Now that they have a very talented young line-up & are contenders for the NL Central division, they're dumping him. Early in the '07 season, I was thinking how great it must be for Jenkins to finally be surrounded by good hitters, after enduring a 636-820 team record in his 9 years leading up to this season (similar to the feeling I had for Todd Helton this year). I've always been somewhat of a fan of Jenkins, and followed his career hoping that he would gain some hobby recognition. Maybe he'll get his chance on a team that will appreciate his skills & experience.

This weekend I was reading that the Mariners decided to decline their '08 contract option for Jose Guillen. My first thought was WHY? Guillen hit .290 (4th on team) with 23 HR (2nd on team) & 99 RBI (2nd on team), helping the M's to an 88-74 record (best since '03). I remember him hitting well in clutch situations, sometimes winning games for them. It sounds like the team wants to give their up-and-coming star Adam Jones a shot in outfield next season, and with Ichiro & Raul Ibanez locked up, it could be kind of crowded with Guillen there too. Since Guillen can still exercise his option to stay, and it seems like he's really found a comfort zone in Seattle, maybe he'll still have a chance to remain. I think that another big reason for the team not exercising his option was his $9 million salary for '08.

Both of these guys' rookie cards from '96 are probably trading in the "commons" price range, and would be a risky buy, given their uncertain futures and mid-career ages. I personally would like to see both of them do well, and gain some sort of hobby interest. But, as we all know, every season brings in a new crop of young future stars, so the number of veteran players that can hold collectors' attention inevitably decreases to make room for them. So, unfortunately, I would say that their time in the hobby has probably passed, but I wish them luck all the same.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

NBA Expectations

With the first week of the season almost complete, we've already seen the Lakers blow out the Suns by 21 in Phoenix, Gilbert Arenas blog about beating the Celtics on 11/2 (and then failing to do so), and of course the Kobe drama has been a constant underlying media irritation for who knows how long. Some of the things that I'm waiting to see this year ar
  • Will Tyson Chandler finally up his scoring numbers to go along with his double-digit rebounding, so he can become the hobby star he was expected to be?
  • Will Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson & cast be able to hold off the Jazz to stay atop the Northwest Division?

  • Will Grant Hill turn out to be the missing piece of the puzzle that has kept the Suns from winning a Championship?

Carlos Boozer has started the season off strong, averaging 31 points & 15.5 rebounds in his first two games. Kind of reminicent of last season. Hopefully (unlike last season), he'll be able to maintain it & stay healthy throughout the year. Last season Boozer's cards experienced the roller coaster effect, jumping early on when he was playing well, then falling when he got hurt, and never fully rebounding after he came back.

Marcus Camby, one of the best defensive players in the league, is averaging 18 rebounds & 5.5 blocks in his first two games of the season. I think that most of the hobby attention will be centered around Melo & AI if Denver is successful this season. That should keep Camby's cards in the realm of affordability. I'm going to be keeping my eye out for deals on his 96-97 Skybox Autographics Auto & Emerald Auto, his only rookie-year autos.

Leandro Barbosa was one of my favorite up-and-comers last season. He'll probably still come off the bench this year (especially with the addition of Grant Hill), but I think it'll be good for him in the long run, when that day finally comes for him to start. Barbosa can drive to the hoop or shoot the three, and he's one of the fastest guys out there while dribbling the ball. He had 23 points last night against the Lakers (although a lot of them came when the game was pretty much over), shooting 10-for-14 FG & 3-for-5 from 3-PT. I like his 03-04 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1999. It's one of only a few base Auto rookies that showcase his extended signature (opposed to his "LB" or "LB#10" sig).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Post-Season King of the Mound: Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett was nearly flawless through his four '07 post-season starts, pitching 30 innings and allowing only 4 ER & 2 BB with 35 K's and a 1.20 ERA. In this World Series, he actually pitched better (in ERA, K's/9IP & BB/9IP) than he did in '03, when he won the WS MVP with the Marlins. Despite his modest regular-season ERA of 3.27 (6th in AL) and 194 K's (7th in AL), he should still be a close-to-consensus AL Cy Young award winner.

His 99 Ultimate Victory RC, which could regularly be found for less than $10 early in the season, started rising in value as the year progressed, averaging around $19 TAC in July, $24 in August, and then back down to $19 in September (despite going 4-1 for the month). Then came October. It averaged $30 for the month, with one sale going for $43.50 TAC after Boston won the World Series. His 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500 has also been a hot item. This card, which by the way is not his RC card, could be bought for around $40 at the end of the regular season. It averaged $68 in October, and I saw one sell for $162.50 on 10/28! I'm thinking that one was probably a glitch (either multiple bidders got carried away, or an inexperienced buyer didn't know the market), but still!

Now is not the time to buy Beckett's cards. They're probably either at or close to their peak, so if you didn't already buy, you missed the boat. You might want to look into picking up another Red Sox pitcher, who missed the post-season due to injury; Clay Buchholz. His 05 Bowman Chrome RC has dropped a lot since hitting a high of around $25-30 after his no-no. You could pick one up this month for $10-15 TAC.

*Interesting Boston Fact: When Babe Ruth was pitching for the Red Sox, he had a World Series record of 2-0, with a 0.87 ERA.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

MLB Season '07 - Market Movers Part 3

  • 02 UD Propsect Premiers Prince Fielder Auto XRC - Fielder had a nearly-MVP-type season, hitting 50 HR (1st in NL) & 119 RBI (T3rd in NL); only his .288 batting avg kept it from being a complete MVP season. His "original" hot-card, the 02 UD PP Auto XRC, was topping the $200 TAC mark at the beginning of summer, but fell to $185 in July, $148 in August, and $147 in September (despite his end-of-the-season rally, hitting .333 with 11 HR & 22 RBI that month). Even though Fielder kept up his homerun hitting, he lost a lot of hobby attention to his teammate Ryan Braun. I've only seen one of these cards sell in October, and it went for an all-season low of $108.54, on 10/21. The 23-year-old slugger should have many great seasons ahead of him, and this card will remain a classic collectors item for fans & investors alike.

  • 03 Bowman's Best Ryan Howard Auto RC - Howard hit 47 HR & 136 RBI this season. Unfortunately, he also broke the single-season record for strike-outs, with 199. His top base rookie, 03 BB Auto RC, reached as high as the $500's range at one point, but fell to $380-400 through the summer, and settled at $370 in September. After the Phillies were knocked out the NLDS, the market for this card got even worse. In October, it's averaging $274 TAC. This might be the lowest point that I've seen it at. Can you imagine a guy hitting 47 HR (105 HR over the last two seasons!), and his best RC card actually drops in price? Talk about finicky buyers! Given the past price swings that we've seen, I would say that now might be a good time buy, since the value could easily almost double again in the future.

  • 04 Bowman Chrome Felix Hernandez Auto RC - King Felix almost had his "break-out" season this year, but it was disrupted by injury early on. He finished with a decent 14-7 record and 3.92 ERA, which unfortunately translated into disappointment, since expectation was a lot higher after he began the season 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, and 18 K's in 17 IP. His 04 BC Auto RC was selling close to the $200's range in April, but quickly fell while he was on the DL, and continued it's downward spiral after he returned and struggled to regain his pre-injury form. By June, it was averaging around $114 TAC, in July $112, in August $102, and by September $86. After the M's failed to reach the post-season, hobby interest in Felix's top rookie dropped off even more, averaging $76 in October. At 21 years old, why would anyone lose faith in this guy? I'm thinking that these are just minor setbacks in his path to stardom. Most pitchers aren't even in the majors at this age (he already has 2-1/2 seasons under his belt!).

Friday, October 26, 2007

MLB Season '07 - Market Movers Part 2

  • 00 Bowman Grady Sizemore Auto - Sizemore is another player that had his ups & downs this season, and his 00 Bowman Auto followed suit. This card peaked early in the season, in the $500's range (remember when he started the season with 3 HR in his first 3 games?), then proceeded to fall every month thereafter. In June it averaged around $300, in July $270, in August $216, and then finally in September (his lowest HR & RBI month of the season) it hit rock bottom at $186. When the Indians entered the post-season, there was a renewed interest in Sizemore, and, despite his so-so hitting (.279 with 2 HR & 3 RBI), his Bowman Auto started to rise, averaging $276 in October before Cleveland was eliminated from the ALCS, and then dropped back down to $215 immediately after their exit.
  • 01 Bowman Chrome Jake Peavy Ref RC - Peavy, the best pitcher in the NL (in my opinion), had a terrific season, leading the NL in W's, K's & ERA (the triple crown of pitching). Throughout the sesaon, his 01 BC Ref RC was a pretty consistent seller at the $40-50 TAC range, only entering the $50-60 range a couple of times. His blown start at the end of the season (unfortunately to decide who would go on to the post-season) dropped his hobby status quite a bit. In October, this card averaged $38; down from $46.80 in September. I would rate it a strong buy if you can pick one up in the $30-35 range (which is possible).
  • 02 Bowman Chrome Draft Cole Hamels RC - Hamels had a very good season, going 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA & 177 K's in 183-1/3 IP, to help the Phillies slip into the post-season. Hamels' 02 BCD RC peaked in June at around $27 TAC, then fell to $22 in July, $21 in August (he missed the 2nd half of Aug/1st half of Sep due to injury) and then down to $16 in September. He finished the regular season by tossing 8 shut-out innings against the Nationals (with 1 BB & 13 K's), and looked ready for the NLDS. Unfortunately, they faced the red-hot Rockies and became just 3 more notches in Colorado's amazing 21-1 run to the World Series. It looks like buyers have recognized the potential in Hamels, and are picking up his BCD RC while prices are low. In October, it's averaging $19.70 TAC.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

MLB Season '07 - Market Movers Part 1

Here's a look at some of the rookie cards that experienced big increases or decreases toward the end of the '07 regular season:
  • 99 Topps Traded Alfonso Soriano Auto - Soriano had his ups & downs this season, but ended hot in September. For the month, he hit .320 with 14 HR (42% of his season total) & 27 RBI (39% of his season total). His 99 TT Auto was averaging around $103 TAC during that time, and I thought it would shoot up even higher when he continued to tear it up in the post-season. Boy was I wrong. As the Cubs got swept out of the NLDS by the D-Backs, Soriano hit a terrible .143 BA with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 extra base hits & 4 K's. As a result, that same rookie year auto fell to an average price of $71.50 TAC in October (the last sale I saw went for $66.99 on 10/14). This off-season is probably a good time to buy Soriano's key cards, as they will surely go back up when he gets back on track in '08.
  • 99 Topps Traded Carlos Pena Auto - Carlos Pena was one of the only bright spots in the D-Rays' offense this season. He deservedly won the Comeback Player of the Year award, after hitting an amazing 46 HR & 121 RBI. His 99 TT Auto was on fire late in the season, selling in the $55-60 TAC range through mid September. Then, it suddenly dropped down to the $18-30 range, for no apparent reason. He finished the season strong, hitting .318 with 13 HR & 29 RBI for the month, so I'm not sure why his hobby interest fell through the floor like that. My guess is that either collectors are viewing him as a one-season wonder, or, at 29-year-of-age, they'd rather focus their buying on some of the younger up-and-comers. I'm thinking that if he can show the same level of play in '08, at least some of the buyers out there will help to re-elevate his hobby stature.
  • 00 Bowman John Lackey Auto - Lackey had a great season, going 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA (both career bests). Then came the post-season. Before the ALDS series with the Red Sox started, I remember hearing the TV commentator say that Lackey has never had much luck against Boston. I was thinking, "Nah, he'll do just fine. He's coming off of a career-season, so he should be able to hold his own against Josh Beckett." I guess I had too much faith in the Angels. After getting beat in game 1, 4-0, Lackey's 00 Bowman Auto immediately dropped from averaging $36 TAC in September, down to the low $20's. I think that because there was that known roadblock for Lackey (the Red Sox), he really needed to show that he could beat them in order to justify his star status in the hobby. When he failed to do so, that was pretty much it for him (at least until next season). If you want to pick up some his cards, now might be a good time to buy. Personally, I'm not a Lackey collector.
More to come!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rockies NL Champs; What about Todd Helton?

That's a good question Jim. I was wondering the same thing. I'm thinking that Todd Helton won't experience the growth in hobby interest that Matt Holliday & Troy Tulowitzki have. Helton's level of play has really dropped off over the past 3 seasons (in every offensive category), and his contributions this post-season haven't been significant enough to reignite his hobby spark.

I remember those those days when his 93 Topps Traded RC was a hot commodity. Now, you can pick one up for less than $10 TAC. Since this is his only rookie card, and he is still one of the best hitters over the last decade (.332 career BA), I would say that this card remains a good investment, and a very nice piece in any collection.

Helton still has a chance to join the younger stars in the spotlight, if he can have a strong performance in the World Series. Let's hope that he can do better than his .154, 0 HR & 1 RBI through the NLDS & NLCS thus far. His interview after game 4 was quite moving, and it would be nice to see the Rockies pull off an upset for their veteran star.
NLCS Aftermath

The day after the Rockies eliminated the D-Backs from the NLCS, a Micah Owings' 05 Topps Chrome Update Auto RC sold for $7.55 TAC (as expected), down from it's average of $11-17 before game 4. On the other side, a 99 Bowman Chrome Matt Holliday RC sold for $22.67 TAC, up from it's average of $12-18 before game 4. No surprise there either.

Looking forward, I think that both Holliday & Troy Tulowitzki will experience even more hobby growth, and if Colorado miraculously wins the World Series, you can expect to be paying around $30+ for the Holliday's BC RC, and $90+ for Tulowitzki's 05 Topps Rookie Cup Auto RC #'d 399.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Owings, D-Backs Fail to Avoid Sweep

On Monday night, Micah Owings had a good start, pitching 3 scoreless innings, and scoring off of Conor Jackson's RBI single to give the D-Backs a 1-0 lead. Then, in the bottom of the 4th, Owings gave up back-to-back walks, followed by a 2-run, 2-out double (it was almost like Rockies' manager Clint Hurdle had seen the future in order to have known to make that change at that time). Earlier that inning, Owings had the wind knocked out of him while diving for a ground ball, which could at least partially explain his downfall thereafter. After a fumbled grounder by Jackson, a Kaz Matsui RBI single and a 3-run Matt Holliday home run, Owings exited the game, down 6-1.

I guess Owings' 05 Topps Chrome Update Auto RC won't be jumping to new heights anytime soon. It'll be a good time to buy his cards during the off-season, as they'll probably fall to very affordable levels. Matt Holliday's rookies should definitely experience a boost, especially after winning the NLCS MVP award. His 99 Bowman Chrome RC has been selling in the $12-18 range over the past week, with the refractor version averaging around $50 TAC.

The Rockies' shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, has already been heating up in the hobby. His 05 Topps Rookie Cup Auto RC #'d 399 is averaging $63.75 for the month, with the most recent sales in the $70-75 range. It was selling in the low $40's just a month ago.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Micah Owings Gets His Chance in Crucial NLCS Game

On Sunday, the Rockies beat the D-Backs 4-1, to take a 3-0 lead in the NLCS. Micah Owings, the 25-year-old Arizona rookie pitcher, will get his chance in game 4 to show if he can live up the hype from the regular season, and establish his place in the hobby. Owings has been known for his hitting as much as his pitching (*see related Owings posts on 9/28, 9/20, 9/6 & 8/24), and the D-Backs are probably hoping that he can help them win from both the mound & the plate, since they've been outscored 12-4 in the first 3 games of the series.

His 05 Topps Chrome Update Auto RC (only Auto RC) averaged around $15 TAC in August, then fell to $10 in September (after the hype died down), and is currently trading in the $11-17 range. I think that once people saw his name on the roster, anticipation started to rise for his upcoming post-season debut, which is what has fueled prices to rise over the past couple of weeks. If he can help the D-Backs move on to game 5, his cards should experience an immediate jump again. His 05 Topps Chrome Update Ref Auto #'d 500 has been a consistent seller from August through now, for around $20 TAC. This card will also experience a nice jump in value, should his performance meet it's high expectations.

We'll see how everything shakes out on Monday night when Owings squares off against the Rockies' rookie pitcher, Franklin Morales. I'm not a fan of either team, but I'd prefer to see Arizona win this one, to avoid yet another sweep this post-season.

Oh, and if he can't get it done, then I guess you'll be able to pick up his TCU Auto RC for less than $10, and hope that it'll rise in '08 when he starts pitching again!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Player Focus: Stephen Drew

Stephen Drew, the younger brother of J.D. Drew, had a pretty unimpressive first full regular season in '07, hitting just .238 with 12 HR, 60 RBI & a .313 OBP. Then came the post-season. In the D-Backs' NLDS sweep of the Cubs, Drew hit .500 (4 extra base hits) with 2 HR, 4 RBI & a .500 OBP. So far in the NLCS though, he hasn't been as fortunate. In his team's first two loses, he's only hitting .250, with 0 HR & 0 RBI.

Drew's 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto RC is still selling at a pretty affordable price level. I saw a refractor version #'d 500 sell this past week for $67.76 TAC; not bad when you consider that Ryan Braun's equivalent card from the same year selling for $180-200.

Drew is only 24 years old, and he's part of a young, up-and-coming D-Backs squad who should be competing for a World Series championship in the years to come. My hat comes off to Arizona for making it this far. All along I had expected the Padres to take the NL West.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

LDS Bright Spots
  • Grady Sizemore, the Indians' lead-off hitter, had his ups & downs during the regular season, ending up with a modest .277 BA, 24 HR, 78 RBI & 33 SB. In the ALDS against the Yankees, he was definitely more on the up-side. In those 4 games, he hit .375 with an OBP of .524, 1 HR & 1 RBI. Sizemore will be key to Cleveland's success in the ALCS vs. the Red Sox. His coveted 00 Bowman Auto was a hot commodity at the beginning of the season, but started to consistently fall thereafter. In June it averaged around $300 TAC, then fell to $270 in July, $216 in August and $186 in September. The hobby has already recognized his post-season improvement, with his most recent sale (that I've seen) going for $360 on 10/7. There's another auction ending on 10/16, which should give us a better indication of the direction this card is truly going in.
  • Manny Ramirez had a great showing in the ALDS series victory over the Angels. He hit .375 with a .615 OBP, 2 HR, 4 RBI and 5 BB, proving to the baseball world that he's back at 100% and ready to help lead his team to another pennant. I've already said in the past that Ramirez is one of the most underrated players in the hobby. Well, he still is! His 92 Bowman RC is still selling at rock-bottom price levels. Over the summer, it averaged in the $12-15 TAC range, and then fell to an all-time low of $8.20 in September. Who would've thought that you could buy the best rookie card (which happens to be a part of a pretty expensive set) of a future 500 HR Club & HOF'er for such a cheap price? So far in October, prices seem to be going up slightly, with an average TAC of around $10. Ramirez's key rookie cards are still a steal at current price levels, and are sure to increase as he continues to punish opposing pitchers.
Response to Question: Hobby Potential of Andruw Jones

Thanks for the question Jim. I'm a huge Andruw Jones fan (been one since his call-up over a decade ago), and it's been disappointing to see his two rookie cards, 95 Bowman's Best & Bowman, plummet in value over the past year or so. Jones had a very sub-par '07 season, batting .222 (career avg .263), with 26 HR (career avg 34/162 game season) and 94 RBI (career avg 103/162 game season), and the Braves are probably thinking that his best years are now behind him. But, keep in mind that he will most likely be a 500 HR club member by the time he retires (he currently has 368), and he's only 30 years old. I think that whatever team he ends up with will be able to benefit from Jones' batting skills for at least 5 more good years. He's been much healthier than a lot of other players, missing a total of only 52 games in the last 11 seasons (played in 97.1% of the regular season games).

Jones' Bowman's Best RC was averaging around $21.50 TAC throughout the summer, and then fell again to around $18.80 in September. So far in October, it's averaging about $19. His Bowman RC was averaging around $13-18 TAC throughout the summer, and fell to a dismal $11 average in September. So far in October, you can find them in the $11-13 range.

I do think that Jones' rookies have a chance to rebound, initially depending on what team he goes to (i.e. depending on the team's strength, his role within the team, etc.), and then once more during the '08 season (as long as his performance rebounds also).

The $ value of Jones' cards don't really matter to me, since I'll probably never sell the ones that I have, but I would like to see his hobby status raised back up to where he deserves to be.

Thanks again for the question!

Monday, October 08, 2007

LDS Meltdowns
  • Alfonso Soriano ended the season on such a great note, hitting .320 with 14 HR & 27 RBI in September. I thought momentum would carry his hot streak into the post-season, but unfortunately he fell flat, hitting a dismal 2-for-14 (.143) with 0 extra base hits, 1 BB & 4 K's. Soriano's 99 Topps Traded Auto was selling in the $100-105 range last month, but I think that it'll probably drop down below $100 TAC as he & rest of the Cubs head off to an earlier-than-expected off-season.
  • Angels superstar Vladimir Guerrero had a decent regular season, hitting .324 with 27 HR & 125 RBI, helping his team to the AL West title. Then came the ALDS. The Angels had such a poor offensive showing against the Red Sox, and Vlady was no exception. He hit 2-for-10 (.200) with 0 extra base hits, 1 BB and 0 K's (only bright spot). His 05 Bowman's Best RC is averaging around $31 TAC in so far in october, down from $35 in September. I expect it to continue to drop through the off-season, down to around the $18-25 range.
Which players are more valuable in the hobby: those that excel in the regular season, but flop in the post-season, or those who are ok in the regular season, and then explode in the post-season? Of course the true challenge is to find the players who can do both. A topic for a future post...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Unsung Hero: Brandon Webb

All season I've been writing about how Jake Peavy is the best pitcher in the NL (if not the entire league), while another ace (who's team beat out Peavy's Padres for he NL West title) was also putting together a strong season. Brandon Webb, Arizona's 28-year-old RHP, ended the regular season with 18 W's (2nd in NL; career best), a 3.01 ERA (2nd in NL) and 194 K's (4th in NL; career best). He also had a great outing in game 1 of the NLDS, pitching 7 strong innings and allowing just 4 hits & 1 run, with 9 K's to shut down the Cubs (the only extra base hit that he gave up that game was a double to fellow pitcher Carlos Zambrano).

I haven't been watching any of Webb's cards on a regular basis, but I do know that he hasn't received that much hobby attention for a while (I sold all of my Webb rookies a couple of years ago). Webb has been pretty consistent throughout his 5-year career, maintaining his ERA in the low to mid 3.00's (career 3.22). I think that he could have potential as a hobby star, but not as much as guys like Peavy or C.C. Sabathia.

Thanks for the comment Jim, reminding me about Webb. He definitely does deserve mentioning!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A New Strike-Out King: Ryan Howard

Phillies slugger Ryan Howard has been a beast at the plate, hitting 47 HR & 136 RBI this year (giving him 105 HR & 285 RBI in his first two full seasons in the majors!). He also accomplished another amazing feat this season, one for which he is now enshrined in the record books; the single-season strike-out record (199). Adam Dunn must be feeling a little sigh of relief, since he previously held the top two spots for single-season strike-outs, with 195 (in '04) and 194 (in '06).

Last season, on average, Howard struck out every 2.66 at-bats. This season, that average jumped to every 3.21 at-bats. I'm sure that the Phillies' batting staff will be working with him to reduce those numbers for next season, but hopefully his long-ball production won't suffer as a result.

Despite Howard's spectacular HR & RBI display, it seems like his strike-outs & mediocre batting average have weighed on his card values. His 01 UD Prospect Premiers XRC ended the season averaging around $20 TAC, down from $22 in August & $26 in July. His 03 Bowman's Best Auto RC averaged $371 in September, down from $400 in August & $388 in July. With the Phillies on the brink of elimination in the NLDS, I don't expect Howard's cards to rebound this year (unless they can pull-off a miraculous comeback, led by Howard's big bat).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

MLB Briefs
  • On 9/28 (the same day Boston clinched the AL East) it was announced that Clay Buchholz, the young Red Sox pitcher, would miss the rest of the season & post season due to shoulder fatigue. His 05 Bowman Chrome Draft RC dropped in TAC value from the $20-25 range back in early September down to the $9-11 range at the end of the season. This slide was the result of a loss of hype in subsequent starts after his no-no.
  • Alfonso Soriano hit 6 lead-off home runs in September; the most ever in the majors (he had a total of 13 HR for the month). For the season, he hit .299 with 33 homers. We'll see if he can spark the Cubs in the post-season as well. His 99 Topps Traded Auto averaged around $100-105 in September, up from $97 in August. It's still a relatively low price for this card (it averaged $118 in July & $122 in June).
  • Carlos Pena has won the 07 Comeback Player of the Year award, after hitting a career high (by far) 46 HR & 121 RBI for the D-Rays. His 99 Topps Trade Auto was selling in the $50-60 TAC range in early September, but suddenly fell to the $20-30 range mid month, even though he hit 7 HR in his last 13 games of the season. Maybe collectors see him as a one-season wonder, or they've turned their attention to playoff-bound players. I'm not really sure why his only rookie-year auto dropped so drastically, but for those that do have faith in his future prospects, now might be a good time to buy (or we might even see further price erosion during the off season).
Peavy Ends Cy Young Season on Bad Note

Jake Peavy, this year's NL-leader in W's (19), ERA (2.54) & K's (240), was given the start against the Rockies on Monday. I thought that he would ensure the Padres' wild card bid, but instead he got rocked for 10 hits & 6 earned in 6-1/3 innings pitched. Not the best way to end the season.

Still, despite this ending, Peavy had a great year, and deserves to win the NL Cy Young award. The only other pitcher that could be considered for it is the D-Backs' Brandon Webb, who came in 2nd in W's (18) & ERA (3.01), after Peavy, and 4th in K's (194). Webb pretty much cruised below the hobby radar this season, but could experience reinvigorated interest if he & Arizona do well this post season.

I'm still amazed that Colorado is in the playoffs (and that they won game 1 of the NLDS today against the Phillies!). They may end up being the surprise success story of the season that I had thought the Brewers were going to be.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hamels Back on Track After DL

Phillies ace Cole Hamels had a spectacular start on Friday against the Nationals, pitching 8 shutout innings, and allowing just 6 hits & 1 BB with 13 K's. This was Hamels' 3rd start since returning from the DL, but it was his first decision.

With Philadelphia now on top of the NL East, and probably heading for the postseason, Hamels will have to play a key role in the team's success. If the Mets don't clinch a playoff spot, I'm expecting the World Series to showcase the Yankees vs. Phillies. This will create an opportunity for Hamels and his teammates to show their skills to much broader audience, and possibly elevate their hobby standing.

Hamels' 02 Bowman Chrome Draft RC has been sliding downward for the past few months, averaging $27 in June, $22 in July, $21 in August, and now $16-17 in September. I saw one of his BCD Ref RC's #'d 300 sell this month for $68 TAC.

I think that this 23-year-old pitcher is a solid buy at the current price range, and his values could easily double if he can continue to improve, along with his team.

Friday, September 28, 2007

D-Backs' Owings Shows He Can Hit & Pitch...Again!

Micah Owings had a great outing on Thursday, pitching 6-1/3 shutout innings, AND going 4-for-4 at the plate, with 3 doubles & 3 RBI. He became the first pitcher to have two 4-hit games in a season since Whitey Ford did it in '53.

Owings has been quite spectacular at the plate this season, batting .339 with 15 RBI and 20 hits; 12 of which have been extra-base hits (including 4 HR!). On the mound, though, he's been quite inconsistent. He's 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA for the season, but in his last two starts, he's 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Hopefully this is a sign that he's finally finding his groove (the timing couldn't be better, with the D-Backs fighting to hold onto the NL West lead, and preparing for the post-season).

Owings' only rookie auto is his 05 Topps Chrome Update Auto RC, which is averaging $9.36 TAC in September; down from it's $15 average in August, when he had that great game against the braves, hitting 2 HR & 6 RBI (his other 4-hit game). Now might be a great time to buy this 24-year-old's cards (he just turned 24 today), while they're trading at very affordable prices. I still think that he could be a risky investment, but for less than $10, it might just be a risk worth taking!

Owings is also included in the 03 UD USA set. I saw one of his Red Auto's #'d 750 sell for $7.69 TAC this month.