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Friday, July 25, 2008

Harden Moves to Top Team in NL, Can't Get a W

Rich Harden has been one of the best strikeout starting pitchers in the game in recent years...well, he has been during those rare times not spent on the DL. After playing in only 16 games through the entire '06 & '07 seasons, Harden had 13 solid starts for Oakland in '08, going 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA, and averaging 10.93 K's/9IP. The A's then decided to leverage this streak of good health and trade Harden to the Cubs, getting away from the potential gamble that they've already endured (and lost) for the past few seasons.

Since moving Chicago, Harden has been better than ever for the NL-leading Cubs. In two starts, he has a 0.73 ERA, and he's averaging 14.60 K's/9Ip. Oh, and he's 0-1! In his first start against the Giants, he left the game in the 6th leading 7-0. His relievers then allowed 7 runs, pushing the game into extra innings, robbing him of the W. In his 2nd start against the D-Backs, he allowed just 1 run in 7 IP, but was outdueled by Randy Johnson, resulting in a 2-0 loss. This guy just can't catch a break!

Harden's 02 Bowman Chrome RC has been averaging $14.90 TAC this month. His BC Ref RC #'d 500 has been selling in the $29-34 range.
I think that Harden has the talent to be a perennial Cy Young contender, but unfortunately his time spent on the DL has really marred his hobby popularity. If he can stay healthy for consecutive seasons, collectors will probably start to snatch up his cards with a fury, but until then, I don't expect to see his values reaching much higher levels and sustaining.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

High-Priced Packs

I just received my new multi-sport Beckett today (I didn't request to be changed back to the old format because I figure that I don't look at the pricing anyway, so at least this way I can read the articles about all of the various sports) and was reading the "Previews" section about the new 2008 Upper Deck Ballpark Collection, which is ANOTHER $50+/pack product to hit the market. I can see having one, maybe two, brands that are priced that high, but why cannibalize your other brands? (this sounds very familiar - maybe I wrote about something similar a while back). Also, with all of the economic challenges that we're currently experiencing (gas prices, sub prime, food prices, stock market, etc...), does it really make sense to increase your number of high-end brands to spark product sales? Like most other industries, recession-like conditions typically result in consumers downgrading their spending habits to one (or two) levels lower. For example, those people who would usually be eating dinner at Mi Piace will now be satisfying their craving for Italian food at the fast-casual Olive Garden.

If I worked for Upper Deck, I would be trying to shift gears to accommodate the the economic climate (actually, this could've been done over a year ago when home values started to fall). Why do you think Hyundai recently scrapped their plans to enter the truck business? Because the writing was on the wall as the other OEM's truck sales started to struggle last year due to high gas prices (it helps to be a market follower in these instances). I must say that I've been impressed with a lot of the decisions that Upper Deck has made in the past, but this isn't one of them. I'm also not sure that their move to have one of their vendors control their production plant & material sourcing was the best option (unless they didn't have enough business to fill their capacity, resulting in too much downtime?). Anyway, I hope that a shift in brand strategies is coming soon, otherwise, the big two (UD & Topps) could see a drop in sales volume, and collectors could be left feeling empty with too few buying options to match up to their tighter budgets.

I'm sure that the card companies have done their due dilligence to determine where the sweet spot is between unit price, sales volume, etc., but I kind of miss the days (which were not that long ago) when the mid-level packs were selling for around $5-7, and the premium ones could be bought for around $20. Unfortunately, like many other consumer goods, prices usually don't go down as time goes on; they just go up.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ankiel Heating Up; Brief on Kinsler

The Cardinals' Rick Ankiel, the pitcher-turned-outfielder, has been having a hot July, batting .349 with 5 HR (20 overall) & 12 RBI (50 overall). For the year, he's averaging 1 homer for every 15.35 AB, which is more frequent than teammate Albert Pujols (1 every 15.89) & AL HR leader Grady Sizemore (1 every 15.74).

Ankiel's 99 Ultimate Victory RC started the season on fire averaging $37.04 in April. As his performance cooled, so did his values. His UV RC then dropped to an average of $18.53 in May, and $15.54 in June. I haven't seen any sell this month yet, but I expect them to be on the rise. His most popular autograph card, his 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500, is selling in the $40-50 TAC range so far in July. You can probably find his 99 SP Top Prospects Auto for around $20.

Has anyone been tracking Ian Kinsler? I've been watching him since July '07, and all I can say is WOW! He's batting .337 with 14 HR, 58 RBI & 23 SB, he's in the middle of a 25 game hit streak, and he's been selected to his first All-Star Game. Only downside? His Rangers are 7.5 games behind a pretty tough AL West-leading Angels team.

Expect to pay in the $15-25 TAC range for his 05 Bowman Chrome Ref RC.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Collectors Finally Taking Notice of Nolasco

Florida starter Ricky Nolasco is finally starting to receive some hobby attention. He made his MLB debut back in '06, and showed some signs of his potential, but finished the season with a not-so-impressive 11-11 record & 4.82 ERA. After missing nearly the entire '07 season, Nolasco started '08 slowly, going 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in April. He then proceeded to improve every month since, going 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in May, 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA in June, and 2-0 with 1.80 ERA through his first 2 starts in July. He's 10-4 with a 3.74 ERA overall.

Nolasco's 04 Bowman's Best Auto RC (his only base autographed rookie card) has been selling in the $2-5 TAC range for the past year or so, but has jumped this month to around $10 & rising.

'08 is looking to be Nolasco's breakout season, and the value of his key BB RC card should benefit in a big way. If he can maintain his current pace, I wouldn't be surprised if it reached the $20+ range before the end of the year.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Billingsley - Only Bright Spot for Dodgers' Rotation

With the Dodgers' veteran starters in a slump, Chad Billingsley has been the only bright spot in their rotation. Brad Penny, who's been on the DL since 6/17, is 5-9 with a pathetic 5.88 ERA; a far cry from his 16-4 & 3.03 ERA in '07.

Billingsley is 8-7 with a 3.12 ERA, and is averaging 9.26 K's/9IP, with 4 outings in which he allowed 0 earned runs. The negative (besides his team's overall performance) is his 3.98 BB/9IP, which should improve with age & experience. His mediocre record can be attributed to the lack of offensive support provided by his team.

Billingsley's 03 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto RC is currently selling in the $30-35 TAC range, up from it's June average of $26.95. Expect to pay in the mid $40's range for his BCD Ref Auto, and the mid $60's range for his BCD Xfractor Auto. A nice, less expensive option is his 03 UD Prospect Premiers Auto XRC, which has been selling in the $20-25 range over the past few months.

At 23-years-of-age (he'll be 24 later this month), I think that he has the chance to become a very dominant pitcher in the next year or so. All of his cards are still trading below their 12-month highs, with deals to be found for those who are willing to look for them. I'm now kicking myself for selling my BCD Auto about a year-and-a-half ago for $25!