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Topps makes short-printed sabermetrics cards

Jun 12, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

Here’s an interesting note from Chris Olds over at Beckett Magazines: As part of their Series 2 set this year Topps has produced a short-printed version of some cards that feature sabermetric statistics on the back instead of the usual conventional numbers.

Olds passes along this shot of what the back of Mike Trout‘s card looks like:


Wins Above Replacement has become relatively well known in recent years, but it’s cool to see stuff like adjusted OPS+ and batting average on balls in play get a little love too.

  1. sabatimus - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Nowadays baseball cards suck. Just look at any Beckett Monthly: there are 150 subsets to every regular set, all short-printed, all designed to be like a fricking lottery. Whatever happened to having a single complete set? I’m glad I stopped collecting around 1991.

    • karlkolchak - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      You make a good point. I’ve restricted myself to only collecting cards from my favorite team (ebay is a wonderful thing in this regard), and even without trying to go after every single variation I still end up buying around 100 cards per year.

      That said, I go to Baseball Reference for all my stat needs and don’t really care that much what’s on the back of the card.

      • zukny1 - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:43 PM

        I’ve recently gotten into collecting again. Not extreme, w/ all the crazy sub sets. I’ve found that Bowman & Topps Baseball and Football is really the only thing to purchase now adays. no need for: bowman sterling, topps inception, topps valor, etc..

        Just Topps, Topps Chrome , Bowman & Bowman Chrome

        The 1+ I would say is that at least now the cards are worth something, when compared to the 90s none of those cards have any worth. I will also say, it’s awesome being able to get all the Autographs from your favorite players really easily.

        Ben Rever – 3 bucks online. Cody Ashe – 3 bucks online. Dominic Brown – 3 bucks online.
        not the best players, but it’s still cool collecting autograph cards of players on your team.

    • jasonwinter - Jun 13, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      I used to work at Beckett (a few feet from where Olds sat, in fact), and he and the other sports guys would tell me that baseball cards aren’t for collectors and kids any more. They’re for speculators, for people who want to make money, and, as you infer, people who want to play the lottery.

      Truthfully, it makes sense. As karlkolchak says, he doesn’t care about stats on baseball cards, he gets them from BBR. And you can see pictures of athletes all over the place. The Internet has largely made cards obsolete, so they had to find new ways to keep them valuable. You can’t get a jersey piece or autograph by viewing a web page.

  2. tubbman27 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    I have a boner

    • senioreditor2 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:31 PM

      I just had to laugh………………

      • natsattack - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:08 PM

        I saw the photograph…
        He blew his mind out in a car…

      • pinkfloydprism - Jun 12, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        He didn’t notice that the lights had changed. A crowd of people stood and stared.

      • abaird2012 - Jun 13, 2014 at 8:40 AM

        They’d seen his face before …

    • happytwinsfan - Jun 12, 2014 at 8:22 PM

      Please don’t reproduce.

  3. indaburg - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    Nice! Seeing the advanced stats on baseball cards will further their acceptance in the mainstream. I dream of a day when WRC+ is as easily rattled off by the everyday fan as is RBI.

    If I may nitpick, the card should specify in the fine print that it’s bWAR, and not fWAR.

    Never realized how high Trout’s BABIP is.

    • Francisco (FC) - Jun 12, 2014 at 11:43 PM

      I dream of a day when WRC+ is as easily rattled off by the everyday fan as is RBI.

      I dream of a day when RBI has gone the way of the dodo.

      • indaburg - Jun 13, 2014 at 7:07 AM

        We need to keep RBIs around for people like our grandparents and RAJ.

        By reading the other comments, I see we have a long way to go. These aren’t even difficult stats (some sabrmetrics stats make my head hurt too) and people don’t know what they mean.

  4. motobus - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    They should have cards just for what the different stats mean.

    • stac266 - Jun 13, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      That’s a really good idea.

  5. chip56 - Jun 12, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    Clearly we have different definitions of cool

  6. Jonny 5 - Jun 12, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    Yeah, baseball cards have declined in popularity on par with news on actual paper. If they want to really make money they’d sell them as downloads for your phone at 10 cents each.

    • stac266 - Jun 13, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      Topps Bunt is a digital trading card app that lets you do exactly that.

  7. rickrenteria - Jun 12, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    How do sabermetrics enhance my enjoyment of a game? I mean, when a guy pinch hits, do you scream at the TV, “But his bWAR is .16 lower than the other guy!”? I don’t play rotisserie baseball, I’m not a major league GM, and I abhor sports talk radio, so who cares? I’ve also watched as much or more baseball in the last 40 years as anyone who posts here, so no need to play that card.

    • crackersnap - Jun 13, 2014 at 12:21 AM

      Triple Crown! Triple Crown!! Triple Crown!!!

    • cktai - Jun 13, 2014 at 2:38 AM

      How do traditional stats enhance your enjoyment of the game? I mean, when a guy pinch hits, do you scream at the TV “But his batting average is .16 lower than the other guy!”?

      If you don’t like stats, then fine, ignore them. But for the people who do like stats, its better to have stats that actually reflect the contribution of a player in helping the team win than to have stats that were specifically created over a hundred years ago to mirror the stats of a whole different sport.

      • mikhelb - Jun 13, 2014 at 3:11 AM

        To be fair, 0.160 in batting average is A LOT.

        Now, having cards with SABRMetric info is very good, but still it lacks the inclusion of raw data, people who like me like SABRmetrics, also like to check basic stats.

    • mikhelb - Jun 13, 2014 at 4:12 AM

      SABRMetrics can be useful in lots of things, but you are right, to enjoy a game of baseball all you need is the basic set of stats: the amount of hits a player gets per every 100 at bats (batting average), how often he gets on base (OBP), how does he do in certain situations (vs leftie, vs rightie, etc).

      WAR, for example, is only useful at the end of the season to have a grasp on how good was a player THAT season when compared to an average or to a replacement player. It can be useful during the season but to a lesser degree and certainly not during a game because it tells you “how good” is a player, but it doesn’t tell you other stuff (rates of him getting on base, situational stats, all that).

      My recommendation is: make yourself familiar with wRC+, that stats tell you about a player’s contribution to his team in terms of runs created when compared to league average.

      Take Dick Allen’s monster season in 1972, his excellent season of 1966 and compare it to Miguel Cabrera’s 2013 season:

      66: 0.317 AVG/ 0.396 OBP / 0.632 SLG / 40 HR / 112 R / 112 RBI / 176 wRC / 7.4 fWAR

      72: 0.308 AVG/ 0.420 OBP / 0.603 SLG / 37 HR / 90 R / 113 RBI / 199 wRC+ / 8.0 fWAR

      13: 0.348 AVG/ 0.442 OBP / 0.636 SLG / 44 HR / 103 R / 137 RBI / 192 wRC+ / 7.6 fWAR

      When comparing classic stats, Miguel’s cabrera looks better overall offensively, defensively both players were more or less similar (a bit less than awful), running were also similar (not very good) and since WAR takes into account the defensive part of the game, you could have a really awesome hitter like Cabrera but with a lower WAR with somebody with less good offensive numbers than him if that other player is exceptional defensively…

      Now focusing on the offensive part of the game, Cabrera looks overall better: more homeruns, higher AVG, higher OBP, higher SLG, higher amount of R and RBI (well, less R than Allen in ’66)… but look at wRC+:

      Allen in 1972 created 99% more runs than an average player, Cabrera in 2013 created 92% more than an average player… why are there differences if Cabrera clearle had 13 more Runs and 24 more RBI? Well, it depends on how “strong” or “weak” the league was.

      In 1972 the league average for the AL were (and the NL averages were not as far):
      0.239 AVG
      0.306 OBP
      0.343 SLG
      1 HR every 58.85 PA
      1 RBI per 11.47 PA
      1 R per every 10.73 PA

      in 2013 the league average for the AL were:
      0.256 AVG
      0.320 OBP
      0.402 SLG
      1 HR every 37.04 PA
      1 RBI per 9.24 PA
      1 R per every 8.81 PA

      As you can see, Cabrera had a better year in classic stats, but when compared to the averages in the league, you can see that due to the league averages being higher in 2013 than those in 1972, Cabrera was not as productive as Allen in that year.

      Cabrera had more HR, more RBI, more R, a higher AVG/OBP/SLG in a year where we can argument, the pitching was “worse” than in 1972.

      Who had the best campaign in raw numbers? Cabrera in 2013.
      Who produced more and was arguably more valuable than the average player? Allen in 1972.

      • mikhelb - Jun 13, 2014 at 4:16 AM

        66: 0.317 AVG/ 0.396 OBP / 0.632 SLG / 40 HR / 112 R / 112 RBI / 176 wRC+ / 7.4 fWAR

    • indaburg - Jun 13, 2014 at 7:02 AM

      Sabermetrics have definitely enhanced my enjoyment. It gives me a fuller picture of the game. The game became more multi-dimensional to me, I realized that I was only seeing one dimension of the game, and there was so much below the surface that I was missing. Learning some advanced metrics has helped me to see that perception is not always reality. A lot of times, what I held to be gospel about a particular player or play was colored by bias, usually subconscious. Memory bias, frequently–I might remember all the great stuff, but forget that bad stuff because I like the player or vice versa.

  8. djandujar - Jun 13, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Stats are for sissies.

  9. jamesmfitzpatrick - Jun 13, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    I’ll let you know the next time I actually read the back of the cards that I buy.

    I’ll take that short-printed Trouty though

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