Saturday, January 14, 2017

Countdown to 2017 Topps #18: In the Field, On the Bases

Many (most?) collectors are critical of the photo variations that have found their way into almost every low-to-mid level set. While I understand their frustrations with the card manufacturers for producing such cards- referred to by many as 'gimmicks'-, it doesn't damper my enthusiasm for chasing them (given they're somewhat affordable). One of the reasons I'm such a sucker for variations is that they often offer a much more interesting photo than the base card.

Occasionally, though, both the base and the variation card offer equally interesting photos of the card's subject. One such example is found in Topps' 2015 set, card number 518.

Best known for his dramatic game-tying homer in game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Rajai has been on the receiving end of much criticism for his work in the field over the course of his career. As an aging center fielder, that doesn't bode well for the Oakland A's, who recently signed the free-agent to a one-year contract. Davis had his best season as a major leaguer in 2009 (his first go-around with Oakland), collecting a 3.5 WAR. While not the best defensive centerfielder in the majors, Davis is, at least, an average major league defender and should be the best CF option for the A's- at least initially.

Rajai led the American League in steals during the 2016 season, becoming the fourth-oldest player to do so. For his career, he's just under an 80% success rate while attempting to swipe a base and is still one of the fastest men in the league, despite being 36 years-old; his success rate last year for the American League champs was 87.8% (43/49). The most value Davis brought to the Indians in 2016 was his aggressiveness on the base paths- Fangraphs rated him second only to Billy Hamilton in their Base Running (BsR) statistic. 

It's pretty simple, really- the more successful a runner is in stealing a base (thus getting closer to home), the more likely his team will score. The flip side to this aggressiveness on the base paths: getting caught stealing is more damaging to a team because it not only eliminates a possible score but adds an out. 

A's fans can only hope that Davis will continue to enjoy the same type of success on base during the upcoming season.

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