Stamp Collecting

I collect stamps. It’s a fun hobby, teaches me things, occupies time, and in the words of Winston Churchill talking about hobbies in general “focuses the hand and eye and thus relaxes the mind.”

There are a number of factors that contribute to the value of a stamp, age, rarity, condition, and popularity. The last is interesting. Assuming that two stamps, one from Britain and the other from Botswana, are equally old, equally rare, and in equal condition, the  British stamp will be worth more simply because no one collects Botswana stamps and everybody collects Brits (an obvious exaggeration, but not by much). But of course the other factors, especially rarity,  matter also.

I find these stamp collecting rules applies to baseball. Two pitchers have equal abilities, equal up side, etc. One is right-handed, the other a lefty. Which is more valuable? The lefty, of course. Why? Well, they are simply harder to find so everybody tries to collect the quality southpaw first, knowing there’s always another righty out there somewhere if you can just find him.

I’m not a big fan of the WAR stat when it comes to pitchers. The hitters stat isn’t bad, but the pitchers stat gives some really goofy results. Did you know that Kevin Brown was better than Carl Hubbell? Neither did I (or anyone else). Did you know that you’d rather have Bret Saberhagen than Sandy Koufax? Who knew? But the list is valuable for a couple of things (like reminding one why a rigid formula isn’t the best way to evaluate baseball players). Want to know how hard it is to find a quality southpaw pitcher? Take a look at this list: Grove, Spahn, Johnson, Carlton, Plank, Glavine, Hubbell, John, Koosman, Newhouser, Ford, Tanana, Finley, Koufax, Pierce. That’s the top fifteen left-handed pitchers according to WAR (I’m not going to comment on whether the order is silly or sane, it’s just the list in order). The problem is that Grove is seventh on the list and Pierce is 66th. That means there are 51 right-handed pitchers better than the 15th best lefty (and maybe there are).

Again I’m not arguing that the list should have Pierce higher or lower, merely that there are a lot more good right-handers than left-handers (who make up from nine to 13% of the population depending on who you believe). That alone makes them, like the British stamp, more valuable than the righty (or the Botswana stamp) to Major League clubs. Unfortunately for me, my son was right-handed. I’m trying to get him to teach his son to throw lefty. We could use the money.


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3 Responses to “Stamp Collecting”

  1. William Miller Says:

    I imagine, then, that a left-hander who collects Botswana stamps is the rarest of all of God’s creatures!
    I agree that WAR is suspect when it comes to pitching. I personally see no reason why stats like WHIP, OPS+, and K’s / 9 innings aren’t all you really need to evaluate the quality of a pitcher. Stop the madness!
    Having said that, I do like stats.
    BTW, Kevin Brown really was underrated.
    Fun post, Bill

  2. verdun2 Says:

    A left-handed Botswana collector? I don’t think that’s possible. 🙂

    I agree Brown was underrated, but Carl Hubbell?

    I might add quality start to Whip, ops+, and k/9 for starters, but your list is pretty much right on.

    BTW you don’t happen to have a left-handed kid or grandkid do you? I’m thinking of becoming an agent. 🙂
    BTW (again) Roy Hobbs for President

  3. William Miller Says:

    Well, my brother is a lefty, but he is well past the age where he would be considered a prospect. And, as fate would have it, neither of my two sons are lefties, either. But hey, there’s always football!
    And I agree, Hobbs for President. Bill

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