Thursday, October 2, 2008

1965 Bazooka Baseball #5, Dean Chance

Bazooka cards often end up in low-grade collections like mine because of the hazardous fallout of a baseball-loving kid who may or may be handy with scissors. Fortunately, whoever liked this Dean Chance card thought enough of him to separate it carefully and with a steady hand. The photo composition does a good job with very little space and even avoids the deadly lighting from above. Props to the camera guy!

Card front (blank back)

I met Dean at the National Card Show a few years ago through a friend of mine who's a big Chance fan. Not many pitchers, even those from the pitching-friendly 60s, finished their career under 3.00 ERA. (He ended up at 2.92 with a .527 winning percentage.) A decade or so ago, he founded the International Boxing Association, so it's good to know he didn't rest on any laurels. Based on my brief encounter, he seemed an outgoing guy and ready to talk basketball, boxing, or the news of the day.
Most years, Dean pitched over 250 innings, which makes the performance even more impressive, but likely shortened his career. 2007's Josh Beckett, as a modern comparison, won the same 20 games as Dean's 1964 Cy Young season in 75 less innings. Josh pitched 1 complete game, 14 less than Chance.

"Save the pitcher's arm" is an easy drum to beat, but there's another component beyond simple wear-and-tear. Fewer pitches thrown means less data for an opponent to analyze in search of pattern and weakness. In a similar vein, argues that quarterbacks do better than expected in their first few games because opposing defenses don't have game film to plan against. Recall how a pitcher's task becomes more difficult each time through the opposing lineup. Baseball's depth of statistical analysis means they need more than one or two good pitches to lean on. To my eye, throwing fewer innings meets both the long-term need (save the arm) and the short-term goal (save the game).

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