There are currently 400 St. Louis Cardinal fans who are waiting in line for the privilege of obtaining an autograph from a player who had a good, though by no means outstanding, season at the club’s Springfield AA affiliate. They are the lucky ones. Hundreds were disappointed waiting for an hour and being informed that there were no more tickets left Stephen Piscotty’s signature. This story illustrates the demand for player autographs at the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up this weekend.
The opportunity to meet a player and obtain his precious signature on a ball, picture, or other strange items is the highlight of the Warm-Up for many fans. The prices are set by the team, and proceeds go to benefit Cardinals Care, a non-profit organizations which distributes funds to help build youth ball fields in local disadvantaged neighborhoods among other things. Tickets for many players quickly sold out after they were posted online earlier this month.
Below one can find an overview of many autograph ticket prices that this author found to be interesting, especially considering the prices for comparable players. A full of list of autograph ticket prices can be found here. Nearly all of the tickets sold for what was probably below fair market value, as the same autograph could often be found selling for two or three times the same price at vendor stands a floor below the waiting lines for player autographs.
Shelby Miller $25 versus Michael Wacha $70
This was perhaps the most striking disparity among two players seen at the Winter Warm-Up. Wacha was clearly in demand after his fabulous postseason performance in 2013. Wacha’s name can constantly be heard as volunteers sell $1 raffle tickets for the chance to win Wacha’s autograph tomorrow. Those tickets are selling well according to two volunteers I spoke with today.
Wacha’s special postseason and his potential for future greatness certainly make him worthy of $70, but Miller for $25 seems extraordinarily low.
Consider the fact that Miller was just as hyped of a prospect as Michael Wacha before last year. Both are first round draft choices. Both have outstanding “stuff” to put it bluntly. Miller has a fastball with great late life that sits between 92-94 MPH and tops out at 97 MPH. Wacha features a fastball with a great downward place that sits at 93-95 MPH and tops out at about 97 MPH. Wacha has a much better changeup, but Miller has a much better curveball.
Wacha did have a great post-season, but both had similar numbers over the regular season. Wacha had a 2.78 ERA with a 3.36 xFIP and 9.05 K/9IP rate. Miller had a 3.06 ERA with a 3.73 xFIP and 8.78 K/IP rate. Looking at those numbers, Miller performed just as well over more innings (173 compared to 64) for Wacha in the regular season.
The only real difference is the post-season, where Wacha got the opportunity to shine and did, while Miller was relegated to some kind of strange purgatory by Cardinals management. If the tables are turned in 2014, Miller’s $25 signature may turn out to be a steal.
Chris Carpenter $50 versus Adam Wainwright $80
Both players have a distinguished career as St. Louis Cardinals, and Wainwright is worth every penny at $80, but one must ask why is Chris Carpenter priced so “low” at $50?
Yes, Carpenter was injured last year, but consider the fact that Carpenter has won a Cy Young award with Cardinals, while Wainwright has not. Carpenter also pitched one of the all-time great performances by a Cardinals pitcher in the postseason with his 1-0 victory over Roy Halladay in the playoffs. Overall in the postseason Carpenter had a 10-4 record with a 3.00 ERA. Wainwright is 4-3 with a 2.58 ERA.
Wainwright does have more years to improve his record and create more memories. Still, Carpenter is at least worth Wainwright’s price, if not more, at this point in their respective careers.
Trevor Rosenthal $35 versus Lance Lynn $20
These two prices show that autograph prices are not really a measure of a player’s worth in terms of pure baseball statistics.
Lynn has had an admirable cardinals career, posting a 2.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement Player) in 2012 and a 3.3 WAR in 2013. Lynn also has a respectable strikeout rate of about 9K/9IP over that time. Lynn was an All-Star in 2012, and is still relatively young with the potential to garner many more honors in his career.
Rosenthal had a 0.2 WAR in 2012 and a 2.2 WAR in 2013. Rosenthal’s strikeout rate is higher, but he has never proven himself as a starter at the MLB level like Lynn. According to baseball statistics, Lynn has been worth twice as much as Rosenthal. However, when it comes to autographs, Rosenthal’s signature is worth nearly twice as much.