June 02, 2014

The advanced-stats movement is making headway in another area: baseball cards.

Topps added WAR (wins above replacement) to its cards last year in a sign that the oft-debated metric is becoming more accepted by the mainstream.

''As a company that's been making baseball cards since 1951, we always want to be in line with the evolution of the game,'' Clay Luraschi of Topps said in an email.

Luraschi said the first time Topps ventured beyond a more traditional stat line was in 2004, when it introduced OPS to the back of cards.

Numbers like batting average, RBIs and ERA aren't about to disappear, but the baseball world is increasingly welcoming additional stats. The scoreboard at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, now routinely displays statistics like on-base percentage, slugging percentage and WHIP. The key, of course, is to present different forms of information - while acknowledging that not all fans are familiar with some of the newer ways of measuring a player's performance.

''We want to be in a position as a company to chronicle all sides of the game, including stats,'' Luraschi said. ''In addition, we want to help usher in new concepts and expose fans as well.''

Here are five things to watch around the majors this week:

RED-HOT AND HEADED HOME: Baltimore's Nelson Cruz is off to terrific start with his new team, batting .315 and leading the majors with 20 homers and 52 RBI's. The Orioles open a three-game series at Texas on Tuesday night, but the slugger's status for a highly anticipated first meeting against his former team is up in the air after Cruz was hit in the left hand by a pitch during Baltimore's 9-4 victory over Houston on Sunday. X-rays were negative and Cruz, a two-time All-Star who has eight homers and 15 RBIs over his last 13 games, is day to day.

DEVIL RAYS-LIKE: The Tampa Bay Rays were a popular pick to contend for the AL pennant, but find themselves riding a season-high six-game losing streak, 11 games under .500 (23-34) and saddled with the league's worst record. That's the lowest point they've reached since the end of 2007 (66-96), the last season they were known as the Devil Rays. They were shut out 4-0 at Boston on Sunday and have dropped eight straight road games, while being outscored 48-18. They begin this week with a pair of games at Miami before returning home to Tropicana Field to start a stretch in which they'll play 18 of 25 at home.

NOT-SO-FRIENDLY CONFINES: The Chicago Cubs' road woes continue. After splitting the first games of a weekend series at Milwaukee, they lost Sunday's finale 9-0, leaving them 0-11-3 in their past 14 road series - a stint that began late last season.

IMPROVING ASTROS: The last-place Houston Astros are coming off their most successful month in more than three years. They're 7-2 over their past nine games, 13-8 since May 11 and were 15-14 overall the past month - the first time they've gone .500 or better in a month since they went 14-13 in September 2010.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Yasiel Puig batted .398 with 43 hits, eight homers, a .492 on-base percentage and .731 slugging percentage in 28 games in May. In addition to matching the Los Angeles Dodgers record for hits in May set by Willie Davis in 1971, Puig had 19 extra-base hits during the month and has reached base safely in 33 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the major leagues.


AP Baseball Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.

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