One of the things I’m guilty of is thinking about baseball too much.

Or so my wife tells me.

Today is the 94th anniversary of the demolition of The Palace of the Fans.

An event that leads me to ponder the past Reds and the fields that they called “Home”.

Anyway I was lying in bed the last night, fighting off some insomnia with the usual inane thoughts of baseball and the Reds. The Palace and the Reds current pitching filled my head… always the pitching as of late, not much late night hitting musings nor much fielding, just pitching. Probably because the Reds don’t have any, probably because it seems like the Reds have never had any, anyway it’s the conundrums in life that lull you to sleep at 3 in the morning not the easy questions

So there I lay staring at the ceiling thinking… have the Reds had pitching and hitting and not won?

Have that had pitching and not won?

Have the Reds ever had pitching?

(Ed: Read the rest, including all the numbers, in the extended entry….)

Of course I had to define the eras in which the Reds played so I could get handle on what indeed was pitching and what indeed was the norm for the day and age. Also breaking mundane useless information helps lull you to sleep too.

So I started by knocking off the wild days before the 1900 season, years in which rules changed, teams and leagues vanish and are never heard from again muddy the data and deserve their own bucket to swim in. It’s a different animal before the foul strike rule and the emergence of the American League. Therefore I won’t be including it in this attempt to corral the wild and somewhat solitary history of quality Reds pitching.

To organize it I like to use the home field as the barometer for the teams overall quality on the pitching side.

I start off by breaking it up by changes to the patch of land between Findlay and York.

1902-1911 – The Palace of the Fans – Best NL Hitters Park from 1902-1909, with 145 HR’s, 134 inside the park and the rest being bouncers into the seats… which in those days were a home run, plus the patrons were required to return the ball to the field of play. Since the original League Park Grandstand was now in the far RF corner the wall in right extended 450 feet down the line, left field was a mere 342 feet, which was still a hefty number in those days.

Here are the Park Factors for that era plus the team ERA.

1902  2.67     122
1903  3.07     116
1904  2.34     133
1905  3.01     111
1906  2.69     137
1907  2.41     91
1908  2.37     106
1909  2.52     92
1910  3.09     106
1911  3.26     80 

Here are the year by year ERA numbers vs the league.

CINCINNATI REDS
SEASON

1900-1911

WINS displayed only--not a sorting criteria
LOSSES displayed only--not a sorting criteria
STRIKEOUTS/9 IP vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteria
WALKS/9 IP vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteria
BASERUNNERS/9 IP vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteria

ERA                           YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP  

 
1    Reds                     1904     0.39     2.34     2.73       88       65     -.28     0.37     0.65   
2    Reds                     1903     0.19     3.07     3.26       74       65     0.07     0.14     0.03   
3    Reds                     1911     0.13     3.26     3.39       70       83     -.37     0.46     0.10   
4    Reds                     1902     0.10     2.67     2.78       70       70     -.40     -.18     -.23   
5    Reds                     1909     0.07     2.52     2.59       77       76     -.52     -.35     -.28   
6    Reds                     1907     0.05     2.41     2.46       66       87     -.30     -.11     -.42   
7    Reds                     1905     -.02     3.01     2.99       79       74     -.05     -.22     -.93   
8    Reds                     1908     -.03     2.37     2.35       73       81     -.55     -.10     -.33   
9    Reds                     1906     -.06     2.69     2.63       64       87     -.05     -.24     -.38   
10   Reds                     1910     -.06     3.09     3.03       75       79     -.43     -.17     -.52   
 
TOTAL

ERA                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP   
1    Reds                       0.08     2.74     2.82      736      767     3.30     2.89    11.79   

What we have here is a ten year run in a hitters park with 6 years of above normal pitching, 3 years of plus .500 play and only one true winning year. In 1904 the Reds had a couple of players that they fleeced from the Orioles before they left for New York and it was with their help that Reds offense really flourished.

By the end of the 1904 season the Reds were second in runs scored to the Giants, unfortunately for them they were also behind the Cubs as well in the final standings, finishing 18 games out in third place, 5 games behind the second place Cubs. The next year the offense was once again potent with the emergence of Cy Seymour as one of the most potent bats in the National League, but alas the top two starters from 1905 Hahn and Harper fell on bad times and neither was able to give much to the game after the 1904 season and by 1907 both were out of the game. The 1905 season proved to be another sleeper in a long line of sleepers in Reds history, however this one was highlighted as a sleeper even more with a 20 year old pitcher named Rip Vowinkel throwing
45 innings in the only year he ever pitched major league baseball.

The following years were equal in their disappointment, the Reds offense was bad and the pitching equally vanilla, the plus ERA in the Palace’s last season was equaled by an anemic offense and the park was closed with a lackluster 70-83 record, leaving the Reds with a sub .500 record for the life of the Palace.

CINCINNATI REDS
SEASON
1912-1926

1912-1926

ERA                           YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP  

 
1    Reds                     1925     0.89     3.38     4.27       80       73     0.06     0.74     1.60   
2    Reds                     1923     0.78     3.22     3.99       91       63     0.15     0.52     1.06   
3    Reds                     1924     0.75     3.12     3.86       83       70     0.18     0.71     1.32   
4    Reds                     1919     0.68     2.23     2.91       96       44     -.07     0.23     1.11   
5    Reds                     1922     0.56     3.53     4.10       86       68     -.42     0.69     1.38   
6    Reds                     1926     0.41     3.41     3.82       87       67     -.05     0.78     1.17   
7    Reds                     1921     0.32     3.46     3.78       70       83     -.06     0.35     0.59   
8    Reds                     1920     0.24     2.90     3.13       82       71     -.10     -.12     0.40   
9    Reds                     1917     0.04     2.66     2.70       78       76     -.44     -.15     -.64   
10   Reds                     1912     -.02     3.42     3.40       75       78     -.14     0.24     -.20   
11   Reds                     1915     -.09     2.84     2.74       71       83     -.22     -.49     -.50   
12   Reds                     1914     -.15     2.94     2.79       60       94     0.15     -.28     -.23   
13   Reds                     1918     -.24     3.00     2.76       68       60     -.32     -.53    -1.03   
14   Reds                     1913     -.26     3.46     3.20       64       89     -.31     -.12     -.55   
15   Reds                     1916     -.49     3.10     2.61       60       93     -.24     -.51    -1.07 

ERA                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP   
1    Reds                       0.23     3.12     3.34     1151     1112     -.12     0.14     0.30   

Park Factors
1912  3.42     81
1913  3.46     109
1914  2.94     113
1915  2.84     106
1916  3.10     99
1917  2.66     90
1918  3.00     97
1919  2.23     103
1920  2.90     76
1921  3.46     99
1922  3.53     88
1923  3.22     89
1924  3.12     95
1925  3.38     88
1926  3.41     84

In 1912 Redland Field was opened, in the age of concrete and steel stadiums Redland was a real treat after the misaimed and blocked sightlines of The Palace. It also proved to be a real pitchers park, after a few years of typical Redland struggling the Reds lifted the team ERA above the league average in 1919 and finally took the NL crown. A large park Redland didn’t see it’s first over the wall home run until 1921 and the expanse of the outfield area allowed the Reds to post 7 of their top team totals in triples in the 15 years listed above. The Reds staff was perhaps the best staff in all of baseball in the early to mid 20’s but it was an anemic offense that dragged them down each season.

From 1920-1926 the Reds OPS vs the League was

OPS                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE     OBA      SLG    
1    Reds                      -.028     .727     .754    -.008    -.020   

And their ERA 


ERA                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L       PCT    
1    Reds                       0.56     3.29     3.85      579      495     .539   

Laments of the day included a lust for slugging that was taken a hold in New York and St. Louis and a lack of appreciation for the stellar staff that could keep a team in the game all the time. Of course every great staff usually has great fielders and the presence of Edd Roush, Hughie Critz and numerous pickers like Babe Pinella helped enhance their numbers, this concept seems to be lost on the current Reds regime from what I can surmise.

The era changes after the 1926 season, this of course is the first time the Reds attempt to enrich their scoring numbers moving the plate up 20 feet to shorten the distances down the lines, after accumulating only 45 home runs from the home team (and 35 from opponents) from 1920-1926 the hope was the Reds could generate some more power at home and thus get a few more wins on the board and get over that second place hump they couldn’t hurdle.

It didn’t work out as planned as the Reds only got 13 home home runs over the next three seasons, while the rest of the National League piled up a respectful (for Redland) 46 home runs.

Aside from failing to match the rest of the leagues power totals the Reds pitching began to get old and replacements weren’t pouring in, nor was the cash and the Reds and the City soon began to feel it.

1927-1937

ERA                           YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP  

1    Reds                     1927     0.38     3.54     3.91       75       78     -.18     0.71     0.83   
2    Reds                     1929     0.30     4.41     4.71       66       88     -.57     0.55     0.75   
3    Reds                     1932     0.11     3.77     3.88       60       94     -.80     0.76     0.87   
4    Reds                     1928     0.05     3.94     3.99       78       74     -.44     0.44     0.26   
5    Reds                     1937     -.03     3.94     3.91       56       98     0.11     -.52     -.45   
6    Reds                     1933     -.09     3.42     3.33       58       94     -.82     0.72     0.27   
7    Reds                     1930     -.11     5.08     4.97       59       95     -.73     0.37     0.15   
8    Reds                     1936     -.20     4.22     4.02       74       80     -.38     0.13     -.37   
9    Reds                     1935     -.29     4.30     4.02       68       85     -.02     -.22     -.26   
10   Reds                     1934     -.30     4.36     4.06       52       99     -.53     0.10     -.89   
11   Reds                     1931     -.35     4.22     3.86       58       96    -1.05     0.21     -.36  

Park Factors
1927  3.54     97
1928  3.94     90
1929  4.41     97
1930  5.08     78
1931  4.22     92
1932  3.77     91
1933  3.42     98
1934  4.36     108
1935  4.30     86
1936  4.22     94
1937  3.94     83

Without a doubt the emergence of Weil and his diminishing pocketbook, coupled with the rise of the farm systems spelled a death knell for the Reds during the depression. Only one team from 1927-1937 era had a .500 record and six teams had at least 94 losses… that’s 6 seasons that make this year look pretty darn good, and that’s just plain scary.

The team movements are too many to list, too few to celebrate, the Reds of the early 30’s were a pitiful bunch, even worse than perennial doormats the Phillies and it took the manic Larry McPhail and the dollars of Powell Crosley to pull the franchise out of the muck.

The rest of the leagues hitters were getting better and the Reds park still played like it was 1913 with 3 straight years of Park Factors below 94. This caused a drag on the team at home and soone Manager Dressen had them playing a brand of ball that is more akin to Billy ball and 1890’s Orioles play than anything seen today.

In the winter of 1938 the Reds moved the plate out 20 more feet. They also went out and hired Bill McKechnie, who had been a throw-in in the Mathewson/Roush deal in 1916. Bill McKechnie was a pure defense and pitching first manager, his first goal was to limit the hitting the opposition did, the rest would take care of itself he felt.

1938-1945

ERA                           YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP  
 
1    Reds                     1940     0.80     3.05     3.85      100       53     0.05     0.21     1.39   
2    Reds                     1939     0.64     3.27     3.91       97       57     0.63     -.06     0.79   
3    Reds                     1944     0.64     2.97     3.61       89       65     -.85     0.74     1.47   
4    Reds                     1942     0.50     2.82     3.31       76       76     0.50     -.03     0.74   
5    Reds                     1941     0.47     3.17     3.63       88       66     0.50     0.05     0.58   
6    Reds                     1943     0.23     3.14     3.37       87       67     -.07     -.48     0.04   
7    Reds                     1938     0.16     3.62     3.78       82       68     0.21     -.01     0.64   
8    Reds                     1945     -.20     4.00     3.80       61       93     -.70     -.13     -.38 

ERA                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP   
1    Reds                       0.41     3.25     3.66      680      545     0.03     0.04     0.66   

Park Factors
1938  3.62     92
1939  3.27     101
1940  3.05     93
1941  3.17     92
1942  2.82     99
1943  3.14     95
1944  2.97     81

1945  4.00     87

And he was right, the park didn’t change too much in the overall factors, except for 1939. But the increased focus on pitching and defense helped the Reds achieve a plus ERA in 7 of the 8 following seasons with their only sub .500 record coming in 1945 when both the pitching and offense were sub par.

By 1945 it was obvious that McKechnie had run into a wall in Cincinnati, as had his pitching centric world. Due to conservative estimates on talent and the war the Reds refused to sign many players during the war years, following the war they had few prospects and many vets who had missed several years of the game. Soon the Reds were lacking in offense again, a common tune heard in the streets downtown over the past 30 odd years.

The future wasn’t looking too bright.

To combat this Reds GM Warren Giles erected the “Goat Run” in RF cutting the distance down the line from 360 feet to 342, 108 feet closer to home plate than 40 years prior. Of course the Reds offense was so pathetic that it didn’t matter. How pathetic was it? 523 Runs in 154 games the 6th worst (5th if you knock out strike marred 1981) that’s 3.39 runs a game, not a good number when your team ERA is a hair above 3.

The First Goat Run

1946-1949

ERA                           YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP  

 
1    Reds                     1946     0.34     3.08     3.42       67       87     -.37     0.58     0.85   
2    Reds                     1949     -.29     4.34     4.04       62       92     -.26     -.55     -.64   
3    Reds                     1947     -.35     4.41     4.07       73       81     0.48     -.22     -.48   
4    Reds                     1948     -.51     4.47     3.95       64       89     0.14     -.22     -.62   

ERA                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE      W        L     SO/9 IP   BB/9 IP   BR/9 IP   
1    Reds                       -.20     4.07     3.87      266      349     -.01     -.10     -.21   

Park Effects
1946  3.08     104
1947  4.41     82
1948  4.47     111
1949  4.34     93

After the 5th straight losing season (which is the crossroads where the current team stands) the Reds pitching got worse, some must have felt it was the Goat Run to blame (sounds like the GAB Park Effect argument) and after losing 90 games in 1949 the Goat Run disappeared in June of 1950 only to reappear again in 1953 and disappear again in 1958.

The game was changing again; the low scoring offense of the war years receded and a station-to-station offense began to take a firmer hold on the game across the board.

It was then that the Reds changed their team philosophy and hoed the roe that they still till to this day.

To be continued……………

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.

Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.

After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.

A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

About Brian Erts

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the "American League".... but I digress. Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be. After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A's fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey. A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

Category

Reds - General