A few weeks ago I referenced a Bill James post about the best seasons for any position players in baseball history, and we listed the Reds players by position and season.

Here’s a Reds recap, which is essentially a best season list by position:

c–Johnny Bench, 1970
1b–Ted Kluszewski, 1954
2b–Joe Morgan, 1976
3b–Tony Perez, 1970
ss–Barry Larkin, 1996
LF–George Foster, 1977
CF–Cy Seymour, 1905
RF–Frank Robinson, 1962

Now…that’s measuring one season….who would you pick for a Reds lineup and for an all-time Reds roster?

For me…and I’m going to balance peak seasons along with career value….essentially trying to balance a Mr. MVP seasons and Mr. Red careers:

1st team
c-Johnny Bench
1b–Tony Perez
2b–Joe Morgan
3b–Pete Rose
ss–Barry Larkin
LF–Eric Davis
CF–Edd Roush
RF–Frank Robinson

2nd Team
c–Ernie Lombardi
1b–Ted Kluszewski
2b–Bid McPhee
3b–Heine Groh
ss–Dave Concepcion
LF–Adam Dunn
CF–Vada Pinson
RF–George Foster

So, there’s 16 players of a 26 man roster…here’s my 10 pitchers.

Tom Seaver, Eppa Rixey, Dolf Luque, Tony Mullane, Paul Derringer, Bucky Walters, Jim Maloney, Noodles Hahn, Jose Rijo, John Franco

What’s your team? Who do you add? Who do you replace? Why? Which of my two all-time teams would actually be better?

45 Responses

  1. Steve

    Corey Patterson narrowly edging out Taveras. I think CP is faster.

  2. RedBlooded

    I think all those teams clog up the bases.

    Seriously, I would still stick with Big Klu. He was far from a one season wonder. Good average, mucho power and he could catch anything he could get to. And, like Tony, he was a great clubhouse presence. Too bad his career was compromised because of injuries.

  3. JasonL

    I’ll say this, 1990 was not Larkin’s best season. I’d take ’91 or ’96.

  4. shane

    Obviously this is based on offensive numbers only

  5. per14

    I would keep Klu at 1B, move Perez to 3B (check out his early 70s numbers while at 1B), and move Rose to the OF, probably to replace Eric Davis.

    Lineup:

    Rose
    Larkin
    Morgan
    Frank Robinson
    Big Klu
    Bench
    Perez
    Roush

  6. Mike

    I like your lists but how remarkable is it that of the pitchers only four threw a single inning after 1960, and two of the four are known more as Mets than as Reds.

    Man our pitching has been awful.

  7. Dan

    How about best single-season pitchers?

    Danny Jackson and Rob Dibble leap to mind.

  8. Dan

    Oh, Mario Soto also.

    Hmmm… does Soto not make it on the “career-value” team? I know it was brief (too bad for him that he got overused), but his stats from something like 1982-86 were phenomenal.

  9. Drew Nelson

    What no Frank Pastore? The man could pitch and eat alot of steak.

  10. Chris

    I second Danny Jackson for single season. 1988 was one of the most impressive seasons I’ve ever seen a pitcher (certainly a Reds pitcher) have. He wasn’t a big strikeout guy, so maybe the wow factor isn’t there, but if you remember that season, he was just dominant– you had a sense that he was in control when he took the ball, 260 innings, 15CG, 6 shuthouts– the Reds for a while have been lucky to have that many complete games, much less shutouts from a pitcher.

    While he didn’t strike out so many as others, and I don’t think there are stats on this, he broke bats like crazy– lefties and righties– I’ve never seen anyone do that. In its way, it was cooler to watch that than someone who strikes out a ton of hitters. I didn’t understand how bats broke then, and I remember thinking he must be the strongest pitcher in baseball– other pitchers had to avoid the bats of hitters, Danny Jackson didn’t have to because he could just break their bats. It’s really too bad he didn’t tell anyone about his broken toe and messed up his arm, because for that one year, he was just incredible. I would have liked to have been able to watch him as I got older and learned more about pitching. He just never was the same after that.

    Mario Soto for a career was every bit the pitcher Rijo was, not that I don’t think Rijo was great, Soto just played on crap teams and gets lost in the shuffle. He was a personality, too, sort of a Dominican Pete Rose of pitching, that kind of intense. Of course Rijo didn’t give up home runs like Soto.

  11. Jello

    Adam Dunn 2nd team? Really? must be only offensive numbers.

  12. pinson343

    Soto at his peak was better than Rijo, he was flat out nasty.
    But his peak didn’t last long thanks to Pete Rose the manager insisting that he pitch every 4th day.

  13. pinson343

    My first impression is that I agree with almost every pick, but need to think about it more.

    George Foster in RF is pushing it, he wasn’t good in LF and had a less than average throwing arm . With that 2nd team OF, my man Vada Pinson would have to catch everything (not that he couldn’t).

    Edd Roush was a great player and the right choice for starting CF.

    Eric Davis was great at his peak but almost as injury prone as Griffey Jr. And Giffey Sr., an outstanding all-around player, deserves consideration in RF. Plus defensively Pete Rose was much better in LF and RF than 3rd base, but I’ll leave that alone.

    I might reconfigure the OF as:
    1st team:
    George Foster, LF
    Roush, CF
    Robby, RF

    2nd team:
    Davis, LF
    Pinson, CF
    Dunn or Griffey Sr. RF (have to think about it more)

    Dunn played a decent RF his rookie year. I think he’s a better RF choice than Foster. I’d put Davis in RF and Dunn in LF but I don’t think Davis ever played RF, so that seems like cheating.

  14. justcorbly

    I’m very tempted to take the “Great Eight” fron ’75-’76 and replace Geronimo or Griffey with Robinson. Who really cares what position outfielders play?

    Adam Dunn might make my 4th team.

  15. mike

    @Dan:

    Steve included 9 starters based on career value. To be honest, despite us knowing Seaver was a GREAT pitcher and had some great years with the Reds I don’t think I’d include him based on career value.
    And while Soto was very, very good he might not make my top 20 based on career Reds value

    My top 10 Reds starters of all time would be

    Dolf Luque
    Will White
    Bucky Walters
    Eppa Rixey
    Noodles Hahn
    Jose Rijo
    Frank Dwyer
    Tony Mullane
    Billy Rhines
    Paul Derringer

    Mike: I like your lists but how remarkable is it that of the pitchers only four threw a single inning after 1960, and two of the four are known more as Mets than as Reds.

    this got me thinking….best Reds starters since 1960? hmm…a much tougher list to come up with. I’m going to go with the best since 1965 since that’s when the draft started. This was a tough list to come up with….After Soto it’s a crap shoot. I’m not even sure I’d stand by this list before looking at things a little closer.

    Jose Rijo
    Jim Maloney
    Gary Nolan
    Don Gullett
    Tom Seaver
    Mario Soto
    Bronson Arroyo
    Aaron Harang
    Pete Harnisch
    Denny Neagle

  16. mike

    @Steve:

    funny funny

    for those who just ate you might not want to look at what I’m going to write below
    career followed by single season in ()

    1B: Charles Comiskey (Charles Comiskey 1892)
    2B: Hughie Critz (Hughie Critz 1929)
    SS: Tommy Corcoran (Tommy Corcoran 1904)
    3B: Charlie Irwin (Hick Carpenter 1887)
    LF: Gee Walker (Jim Canavan 1893)
    CF: Dummy Hoy (Jim Clinton 1885, Patterson and Taveras close!)
    RF: Max Marshall (Adam Comorosky 1934)
    C: Bill Bergen (Alex Trevino 1982)

    most of those players people aren’t familiar with and played a long time ago
    a modern day version

    1B: Todd Benzinger (Todd Benzinger 1989)
    2B: Tommy Helms (Tommy Helms 1970)
    SS: Juan Castro (Dave Concepcion 1983)
    3B: Lenny Harris (Tommy Helms 1966)
    LF: Billy Hatcher (Billy Hatcher 1991)
    CF: Cesar Geronimo (Corey Patterson 2008)
    (super close with Patterson, Sanders, Milner, Taylor and Taveras)
    RF: Paul Householder (Paul Householder 1982)
    C: Bill Plummer (Alex Trevino 1982)

  17. Steve Price

    I wasn’t really choosing outfielders by position.

    Not choosing Adam Dunn is kind of like not choosing Ted Kluszewski or Tony Perez. It’s human nature to judge those we see most harshly and romanticize the past.

    As for pitchers in history…this has a ton to do with stadium design. Pre-1950 (thereabouts), the Reds played in a pitcher’s park and their teams were designed on strong defense and pitching. It was very difficult to hit home runs in Cincinnati…for example, Eppa Rixey gave up only one home run in 301 innings in 1921 and only 72 home runs in nearly 2900 innings as a Red. Yes, Rixey is a Hall of Famer…he also pitched in a park that didn’t allow home runs. Good pitchers and solid defense was the necessary design of the team during that time.

    The fences were moved in later and the home run became the Reds calling card, then speed, defense, and mainly balance for Riverfront Stadium, then power for GABP.

  18. Steve Price

    My opinion…best Reds pitchers since 1950:

    Bob Purkey, Jim Maloney, Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, Tom Seaver, Mario Soto, Tom Browning, Jose Rijo, John Franco, Pedro Borbon

    As for Seaver and Franco being thought of as Mets….Paul Derringer was a Cardinal, Bucky Walters and Eppa Rixey were Phillies, Tony Mullane pitched for about five teams. Player movement is actually less today than it was in the early days; pitchers have almost always been an iffy proposition due to effectiveness and injury.

    Best 20 single season pitching performances? Not in any order…

    Tom Seaver, 1981
    Danny Jackson, 1988
    Bob Purkey, 1962
    Gary Nolan, 1975
    Dolf Luque, 1923
    Wayne Simpson, 1970
    Mario Soto, 1980
    Ewell Blackwell, 1947
    Bucky Walters, 1939
    Bucky Walters, 1940
    Bucky Walters, 1944
    Paul Derringer, 1939
    Fred Toney, 1915
    Rob Dibble, 1990
    Noodles Hahn, 1902
    Jose Rijo, 1993
    Jim Maloney, 1963
    Ted Abernathy, 1967
    Will White, 1882
    Don Gullett, 1975

  19. mike

    Steve Price: Best 20 single season pitching performances?

    nice list Steve.
    I’m a little surprise by both the lack of pre-1900s seasons and the one you did include.

    I think an argument could be made for some of these seasons
    Will White 1883
    Elmer Smith 1887
    Jesse Duryea 1889
    Billy Rhines 1890

    but I find it very difficult to compare pitchers from that time

    a little bit easier (for me at least) is looking at more recent starting pitcher performance. Here are my top 15 single season pitching performances by a Reds since 1954

    Jose Rijo 1993
    Bob Purkey 1962
    Bronson Arroyo 2006
    Mario Soto 1983
    Jim Maloney 1965
    Jim Maloney 1966
    Mario Soto 1982
    Jose Rijo 1991
    Jim O’Toole 1961
    Pete Harnisch 1998
    Jose Rijo 1990
    Danny Jackson 1988
    Jim O’Toole 1964
    Edinson Volquez 2008
    Gary Nolan 1972

    I also think Soto 1983 season was better than his 80 season. He had better #s in 1983 plus did that while starting full time (34 starts vs 12 starts and relief work)

    There is one thing I’m reminded of while thinking about this
    Have the Reds ever had another starter put 5 great years in a row together like Rijo did from 1990-94? We’ve had some great pitching performances over the long history but 5 years in a row from one guy?

    Over those 5 years he did the following
    67-39 in 154 starts. 2.64 ERA/149 ERA+ 893 SO and an amazing 3/1 SO/BB ratio

    How crazy are those #s?
    Rijo had a 149 ERA+ over those 5 years

    How many Reds have started 25 or more games and had over a 145 ERA+ in a SINGLE season?
    Only 20 Reds other than Rijo!!
    And Rijo is the only one since Nolan in 1972

    the closest I could find to Rijo’s 5 year run was Noodles Hahn

    Noodles Hahn from 1901-05
    88-64 2.31 ERA/137 ERA+ 2.9 SO/BB ratio

  20. justcorbly

    Steve, yes we do romanticize players of bygone days, but I watched Dunn and Perez play, as well as Kluzewski when I was a wee kid, and I just can’t put Dunn up there. Too inconsistent and, in my book, too unwilling or unable to correct basic flaws. I know he has many fans, but I think they are actually romanticizing unfulfilled potential.

    That said, rather than taking into account entire careers, it might be amusing to play this game by looking at the players who, for at least one season, were extraordinary. Even then, however, I still come down to thinking that most of the best offensive players to play for the Reds were on the ’75 and ’76 team.

  21. pinson343

    per14: I would keep Klu at 1B, move Perez to 3B (check out his early 70s numbers while at 1B), and move Rose to the OF, probably to replace Eric Davis.Lineup:
    Rose
    Larkin
    Morgan
    Frank Robinson
    Big Klu
    Bench
    Perez
    Roush

    I like this team a lot. It has Rose in the right position and, as I’ve said, I don’t think Eric Davis belongs on the first team. The only problem now is that Tony Perez isn’t at his best position. But this would be a monster offense.

  22. Kevin Mitchell is Batman

    Tom Browning. Tom Browning? Tom Browning!

  23. mike

    justcorbly: That said, rather than taking into account entire careers, it might be amusing to play this game by looking at the players who, for at least one season, were extraordinary. Even then, however, I still come down to thinking that most of the best offensive players to play for the Reds were on the ‘75 and ‘76 team.

    interesting idea of looking at the Reds best hitting seasons at each position and NOT including the 75 and 76 seasons. Maybe even be more fun to remove the 70s all together.

    how bout this…best individual hitting seasons at each position, pre- and post- the 70s. Not thinking about defense. I’ve marked the season with an * if the player received MVP votes that year

    pre-1970
    1B: John Reilly 1884
    2B: Pete Rose 1965*
    SS: Frank Fennelly 1885
    3B: Arlie Latham 1891
    LF: Charley Jones 1884
    CF: Cy Seymour 1905
    RF: Frank Robinson 1962*
    C: Bubbles Hargrave 1923

    post-1979
    1B: Sean Casey 2004 (if Votto didn’t miss time this year)
    2B: Bret Boone 1994*
    SS: Barry Larkin 1996*
    3B: Chris Sabo 1990* or 1991*
    LF: Adam Dunn 2004*
    CF: Eric Davis 1987*
    RF: Reggie Sanders 1995*
    C: Eddie Taubensee 1999

  24. pinson343

    I don’t understand the Mario Soto analysis. 1982 was easily his best season. His record was only 14-13 because that was a terrible team with a terrible offense and a weak bullpen.

    He struck out 274 in 257 innings, with a career low WHIP of 1.080. His SO/BB ration was 3.86, by far a career best, and his SO/9 of 9.6 was also a career best. He allowed 19 HRs, less than 1983 and 1984.

    Has any Reds starter, in terms of K/BB and for that matter, K/H, ever had a better season than that ?

    The only pitcher who was anywhere near as good as him that year was Steve Carlton.

  25. Steve Price

    Perez was a dreadful third baseman and played there five years in between stints at first base. He gave it his best…it was either in “The Machine” or “The Making of the Big Red Machine” (read them both simultaneously) that said the wooden barrier behind first base used to thud constantly from Perez’s wild throws (not to mention dangerous to the fans) and that the ball would often carom into right field. Riverfont’s softer walls helped cut the impact of his 35 errors (one every four games) in 1970 (he committed 32 in 1969…Encarnacion’s worst was 25). Three times Kluszewski made 13-15 errors at first (more than Perez ever). Defense wasn’t his game either…he was so bad in the field, he couldn’t be moved to LF to find a place for another slugger, Joe Adcock, who needed to be at 1b, too.

    the difference? Everyone loved Klu and Perez…not the same for Dunn, Encarnacion, or Adcock

  26. Steve Price

    As lovely as Browning’s 20 wins from his rookie season and his perfect game were, Kevin Mitchell-Batman, I came closer to choosing Kevin Mitchell’s monster 1994 than Browning…

  27. Steve Price

    As far as selecting best seasons…that’s where we started from…Bill James selecting the best 16 seasons for each positions in major league history and we narrowed it to the best Red season…see top of post…

  28. pinson343

    Perez was a good first baseman and a very bad third baseman, agreed. Back to the drawing board for the all-time Reds lineup, considering both offense and defense.

  29. Steve Price

    Mario Soto isn’t that easy to peg….he was an outstanding pitcher on bad teams, and fell apart right when the Reds were getting good again…

    His best won-loss record was 18-7 in 1984 with 13 complete games…but his ERA+ was only 107, which is pretty much average.

    1982 is his best peripheral season as a starter…274 k’s in 257 innings, 1.060 runners per 9 innings (led league), ERA+ of 132…but won-loss record of 14-13. Ken Raffensberger’s 1951 and 1952 are almost the same…and no one’s brought up his name….

    Soto’s 1983 looks pretty good…17-13, 18 complete games,. 140 ERA+, 242 K’s….that’s the starter only year I would pick, he finished 2nd in Cy Young balloting…but

    then I looked at his breakout year…1980…he started in the pen and finally got into the rotation…he only allowed SIX hits per 9 innings for the season over 190 innings…led the league in strike out ratio, and had ERA+ of 117…

    So…if I’m picking the most identifiable year of dominance…I went to his swing year because I think he belongs on the list. I know that won-loss records are somewhat a team function, but I didn’t feel Soto was as good with the Reds as Seaver was…Soto and never really carried the team…he was better than the team, but he didn’t go 27-10 with a losing team like Steve Carlton did in 1972.

    But, frankly…if I pick one of Soto’s pure starting years, I have to make room for Raffensberger, too…and, both were just off my primary list…

  30. Steve Price

    Please keep in mind…I know this discussion is purely subjective…and everyone’s opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s….we all have certain things we remember and relate to

  31. Steve Price

    Mike..

    As for the pre-1900 years…the rules varied so much, I gave them a much higher standard to qualify…Mullane makes my all-time list because of consistency and longevity; I chose White’s 1882 because he won 40 games and had his best ERA+ and lowest ERA.

    Looking back, though, for one season, it’s hard to argue with Billy Rhines’s 1890 with his 184+ ERA

  32. Steve Price

    Oh…speaking of subjective…I suppose when picking my list for this conversation, I was looking for players (especially pitchers) that when I look at the stat line it nearly knocked me off my feet…example being Bob Purkey’s 23-5 in 1962. For his career, he wasn’t nearly that good, kind of like Danny Jackson’s 23-8 in 1988. I would take Soto over both of them if building in my team (and not Raffensberger). I was looking for some shock value.

  33. pinson343

    John Franco was in his youthful prime with the Reds before being traded to the Mets, the same can’t be said for Seaver.

    Seaver’s two best years for the Reds weren’t full seasons. In 1977, after being traded from the Mets, he went 14-3. In 1981, he was 14-2 in the strike shortened season. In 1979, he was 16-6 and out for a while with an injury (I don’t remember how long).

    Those were by far his best years with the Reds. I don’t think it qualifies him as an all-time Reds great.

  34. pinson343

    Bob Purkey was the favorite pitcher of my childhood, I forgot how good he was.

  35. Steve Price

    Seaver’s 16-14 season in 1978 includes a 124 ERA+ season…it fits right into Soto’s career lines…

    Comparing Seaver and Soto…Seaver started 158 games as a Red, Soto started 224; Seaver played all or parts of 6 seasons (he can’t help the strike season) with a 116 ERA+; Soto played 12 seasons with a 108 ERA+; 6 of Soto’s season were partial (one 19 start season, one 25 relief outings). Don Gullett only started 186 games as a Red (113 ERA+). Billingham started 190. Seaver is one season off those guys…

    No matter how much time Seaver was with the Mets…he’s a better pick than all these guys. I would only pick Rijo as being better since 1970, and I’m not really convinced about him either.

  36. pinson343

    Soto dropped to 12-15 in 1985, after an excellent start. He quickly got about 9 wins and then lost about 8 in a row. Oddly, other than won/lost, his stats weren’t so different from 1984, when he was 18-7.

    He complained about Pete Rose pitching him on 3 days rest at times. By 1986, his arm was dead. He lost his fastball, so hitters sat on his changeup and could still catch up with the fastball. One game against the Mets, Tony Perez was yelling at him in the dugout, saying he’d quit. It was sad.

  37. pinson343

    Steve, The Seaver/Soto debate is a little confusing. I wouldn’t put Soto on a short list of all time great Reds pitchers either, as his prime was too short.

    There’s no doubt that Seaver was a better pitcher, one of the greatest ever.

  38. pinson343

    Our opinions are definitely based a lot on what we saw and how we felt about it.

    The Reds were just horrible in 1982. I remember Soto piching a shutout for 9+ (I think 10) innings and having to leave with a no decision.
    The relievers blew so many of his leads that he said at one point that he wasn’t coming out of games any more. Sure enough, his next game was a complete game win. But he couldn’t do that every time.

    I saw him pitch all thru his career, and he looked the best in 1982 – his stuff was electric, hitters were intimated and looked foolish against him. He was arrogantly dominant and would challenge everyone: There it is, hit it.

  39. Steve Price

    Seaver’s best seasons (partial or full) were better than Soto’s and his middle seasons were similar to Soto’s. Soto had only one more year of starts compared to Seaver. Soto had twice as many “seasons” as a Red, as compared to Seaver, but made only 28 more starts since Soto was hurt or didn’t fully make the team in many of the others.

    I do think Soto is one of the best Reds’ pitchers ever, but he falls outside my list. As for career length…his Reds career is longer than that of most Reds pitchers.

    As far as starts..Soto never pitched more than 36 starts in a season…totals: 36, 34, 34, 33. If he was complaining about that, my opinion of him diminishes greatly. The year he started 36, Tom Browning started 38. One year he started 34, Frank Pastore started 34; the other 34 season, Bruce Berenyi started 31. When he started 33, both Jeff Russell and Joe Price started 30. I don’t see a problem…

  40. pinson343

    Good stuff, Steve. I want to be clear that in my previous comments, I did not intend to compare Seaver and Soto. As far as their being on a short all-time list of greatest Reds pitchers ever, I’d say they both are way up there wrt talent but short on longevity (in Seaver’s case, with the Reds).

    I’m on Soto’s side as far as his not wanting to pitch on 3 days rest. He was a warrior who loved to pitch. But he also knew what was best for his arm and what had worked for him. It was an issue at times late in the latter half of the 1985 season, when he had the 36 starts.
    He declined as 1985 went along (after a strong start) and had a dead arm by 1986.
    I don’t know how many times he actually pitched on 3 days rest and if Soto himself ever claimed there was a connection between that and his arm injury.

    Tom Browning was a very different kind of pitcher who for one thing typically threw fewer picthes in a game than Soto, he had no problem with pitching on 3 days’ rest.

    Here’s an interesting stat, in the 6 seasons from 1980-85, Soto had more Ks than any ML pitcher – 1248. Next was Nolan Ryan with 1174.

  41. mike

    I’m going to build a slightly different starting lineup based on best season

    C: Bench 1972 (his 72 season I think was better all around than his 70)
    1B: Klu 1954 (no argument there but I could see someone saying Perez 73)
    2B: Morgan 1975 (like Bench I think his 75 season was better than 76)
    3B: Groh 1917 (better than Perez’s 70 season by a good bit)
    SS: Larkin 1992
    LF: Rose 1973 (a shocker maybe but Rose was the starting LF that year and had one of the best years of his career. He won the MVP that year as the starting LF no?)
    RF: Robinson 1962
    CF: Seymour 1905
    Honorable Mention: Roush 1920

    Rotation
    Billy Rhines 1890
    Dolf Luque 1923
    Bucky Walters 1939
    Ted Breitenstein 1897
    Frank Dwyer 1896
    Modern Day Starter Honorable Mention: Bob Purkey 1962

    Bullpen
    Ted Abernathy 1967
    Jeff Shaw 1997
    John Franco 1988

    here is the fun part. The difficulty of building a batting order with the above players/years.

    I think i’d go with
    Morgan
    Robinson
    Bench
    Seymour
    Klu
    Groh
    Rose
    Larkin