Baseball-reference.com’s blog has a couple of interesting tidbits of statistical information today that are Reds related.
With the Phillies’ signing Cliff Lee, they decided to research for starting rotations that would have had four starting pitchers making 30 or more starts each with ERA+ of 130 or greater. They found one, the 1997 Atlanta Braves, which had Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Denny Neagle, and John Smoltz in the rotation. Future Red Neagle was 20-5 with a 2.97 ERA, finishing third in Cy Young voting that season (in two seasons with the Reds, Neagle was 17-7 with a 3.89 ERA). The famous 1971 Baltimore Orioles rotation which boasted 4 20-game winners (Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Jim Palmer, and Dave McNally) did not have any of their starters with an ERA+ of 130 or greater. Palmer had a 126 while the others were quite good (109, 116, 126, 117, respectively). That huge offense helped their outstanding pitching staff.
Baseball-reference.com found nine rotations that had three pitchers meet the criteria of 30 or more starts and ERA+ of 130 or higher, and one rotation was that of the 1925 Cincinnati Reds. The 1925 Reds finished in third place with an 80-73 record, 15 games behind the league champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds led the league with a 3.38 ERA, a half run less than the runner-up Pirates (3.87).
The three Reds’ hurlers that met the parameters were Pete Donohue (21-14, 3.08 ERA, 38 starts, 133 ERA+), Dolf Luque (16-18, 2.63 ERA, 36 starts, 156 ERA+), and Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey(21-11, 2.88 ERA, 36 starts, 142 ERA+). The fourth starter slot was split between Rube Benton (9-10, 4.05 ERA, 16 starts, 101 ERA+) and Jakie May (8-9, 3.87 ERA, 12 starts, 106 ERA+).
The Reds were best known for their pitching in the first half of the 20th Century and this was the best performance of their top three starters. The Reds added American League star Carl Mays the following year to give them four deep and later Red Lucas joined the team as the other pitchers began to fade. Keep in mind, the 1919 Reds World Championship team’s pitching staff had a team ERA of 2.21. The 1939-40 Reds World Series teams had excellent pitching staffs anchored by Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer. Ewell Blackwell soon followed in the late 1940’s.
Then the tide changed and the Reds went the way of the long ball. The second baseball-reference.com study listed the 40 players who had at least 20% of their career walks coming as intentional walks. While many sluggers are listed (Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, George Brett) are in the top three, there are a great many #7 hole and #8 hole players listed, too, some from the same Reds/Redlegs teams (these stats only go back as far as intentional walks were recorded).
Dave Parker is eighth on the list, with 170 of his career 683 walks coming intentionally. Parker led the league in intentional walks while with the Reds in 1985 (his MVP runner-up year), and was fifth in 1986 and tenth in 1987.
The next Reds is Leo Cardenas, who was a good-hitting shortstop in the 1960’s, but usually batted eighth in the Reds’ batting order. Cardenas led the major leagues in intentional walks in both 1965 and 1966. In 1966, Cardenas had hit .255 with 20 homers an 81 rbi. He was in the top ten in both 1968 (NL) and 1969 (AL), also.
Reds second baseman Tommy Helms is on the list at #36. I believe Helms is on the list just because he didn’t walk in general very much. He was intentionally walked 12 times while with the Houston Astros in 1973, but his second highest total was was eight with the 1967 Reds and 1972 Astros. With the Reds, Helms never drew more than 26 walks in a season, and that was in 588 plate appearances (a big change occurred at second base when Joe Morgan arrived). Helms’s career high in walks was 32 while with the Astros. Helms generally hit seventh or eighth in the order.
Another surprise entry is Reds’ catcher Johnny Edwards, who is 38th on the list. Edwards drew 16 intentional walks with the 1965 Reds, the same year teammate Cardenas led the majors. Edwards also drew lots of intentional walks while with the Astros. One has to assume there were lots of Reds in scoring position with first place open in 1965 for the Reds’ numbers seven and eight hitters to be given so many intentional passes. I haven’t searched the game logs to see if they both were ever walked together to get to the pitcher. The 1965 Reds were 89-73, good for fourth in the National League, eight games behind the league leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds led the league with 5.09 runs per game, nearly 2/3 of a run more per game than the offensive runner-up Milwaukee Braves.