This week’s respondents are Matt Habel, Steve Mancuso, Jim Walker, Tom Mitsoff, and Chad Dotson. Our Daily Reds Obsession: Which Reds player who played before you were born do you wish you had been able to watch? Matt: The player that comes to mind first is Joe Morgan. Looking at the WAR numbers make it […]

We all know that Johnny Cueto was fantastic last year. He finished as the runner-up in the Cy Young Award balloting. Cueto’s season line of 20 Wins, 9 Losses, 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 242 strikeouts in 243.2 innings was not good enough to win the award in 2014, but it was plenty good enough to win the Cy Young most seasons. Unfortunately Cueto suffered the bad luck of running into the Dodgers buzzsaw named Clayton Kershaw who produced a 21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 239 strikeouts in 198 innings.

It is not the first great season Cueto has had. I thought he should have won the Cy Young in 2012, which was the year knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets took home the hardware. Cueto’s stats that year (19-9, 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 170 Ks in 217 innings) were not quite as good as Dickey’s (20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 230 Ks in 233.2 innings) but Cueto faced the disadvantage of pitching half his games in a ballpark that is much less friendly to pitchers than Dickey’s home field. That notion was reflected in their ERA+ scores, which is a form of ERA that is adjusted for the pitcher’s league and ballpark. 100 is a league average ERA+ with higher scores being better. Dickey’s ERA+ in 2012 was 139 while Cueto’s was 148 — a clear advantage for our guy. Cueto actually came in 4th in the balloting that year behind Dickey, Kershaw and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals. For the record, Cueto’s ERA+ last year was even better at 160 but Kershaw’s was a whopping 197!

I thought it would be interesting to compare Cueto’s fantastic 2014 season to the best seasons in franchise history. I would like to know just how historic Cueto’s epic season was among the well over 100 years of Cincinnati baseball. So let’s dig into some numbers to find out… Continue reading

Nick Doran writes for The Dynasty Guru, Fake Teams, Redleg Nation and Blazing Fastball and can be found on Twitter @BlazingFastba11.

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+).

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November 27, 1962: On this day, the Reds deal prospect second baseman Cookie Rojas to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Jim Owens.

Rojas had been one of several Cuban players the Reds (or Redlegs) had been able to sign as free agents. The Reds AAA farm team was in Havana, Cuba, and the exposure gave the Reds a leg up on other organizations in signing Cuban players. Baseball had been introduced to Cuba in the early 1900’s and the game was a source of pride for the locals. The Reds had signed the first Cuban born players to play major league baseball in Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, both of whom debuted in 1911. Marsans was the Reds opening day clean up hitter in both 1912 and 1914.

Havana born Dolf Luque became a pitching star for the Red in the 1920’s. Luque’s 1923 is arguably the greatest pitching season in Reds history as he was 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA (201 ERA+). Luque led the majors in wins, winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, and with six shutouts, with 7.8 hits per nine innings, and with 0.1 home run per nine innings. His 151 strikeouts were second in the league, 46 behind Dazzy Vance. In twelve seasons with the Reds, Luque was 154-152 with a 3.09 ERA (121 ERA+). For his career, Luque pitched twenty seasons, going 194-179 with a 3.24 ERA (118 ERA+). Unfortunately for Luque, no Most Valuable Player Awards were awarded for the 1923 season so it’s largely forgotten today (The Cy Young Award began in 1956).

The Reds Cuban connection netted them many star players, many of which were traded to other teams. Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez played 23 major league seasons batting .279 with 379 home runs. Perez played 16 seasons with the Reds, batting .283 with 287 homers. Shortstop Leo Cardenas became an all-star with the Reds batting .261 with 72 homers in nine Reds seasons. Overall, he played 16 years, batting .257 with 118 homers.

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No Cincinnati Reds pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award. The Award was initiated in 1956 and was only awarded to one player per year through 1966 (when it was expanded to the current format of one award per league).

Just like we memorialized the MVP bridesmaids yesterday, today we’ll take a look at the Reds CY Young bridesmaids. To start, let’s take the “STATS, Inc, All-Time Baseball Sourcebook” and find out which Reds would have won if the Cy Young had been given in the years that it wasn’t actually awarded (according to the statistical “experts”). Since no Reds pitcher has won the Cy Young, and since the Reds are typically remembered as The Big Red Machine for our 1970’s incredible offense, many may not realize that the Reds spent many years as a pitching/defense first organization:

1882, Will White, American Association, 40-12, 1.54 ERA, 122 K’s
1883, Will White, American Association, 43-31, 2.09 ERA, 141 K’s
1884, Jim McCormick, Union Association, 21-3, 1.54 ERA, 161 K’s
1923, Dolf Luque, National League, 27-8, 1.93 ERA, 151 K’s
1925, Eppa Rixey, National League, 21-11, 2.88 ERA, 69 K’s
1939, Bucky Walters, National League, 27-11, 2.29 ERA, 137 K’s
1940, Bucky Walters, National League, 22-10, 2.48 ERA, 115 K’s
1944, Bucky Walters, National League, 23-8, 2.40 ERA, 77 K’s
1947, Ewell Blackwell, National League, 22-8, 2.47 ERA, 193 K’s

We should probably review the “winners” here….
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When Joey Votto won the 2010 National League MVP Award, it marked the 12th time that a Red had won the Award since it’s inception in 1911 (no award was given from 1915-23 or in 1930).

Reds winners are listed below, and in deference to Joey Votto’s quote about batting average (“we all know that batting average is kind of an overrated statistic”), I’ll use more modern metrics for their performance.

1938, Ernie Lombardi, catcher, .342 batting average/.391 OBP/.524 SLP
1939, Bucky Walters, pitcher, 27-11, 2.29 ERA, 137 K’s
1940, Frank McCormick, 1st base, .309/.367/.482
1961, Frank Robinson, outfield, .323/.404/.611
1970, Johnny Bench, catcher, .293/.345/.587
1972, Johnny Bench, catcher, .270/.379/.541
1973, Pete Rose, outfield, .338/.401/.437
1975, Joe Morgan, 2nd base, .327/.466/.508
1976, Joe Morgan, 2nd base, .320/.444/.576
1977, George Foster, outfield, .320/.382/.631
1995, Barry Larkin, shortstop, .319/.394/.492
2010, Joey Votto, 1st base, .324/.424/.600

You most likely know about most, if not all, of these guys. Lombardi, Walters, and McCormick were stars that played with the 1939-40 Reds teams. Robinson was the best player of the late 50’s/early 60’s and played on the 1961 World Series team. Bench, Rose, Morgan, and Foster were stars from the Big Red Machine World Series teams. Larkin was a star from the 1990 World Series team, and Votto broke many Reds hitting records from this past season.

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November 12, 1908: The Reds begin a month-long 12-game tour of Cuba, becoming the first Major League team to play there. On this first game, the Reds defeated the Havana team 3-1.

The Reds, who were 73-81 in 1908, won six of eleven games against local Cuban teams and lost once on the tour to the Brooklyn Royal Giants, a Negro League team also barnstorming in Cuba.

The real payoff for the team came through the names Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida who played for the Cuban Almendares team. Marsans and Almeida later joined the Reds and made their National League debuts on July 4, 1911, becoming the first natural born Cubans to play in a National League game.

The Reds had been initializing pursuing third baseman Almeida, who only agreed to come if outfielder Marsans could come as an interpreter and play, too, since Almeida spoke very little English. Bringing Marsans was a good idea, too, since he was the better player. Almeida played three seasons for the Reds, batting .270 in 102 games as a part-time player.

Marsans became a very good player, finishing eighth in the National League in batting average at .317 (109 OPS+) and had 35 steals. In four seasons with the Reds, Marsans batted .300 with 96 steals in the deadball era (99 OPS+). Marsans jumped to the St. Louis Terriers of the Federal League in 1914 and the Reds sued Marsans for breach of contract. Marsans only played 45 games for the Terriers over two years before jumping back to the St.Louis Browns of the American League. In eight total major league seasons, Marsans batted .269 (89 OPS+).

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October 8, 1904: Rookie second baseman Miller Huggins strokes three triples in an 8-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. The Reds’ win enabled them to sweep a doubleheader as they won the first game, 6-0.

The Reds were second in the league in 1904 with 92 triples, 10 behind Pittsburgh’s 102. Cy Seymour and Joe Kelley both tied for third in the league with 13 triples. Rookie Huggins finished with seven. For the season, Huggins batted .263 with a .377 OBP (OPS+ 110). Over six seasons with the Reds, Huggins batted .260 with a .362 OBP. He played 13 major league seasons, but is most famous for managing the New York Yankees to their first six World Series titles.

The 1904 Reds finished the season 88-65, in third place, 18 games behind the New York Giants. Seymour was their most effective hitter, batting .313 with 26 doubles and 13 triples (134 OPS+), while manager-1b Kelley batted .281 with 21 doubles and 13 triples (OPS+ 121). The Reds’ asset was their pitching, for they had six starting pitchers with ERA+ of 112 or higher. The Reds were third in the league with an ERA of 2.34. Jack Harper was 23-9 with a 2.30 ERA; Noodles Hahn was 16-18 with a 2.06 ERA; and Tom Walker was 15-8 with a 2.24 ERA. Win Kellum was 15-10 with a 2.60 ERA.

October 8, 1919: The Chicago White Sox get a complete game victory from Ed Cicotte and two run singles from both Shoeless Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch as they pull within four games to three by defeating the Reds, 4-1, in the seventh game of the World Series. The major principals for the White Sox were all later said to have been in on the Black Sox fix for the Series. Dolf Luque pitched four innings on one-hit shutout baseball in relief for the Reds.

October 8, 1939: The Yankees score three times in the tenth inning to sweep the 1939 World Series from the Reds. The Reds made four errors in the final game of the 1939 Series, and included the play noted for “Lombardi’s Snooze.”

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October 3, 1890: Reds owner Aaron Stern sells the Reds to a group of investors, headed by Albert Johnson, who are tied to the newly formed Players League. The Reds temporarily withdraw from the National League just one year after being readmitted to the league following their 1890 banishment.

October 3, 1891: John Reilly smashes three triples in a game for the second time in his career as the Reds defeat the Chicago Colts, 15-9, in Chicago. Reilly is one of only four players, and the only Red, to hit three triples in a game twice in their careers. The win keeps the Reds out of last place as they finish the season 56-81, one game ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

October 3, 1919: The Reds lose the first World Series game in their history, 3-0, to the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. The Reds now lead the White Sox in the Series, two games to one.

Rookie Dickie Kerr pitched a three-hitter and walked one to pitch the White Sox to victory. Kerr retired the last 15 batters of the game allowing only three runners to reach second base during the game.

Dolf Luque pitches one inning in the game for the Reds, becoming the first Hispanic American to appear in a World Series game.

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September 24, 1924: Reds starting pitcher Carl Mays wins his 20th game of the season as the Reds defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-6.

Oh, wait…may be this happened on September 20th….baseball-reference.com’s bullpen says it’s the 24th of September, as does “Redleg Journal” (by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder), but baseball-reference.com’s team pages say it was September 20th. Nevertheless, Mays becomes the first pitcher to win 20 games with three different teams. Mays won 22 and 21 for the Boston Red Sox in 1917-18, won 26 and 27 for the New York Yankees in 1920-21, and won 20 for the Reds in 1924. Only two other pitchers won 20 or more games with three different teams, Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander and Gaylord Perry.

Mays finishes his 1924 Reds season with a 20-9 record and a 3.15 ERA (119 ERA+). Mays had one another excellent Reds season, going 19-12 with a 3.14 ERA and leading the league with 24 complete games in 1926. For his career, Mays was 208-126 with a 2.92 ERA; with the Reds over five years, Mays was 49-34 with a 3.26 ERA. Mays is best known or an unfortunate incident, for he’s the only major league pitcher to kill a batter with a pitched baseball. Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was hit in the temple by a Mays pitch (Mays was with the New York Yankees at the time) and died the next morning. Mays wasn’t a popular player and this made things worse and some teams called for him to be banned from baseball. Mays said repeatedly the incident was an accident, but the beaning may have been what has kept Mays out of the Hall of Fame. More about Mays can be read here.

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September 1: the day that rosters expand in baseball and a day of Reds pitching feats (not feets):

September 1, 1924: Reds pitchers Carl Mays and Rube Benton both pitch complete game shutouts as the Reds sweep a Labor Day doubleheader from the St. Louis Cardinals in Cincinnati.

The Reds 1924 season had started in an awful way. Manager Pat Moran, who had guided the Reds to a 425-329 record and the 1919 World Series victory in five seasons, died in spring training from Bright’s disease. According to “Redleg Journal” (by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder), Moran fell ill on a train on March 1 during spring training, was admitted to a hospital on March 4, and died on March 7. In the recent book “Evaluating Baseball’s Managers” (by Chris Jaffe), Moran is listed as possibly the most underrated manager in baseball history.

Moran was replaced by Jack Hendricks who went on to manage six years for the Reds and has the third most wins of any Reds manager (469-450). Hendricks inherited a team built on pitching and defense in a big ballpark where the new home run balls often fell into outfielder’s gloves for outs.

The Reds overcome their spring training adversity to finish fourth for the season (83-70), ten games behind the pennant winning New York Giants. The Reds led the league with a 3.12 ERA, while finishing next to last in runs scored per game (4.24) despite the hitting of Hall of Fame centerfielder Edd Roush (.348, led the league with 21 triples). The Reds primarily used a four man rotation of Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey (15-14, 2.76 ERA), Mays (20-9, 3.15), Pete Donohue (16-9, 3.60), and Dolf Luque (10-15, 3.16). Their fifth starter was Rube Benton (7-9, 2.77).

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Baseball-reference.com has another nifty little feature this week. On each team’s franchise encyclopedia page, it now includes the season’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) leader. In this way, you can check out the best players for any team ever in a particular season, and it just so happens that the best teams usually have high totals for a leader and the worst teams typically have low totals for the leader.

Perhaps it’s the “80/20 rule” where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people? At least, that always seems to be true, so it’s probably true in baseball too.

For those who don’t accept these kinds of measurements, you’re not alone and not unappreciated. That’s why I continue to list Triple Crown stats in my comments, too. Anyway, Bobby Abreu doesn’t know what WAR is either and he seems to have had a pretty decent major league career. In fact, he’s 121st on the all-time WAR list, ahead of such luminaries as Will Clark, Willie Stargell, Darrell Evans, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, and Hank Greenberg.

Meanwhile, here’ the 10 highest WAR-rated Reds single seasons, along with the team’s finish:

1. Will White, Pitcher, 12.5 WAR, 1882 season, 55-25 Reds season record, .688 percentage, 1st of 6
2. Joe Morgan, 2B, 12.0, 1975, 108-54, .667, 1st of 6
3. Mike (Elmer) Smith, P, 11.4, 1887, 81-54, .600, 2nd of 8
4. Will White, P, 11.0, 1883, 61-37, .622, 3rd of 8
5. Dolf Luque, P, 10.1, 1923, 91-53, .591, 2nd of 8
6. Joe Morgan, 2b, 10.0, 1972, 95-59, .617, 1st of 6
7. Joe Morgan, 2b, 10.0, 1976, 102-60, .630, 1st of 6
8. Joe Morgan, 2b, 9.9, 1973, 99-63, .611, 1st of 6
9. Jesse Duryea, P, 9.8, 1889, 76-63, .547, 4th of 8
10. Billy Rhines, P, 9.4, 1890, 77-55, .583, 4th of 8

Well, we have Joe Morgan and a flock of early pitchers. Morgan must have been pretty good. Let’s go 11-20:

11. Bucky Walters, Pitcher, 9.3 WAR, 1939 season, 97-57 Reds season record, .630 percent, 1st of 8
12. Jose Rijo, P, 9.3, 1993, 73-89, .451, 5th of 7
13. Joe Morgan, 2b, 9.1, 1974, 98-64, .605, 2nd of 6
14. Jim Maloney, P, 8.7, 1965, 89-73, .549, 4th of 10
15. Frank Robinson, OF, 8.5, 1962, 98-64, .605, 3rd of 10
16. Cy Seymour, OF, 8.4, 1905, 79-74, .516, 5th of 8
17. George Foster, OF, 8.2, 1977, 88-74, .543, 2nd of 6
18. Ted Kluszewski, 1b, 8.1, 1954, 74-80, .481, 5th of 8
19. Eric Davis, OF, 8.0, 1987, 84-78, .519, 2nd of 6
20. Noodles Hahn, P, 7.7, 1902, 70-70, .500, 4th of 8

Next 10: Tony Mullane P 1886, Ewell Blackwell P 1947, Frank Robinson OF 1961, Frank Robinson OF 1964, Will White P 1884, Barry Larkin SS 1996, Don Newcombe P 1959, Mario Soto P 1982, Fred Dwyer P 1896, Ted Breitenstein P 1897.

Of the top 30 finishers, only five played on losing teams, with Soto’s 1982 being the far worst.

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