There’s no better way to kick off a new year then with a Reds All Decade Team. And it’s one we can learn from. After a pretty good set of seasons in the early 1920s, the Reds went into a steep decline. After two straight fifth place finishes and then a seventh place finish to end the decade, things looked, well, not so good.
And that 1929 season was a pretty good predictor of where the Reds were going. Over the next five seasons, they finished in seventh one time and dead last the next four years. In 1935, they pulled themselves together and managed a sixth place finish which appeared to give them some momentum going into 1936, when they finished in fifth place. Then the wheels fell of the wagon and in 1937, they finished dead last in the National League, again. So from 1927 through 1937, they were in the second half of the National League. That’s not a good stretch but they did make some quality trades by landing future Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi and Paul Derringer, a mainstay in the rotation for most of the decade. The team did have its gaffe to make up for it though. In 1935, the Reds bought future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize from the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, he was returned to the Cardinals because the Reds were worried he might need an operation. Of course Mize went on to win four homerun titles and he has the 21st best OPS in all of baseball en route to a Hall of Fame career.
In 1938, things changed for the Reds. Bill McKenchie took over the team and while the Reds finished in fourth place in a tight National League race, they had some great individual performances. Ernie Lombardi won the batting title and Frank McCormick, who was essentially a rookie, drove in over 100 runs. During the season, the Reds made an innocent enough trade to shore up their rotation. They sent backup catcher Spud Davis, reliever Al Hollingsworth and $50,000 in cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for a somewhat dissappointing starter named Bucky Walters. After starting 4-8 with a 5.23 ERA for the Phillies, Walters finished 11-6 with a 3.69 ERA for the Reds. This would turn out to be one of the best moves the Reds have ever made.
In 1939, everything fell into place. The Reds won a franchise best 97 games and they were led by the league’s MVP and Phillies cast off, Bucky Walters. The Reds had the best pitching staff in the league along with the second best offense. Unfortunately, they’d come up short of winning it all as they were swept by the New York Yankees.
You have to be impressed with the turnaround. They went from dead last to a pennant in two years. They’d just have to wait one more year to put it all together. And it also gives us hope that the present day Reds could turn things around, the sooner the better.
So who were the best and brightest in the depression-era version of the Reds? Let’s take a look.
Catcher – It’s nice starting out with a no brainer. Ernie Lombardi joined the Reds in 1932 and he was their backstop for the rest of the decade. In six of those eight season, he hit better then .300 and he had an above average OPS in all eight years. He won the batting title and the National League MVP in 1938 and he was a four time All Star in the 1930s. He also hardly ever struck out. In 1935, he struck out only six times in 351 plate appearances.
Lombardi was the backbone of the team, and it was nice seeing him get his chance with a solid club after being a star when the team was so bad. He also got his due in 1986 when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He led the Reds in batting average (.316), homeruns (96) and RBIs (548) in the 1930s.
First Base – First Base was a revolving door for the Reds. Jim Bottomley started there during the Reds “bad” years and despite putting up some awesome numbers for the Cardinals (which would eventually land him in the Hall of Fame), I think the nod should go to Frank McCormick. McCormick played sparingly in 1934 and 1937, but he broke out in 1938 by driving in 106 runs and by leading the league in hits (209). He followed that up with another great performance in 1939 when he once again led the league in hits (209) and RBIs (128) while finishing runner up in the batting race with a .332 average.
So while he really only played those two seasons, they were great ones. Of course he’d follow all that up with an MVP in 1940, but that’s another story.
Second Base – Another tough one because the postion was a revolving door, Alex Kampouris hesitantly gets the nod just based on longevity. He was the Reds starter for three seasons and parts of two more and while he never had a season where he hit above .260, he was at least good for a walk here and there.
Third Base – Lew Riggs manned the hot corner for the Reds from 1935 through 1938 (and parts of 1939). Riggs had a decent rookie campaign (.278 with 26 doubles and 73 runs) but unfortunately, it went down from there. He was lucky enough to be around for the 1939 and 1940 teams, al beit on a limited basis.
Shortstop – Billy Myers was the Reds starting shortstop from 1935 through 1939. The soft hitting infielder had his best year in 1939 when he played in 151 games and hit .281 with 79 runs. Shortstops weren’t expected to hit in those days, so those were some solid numbers.
Left Field – This was another tough one. Babe Herman was the Reds starting right fielder in 1932 when he had a solid season in which he had an OPS+ of 150. He was traded to the Cubs and then the Pirates only to be picked up again by the Reds in 1935, where he was the starter in left field for the next two seasons. His 1935 season was solid (.335 average in 349 at bats) but he regressed in 1936 (.279 average). In 1937 he was cut and the Tigers picked him up. He then had an eight year absence only to play in 37 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 42. Not sure what he did in the meantime.
Center Field – Another tough one because nobody really played for more then a year or two as the starter. I’ll give it to Kiki Cuyler. Not only because he has a cool name, but because he was an eventual Hall of Famer near the end of his career. I’m not sure how he made his way to the Reds from the Cubs but he did so in the middle of 1935 and he started the entire season for the Reds in 1936 and 1937. In 1936, he hit .326 wth a 129 OPS+.
Right Field – Ival Goodman was the Reds corner outfielder from 1935 through 1939. He led the Reds in stolen bases during the 1930s with 35 and he had two fantastic seasons in (you guessed it) 1938 and 1939. In 1938, he finished second in the league with 30 homeruns and in 1939 he hit .323. In 1935 and 1936, he led the league in triples (18 and 14 respectively) and he had double digits in triples in each of his five seasons that decade.
Pitcher – Like Ernie Lombardi, it was nice to see Paul Derringer get his due with a solid team. After starting 0-2 for the Cardinals in 1933, he was traded to the Reds, where he then went 7-25 for them. Yes, you’re reading that right. He finished the season a combined 7-27 mainly because he played on the worst teams in the league.
Derringer stuck it out and bounced back to have a nice career. He followed up his disastrous 1923 season by going 15-21 in 1924, but in 1925 he finished 22-13. He won 21 in 1938 and then had his best season in 1939 (which ended up being overlooked) as he and Bucky Walters were the best one-two punch in the league. He finished 25-7 with 128 strikeouts while sporting a 2.93 ERA.
Pitcher – I could have stopped it there as no other Reds pitcher really distinguished himself other then one. Bucky Walters was nothing short of a phenom in 1939. He walked away with the MVP while leading the league in wins (27), strikeouts (137), ERA (2.29), WHIP (1.125) and innings pitched (319). These would all be career highs as well. He and Paul Derringer won a grand total of 94 games in 1939 and 1940 and they were probably the best pair of starters any team could sport.
Coming off of the Reds first World Series in 1919, Reds fan probably had some pretty high hopes heading into the 1920s. There was just one big problemand that was the freight train resembling New York Giants. From 1921 through 1924, the Giants rattled off four straight pennants and two World Series wins. In two of those seasons the Reds were the runner up and they’d finish in second place in 1926 as well. Despite the fact that the Reds had their first winning decade of the 20th century (and it would be their only until the 1960s), they didn’t play in a single World Series.
The decade was also pretty unique for another reason Reds fan of 2005 wouldn’t quite be able to comprehend. The Reds had one of the best pitching staffs of the early 1920s. Led by rotation mainstays like Dolf Luque, Eppa Rixey and Pete Donahue, the Reds became the third team (at the times) in major league history to lead the National League in ERA. The 1923 team posted a 3.21 ERA (121 ERA+), the 1924 team finished with a 3.12 ERA (120 ERA+) and the 1925 team lead with a 3.38 ERA (122 ERA+). These three seasons were sandwiched between second place finishes in 1922 and 1926.
Unfortunately, they could never build on this success and the team went into a nose dive in 1927 when they finished in the second half of the league for the rest of the decade and in 1929, they finished next to last with 88 losses, the most in 15 years.
So which Reds ruled the roost in the 1920s? Let’s take a look
Catcher – Bubbles Hargrave was the Reds starting catcher from 1922 through 1927 and he backed up Ivey Wingo in 1921. In all of those seasons except one, he finished the season with an OPS+ over 100, and with that one exception (1925) he finished league average with a 99. In 1926, Hargrave won the batting title with a .353 batting average and finished his career with a .310 batting average and a .372 OBP. His 152 OPS+ in 1926 was second to the Phillies’ Cy Williams.
First Base – Jake Daubert was the Reds starting first baseman for the first five seasons of the decade. His best season had to have been 1922, when he hit .336, had 12 homeruns (career high) and a league leading 22 triples. The former Brooklyn Dodgers MVP and two time batting champ was traded to the Reds for right fielder Tommy Griffith in 1919.
Second Base – Hughie Critz debuted for the Reds on May 31, 1924 and was the Reds starting second base for the rest of the decades. The Reds must have had high hopes for Critz because he had a nice rookie campaign. In 102 games, he hit .322 and had his only season where he was above 100 in OPS+ (114).
And just to show you the sports writer did some wacky things with their votes back then, Critz finished second in the MVP voting in 1926 despite having an OPS+ of 87. He even finished ahead of teammate Bubbles Hargrave despite the fact that his OPS was around .250 points less. He did have a good fielding year by BP standards (59 fielding runs above replacement, around six wins) so that must have factored into things. He finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1928 with an OPS+ of 90. In early 1930, he was traded to the Giants for a right handed pitcher, Larry Benton.
Third Base – This was a tough one, but I gave the nod to Babe Pinelli. Pinelli manned the hot corner for the Reds from 1922 through 1925, and he backed up Chuck Dressen in 1926 and 1927. Pinelli hit above .300 in 1922 and 1924, but he never broke the 100 OPS+ mark mostly due to his lack of power. In 1925, he hit a career high two homeruns, and he finished his career with five. He also loved to bunt as he led the league in sacrafice hits in 1924 (33) and 1925 (34).
Shortstop – This was another tough one, more because there was no stand out. I’m going to give it to Ike Caveney, who was the starting shortstop from 1922 when he debuted on April 12 through 1925. After 1925, he never played again. 1923 was probably his best year as he set career marks in homeruns (4), batting average (.277) and OPS (.696).
Left Field – Pat Duncan was the Reds starting left fielder from 1920 through 1924. His best season was 1922 when he finished third in the league in doubles (44) and tenth in the league in hitting (.327). The oddest thing about his 1922 campaign was how persistent he was in stealing bases. In 40 tries, he was caught stealing 28 times for a pretty pathetic 30% success rate.
Center Field – Hall of Famer Edd Roush played centerfield for the Reds from 1920 through 1926 and he was the Reds’ player of the decade. His worst hitting season was .339 and he had an OPS+ of at least 124 in all of seasons with the Reds. 1923 was his best season, and he hit .351 with a league leading 41 doubles and an OPS+ of 148. Edd Roush led the team in batting average (.342), RBIs (507) and stolen bases (117) in the 1920s.
The Reds also had a little “Curse of Edd Roush” because after being traded to the Giants for George Kelly, the Reds hit the skids and never recovered for over a decade.
Right Field – Curt Walker was traded from the Phillies to the Reds on May 30, 1924 and Walker manned right field for the Reds for the rest of the decade. In every season with the Reds, Walker had at least 10 triples, and mostly because of that, he was always on the north side of league average in OPS+. Curt Walker led the Reds in homeruns in the 1920s with 35.
Pitcher – Dolf Luque had at least 22 starts in every season in the 1920s and he had a Cy Young caliber season in 1923. The Cuban led the league in wins (27), ERA (1.93) and he was second in strikeouts with 151. This was a good bounce back from a pitcher who lost 23 games in 1922. I’m not sure if a pitcher has ever led the league in losses one year, then led the league in wins the next.
Luque led the Reds in ERA (3.09) and strikeouts (904) in the 1920s and on three seperate occassions (1921, 1923, and 1925) he led the league in shutouts. He’s third on the All Time Reds list in innings pitched (2,668 2/3) and he’s second in losses with 152.
Pitcher – It’s not too often you trade for a pitcher who’s coming off of a 22 loss season and three consecutive losing seasons, but that deal paid off for the Reds in spades. Beginning in 1921, Epa Rixey went on to win 155 games in the 1920s, more then any other Reds pitcher during a golden age of Red pitching.
On three seperate occassion, Rixey won at least 20 games and in one other season he won 19. 1922 was his best season as he led the league in wins with 25 and innings pitched with 313 1/3. In every season he posted an ERA+ of least 109 and he never logged fewer then 200 innings.
Rixey is the second most winningest pitcher in Reds history with 179 and he’s second in innings pitcher (2,890 2/3) and games started 356).
Pitcher – Pete Donohue completed the Reds pitching triumvirate. While he was less durable, he pitched for the Reds from 1921 through 1929 and in three of those seasons, he won 20 games. 1925 was his best year and he finished with 21 wins and he led the league in innings pitched with 301. After leading the league in innings pitched in 1925 and 1926 (285 2/3), Donohue appeared to break down as he never had a winning since after nor did he log 200 innings.
The 1910s started off pretty poorly for Red’s fan (if you’re a fan now, you should be used to it). From 1910 through 1916, the Reds finished no better then fourth place and they only did that one time. On two occasions they finished dead last with 1914 being the worst of those. They lost 94 games, a team record, and won only 60. They wouldn’t lose that many again until 1930.
They were only fractionally better in the 1910s then they were in the 1900s (.479 winning percentage vs. .478), but the franchise made up for it because the Reds won their first World Series in 1919. They finished the season at 96-44 and beat the Chicago White Sox five games to three in the World Series. Of course this one could be given an asterix, because 1919 was the year of the Black Sox scandal.
One interesting story that came out of this decade happened in 1914 (courtesy of the Red Leg Journal, written by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder). Under an agreement with the Baltimore club that played in the International League, the Reds had the right to choose any two players off the roster of the club. The Reds sent a man with little scouting experience, and ended up getting outfielder George Twombly and shortstop Claude Derrick. Twombly batted .222 in 311 at bats over three season with the Reds. An odd Twobly stat is he tripled six times in his career, but never homered or doubled. Derrick came to the plate only six times for the Reds before being traded to the Cubs for first baseman Fritz Mollwitz, who hit a whopping .201 in two seasons with the Reds.
Now the punchline is obviously a player the Reds didn’t choose. This could have been bigger then the Reds keeping Christy Matthewson, because Babe Ruth was one of the players who the Reds could have picked up. That kind of makes the Eric Milton signing a little more pallatable.
The other odd transaction was the Reds trading Christy Matthewson….again. He managed the Reds from 1916 through 1918, and he was part of a trade that landed the Reds Buck Herzog and Red Killefer.
So who were the best and brightest of the teens??!! Let’s take a look.
Catcher – Ivey Wingo came over to the Reds in a trade for backup catcher Mike Gonzalez and was the starter there from 1915 through 1919. While never spectacular, Wingo never had a season with an OPS+ below 95 from 1916 through 1919. The Reds championship season was his best when he hit .273/.336/.371.
First Base – Dick (Doc) Hoblitzel manned first base for the Reds from 1900 through 1914. After a poor start in 1914, he was put on waivers and taken by the Red Sox where he had somewhat of a resurgance and where he ended up on three teams that won the World Series.
For the Reds, he led the team in the 1910s in homeruns (26) and RBIs (324). His best season was 1911, when he had an OPS+ of 115, led the league in at bats (622) and games played (158). Hoblitzel also finished second in the league in hits that year (180) while scoring 81 times and driving in 91.
Second Base – Heine Groh could have finished here, but because he spent most of his time at third base, the nod goes to Dick Egan more by default. Egan was the starting second baseman for the Reds from 1910 through 1912. While he was never a particularly good hitter (career .300 slugging percentage), he was fast on the bases. His best season was 1910, when he stole 41 bases and finished with an OPS+ of 82.
Third Base – Heine Groh came over to the Reds in a trade from the New York Giants in 1913. He was the starting second baseman his first two seasons, then manned the hot corner for the Reds from 1915 through 1919. Many consider Groh to be the best Reds third baseman ever.
1919 was probably his best season. He led the league in OPS (.823), and he was second in runs (79), and OPS+ (150). Groh was very consistent during his years with the Reds and never had an OPS+ below 120.
Shortstop – This was a tough one because the position resembled a revolving door. Buck Herzog gets it more out of longevity because he was the starter there for three years (1914 through 1916). He also managed the team while with the Reds.
1914 was Herzog’s best season with the Reds. He stole 46 bases (second in the league) and hit .281 for the Reds.
Left Field – Bob Bescher was the premiere base stealer for the Reds and he was the Reds starting leftfielder from 1910 through 1913. He led the league in stole bases in every year from 1910 through 1912, and he led the league in runs (120) in 1912. He led the Reds in the 1910s with 265 stolen bases.
Bescher’s best season was 1912. He stole 67 bases, scored 120 times and has an OPS+ of 115. He finished fifth in the MVP voting and he was fourth in walks with 83.
Centerfield – Hall of Famer Edd Roush was one of the premiere hitters for the Reds in the later part of the decade. He won batting titles in 1917 (.341) and 1919 (.321). His best season of the decade was probably 1917, but he had a few other good ones, so it’s a tough call. That year he had an OPS+ of 159 (second in the league) and he finished third in hits with 178. He was also an excellent bunter, and his 256 career sacrafice hits are 35th all time.
Roush is one of the guys who should show up in the next All Decade Team. He’s also the one good thing that came out of all of the Christy Matthewson deals. Roush was part of the deal that brought Mathewson back to the Reds in his final season.
Right Field – Tommy Griffith was the starting rightfielder for the Reds from 1915 through 1918. Unfortunately, he was traded shortly before the 1919 season began, so he missed out on the World Series. Griffith’s best season was his first with the Reds. In 1915, he led the league in games played (160), was third in hitting (.307) and was in the top 10 in most all of the other statistical categories.
Pitcher – George Suggs threw for the Reds from 1910 through 1913 and he led the Reds in wins (62) during the 1910s. While his best season was 1914 after he left Cincinnati, 1910 wasn’t too shabby as he won 20 games and had a 2.40 ERA (121 ERA+). He led the league in walks/nine innings allowed (1.62) and was fourth in the league in strikeout to walk ratio (1.90/1).
Pitcher – Pete Schneider threw for the Reds from 1914 through 1918, and he led the team in strikeouts during the decade with 480. Unfortunately he was cut after a rough 1918 season, and didn’t get a chance to help the Reds win their World Series. 1917 was Scheider’s best season. He went 20-19 with 138 strikeouts (fifth in the league) and he threw in 333 2/3 innings (third in the league).
Pitcher – Ironically, none of the three pitchers listed played on the 1919 team. Fred Toney is the final pitcher, and he led the Reds in ERA during the 1910s with an impressive 2.18 ERA. He pitched for the Reds from 1915 through 1918 before being sold to the New York Giants. His best season was a good one. In 1917, he went 24-16 with a 2.20 ERA. In 1918, he led the league in saves with three.
The 1900s was not a good decade for the Reds. They finished the decade 705-769, they had only four winning seasons, and they never finished better then third (1904) in the National League. Most of the seasons they were fourth or worse, and in 1901 they finished dead last. The 1901 team had the worst pitching staff of any team in the decade as they finished with a 4.17 ERA.
One thing to note regards a player that was part of the Reds franchise, but never played for them until his final season. Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson was traded to the New York Giants in 1900 for Amos Rusie, who pitched in all of three games for Reds before retiring. Mathewson finished his career with a 373-188 record, and notched a career 2.13 ERA in his fine career. Ironically he’d be traded back to the Reds in his final season (1916) and he started one whole game for the Reds (he won despite giving up eight runs) before retiring.
Who were the best of this rather mediocre decade for the Reds? Let’s take a look.
Catcher – Admiral Schlei was the Reds primary catcher between 1904 and 1908. His best season was 1906. He only had a .245 average, but he was eighth in the league in Home Runs (4) and he set career high marks in RBIs (54) and slugging (.354).
First Base – Hall of Famer Jake Beckley played first base for the Reds from 1900 through 1903. He hit over .300 and had better then a .400 slugging percentage in all four of those seasons. 1900 was his best season. He put together a .341/.389/.434 season, scored 98 runs, and drove in 94. Beckley is ninth all time in being hit by a pitch (183) and is fourth all time in triples (243).
Second Base – Another Hall of Famer (as a manager though), switch hitter Miller Huggins played second base for the Reds from 1904 through 1909. In three of those seasons, Huggins finished in the top ten in the NL in OBP, and he led the league in walks in both 1905 and 1907. 1905 was Huggins best season. He finished third in the league with 117 runs and he finished second in the league by reaching base 264 times. Huggins led the Reds with 150 stolen bases during the 1900s.
Third Base – Harry Steinfeldt manned the hot corner for the Reds from 1900 through 1905. In 1903 he led the league with 32 doubles and he was fifth in the league with a .481 slugging percentage. Steinfeldt was a very versatile player because he put in time at all four infield positions and each of the three outfield spots while with the Reds.
Shortstop – Tommy Corcorcan wasn’t spectacular at the plate for the Reds, but he played shortstop for them from 1900-1906. He did have some nice seasons, but most of them were before he came over to the Reds. His best season during the 1900s was probably 1905 when he played in 151 games and had a 72 OPS+ with 85 RBIs. He did finish the decade leading the Reds in RBIs with 388.
Left Field – This was probably the toughest spot to fill because it was somewhat of a revolving door. I’ll give the nod to Hall of Famer Joe Kelley. He played for the Reds from 1902 through 1906, and like Huggins, had most of his best seasons before the came to Cincinnati. 1903 was his best season with the Reds. He hit .316/.402/.418, scored 85 times, and hit three homers. Kelley also managed the team from 1902 through 1905.
Centerfield – Cy Seymour was probably the best player of the decade for the Reds. He led the team in batting average (.322) during the 1900s, and he also tied Sam Crawford for homeruns (26) during the decade. 1905 was a career year for Seymour as he just fell short of winning the triple crown. He led the league in hitting (.377), RBIs (121) and just about every other offensive category from doubles and triples to OPS and hits. Ironically it was teammate Fred Odwell who cost him the triple crown as his nine homers was one better then Seymour’s eight. But check out this league leader board. He’s at or near the top in everything.
Right Field – Hall of Famer Wahoo Sam Crawford played for the Reds from 1900 through 1902 and even though that covers only three seasons, he was one of the best players in the National League in 1901 and 1902. In 1901, Crawford hit a then unheard of 16 homers for the Reds, and despite playing only a small portion of the decade, he was tied with Cy Seymour with 26 homers during the 1900s. Crawford is the all time leader in triples with 309.
The Reds lost Crawford in 1903. Prior to the unification of the two leagues, Crawford had signed contracts with both the Reds and the Detroit Tigers. Because he signed the contract with Detroit first he was awarded to the Tigers. It’s hard to believe what kind of team the Reds would have had if they had kept Christy Mathewson and not lost Crawford to Detroit.
Pitcher – Noodles Hahn was the best pitcher the Reds had in the first part of the decade. Hahn threw for the Reds through 1905 and he had four great seasons for the Reds during that time. 1901 was his best season. He led the league in strikeouts (239), innings (375 1/3) and K/BB ratio (3.46/1). Hahn’s career prematurely ended due to what was called “lame arm.” He was released by the Reds in 1905, and while he attempted a come back, he never recovered.
Pitcher – Bob Ewing led the Reds in Wins (108), ERA (2.36) and strikouts (884) during the 1900s. He threw from 1902 through 1909 for the Reds and was very solid in all of them. 1905 was his best season as he won 20 games for the only time in his career. He also finished fourth in strikeouts (164) and ninth in ERA+ (131).
Our next installment of the Red’s All Decade teams involves a name change, a league change, and as Red’s fans are now beginning to get to used to, a lack of championships. In 1890, the Reds moved back to the National League (the American Association would be gone by 1891), shortened their name from the Red Stockings to just the Reds, and had winning records in eight of the ten seasons during the decade. Unfortunately they played in a league dominated by two teams (The Boston Beaneaters won five championships, and the Baltimore Orioles won three during the ten years), and never finished better then third place.
So let’s take a look at the best of the 1890s…..
Catcher – Heinie Peitz came over from the St. Louis Browns in 1896, and was the Reds starting catcher for the final four seasons of the decade. His best season was his first with the franchise, when he .299 and got on base at a .386 clip.
First Base – Hall of Famer Jake Beckley came over to the Reds early in the 1897 season from the New York Giants, and finished off the decade with three solid seasons. He hit .330, .294, and .333 in those seasons, and had no less then twelve triples in any of those seasons. His 243 career triples are good for fourth all time.
Second Base – Bid McPhee is the only Red so far to repeat as an All Decade player. He started at second base in all ten seasons for the Reds, and his best season was 1894, where he hit .304 and had a .420 OBP. He led the team in RBIs with 619 during the 1890s.
Third Base – Arlie Latham manned the hot corner for six seasons for the Reds. His 1894 and 1895 seasons were probably his best, when he hit .313 and .311. His 739 career stolen bases are good for eighth all time.
Shortstop – Germany Smith played six seasons for the Reds, and although he wasn’t the best hitter on the team (.243 career batting average), he did have some pop. In 1892, his eight homers put him at sixth in the league.
Leftfield – This spot was a revolving door, and in several seasons, the Reds didn’t have a consistent starter. I’m going to give Eddie Burke the nod. He played three seasons for the Reds, and in 1896, he hit .340 and scored 120 runs.
Centerfield – Bug Holliday was one of the most potent offensive forces for the team. He played every season during the decade with the exception of 1899. Bug was a career .311 hitter, and his best season was 1894, when he hit .372 and had thirteen homeruns. He led the Reds in hitting (.309) and homeruns (46) during the 1890s, and had two homerun crowns throughout his career.
Rightfield – Dusty Miller was the starting rightfielder from 1895-1899. In his first season with the Reds, he hit .335, and garnered 103 runs and 112 RBIs. His ten homers that season was good for fifth in the league.
Starting Pitcher – Frank Dwyer led all Reds’ pitchers in Wins during the 1890s with 132 over eight seasons. Probably his most interesting season was 1894, when he had an ERA of 5.07. What was interesting about it was the adjusted league ERA was actually 5.53, so he ended up with an ERA+ of 109. His career ERA+ was 115.
Starting Pitcher – Billy Rhines pitched for the Reds from 1890 through 1892, moved on to the Louisville Colonels for a season, and came back to the Reds for three more seasons. His best season by far was his rookie campaign in 1890. He went 28-17 in 46 starts, racked up 401 1/3 innings, and had an ERA of 1.95 (ERA+ of 183). He led the league in WHIP, ERA, ERA+, and was fifth in wins. He was the team leader in strikeouts (499) and ERA (3.28) during the 1890s.
Relief pitchers were still used sporadically, and most of them had ERAs closer to double figures compared to the numbers we’re used to seeing from relievers today.
I know the Reds go as far back as 1866, but Baseball-Reference only has numbers going back to when they joined the American Association (affectionately called the Beer and Whiskey League).
The Reds first eight seasons in the American Association were pretty successful. In their inaugural season, they won the championship with a 55-25 record (no playoffs back then). In total, they had winning records in seven of the eight seasons during the decade, but could only nail down the crown in 1882. Let’s take a quick look at the best of the decade:
C – Pop Snyder played five seasons for the Reds, starting in four of those. He had his best year in 1882 when he not only managed the team to a championship, but he had a .291 batting average and an OPS+ of 117. After the 1882 season he regressed, never hitting above .260, but he gets the nod not only for his good season, but for his longevity.
1b – John Reilly was probably the easiest on this list, despite the fact he didn’t play on the 1882 team. His best season was 1884, when he led the league in homeruns (11), slugging (.551) and OPS (.918), and he topped out with a 189 OPS+. He was the starting first baseman for the Reds from 1883 through the end of the decade.
2b – Bid McPhee was another easy choice, because he was the starting second basemen for all eight seasons. In fact, you’ll see his name again because he followed the Reds into the National League and played his entire eighteen year career with them. 1886 was probably his best year, when he led the league in homers (8) and was second in runs scored with 139.
3b – Another eight year starter, Hick Carpenter started out with a bang with the Reds in 1882. He led the league in hits (120), RBIs (67) and was second in hitting with a .342 average. He also posted an 155 OPS+, but he regressed considerably, dropping to 121 the next year, and then never getting above 101 for the rest of the decade. But that one year in 1882 probably made the Worchester Ruby Legs regret getting rid of him.
SS – Frank Fennelly was the Reds’ starting shortstop from 1885 through 1888. Those first three years he posted OPS+ of 142, 127, and 112, beforing struggling in 1888 and being moved to the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1885 he led the league in RBIs with 89.
LF – Charley Jones played for the Reds from 1883 through 1887, and started two years in leftfield, and two years in center. Since there were no good leftfielders other then him, he gets the nod here despite playing as much time in centerfield. In his five years with the Reds, he never dipped below a 132 OPS+, and he led the league in OBP in 1884 (.376).
CF – Another unusual one, Pop Corkhill spent his first four seasons in rightfield before moving to center field in 1887. But because nobody else played more then a season in center other then Charley Jones, and there is a decent candidate in rightfield, I figured I’d drop Pop here. Corkhill was never a great hitter, with his best season being 1887 when he hit .311, but he gave the team a ton of flexibility because he seconded as a closer. In 1884, he earned the only save the Reds would see through 1888.
RF – Hugh Nicol wasn’t known for his bat. His career SLG% was .282. But he did draw a walk or two, and was best known for his speed. In 1887, he led the league with 138 stolen bases in only 135 games.
SP – Will White was probably the single biggest reason the Reds won the American Association pennant in 1882. He led the league in Wins (40), IP (480), Complete Games (52, all that he pitched), and shutouts (8). His miniscule ERA of 1.54 was good for fourth in the league. Not to be outdone, he won 43 games and threw 577 innings in 1883. It wasn’t until 1884 when the team played more then a 100 games that the semblance of a rotation was put in place. Even then he started (and finished) 64 games, going 43-22 with a 2.09 ERA.
SP – Tony Mullane came on the Cincinnati scene in 1886 and won 33, 31, and 26 games in his first three seasons with the team.
So that’s the best of the 1880s. It looks like Brian is going to finish up his analysis of Dan Petry here soon, so I’ll be back soon with a look at Don Gullett.