The Greatest Reds: #46 - #43

46. Joe Nuxhall

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1944, 1952-60, 1962-66 SP, RP 28 85 86
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1955 Never
2% 0% 98%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
All Star – 1955, 1956 Shutouts – 1955

-3rd in career strikeouts
-3rd in single season K/BB ratio (1963)
-4th in career games pitched
-9th in career wins
-10th in career shutouts

You know about the MLB debut at 15 years of age, and you experienced the radio broadcasts, but often glossed over with Nuxhall is a long and effective career, fashioning a 130-109 record over 15 seasons as a Red. While rarely an ace (only topping 200 IP thrice), Nuxhall was flexible and consistent—he routinely split time between the bullpen and the rotation, and was generally producing numbers consistent with his career (as a Red) 104 ERA+. Additionally, his bat was potent (for a pitcher), hitting 15 career dingers. Also worth remembering with Nuxhall’s numbers is the context of the era: although he only struck out 5.3 batters per 9 innings, he finished five times in the NL K/9 top ten. In his best season, Nuxhall pitched 257 innings over 50 games (33 starts), with a 17-12 record and a 3.47 ERA (120 ERA+). Nuxhall spent 1961 with the KC Athletics, and part of 1962 with the Los Angeles Angels, before returning to the Reds for the remainder of his career.

45. Leo Cardenas

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1960-1968 SS 45 57 46
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1965 Never
53% 47% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
Gold Glove – 1965
All Star – 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968
Intentional Walks – 1965, 1966

-25th in career doubles
-26th in career hits
-36th in career home runs
-39th in career RBI
-39th in career walks

A sure-handed shortstop, who was maddeningly inconsistent with the bat, Cardenas broke through into the majors as a 21 year old midway through the 1960 season. During the following season’s pennant run, Cardenas was a part-time player who hit for a 119 OPS+. Thinking they had a potential superstar on their hands, the Reds made full-time room for Cardenas by moving Eddie Kasko to 3rd base. For their efforts, Cardenas rewarded the Reds with a solid season, followed by a complete bust of a year in 1963, with a year-over-year batting average drop of almost 60 points. Chico was known to hit for power (20 home runs in 1966), but you couldn’t really depend on it (2 home runs in 1967). During his peak 1965 season, Cardenas hit 287/355/431 (115 OPS+), while picking up a Gold Glove award. After disappointing seasons in 1967/68, Cardenas was traded to the Twins for Jim Merritt, who went on to post a 20-win season for the Reds in 1970.

44. Ted Breitenstein

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1897-1900 SP 75 19 41
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1897 1897
6% 0% 94%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
N/A N/A

-4th in career home runs per inning
-17th in career W-L percentage
-29th in career ERA+
-34th in career wins
-38th in career innings pitched

Over baseball’s long history, no subset of players has been able to statistically dominate a season like the 19th century pitchers, due to the shorter rotations of the time and the consequential high inning totals. During most of the 1890’s Ted Breitenstein was the workhorse for the St. Louis Browns, twice breaking the 400 IP barrier, and once losing 30 games. The Browns sold him to Cincinnati after the 1896 season, and Breitenstein responded with a great season: 23-12, 3.62 ERA (126 ERA+), 320.1 IP. The following season was just a small notch worse: 20-14, 3.42 ERA (112 ERA+), 315.2 IP—including a no-hitter. As was the case with many pitchers in that day, the arm could only take so much: a couple more solid seasons at around 200 innings each, and then 15 more innings with St. Louis again in 1901, and he was done.

43. Tony Mullane

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1890-1893 SP 73 17 40
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1890 Never
9% 2% 89%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
N/A Hits Per Inning – 1892

-1st in career complete games
-2nd in career wins
-11th in career strikeouts
-24th in career hits per inning
-27th in career ERA

Coincidentally, Mullane’s various rankings match very closely with the preceding player (Breitenstein). Two major differences exist, however. First, Mullane’s career with the Red Stockings began in 1886, and if these rankings incorporated stats accumulated in the American Association, Mullane might be a top-10 player, winning over 100 games and throwing over 1500 innings in that pre-NL era. Secondly, Mullane was an all-around player, who frequently played in the field when he wasn’t pitching. In 1890, Mullane started 21 games on the mound, and pitched in four other games, totaling a 12-10 record, with a 2.24 ERA (161 ERA+) in 209 innings. Additionally, Mullane played in 56 other games, playing every position except second base and catcher. As a hitter that year, Mullane hit 276/375/364 (114 OPS+) in 331 plate appearances. The following season, Mullane’s bat seemed to disintegrate, but he compensated by throwing 426.1 innings. Another solid season and a half for the ambidextrous thrower awaited before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Piggy Ward.

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