The Greatest Reds: #100 - #96

As humans, and perhaps especially as American humans, we have an innate desire to make lists-to definitively declare "this movie quote is without question the 38th greatest movie quote of all time."  When it comes to baseball, this list-making fondness shifts into overdrive; the numbers and history of the sport practically demand it.  Whereas the Cincinnati Reds are still considered a baseball team, and whereas Red Reporter is a certified Internet website, here then is a list of the greatest 100 Reds of all time.  Q.E.D.

Before the list kicks off, a brief introduction and explanation: Players are generally ranked using Bill James' Win Shares statistic, although not strictly as a cumulative career Win Shares sorting.  Here are some of the parameters used in constructing the top 100:

-All seasons from 1890 forward have been considered.  1890 was the year the Red Stockings joined the National League.

-Player contributions with teams other than Cincinnati have not been considered (sorry, Mr. Mathewson).

-Players have been ranked on career value with the Reds, peak value with the Reds (defined as the sum of the top three seasons as a Red), and prime value with the Reds (defined as the greatest total of five consecutive seasons).  All of these factors were then considered in creating a master list.

-Where deemed appropriate, postseason contributions have been included in the data.  In no situations were players docked for negative postseason performances.

-Partial extrapolation has been applied to seasons in which the Reds played fewer than 162 games.

-To facilitate even more lists, each player season has been assigned a particular defensive position, and the prevailing defensive position over the player's career is then assigned as that player's position for the purposes of creating top-15 lists at each position.  95%+ of the time, there's nothing "controversial" about the given positions (e.g. Johnny Bench is listed at catcher), but there's a couple that maybe look a little strange.  These positional lists will be rolled out as the top player at each position is introduced.

It's probably also appropriate to include a brief note on Win Shares.  If you don't know anything about it, it's an elaborate accounting system in which every single win by a team is allocated to the players on that team.  While it works reasonably well (i.e. compares favorably to other accepted metrics), it's not without flaws: the baseline (or replacement value) is too low, it's missing contextual information (two players with 100 Win Shares may have accumulated that value over vastly different amounts of playing time), and the defensive value is based on primitive fielding stats-especially as compared to the newer hyper-specific data.  There are other, more technical, critiques as well.  So, why Win Shares in this setting?  Three reasons: 1) the methodology is open-source, and able to be replicated with easily accessible data-important for what is potentially an ongoing project; 2) the defensive metrics are consistent across eras-important when trying to compare across time; and 3) I simply liked the concept of the low replacement value when coming up with a team-based list-the thought being that a player should have a minimum threshold of playing time with the Reds before being considered one of the "elite".  Generally speaking, 4-5 seasons are necessary for inclusion in the top 100 here.  Given that hurdle, combined with the peak value bonuses, my hope is that the list is a good one.

So, enjoy.  Being a Redleg fanatic, you've already come to grips with your own insanity.  Here, then, is an opportunity to learn about a player you've never heard of before, or argue about why the 78th best Red should really be ranked 81st, or just share some memories of the guys who have driven you to madness (and occasional joy) over the years.

Counting backwards, radio DJ style, with the first five after the jump...

100. Fred Toney

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1915-1918 SP 114 66 96
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1915 Never
0% 0% 100%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
N/A HR/IP Ratio - 1915

- 2nd in career ERA
- 2nd in career WHIP
- 2nd in single-season shutouts (1917)
- 4th in single-season ERA (1915)
- 6th in career hits per inning

Toney was acquired by the Reds more or less or free: he was nabbed off waivers after being mostly a AA-level pitcher (he had been a non-descript reliever for the Cubs for a few years, totalling a 4-5 record with a 4.02 ERA in 130 IP over 3 seasons). The Reds picked him up for the 1915 season…and he was instantly one of the best pitchers in the league, putting up a 17-6 record with a 1.58 ERA (181 ERA+) in a hybrid starter/reliever role. After 2.5 more seasons, which were slightly above average in quality (including the famous "double no-hitter" against the Cubs), the Reds sold him to the Giants, where he had one more excellent season, and a couple more average ones. 

99. Billy Myers

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1935-1940 SS 95 113 81
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1939 Never
62% 38% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
N/A N/A

- 30th in career sacrifice hits

For the first five seasons of his career, Myers was a solid—if unspectacular—player: an average hitter, playing good defense at shortstop.  In fact, each season was incrementally better than the last, peaking in 1939, where he dramatically increased his walk total and posted an OPS+ over 100 for the only time in his career.  In that season’s World Series, he played very well (929 OPS), despite being swept by the Yankees.  In 1940, at age 29, Myers very suddenly fell off the cliff.  His OPS+ of 65 and fading defense led to vastly reduced playing time.  He did, however, find himself in the starting lineup in game 7 of the World Series against the Tigers, in which Myers hit the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 7th inning, ultimately clinching the Reds’ 2nd World Championship.

98. Brandon Phillips

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
2006-2009 2B 104 79 81
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 2009 Never
67% 33% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
Gold Glove - 2008 N/A

-21st in career sacrifice flies
-27th in career slugging percentage
-30th in career home runs
-41st in career stolen bases
-48th in career OPS

Phillips was a much heralded prospect with the Expos, turned into a promising future star for the Indians when he was traded along with Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore for Bartolo Colon.  His faded status was evident when the Reds were able to pry him away from the Indians four years later for the infamous player to be named later (Jeff Stevens).  Inserted into the starting lineup at 2nd base, and left alone, Phillips has proved himself an above average second sacker—his bat plays at around league average (97 OPS+ in his time with the Reds) and he has a solid glove that at times borders on the spectacular.  Phillips adds both power and speed threats to the lineup, totalling at least 20 home runs and 20 steals in each year from 2007 through 2009.

97. Danny Graves

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1997-2005 RP, SP 96 99 81
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 2000 Never
1% 0% 99%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award - 2002
All Star - 2000, 2004
N/A

-1st in career saves
-3rd in single-season saves (2004)
-5th in career games pitched
-17th in single-season games pitched (1999)
-34th in career ERA+

Graves was picked up in a six-player trade in 1997 with the Indians, in which he was the only of the six to amount to any significant value from that point forward.  The next season, the Reds discovered they had a rubber armed ground-ball specialist who managed to succeed without great stuff or control.  His best year (2000) saw a stat line of 10-5, 30 saves, 2.56 ERA (185 ERA+) in 91.1 IP, but only 53 K to go along with the 42 BB.  Graves continued as a solid closer until 2003 and a disastrous attempt to transform into a starting pitcher (4-15, 5.33 ERA).  By 2005, his arm was toast, and Graves was released.

96. Heinie Peitz

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1896-1904 C,2B 69 165 114
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1902 Never
60% 40% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
N/A N/A

-46th in career games played
-47th in career batting average
-47th in career triples
-47th in career singles
-50th in career walks

The Reds received Peitz from the Browns, principally traded for Ed McFarland, who turned out to be a decent catcher in his own right.  Peitz was a utility player of sorts (never appeared in more than 112 games in any season, and played every position except CF over the course of his career), but at most positions exhibited the range of…a catcher, albeit a quicker-than-average one.  Peitz’s best year came in the only season where catcher was not his principle position, posting career highs in batting average (.315), doubles (22), and runs (54) en route to a 130 OPS+.  He never had another good season, and was traded to Pirates prior to the 1905 season.

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