The Greatest Reds: #3

3. Joe Morgan

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1972-1979 2B 7 1 1
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1975 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976
83% 17% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
Inducted to Hall of Fame – 1990
Most Valuable Player – 1975, 1976
TSN Player of Year – 1975, 1976
All Star MVP – 1972
Gold Glove – 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977
All Star – 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979
On Base Percentage – 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976
Runs Scored – 1972
Walks – 1972, 1975
OPS+ – 1975, 1976
OPS – 1975, 1976
Slugging Percentage – 1976
Sacrifice Flies – 1976

-2nd in career stolen bases
-3rd in career OPS+
-5th in career walks
-10th in career runs scored
-13th in career home runs

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Of the 10 best individual seasons by a Reds player since the advent of the live-ball era, five of them belong to Joe Morgan (the ’72-’76 years). Since the "prime" rank is used to describe how good a player was over his best five consecutive seasons, a #1 ranking for Morgan in that category still probably understates his greatness over that stretch (Morgan’s prime score is 22% higher than the #2 guy). Upon being traded to the Reds after the 1971 season, Morgan had already turned 28 years of age, but was probably seen as an underwhelming acquisition: he had only barely topped a .400 slugging percentage in three distinct seasons, had relatively low batting averages, and had only made two all-star teams. This was worth giving up Lee May? Credit the Reds for taking the damaging effects of the Astrodome into account, however, as Morgan had a very respectable 121 OPS+ to that point of his career. Still, I have a hard time believing that the Reds’ brass had any idea just how good a player they were getting.

Words can’t possibly describe this magnificent 5-year stretch, so let’s just lay out the numbers. Remember that this is coming from a 5’7", slick-fielding 2nd baseman… 1972: 292/417/435 (149 OPS+), 122 runs, 73 RBI, 58 SB, 115 BB, 44 K. 1973: 290/406/493 (154 OPS+), 116 runs, 82 RBI, 67 SB, 111 BB, 61 K. 1974: 293/427/494 (159 OPS+), 107 runs, 67 RBI, 58 SB, 120 BB, 69 K. 1975: 327/466/508 (169 OPS+), 107 runs, 94 RBI, 67 SB, 132 BB, 52 K. 1976: 320/444/576 (187 OPS+), 113 runs, 111 RBI, 60 SB, 114 BB, 41 K. Strangely, he was never that good a postseason performer (lifetime postseason OPS of 671), but that’s pretty much the only transgression., although if he had hit at all in the ’72 World Series, the Reds might have won (Morgan had only one hit in the four losses to the A’s, all of which were one-run losses).

Morgan had a really good 1977 season, albeit not quite at the level of the previous five years, then fell down to the status of merely good, with OPS+’s of 105 and 107 in 1978 and ’79, respectively, and Morgan was granted free agency after the 1979 season—leaving the Reds with Junior Kennedy and Ron Oester to man his vacated position as he signed with the Astros. In terms of the brightest star ever to grace Cincy’s ballfields, Morgan is a strong #1 with a cushion—and we’re unlikely to see anything like it in Redsland again. His final numbers for his Reds tenure: just under 5000 plate appearances, over 400 stolen bases, 147 OPS+, 5 Gold Glove awards.

The Top 15 Second Basemen in Reds history

1          Joe Morgan
2          Bid McPhee
3          Lonny Frey
4          Miller Huggins
5          Johnny Temple
6          Ron Oester
7          Hughie Critz
8          Brandon Phillips*
9          Bret Boone
10        Dick Egan
11        Sam Bohne
12        Tommy Helms
13        Pokey Reese
14        Morrie Rath
15        Tony Cuccinello
*active

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