The Anti-Greats: Day 5


Name: Charlie Puleo

Position: SP

Played for the Reds: 1983-1984

Why he's here: By the end of 1982, Tom Seaver was no longer an elite pitcher, despite being just one season removed from finishing 2nd in the Cy Young award voting. As a result, the Reds sent Seaver back to the Mets, and their return included Lloyd McClendon, who almost made this list, and Charlie Puleo, who did make it. Puleo makes the list with 165.2 career innings with the Reds, a total which included full-time duty in 1983, and sparse action in '84. The bubble-gum card numbers told a pretty good story (7-14 total with the Reds, 5.00 ERA, 76 ERA+), as did the auxiliary stats. In fact, the story they told was that Puleo didn't strike many guys out (4.2 K/9), and he had command issues (5.8 BB/9), and he allowed a decent amount of hits (9.3 H/9), and a high enough percentage of those hits never landed (1.1 HR/9). Puleo was banished to the minors after just 22 innings in 1984, and never came back, ultimately being sold to Atlanta during the 1985 season. Puleo pitched a few years for the Braves, and compiled a cumulative ERA+ that was north of 100.

Role on the team: #5 Starting pitcher

Name: Chico Ruiz

Position: 2B, 3B

Played for the Reds: 1964-1969

Why he's here: Of all the players on this fictional squad, I'm not sure any have as many interesting biographical details as Ruiz. And most of them are completely unexpected, given the larger context. Consider: Ruiz only stole 34 bases over his 8-year career, and in his rookie season swiped his career high of 11. And with the middling totals came a relatively low success rate, getting caught roughly one out of every three tries. Still, Ruiz owns one of the more famous stolen bases in baseball history, stealing home against the Phillies in 1964 in a game that kick started a ten game losing streak for the Phormerly-league-leading Phillies. Similarly, Ruiz was not known for his bat, compiling a hitting line of .239/.276/.296 (59 OPS+) over 1,111 plate appearances with the Reds. Still, Ruiz was the only player to ever pinch-hit for Johnny Bench, with Ruiz being tabbed to hit in the 9th inning of a game in Bench's rookie season in 1967. After the 1969 campaign, the Reds traded Ruiz and Alex Johnson to the Angels for Pedro Borbon and Jim McGlothlin. The Reds probably tally out as winners in the deal, due to Borbon's decade-long performance with the Reds. Sadly, Ruiz died in an auto accident two years later in San Diego.

Role on the team: Starting third baseman

Name: Virgil Stallcup

Position: SS

Played for the Reds: 1947-1952

Why he's here: It's rare to see the position players on this team place on the offensive leaderboards during their Cincinnati playing days. Stallcup, however, was the full-time starting shortstop for the Reds in 1948 and '49, and was a most-of-the-time starting shortstop in '50 and '51. That kind of playing time allowed Stallcup to rack up some numbers, especially in 1948. That year, Virgil not ranked 9th in the NL in games played, but also 7th in doubles (30) and 8th in sacrifice hits (9). That's the kind of sentence that was written during the Top 100 series, so what's the deal here? Well, if you must know, the deal is that Stallcup ranked 3rd in the NL in outs made in 1948, and followed that by ranking 9th the following year-a year without the benefit of the glory of top ten finishes in doubles or sacrifice hits. With a cumulative .262 OBP with the Reds, Stallcup did indeed make a lot of outs. While there was some power displayed, the total OPS while with the Reds fell just under 600, and calculated out to be a 59 OPS+. These being the days of good-glove, no-hit shortstops, Stallcup did his part in the field as a generally above average defender, but overall was likely the worst hitting full time shortstop in the NL during his time as the starter. Stallcup was traded to the Cardinals in May, 1952 in a deal that had no discernable impact on either team.

Role on the team: Backup shortstop

Name: George Twombly

Position: LF, CF

Played for the Reds: 1914-1916

Why he's here: "Silent George" Twombly, came to the plate 348 times for the Reds, and in that span hit six triples. While that's neither unusual nor negative in and of itself, what is unusual is that those six triples were the only extra base hits achieved as a Redleg. To be sure, Twombly didn't get too many hits to begin with (cumulative .222 batting average with Cincinnati), but it's the lack of power that cements his place in this team's starting lineup. From time to time, you will see a player with a slugging percentage that is lower than his on-base percentage. It's not too often you will see one where the slugging percentage is as far below under the OBP in as many at-bats as Twombly (.222/.284/.260 with the Reds for a 61 OPS+). Twombly was a starter for just his rookie season of 1914, which was a truly dreadful season for the Reds. They weren't very good in 1913 either, but they were quite a bit worse in '14. A big reason was the offense which went from bad in 1913 (aggregate team OPS+ of 92) to flat out dreadful in 1914 (team OPS+ of 78). The Reds lost quite a few players from one season to the next, but outside of Joe Tinker, I don't think any of their losses were directly to the newly formed Federal League. Still, one wonders if the increased competition (and correlating increased salaries) caused the Reds to pull back on their commitment to fielding a strong team. Whatever the reason, players like Twombly ended up playing extensively, literally out of their league.

Role on the team: Starting left-fielder

Name: Bob Usher

Position: CF

Played for the Reds: 1946-1947, 1950-1951

Why he's here: Just 21 when he made his major league debut in 1946, Bob Usher was very clearly over his head. Used as the Reds' 4th outfielder, the youngster showed his merit with the glove, but couldn't hit at an adequate level (.204/.271/.270 for a 56 OPS+). Usher made just nine appearances with the Reds in 1947, otherwise spending that year and the next two in the minors. After proving to team management that he had matured into a big league hitter, Usher was a semi-starter, playing primarily as the right-handed end of a center-field platoon. The results were better, as Usher hit with more authority (.259/.316/.368 for a 79 OPS+), but I would imagine the team was still hoping for better, especially given the platoon advantage they were trying to cultivate. In 1951, Usher was placed in the same role, and the whole thing just fell apart: .208/.257/.310, 51 OPS+. No longer considered young enough to be a prospect, the Reds gave up on Usher, and traded him to the Cubs. Interestingly, one of the players they received in return (Smoky Burgess) was traded away two months later without playing a game for the Reds until they traded for him again three years later. Burgess ended up having a very solid 4-year stint with the Redlegs.

Role on the team: Starting center-fielder

With that, the team is complete. Were I more ambitious, I would translate each player's stats into a context-neutral format, and enter them into a computer simulation to quantify just how bad this theoretical team is. Maybe some other day. For now, the thought exercise is to stack this construction against the all-time best group, and try to imagine how many games out of 100 the lesser team would win against the greater. Personally, I would think any more than 10 wins would be a shocker.

Starting Lineup Starting Lineup

1. Chico Ruiz, 3B 1. Heinie Groh, 3B

2. Charlie Comiskey, 1B 2. Joe Morgan, 2B

3. Adam Comorosky, RF 3. Edd Roush, CF

4. Bob Usher, CF 4. Frank Robinson, RF

5. Jo-Jo Morrissey, 2B 5. Johnny Bench, C

6. George Twombly, LF 6. Pete Rose, LF

7. Leo Durocher, SS 7. Barry Larkin, SS

8. Bob Bergen, C 8. Tony Perez, 1B

9. Kevin Jarvis, P 9. Bucky Walters, P

Bench Bench

Rocky Bridges Dave Concepcion

Fritz Mollwitz George Foster

Morgan Murphy Ted Kluszewski

Eric Owens Ernie Lombardi

Corey Patterson Bid McPhee

Virgil Stallcup Vada Pinson

Rotation Rotation

Kevin Jarvis Bucky Walters

Ryan Dempster Dolf Luque

Eric Milton Eppa Rixey

Ownie Carroll Frank Dwyer

Charlie Puleo Noodles Hahn

Bullpen Bullpen

Jack Fisher Clay Carroll

Joey Hamilton Danny Graves

Gary Majewski Pedro Borbon

Rich Gale Tom Hume

Kent Peterson Rob Dibble

Earl Moseley John Franco

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