Dock Ellis - Wikimedia.org
On this day in Reds history, the worst hitter of all-time died, a strikeout prone slugger was born, and a longtime Cincinnati rival passed away.
On this day in 1934, the Reds bought Samuel Byrd from the New York Yankees. Byrd was a backup outfielder that was known as "Babe Ruth's Legs" due to the fact that he would frequently pinch-run for the Bambino.
On this day in 1943, former Red Bill Bergen died in Worcester, MA at age 65. A catcher, Bergen played for the Reds from 1901 through 1903. In that time, he slashed .191/.218/.238 (27 wRC+). No, those numbers are not typos. Bergen was even worse as a hitter during his eight (!!) years in Brooklyn from 1904 through 1911. While with the Superbas (as the Dodgers were then known), Bergen posted a triple slash of .162/.184/.187 (19 wRC+) in 2342 plate appearances. In that same timeframe, Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown hit .190/.221/.234 (40 wRC+) in 874 plate appearances.
Bergen, without much doubt, is the worst hitting position player to ever accumulate significant playing time. His final season came in 1911, when he hit .132/.183/.154 for a wRC+ of zero (0). Bergen's defensive numbers are better than average, but far from overwhelming. The only thing I can figure is that his defense was otherworldly, the metrics cannot pick up that fact, and the baseball men of his time knew what they were doing. At least I hope that is true, because the idea that the best talent evaluators of the era would continue to play his bat for any other reason is embarrassing.
On this day in 1975, former Red Russell "the Muscle" Branyan was born in Warner Robins, GA. The Indians traded Branyan to the Reds in June of 2002 for leftfielder/first baseman Ben Broussard. During his one and a half seasons in Cincinnati, "the Muscle" slashed .232/.337/.481 (110 wRC+) in 460 plate appearances.
In his 14 (!) year big league career, Branyan pushed the limit of how productive a player with an extremely high strikeout rate can be. "The Muscle" struck out more often per plate appearance than Adam Dunn, Bo Jackson, Jack Cust, Drew Stubbs, Wily Mo Pena, Rob Deer, and Mark Reynolds (by a hair). His K% (K/PA) of 32.9% is the 15th highest all-time among players with more than 1000 plate appearances. Of the 14 players ahead of Branyan, nine of them were pitchers. Two of the players (Jake Stahl and Tim Jordan) should not be included, because their K% is based on a handful of plate appearances at the end of their careers. (Strikeouts for hitters were not consistently recorded in the early years of baseball.)
The other three are Melvin Nieves, Dave Nicholson, and Kelly Shoppach. Nieves was a part-time outfielder for the Padres, Tigers, and Reds in the 1990s. In 1392 career plate appearances, Nieves slashed .231/.314/.438 (91 wRC+) and posted a negative fWAR. Like Nieves, Nicholson was a part-time outfielder that made a relatively low number of plate appearances (1661). Playing for the Orioles, White Sox, Astros, and Braves in the 1960s, Nicholson slashed .212/.318/.381 (100 wRC+). He was actually more or less an average player by fWAR. Shoppach, of course, is still active though currently a free agent. He has a career line of .226/.314/.418 (97 wRC+) in 1728 plate appearances. As you probably know, that is pretty good production for a backup catcher. Shoppach actually comes out as a bit above-average by fWAR.
For his career, Branyan posted a line of .232/.329/.485 (111 wRC+) in 3398 plate appearances. Combined with his slightly sub-par defense, Branyan comes out as about average or just a sliver above by fWAR. The impressive feat by Branyan is that he managed to hang around and stay productive for so many plate appearances despite a dreadful strikeout rate. Of the top 30, Deer and Reynolds are the only other two to come to the plate 3000 times (ignoring Stahl). Reynolds (32.6%) and Shoppach are both still active and could move up or down the list, but Branyan is pretty well entrenched near the top of the list even if his exact placement changes. In much the same way that Deer pushed the limits of productivity with a low batting average (.220 career for Deer), Branyan pushed the limits of performance with a prohibitively high strikeout rate.
On this day in 1985, the Reds traded catcher Dann Bilardello, righty reliever Andy McGaffigan, right-hander John Stuper, and right-hander Jay Tibbs to the Montreal Expos for catcher Sal Butera and righty Bill Gullickson.
On this day in 2001, the Colorado Rockies traded infielder Pokey Reese to the Boston Red Sox for catcher Scott Hatteberg. The Rockies had just acquired Reese on the day before from Cincinnati.
On this day in 2008, former Major League pitcher Dock Ellis died in Los Angeles at the age of 63. Ellis is famous for pitching a no-hitter on LSD for the Pirates in 1970. Although he never pitched for Cincinnati, Ellis had a couple of notable run-ins with the Reds. On May fifth, 1972, Ellis was involved in an altercation with a security guard at Riverfront Stadium. The security guard, David Hatter, forbade Ellis from entering the ballpark due to apparent intoxication and a lack of identification. Both parties later claimed that other was violent. Hatter said that the pitcher attempted to punch him while Ellis said that the guard maced him. Charges were later dropped against Ellis. The Reds later issued Ellis an apology and dismissed Hatter.
In 1974, Ellis felt that the Pirates were losing their competitive edge. He was afraid that Pittsburgh was no longer aggressive enough to win against good teams. In order to fire up his teammates, Ellis decided to take action against the Reds on the first of May. Before the game, Ellis declared, "We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I'm going to hit these m*****f******." He proceeded to drill Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen in quick succession to start the game. Tony Perez proved too shifty and was able to avoid four pitches to draw a walk. Ellis then threw twice at Johnny Bench's head before Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh yanked the pitcher from the game. The Reds won the game, 5-3, but the Pirates went on to win the NL East, by a game and a half over St. Louis.
On this day in 2009, the Reds extended third baseman Scott Rolen's contract through the 2012 season. Rolen's deal was set to expire after the 2010 season, but the two parties agreed to restructure his 2010 salary in exchange for two more seasons in Cincinnati.
Chazerize and kcgard2 each earned a point yesterday.
1) How many walks did Dock Ellis issue in his LSD no-hitter?
2) Bill Bergen has the worst two seasons by wRC+ among Reds position players (min. 300 PAs) with 23 in both 1901 and 1902. Which Reds player has the third worst season by wRC+ (min. 300 PAs)?
3) Bill Bergen also has the worst career wRC+ among Reds position players, but had only 886 plate appearances for Cincinnati. I was going to ask who the second worst is, but numbers two and three are impossible (Jo-Jo Morrissey and Bill Plummer). Neither guy has 1000 PAs though, so which Reds position player has the lowest wRC+ with the club (min. 1000 PAs)?