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The Greatest Reds: #50 - #47

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50. Ewell Blackwell

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1942, 1946-52 SP, RP 60 30 49
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1947 1947, 1950, 1951
2% 0% 98%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
All Star – 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 Shutouts – 1946
Strikeout/Walk Ratio – 1946, 1947
Wins – 1947
Strikeouts – 1947
Strikeouts Per Inning – 1947, 1950
Complete Games – 1947
Hits Per Inning – 1950

-13th in career hits per inning
-16th in career ERA+
-16th in career shutouts
-17th in career strikeouts
-27th in career wins

Sometimes, the quantitative data doesn’t match up with the qualitative: Blackwell was named to the All-Star team six consecutive seasons with the Reds, and was once referred to by Ralph Kiner as the best RH pitcher who ever lived. However, during that six-year stretch were a couple of pretty bad years (1948-1949: combined 12-14, 4.43 ERA, 90 ERA+, split as a starter and reliever). His good years were spectacular: In 1947, The Whip went 22-8, with a 2.47 ERA (166 ERA+), and 193 K in 273 innings. 1950 was a runner-up not to be ashamed of: 17-15, 2.97 ERA (142 ERA+), and 188 K in 261 innings. In 1952, at age 29, Blackwell basically fell apart and was traded away, but only managed three additional victories before the end of his career.

49. Lee May

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1965-1971 1B 65 38 35
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1969 Never
89% 11% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
All Star – 1969, 1971 N/A

-9th in career slugging percentage
-15th in career home runs
-21st in career OPS+
-31st in career RBI
-38th in career doubles

We read about the trade with the benefit of hindsight and see it as the catalyst for the Big Red Machine dynasty (after the 1971 season, the Reds traded Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart for Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingam, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke, and Joe Morgan), but one imagines that the trade at the time was less than popular: Lee May was a 28 year old slugger and the best hitter on the team—in fact he had the 6th best OPS+ in the NL in 1971, while Helms was the reigning Gold Glove 2nd baseman. On the flip side, Joe Morgan had not yet turned into Super Joe. Nonetheless, the trade was made…and the rest was history. For May’s part, his career was nowhere near history: he was a productive hitter with the Astros and Orioles through the remainder of the 70’s. As for his time with the Reds, he had two offensive calling cards: a tremendous power hitter, finishing in the NL top 10 in HR in 1969, 1970, and 1971; and a severe shortcoming when it came to taking a walk, compiling just 178 walks in over 3000 plate appearances with the Reds. His composite batting line with Cincinnati was 274/321/490 (123 OPS+).

48. Ken Griffey, Jr

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
2000-2008 CF, RF 39 57 70
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 2000 2000
84% 16% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
All Star – 2000, 2004, 2007 N/A

-4th in career slugging percentage
-7th in career home runs
-15th in career walks
-23rd in career RBI
-29th in career runs scored

Junior arrived in Cincinnati to much fanfare in February, 2000—a still relatively young superstar being added to a team that had won 96 games the year before. At the time, Griffey was famously predicted to break Hank Aaron’s career home run mark in a Reds uniform. Instead, Griffey was betrayed time and again by his ever-brittle legs: from 2001 through 2006, Junior never appeared in more than 128 games, and three of those seasons, he didn’t even play in as many as 85 games. So, having taken 9 years to effectively play six full seasons, Griffey is paradoxically a top-50 Red: his tenure can be only be seen as a disappointment, but it was still marked with periodic brilliance, as seen in his 40-HR, 133 OPS+ season of 2000, as well as his part-time outputs in 2003 and 2005, where he put up OPS+ marks of 145 and 144, respectively. Still, as good as those final two OPS+ marks were, they were still lower than Griffey’s average OPS+ in Seattle. In mid-2008, Griffey was traded to the White Sox, which ultimately allowed him to experience post-season play, something that had evaded him in Cincinnati.

47. Mario Soto

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
1977-1988 SP, RP 49 50 46
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 1983 1982, 1983, 1984
1% 0% 99%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
All Star – 1982, 1983, 1984 Strikeouts Per Inning – 1980, 1982
Hits Per Inning – 1980
Games Started – 1981
WHIP – 1982
Strikeout/Walk Ratio – 1982
Complete Games – 1983, 1984

-1st in career hits per inning
-2nd in career strikeouts
-6th in career strikeouts per inning
-9th in career K/BB ratio
-18th in career wins

From 1980 to 1985, Soto was baseball’s pre-eminent strikeout thrower, summing 1,063 K’s over those six seasons. In the middle of that stretch (1982 and 1983), Soto was about as good a pitcher as there was in baseball: 1982 saw a 14-13 record (the team went 61-101), with a 2.79 ERA (132 ERA+) and 274 K in 257.2 innings. The following year, Soto was better: 17-13, 2.70 ERA (140 ERA+), and 242 K in 273.2 innings. Soto then had two more heavy workload years of lesser effectiveness, and then his final three seasons only produced 223.2 innings cumulatively, less than a typical peak season. Despite his greatness, Soto had a major gopher-ball weakness, three times leading the NL in home runs allowed. Nonetheless, Soto remains statistically the most stingy Red in terms of allowing a hit, perhaps due in large part to his notoriously deceptive circle-change. After the Reds released Soto during the 1988 season, the Dodgers signed him as a free agent, but he mercifully never appeared in Dodger blue.