So, how did the Reds of 2010 stack up vs. other Reds teams in Cincinnati history? Major League baseball tracks the roots of the current Reds franchise back through the Reds/Redlegs/Red Stockings to 1882 when the Red Stockings were charter members of the American Association.
In case you don’t know, there have been other Cincinnati major league baseball franchises, not counting the original Cincinnati Red Stockings that were playing amateur teams for the most part in the mid-1860’s. There have been other “credited” Cincinnati major league baseball franchises. There was a at least one Cincinnati Reds team in the National League from 1876-80 before being expelled from the league for leasing the ballpark on Sundays and selling beer. I say at “least one” because the franchise withdrew from the league at least more than once, and sometimes during mid-season. These Reds teams had different ownership groups, and compiled a 125-217 record in five seasons. Their best season was 1878 when they finished second with a 37-23 record. The first season was their worst, finishing 9-56.
The was a Cincinnati Outlaw Reds team that played in the Union Association in 1884. During 1884, there were three “Major Leagues”: the National League, the American Association (not the American League–that came later), and the Union Association. The Union Association only lasted one season, and it wasn’t very competitively balanced. The Outlaw Reds finished in third place with a 69-36 record. The Reds finished the season winning 30 of their final 34 games of the year.
There was also the team known as Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers, sometimes known as the Cincinnati Porkers, in the American Association in 1891. This team was founded to replace the Cincinnati Red Stockings in the AA after they jumped to the National League in time for the 1890 season. The Killers, named for star King Kelly, needed many more such stars. They finished seventh with a 43-57 record.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, the Reds were sometimes called the Pioneers or Porkopolitans, but never officially.
For this comparison today, we’ll run reports from 1882 to the present which gives us 129 major league baseball seasons to discuss….
Many of us think of the 2010 Reds team as a “young” team. While it is true that many of our best players are relative youngsters, the 2010 Reds were not a young team; in fact, if anything, we were on the older side of teams in Reds history at a time when the major leagues are actually getting a bit younger in the post-steroids era.
The weighted age of the 2010 (record 91-71) positional players (based on plate appearances) was 29.0, the 38th oldest in Reds history of 129 seasons. This would place the 2010 team among the top third oldest teams in Reds history (same age as the 1976 Reds who were 102-60). The oldest positional team was the 1985 Reds (89-72) at 31.4. The youngest was the first 1882 Red Stockings team (55-25) at 25.5, then the 1909 Reds (77-76) and 1970 Reds (102-60) were next at 25.9.
The weighted age of our pitchers (based on innings pitched) was 28.2, which is the 54th oldest, or among the oldest 40% in Reds history. The oldest Reds pitching team was 1945 (61-93) at 32.9, followed by the 1928 squad (78-74). The oldest staff in the past fifty years was the 1997 Reds (76-86). The youngest staff was the 1888 Red Stockings (80-54) at 23.3. The youngest “modern” pitching staff was the 1915 Reds (71-83) at 24.5. The youngest in the past fifty years was the 1971 Reds (79-83) at 25.1, the eighth youngest pitching staff in Reds history.
As for winning percentage, the 2010 Reds had a winning percentage of .562 with their 91-71 record. The .562 places them 35th all-time. The best winning percentage was by the 1882 American Association champion Red Stockings at .688 (55-25) with the best modern won-loss percentage being posted by the 1919 World Series champion Reds at at .686 (96-44). In the last fifty years, the best winning percentage was posted by the 1975 Reds at .667 (108-54).
The worst Reds winning percentage was posted by the 1934 team at .344 (52-99). The lowest in the last fifty years was the 1982 team at .377 (61-101), the only Reds team to ever lose 100 or more games in a season.
As for number of players, the 2010 Reds used 44 position players, the 17th highest total in Reds history. The 2003 Reds (69-93) used the most position players in their history with 53. The fewest ever were the 1882 Red Stockings with 15. The fewest in the last 50 years was 29 by both the 1975 and 1976 Reds.
In terms of pitchers used, the 2010 Reds sent 23 different pitchers to the mound, tied for 11th highest all-time. The most pitchers ever used was 30 by the 2003 Reds (69-93). The fewest ever was three by the 1882 Red Stockings (55-25). The fewest in the last fifty years was 12 by the 1963 Reds (86-76) and the 1975 Reds (108-54).
First baseman Joey Votto led the 2010 Reds in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with a 6.2 score. The highest WAR score ever for a Reds player was by pitcher Will White for the 1882 Red Stockings (55-25) at 12.5. The highest score in the last fifty years was posted by second baseman Joe Morgan of the 1975 Reds (108-54) at 12.0. The lowest score for a Reds leader was by outfielder Chick Hafey with a 2.9 rating for the 1933 Reds (58-94). The lowest leader in the last fifty years was reliever Jeff Shaw’s 3.3 for the 1997 Reds (76-86).
A couple of quick thoughts to recap. The position players of the 2010 Reds, who we hope are up and coming, are essentially the same age as the 1976 Big Red Machine just before the BRM started to decline. Now, I think the BRM declined because of a lack of pitching, so that doesn’t concern me as much as it sounds when I write or read it. I do think it does indicate that some tough choices are ahead concerning some of our players. However, I don’t see a clear pattern on a year-to-year basis since the oldest Reds teams also won. It sounds to me like it’s based on talent, but I would suppose that younger talent has the best chance of continued success rather than entering rapid decline.
The 2010 pitching staff wasn’t as “young” as we think when it comes to actual innings pitched, but I see that as a plus here. The younger pitching staffs of 1915 and 1971 didn’t win, but both groups were World Champions within four years. It would seem to me that young staffs on the upswing have a potentially huge impact on future team success.
One more thing, and this really stood out to me: a consistent roster may be an indicator of team success. The teams that won most often did not use large rosters to accomplish the feat. This is a small sample size, but it would seem to indicate to me that the players and manager have a clear definition of roles and the mission that is to be accomplished. That may be something for us to watch in the next couple of years. Also, a team needs star power. The teams that won had a dominant player on the field. A 6.2 like Votto posted this year is all-star caliber and may win Votto an MVP award in 2010, but baseball-reference.com suggests that 8+ is MVP level. During Albert Pujols’s best years it was from 9-10.9. Morgan hit 9-12 five times. It would help for Votto to do even more (hard to ask) and for someone else to step up there with him —Jay Bruce –and at least one of our young pitchers would be nice.