No Cincinnati Reds pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award. The Award was initiated in 1956 and was only awarded to one player per year through 1966 (when it was expanded to the current format of one award per league).
Just like we memorialized the MVP bridesmaids yesterday, today we’ll take a look at the Reds CY Young bridesmaids. To start, let’s take the “STATS, Inc, All-Time Baseball Sourcebook” and find out which Reds would have won if the Cy Young had been given in the years that it wasn’t actually awarded (according to the statistical “experts”). Since no Reds pitcher has won the Cy Young, and since the Reds are typically remembered as The Big Red Machine for our 1970’s incredible offense, many may not realize that the Reds spent many years as a pitching/defense first organization:
1882, Will White, American Association, 40-12, 1.54 ERA, 122 K’s
1883, Will White, American Association, 43-31, 2.09 ERA, 141 K’s
1884, Jim McCormick, Union Association, 21-3, 1.54 ERA, 161 K’s
1923, Dolf Luque, National League, 27-8, 1.93 ERA, 151 K’s
1925, Eppa Rixey, National League, 21-11, 2.88 ERA, 69 K’s
1939, Bucky Walters, National League, 27-11, 2.29 ERA, 137 K’s
1940, Bucky Walters, National League, 22-10, 2.48 ERA, 115 K’s
1944, Bucky Walters, National League, 23-8, 2.40 ERA, 77 K’s
1947, Ewell Blackwell, National League, 22-8, 2.47 ERA, 193 K’s
We should probably review the “winners” here….
1882, Will White, 40-12, 1.54 ERA, 122 K’s
1883, Will White, 43-31, 2.09 ERA 141 K’s
It’s easy to dismiss White’s accomplishments since he was essentially the “only” pitcher on his teams, or one of a precious few pitchers on his teams, but he was one of the best of his time. Hitters could call for low pitches or high pitches and White would use every competitive advantage he could muster to help the Red Stockings win. He was a known head hunter who used the brushback pitch, or even the “beanball” to his advantage because batters weren’t awarded first base on hit batsman before 1884. His ERA+ ratings for 1882 and 1883 are 173 and 156, so he was substantially better than the average pitcher. It probably doesn’t need to be said that his seasonal Reds team records will never be broken. The 1882 Red Stockings finished first in the American Association with a 55-25 record while the 1883 Red Stockings were 61-37 and finished in third place, nine games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.
In 1882, White led the league with the 40 wins, a .769 won-loss percentage, with 52 complete games, eight shutouts, and 480 innings pitched. In 1883, White led the league with 43 wins, with a 2.09 ERA and with six shutouts.
1884, Jim McCormick, 21-3, 1.54 ERA, 161 K’s
McCormick “won” his award pitching for the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds in the short-lived Union Association. McCormick was third in appearances for the Outlaw Reds ahttps://redlegnation.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.phps teammates George Bradley (25-15, 2.71 ERA) and Dick Burns (23-15, 2.46 ERA) made more appearances. However, McCormick led the league in ERA and shutouts (seven) and with a WHIP of 0.786. His ERA+ was 211, so he was essentially twice as good as the average pitcher in the league.
1884 was the only season that McCormick pitched for a Cincinnati team. In ten major league seasons, McCormick was 265-214 with a 2.43 ERA. He spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Blues. The 1884 Outlaw Reds placed second with a 69-36 record, 21 games behind the St. Louis Maroons who were an incredible 94-19.
1923, Dolf Luque, 27-8, 1.93 ERA, 151 K’s
The Pride of Havana had possibly the best Reds best post-1900 pitching season in 1923 with this performance. The STATS, Inc., group also selects Luque as the league’s MVP for 1923. it was quite a comeback season for Luque who had led the league in losses in 1922 when he was 13-23 with a 3.31 ERA.
In 1923, Luque led the league in wins (27), ERA (1.93), winning percentage (.771), shutouts (six), in hits per nine innings (7.8), home runs per nine innings (0.1), and in ERA+ at 201. He was second in the league in stikeouts and first in WAR (10.1). This was Luque’s only 20-win season of his 20 year career. The 1923 Reds finished in second place, 4 1/2 games behind the New York Giants.
1925, Eppa Rixey, 21-11, 2.88 ERA, 69 K’s
Rixey is generally considered to be a “Don Sutton” type Hall of Fame pitcher; that is, one whose career exploits are more impressive than his peak seasons. However, the STATS group noted Rixey for his outstanding 1925 season.
At first look, it would appear that Rixey’s 1922 was his best season when he was 25-13 with a 3.53 ERA. In 1922, Rixey led the league in wins, complete games, and innings pitched. In 1925, Rixey didn’t lead the league in any categories, but finished second with 21 wins, second in ERA at 2.88, third in innings pitched, third in complete games, and second in shutouts. The 1925 Reds finished third with an 80-73 record, 21 1/2 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rixey won 20 or more games three times for the Reds. Joining Rixey and Luque in the Reds rotation was three-time 20 game winner Pete Donohue. Carl Mays won 20 games for the 1924 Reds. Red Lucas never won 20 for the Reds, but did go 19-12 in 1929 and finished sixth in MVP voting for the league. It was quite the pitching staff that starred as the lively ball era began.
1939, Bucky Walters, 27-11, 2.29 ERA, 137 K’s
1940, Bucky Walters, 22-10, 2.48 ERA, 115 K’s
1944, Bucky Walters, 23-8, 2.40 ERA, 77 K’s
When people ask who was the best pitcher in Reds history, the line has to start with Bucky Walters, who ws the best pitcher in the National League three times within this six year span.
Yes, it was the war years, but the former third baseman was dominant during this time in pitching the Reds to two World Series appearances, including one championship. Walters won the pitcher’s Triple Crown in 1939 with the 27 wins, 2.29 ERA, and 137 K’s. He also led the league in games started, complete games, innings pitched, ERA+, and WHIP. He also batted .325 as a hitter and won the NL’s MVP Award for the year. The Reds won the National League pennant that year before losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series.
STATS, Inc., also says that Walters would have won back-to-back Cy Youngs based on his 1940 performance. In 1940, he once again led the league in wins, ERA, complete games, innings pitched, and WHIP. He was fifth in strikeouts in 1940. He finished third in MVP voting as the Reds won the World Championship.
Walters had his last great season in 1944 when he led the league with 23 wins and finished fifth in MVP balloting. He was second in ERA, fourth in won-loss percentage, third in WHIP, and fourth in strikeouts. The 1944 Reds finished third with a 89-65 record, 16 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
I feel I do need to mention the exceptional pitching staff that was backing Walters at the time. Teammate Paul Derringer won 20 or more games four times for the Reds, including a 25-7 season in 1939, finishing third in MVP voting behind Walters and the Cardinals’ Johnny Mize. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he would have been the Cy Young runner-up that season. Johnny Vander Meer led the league in strikeouts three times and Elmer Riddle had seasons of 19-4/2.24 and 21-11/2.63.
Reds manager Bill McKechnie had lots of arms to choose from and Walters was truly exceptional. I do think find it telling and/or somewhat surprising that McKechnie selected Derringer instead of Walters to start Game One in both the 1939 and 1940 World Series.
1947, Ewell Blackwell, 22-8, 2.47 ERA, 193 K’s
Blackwell was listed yesterday as the runner-up to the 1947 MVP Award, so he would be the nominal choice for the Cy Young Award. Nicknamed the Whip for his sidearm delivery, he was a six-time all-star despite having only three double digit victory seasons. Blackwell led the league in wins, complete games (23), strikeouts, home run rate (0.3/nine innings), K rate (6.4) and K/BB ratio (2.03). He missed the pitcher’s Triple Crown by 0.14 ERA points, finishing second in the league. He won 16 consecutive games at one point, and came within one inning of throwing two consecutive no-hitters. As a team, the Reds were only 73-81, finishing in fifth place, 21 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers.
That’s it for the “theoretical” votes, but all the choices are defensible and give the reader an indicator on what kinds of teams were operating in Cincinnati for the first seventy years of Cincinnati major league baseball existence. Blackwell’s “win” would have given the Reds four Cy Young Award wins in nine years and that’s an impressive run.
Now, for the actual runners-up of Reds pitchers that came up just short of the Cy Young Award win.
1981, Tom Seaver, 14-2, 2.54 ERA, 87 K’s
We wrote about this performance on November 11 when Seaver lost out to “Fernandomania” and the Dodgers Fernando Valenzuela.
Valenzuela started off phenomenally, shutting out four of the first five opponents he faced as a rookie, and five of his first seven opponents. He started the season 7-0 with an 0.29 ERA, but went only 6-7 with a 3.55 ERA the rest of the way in the strike-shortened season.
Meanwhile, Seaver was consistently excellent all season and posted his lowest hits/nine inning ratio of his career at 6.5 despite having one of his lowest K rates (4.7). Seaver and Valenzuela tied with eight first place votes each, with Steve Carlton being awarded five and Nolan Ryan receiving three. Valenzuela outpointed Seaver, 70-67. The Reds had the best record in the National League, but didn’t make the playoffs due to not winning either half of the split season, while the Dodgers won the World Series. Seaver finished in the top four three times in Cy Young Award voting while with the Reds, but this was the closet he came to winning.
1983, Mario Soto, 17-13, 2.70 ERA, 242 K’s
It’s hard to win a major award playing for a last place team and Soto didn’t get enough offensive help to boost him to the next level. Soto was fourth in ERA, second in strikeouts, second in wins, second in innings pitched, third in shutouts, and first in complete games.
Soto lost out to Phillies pitcher John Denny for the Cy Young Award. Denny was 19-6 for the first place Phillies, with a 2.37 ERA and 139 K’s. Denny received 20 first place votes and 103 points, while Soto received two first place votes and 61 points.
Soto pitched 12 seasons for the Reds and was 100-92. Four times, he finished in the top ten in Cy Young Award voting. He finished fifth in 1980 as a swing man out of the bullpen when he was 10-8 with a 3.07 ERA, striking out 182 batters in 190 innings at age 23. The voters knew even then how good Soto could be before injuries derailed his career.
1988, Danny Jackson, 23-8, 2.73 ERA, 161 K’s
Newly acquired from the Kansas City Royals, Jackson had gone 9-18 with a 4.02 ERA in 1987 before having his outstanding season with the Reds. Jackson tied for the league lead in wins and led the majors with 15 complete games. Jackson was fourth in won-loss percentage, 10th in ERA, second in shutouts (6), and 10th in strikeouts.
Jackson lost out to Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershisher who was 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA, eight shutouts and 178 K’s. At one point during 1988, Hershisher pitched 59 consecutive scoreless innings and only allowing 34 hits and walking nine during the streak. Hershisher was a unanimous winner, receiving every first place vote, totaling 120 points. Jackson had 54 points and David Cone had 42 points in the balloting.
The Dodgers finished in first place, 7 1/2 games ahead of the second place Reds. Jackson hurt his arm that year and only won 12 more games as a Red over the next two seasons.
1995, Pete Schourek, 18-7, 3.22 ERA, 160 K’s
This was the only season that Pete Schourek won more than eight games in eleven major league seasons. The Reds claimed Schourek off waivers after the 1993 season and he went 7-2 in 1994 before having the best season of his major league career in 1995. Schourek was second in wins, second in won-loss percentage, ninth in ERA, seventh in strikeouts, and third in WHIP. Schourek was 1-1 in the postseason, allowing only four earned runs in 21 innings.
Schourek lost out to Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux who was 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA and 181 K’s. Maddux was a unanimous selection receiving all 28 first place votes and totaling 140 points. Schourek totaled 55 points in finishing second. The Reds finished first in the National League Central in 1995, while the Braves finished won the World Series.
Schourek’s lightning in a bottle lasted just one season. He hurt his arm and was 4-5 with a 6.01 ERA the next season. For his career, Schourek was 66-77 with a 4.59 ERA.