Eno Sarris of The Athletic had an interesting article where he stabbed every single fan base in baseball right in the heart. What he did was look at each team in the league and find three players who just crushed that team. Thanks, Eno – thanks a lot.
While Sarris did the research, I’m writing this article based solely on those that I remember. Guys that just seemed to always crush the Cincinnati Reds – and at times, it felt like it was easy because for hitters especially, they got to face the Reds abysmal pitching over and over. I’ll share the ones that stood out to me. Feel free to share the ones that stuck out to you in the comments below.
If you were a Cincinnati Reds fan from 2000-2010, well, you got a chance to see Lance Berkman just destroy your hopes and dreams of winning baseball games multiple times a year. Berkman put together an outstanding 15-year big league career – mostly with the Houston Astros, but he was also pretty good with the Cardinals for parts of two seasons, and then seeing another parts of two seasons with the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers in the American League. For his career he posted a .943 OPS and racked up 52.0 WAR for his career. You can make the argument that he’s a Hall of Famer caliber player.
Against the Cincinnati Reds, he’s gone from borderline Hall of Famer, to inner-circle kind of guy. Spending most of his career in the National League Central, he played in 174 games against the Reds. That’s slightly more than one full season. Let’s take a look at his career line against Cincinnati:
That’s a league MVP in almost any season in the history of baseball. That’s basically Mike Trout on offense, sans the base running ability. Now you can tell me to stop being a jerk for bringing up all of these bad memories – but just know, I’ve got a few more players below that are going to bring up the same kind of feelings.
Another Houston Astros, for the most part, that ripped your beating heart right out of your chest like you were Lloyd Christmas in a daydream/nightmare, Roy Oswalt was a true Reds killer. Like Berkman, he has an argument for the Hall of Fame. In his 13 seasons in the Major Leagues he posted a 3.36 ERA (127 ERA+) in 2245.1 innings with 49.9 career WAR. He was very good against just about everyone, but…..
23 wins. 3 losses. Oof. From an ERA standpoint, Roy Oswalt was a bit better against both the Padres and the Pirates in his career among teams he threw at least 100.0 innings against. But he was dominant against Cincinnati in essentially a full seasons worth of starts and innings. Let’s look at his career line against the Reds:
That’s a line that would win a Cy Young Award in plenty of seasons. Depending on which era you’re talking about, different things could have been what led to the vote being in his favor, but that 23-3 record would probably stick out in any era. The innings total is certainly more of a “modern era” situation, though.
Unlike the two Astros, Bill Hall isn’t a guy who you could argue could be in the Hall of Fame. He had an 11-year Major League career between 2002 and 2012, playing mostly for the Milwaukee Brewers – but also saw time with Seattle, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, and Baltimore in the last three years of his career. In 1053 career games, Hall hit .248/.308/.436. In a magical 2006 season he crushed 35 home runs for the Brewers – adding an additional 39 doubles and four triples. He always seemed to have some pop in his bat – it was the rest of his game that didn’t always stand out.
It always felt like Bill Hall was an All-Star against the Reds, though. And looking at the numbers, he sure played like it. His OPS against the Reds for his career was .938. He started 79 games against Cincinnati, and played in 102 total games against them – racking up 362 plate appearances. Let’s take a look at his career line against the Redlegs:
Those aren’t quite MVP numbers when pushed out to an entire season unless it’s coming from a player at a premium defensive position – but they also aren’t that far off, either. And when they come from a guy who wasn’t normally expected to be “the man” in a lineup, it really does stick out. Against the Reds, Hall’s tOPS+, which measures how his OPS+ against a specific team is compared to his career total, was easily the highest among any team he had regular at-bats again, coming in at a 150 tOPS+. That means that against Cincinnati he was 50% better than he was against everyone else.
The only player on my list that is still an active player, Cole Hamels like some of the previous players, has an argument to be a Hall of Fame player. In his 14 seasons he’s thrown 2694.2 innings with an ERA of 3.42 (123 ERA+) and he’s accumulated 58.5 WAR in his career. There are far less accomplished pitchers in the Hall of Fame.
The domination of the Cincinnati Reds by Cole Hamels started on his first day in the Major Leagues. One of the most ridiculously statistically dominant prospects you’re ever going to see in the minor leagues, Hamels had problems staying healthy in the minor but was incredible when he was able to take the mound (Career 1.55 ERA in the minors over 43 starts with 136 hits allowed, just nine home runs, 83 walks, and 302 strikeouts). On May 12th, 2006 Hamels debuted with the Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ballpark and threw 5.0 shutout innings against the Reds. He allowed just one hit – though he did walk five batters, while picking up seven strikeouts on the day. The lone hit that he allowed was a double by Felipe Lopez in the bottom of the 5th inning with two outs. Hamels ended the inning with a strikeout of future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. – his second of the day. Let’s take a look at how his career against Cincinnati has gone to this point:
You thought Roy Oswalt was good against the Reds? He’s got nothing on Cole Hamels outside of more starts. But Hamels wasn’t at his best against Cincinnati – he dominated the Cardinals even more – at least on an ERA front, but somehow despite a 2.21 ERA against St. Louis he has a losing record against them. It’s probably related to that Cardinals magic that they always seem to have. Still, Hamels had his way with the Reds.
Those are the four players that jumped out to me immediately when I saw the premise of the article by Eno Sarris as it relates to the Cincinnati Reds. It turns out that my memory worked out quite well with those, too, as the stats backed it all up in the most painful of fashions. Obviously, all of the players cited here are from 2000 and on. For you, the more memorable years may go back a bit further. Who were your “Reds Killers”?