Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Comparing Reds Aces

Cincinnati is the next stop on my tour of NL Central aces from the past half century, and although the Reds don't have a Bob Gibson or a Fergie Jenkins to show for the last fifty years, they have sent a lot of talent to the mound (certainly more than I anticipated when I started stratching my head and thinking "Jose Rijo and...?"). There was Mario Soto, whose struck out 1248, tops among all big leaguers, during a six-year run from 1980-1985. Then there was Tom Seaver, who came over from New York in the late seventies and was still a solid to very good pitcher (ignoring 1982, of course) even though his best years were behind him. Nowadays, Aaron Harang heads the Reds staff despite slipping a bit in '08 and early '09. Along with Rijo, these three make for a solid group of pitching talent for the purposes of my admittedly cursory, WAR-centric analysis.

First up (as usual), here is each player's year-by-year WAR as a Red. Note that only Soto started his career in Cincy (though Harang only spent a little over a year in Oakland before being traded to the Reds for Jose Guillen in 2003):

I must say, I really expected Seaver's '82 season to have costed the Reds more than ~1 win (Seaver's WAR was -0.8). Sure, he only started 21 games that year, but it was by far his worst season: 5.50 ERA (67 ERA+), 1.617 WHIP, 11.0 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, 3.6 BB/9, 5.0 K/9, and 1.41 K/BB is not a typical Tom Terriffic line. But Seaver's 1982 campaign serves as a useful example of just how difficult it is to significantly affect a team's chances of success (positively or negatively) as a single player, making all four of these pitchers' peaks that much more impressive.

Based on the career path graph, Rijo and Soto clearly have the edge in WAR, and graphing each pitcher's WAR in descending order makes that edge even more obvious:

Rijo takes the gold, as it were, with 34.3 WAR in a Reds uniform, with Soto in second with 26.9. Seaver and Harang are well behind the top two due to a combination of lower peaks and shorter service time, with 18.7 and 17.3 WAR, respectively, though Harang will likely add to his total, particularly if he starts pitching like 2007 Aaron Harang again rather than 2008 Harang. As for Mr. George Thomas Seaver...well, there's a reason he's sporting a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. He was still (mostly) a very good pitcher in Cincinnati, but his best years were in New York, where he was worth a staggering 75.8 WAR over 11+ seasons.

Of course, now that you, dear reader, know that Jose Rijo, not Tom Terrific, is the most valuable Reds pitcher of the past fifty years, I recommend stocking up on soon-to-be obscenely valuable Rijo memorabilia from the early '90s. Sure, Donruss printed about 62 million sets of the '91 line, but it's bound to be worth something someday soon. Right? Right?

On an unrelated note, I have several hundred vintage Jose Rijo cards for sale. Free or best offer.

1 comment:

  1. Throw in an Aaron Harang and you've got a deal.

    Wow. Soto has three years in the negative. That's not great to see in a list of your top pitchers.