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Ranking the Top 10 Rookie Seasons in Cincinnati Reds History

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Rookie Seasons in Cincinnati Reds History

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    In light of Todd Frazier's stellar rookie campaign in 2012, I decided to rank the top 10 seasons by a Reds rookie.

    For the purposes of this article, rookie seasons will be considered only from 1900 on.

    Why 1900? Well, because that's the beginning of what we consider the "modern era" of baseball. Also, beginning at 1900 helps encompass the dead-ball era along with more recent entries.

    The Reds are one of the most storied franchises in MLB history and they have quite a few rookies who have had incredible seasons.

    Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Pete Rose and many others started their careers in Cincinnati but how do their first chances at MLB greatness compare to other Reds rookies?

    Let's find out.

10. Jim Greengrass (1953)

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    Stat line: .285/.340/.444/.784, 20 HR, 49 XBH, 100 RBI, 86 R, 1.8 WAR

    Jim Greengrass only played four full seasons as a big leaguer, but his first one with the Reds is arguably the best of them all.

    The 1953 Reds weren't very good. In fact, they finished sixth in the National League with a record of 68-86.

    Despite a dismal campaign on the part of the team, Greengrass performed admirably clobbering 20 home runs and knocking in 100 RBI all while slashing .285/.340/.444.

    In '53, Greengrass finished in the top 10 among NL position players in singles and outs played. Additionally, his 9.2 power-speed rating was good for 10th in the NL that year.

    Unfortunately, Greengrass's career was derailed at just 28 years old by a case of phlebitis (per baseballbytheletters.com). 

9. Wayne Simpson (1970)

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    Stat line: 26 starts, 14-3, 3.02 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 176 IP, 119 K, 81 BB, 2.7 WAR

    Most Reds fans my age wouldn't even know who Wayne Simpson is. However, his rookie season is one of the most impressive in team history.

    In his 26 starts, Simpson managed a 14-3 record.

    Simpson won over 50 percent of his starts in 1970 and led the NL in winning percentage (.824) and H/9 (6.39).

    Additionally, Simpson finished in the top 10 in ERA (3.02) and WHIP (1.17) all while making his first and only All-Star team.

    According to the great Johnny Bench, "Wayne Simpson wore me out; no one threw harder than he did in 1970.” Simpson tore his rotator cuff and was never the same, but his 1970 rookie season is one of the best in Cincinnati Reds history.

8. Pat Zachry (1976)

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    Stat line: 28 starts, 14-7, 2.74 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 204 IP, 143 K, 83 BB, 3.4 WAR

    Like Pete Rose, Chris Sabo and Johnny Bench, Pat Zachry was named NL Rookie of the year as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

    The 24-year-old righty was thrown right into the fire in 1976. As a member of the Big Red Machine, Zachry led the team in ERA and finished second behind Gary Nolan in wins.

    Zachry never repeated the success of his rookie year, but it certainly was special.

    As a rookie on one of the greatest teams ever, Zachry finished in the top 10 among NL pitchers in ERA, winning percentage, H/9 and K/9.

    Zachry's claim to fame among Reds fans has, and probably will always be that he was traded to the Mets in exchange for Tom Seaver.

    Even so, Zachry's rookie year remains one of the best in club history.

7. Chris Sabo (1988)

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    Stat line: .271/.314/.414/.728, 11 HR, 53 XBH, 44 RBI, 74 R, 46 SB, 4.8 WAR

    Chris Sabo clocks in at No. 5 on the list.

    An All-Star in his first season, Sabo took home rookie of the year honors in 1988 leading NL rookies in hits, stolen bases and WAR.

    Sabo's .271 batting average is the lowest mark on this list, but that doesn't detract from his stellar rookie year.

    Sabo also led his team in stolen bases and doubles while finishing second in hits and third in WAR.

    By his age 28 season, Sabo had become an intricate part of the team helping lead them to a World Series title in 1990.

    In that season, he slashed .270/.343/.476 outpacing the rest of his teammates in walks, home runs and doubles.

6. Joey Votto (2008)

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    Stat line: .292/.368/.506/.874, 24 HR, 56 XBH, 84 RBI, 69 R, 3.1 WAR

    Joey Votto was a snub for the 2008 Rookie of the Year Award. Votto outpaced Geovany Soto in nearly every way imaginable (see here) and garnered just 76 vote points compared to Soto's 158.

    However, it doesn't take away from Votto's impressive season.

    His .874 OPS is the fourth best mark on this list and his 24 home runs rank second.

    Among his teammates in 2008, Votto ranked first in batting average (.297), RBI (84), doubles (32) and base hits (156).

    Since his impressive rookie campaign, Joey Votto has become the face of the Cincinnati Reds and one of the most beloved members of the Cincinnati community.

5. Bernie Carbo (1970)

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    Stat line: .310/.454/.551/.1.004, 21 HR, 43 XBH, 63 RBI, 54 runs, 4.2 WAR

    Bernie Carbo should've taken home Rookie of the Year honors in 1970.

    Carl Morton beat out Carbo with an 18-11 record, a 3.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and just 154 strikeouts to 125 walks in 284.2 innings pitched.

    Carbo didn't have enough at-bats to qualify as a leader in the slash-line statistics but his .454 OBP would have been fourth best in the NL while his .551 SLG and 1.004 OPS would have been ninth and third respectively.

    Bernie went on to have a very average 12-year-career including a World Series appearance against the Reds in the 1975 World Series.

    However, his rookie season with the 1970 Reds was a great one.

4. Jonny Bench (1968)

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    Stat line: .275/.311/.433/.744, 15 HR, 57 XBH, 82 RBI, 67 R, 4.9 WAR

    Jonny Bench is arguably the best catcher in the history of Major League Baseball.

    After compiling a .267/.342/.476 slash line with 389 home runs and 1,376 RBI in 2,158 career games, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone better.

    Bench's rookie season was something to marvel at as he raked in multiple honors including an All-Star nomination, a Gold Glove and Rookie of the Year honors.

    Bench is easily the most prolific member of this list.

    A 14-time All Star (13 straight appearances), Bench is one of only three catchers to win two MVP awards and his 10 Gold Gloves are second to only Ivan Rodriguez.

    Not only is Bench one of the best in team history, he's one of the best the game has ever, and possibly will ever see.

3. Tom Browning (1985)

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    Stat line: 38 starts, 20-9, 3.55 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 261.1 IP, 155 K, 73 BB, 3.3 WAR

    Tom Browning won 20 games in his rookie year. Since he did it in 1985 only Danny Jackson has reached the 20 win plateau for the Reds.

    Browning's 20 victories were good for fourth in the National League just four behind Dwight Gooden's 24.

    He recorded four shutouts in 38 starts, both of which cracked the top five. Additionally, Browning's 155 strikeouts were ninth best in the NL.

    Browning never quite became the pitcher that fans thought he might after posting a 20-win season in his rookie year, but he went on to have a solid career with the Reds including a World Series win and a perfect game (the only one in Reds' history).

2. Frank Robinson (1956)

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    Stat line: .292/.379/.558/.936, 38 HR, 71 XBH, 83 RBI, 122 R, 6.2 WAR

    Frank Robinson's rookie year is one of the best in Major League history.

    In said season, Robinson took home Rookie of the Year honors along with an All-Star nomination while finishing seventh in MVP voting.

    Robinson led the league in runs scored and held his own against some of the game's all-time greats in '56.

    Robinson also ranked in the top five in, WAR, slugging percentage, OPS, runs scored, total bases, home runs, runs created and extra base hits.

    The only players who routinely ranked ahead of Robinson in these categories were Hank Aaron, Duke Snider and Willie Mays.

1. Vada Pinson (1959)

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    Stat line: .316/.371/.509/.880, 20 HR, 76 XBH, 84 RBI, 131 R, 21 SB, 6.3 WAR 

    Vada Pinson is, in my opinion, one of the biggest Hall of Fame snubs in MLB history.

    One of my favorite statistics about Pinson is that he's one of only two players in league history to finish their careers with at least 2700 hits, 250 home runs, 450 doubles, 100 triples and 300 steals. The other player to finish with those career marks was Willie Mays.

    Well Pinson's no snub on this list and he surely earned his place on it.

    As a rookie in 1959, Pinson led the majors in runs scored, doubles and at-bats. Additionally, in the National League, he finished in the top five in plate appearances, triples, stolen bases, extra base hits, batting average, total bases and hits.

    Pinson contributed defensively as well. In his 154 games, he posted a .984 fielding percentage, a 2.86 RF/9 and 2.80 RF/G, all of which were above the league averages for that season.

    While Robinson and Pinson each had great seasons, I give the nod to Pinson.

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