The Top 10 Cincinnati Reds' Greatest Single-Season Performances of All Time

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

The Top 10 Cincinnati Reds' Greatest Single-Season Performances of All Time

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    The Cincinnati Reds have had some of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball, and George Foster leads the list of players who have had the greatest single-season performances in the franchise's history.

    From the Big Red Machine to the Nasty Boys to the current club, this organization has had some special players. For that reason, it was difficult to determine what performances were the best.

    It would have been easy to put the entire Big Red Machine and call it a day, but there have been other great performances. Members from the wire-to-wire 1990 team also had the numbers to make this list. 

    The Reds have won five World Series titles and have retired seven (would be eight with Pete Rose) numbers of former players. Twelve Reds have been named the National League Most Valuable Player, but they have yet to win a Cy Young award. 

    All of the great players who have played for this organization make it tough to decide who was the best. Playing in different eras also makes it a challenge to compare players, and it's difficult to decide how the players in the early part of the 1900s fit in.

    Cincinnati is the only team to have a pitcher throw back-to-back no-hitters (Jonny Vander Meer in 1938), but it is more known for having great hitting teams.

    Here's a list of the best single-season performances in the history of the Cincinnati Reds.

     

    *All stats are from baseball-reference.com

Honorable Mentions

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    Frank Robinson (1961): .323 avg./.404 OBP, 37 HR/124 RBI, 32 2B, 7 3B, .611 SLG/1.015, 22 SB

    Tony Perez (1970): .317/401, 40 HR/129 RBI, 6 3B

    Johnny Bench (1972): .270/.379, 40 HR/125 RBI

    Pete Rose (1973): .338/.401, 5 HR/64 RBI, 230 hits, 36 2B

    Joe Morgan (1975): .327/.466, 17 HR/94 RBI, 6 3B, 132 BB, 67 SB

    Tom Seaver (1977): 14-3, 2.34 ERA, 165.1 IP, 124 K/38 BB

    Norm Charlton (1990): 56 G, 12-9, 1 Save, 2.74 ERA, 154.1 IP, 1 CG, 117 K

    Rob Dibble (1990): 68 G, 8-3, 11 S, 93 IP, 136 K/34 BB

    Randy Myers (1990): 66 G, 4-6, 31 S, 2.08 ERA, 86.2 IP, 98 K/38 BB

    Tom Browning (1985): 3.55 ERA, 20-9, 269 IP, 6 CG/4 Shutouts

    Eric Davis (1987): .293/.399, 37 HR/100 RBI, 4 3B, 50 SB

    Brandon Phillips (2007): .288 avg.,30 HR/94 RBI, 6 3B, 32 SB

    Aroldis Chapman (2012): 68 G, 5-5, 38 S, 1.51 ERA, 71.2 IP, 122 K/23 BB

     

    This part of the list was only going to be a list of 10 players, but it's too tough to take anyone off this list. Some of the players won the NL MVP with these seasons, and some of these performances preceded MVP awards.

    Rose won the MVP in 1973 despite the lack of big power numbers. If he is ever eligible for the Hall of Fame, he will easily get in.

    It would be a crime to include one of the 1990 Nasty Boys without naming all of them. The best bullpen ever deserves to be recognized, so naming all of the Nasty Boys was easy.

    Phillips joined the 30/30 club in 2007. and he still was unable to crack the top 10. 

    Had Chapman been healthy in September, he probably joins the top 10. The Cuban Missile was on the cusp of making the list, but there have been too many great performances for him to be in it. 

No. 10: Joey Votto (2010)

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    2010 stats: .324/.424, 37 HR/113 RBI, 36 2B, .600 SLG/1.024 OPS

    The numbers speak for themselves, but Joey Votto's 2010 season was the start of something special. His breakout season helped get the Reds to the postseason for the first time since 1995.

    After hitting a pedestrian .275 in April, he did not hit below .306 in any month for the rest of the season. He hit at least five home runs in every month after the opening month, so he only got better as the year went on.

    Before the All-Star break in 2010, he hit .314 with 22 homers and drove in 60 runs but wasn't originally named to the NL All-Star team. The fans eventually voted him into the final spot.

    Votto had an advantage over every other hitter on this list: Great American Ball Park. However, his numbers on the road were better than they were at home.

      Avg. H 2B 3B HR RBI SB OBP SLG OPS
    Home .297 79 15  0 18 56   4 .394 .556 .950
    Road .349 98 21  2 19 57  12 .452 .641 1.093

    So while GABP is a hitter's park, Votto defied logic. Being snubbed from the All-Star team ended up getting him a lot of publicity and helped his case for MVP.

    By the end of 2010, he won the MVP and helped his team reach the postseason. 

No. 9: Frank Robinson (1962)

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    1962 stats: .342/.421, 39 HR/136 RBI, 208 hits, 51 2B, .624 SLG/1.045 OPS, 18 SB

    Frank Robinson won the NL MVP in 1961, but his 1962 season was even better. His stats were better in nearly every category, so it got the nod over his award-winning season.

    In his career, he never drove in more runs, hit for a higher average or get on base at a higher rate than he did in 1962. It was without a doubt his best season with the Reds, and it was arguably the best season of his career.

    The Hall of Famer played in every game that season after missing a handful of games the year before.

    Outside of home runs, he had a more productive season than Hank Aaron. He battled with Willie Mays as well, but Mays ended up having a better year.

    Robinson stills owns several team records that he set that season, including most grand slams in a season and most home runs in a month.

    He made the All-Star team as well as putting himself in the MVP debate. His great season helped his career with the team and eventually got his number retired.

    Robinson had unbelievable numbers and showed he could get extra-base hits. Unfortunately for him, the Reds have seen much better seasons than he put together in 1962.

No. 8: Joe Morgan (1976)

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    1976 stats: .320/.444, 27 HR/111 RBI, 5 3B, 1.020 OPS, 60 SB

    In the second part of his back-to-back MVP seasons, Joe Morgan was better than ever.

    It was by far his most productive season as he set career highs in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS. The only time he hit for a higher average was the year before when he won his first MVP award.

    Not only did he make the NL All-Star team and win NL MVP, but he also took home a Gold Glove. The second baseman had a great all-around season.

    The Hall of Fame second baseman had to find a way top his 1975 award-winning season, and he managed to easily put up better numbers on his way to leading the Reds to back-to-back World Series titles.

    Like Robinson, Morgan had his number retired by the Reds. It is hard to argue with doing so, especially when he showed the ability to hit the way he did in his second MVP season.

No. 7: Johnny Cueto (2012)

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    2012 stats: 2.78 ERA, 19-9, 217. IP, 2 CG

    Had it not been for a rough three-start stretch in September, Johnny Cueto was in position to be the first Red to win the NL Cy Young.

    Entering the final full month, he was 17-6 with a 2.48 ERA. He was in great position to win the Cy Young. Unfortunately he couldn't get the job done.

    According to baseball-reference.com, he led the National League in adjusted ERA. That stat takes into account the ballpark that he pitches in. Of the pitchers near the league lead for the ERA crown, Cueto was the only one to pitch in a hitter's park.

    This may seem to be an overstatement or living in the moment, but it was the best season by a Cincinnati pitcher in a long time and came in a difficult place to pitch.

    Like Votto, Cueto seemed to defy logic when it comes to Great American Ball Park.

       W  L ERA  H HR AVG
    Home 10  3 2.79  86   9 .245
    Away  9  6 2.77 119   6 ,256

    Cueto has added a twist away from home plate in recent years, and it has helped him adjust to pitching at home. Hitters had a hard time picking the ball up, which helped him get hitters out.

No. 6: Jack Billingham (1973)

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    1973 stats: 3.04 ERA, 19-10, 16 CG/7 Shutouts, 293.1 IP

    These numbers may not appear better than Johnny Cueto's, but Jack Billingham was an absolute workhorse in 1973.

    To throw 16 complete games and 293.1 innings in one season, that's impressive. He led the league in shutouts and tied for the most innings pitched. He also ranked second in the National League in wins and third in complete games, so he was one of the best pitchers at the time. That's how pitchers were used back then.

    Cueto had a lower ERA, but Billingham threw over 70 more innings in comparison. It's difficult compare pitchers from different era because the game has changed so much in the past 40 years. However, Billingham's ability to go the distance gives him the nod over Cueto.

    It's incredible to think about how many innings he threw and how well he performed. He went on to pitch in two games in the postseason to add on to his impressive total.

No. 5: Barry Larkin (1996)

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    1996 stats: .298/.410, 33 HR/89 RBI, 567 SLG/.977 OPS, 36 SB

    Like Frank Robinson, shortstop Barry Larkin managed to put up even better numbers the season after winning the NL MVP.

    The 1995 season ended with the shortstop winning the MVP, so he had high expectations for 1996. Not only did he manage to exceed expectations, but he also became the first shortstop to join the 30/30 club.

    It was easily the most productive season of his career. He never drove in more runs or hit more home runs than he did that season.

    The Hall of Famer's numbers stand alone, but they look even better after realizing that he was a shortstop. It was the first time in history that a player at his position was able to combine power and speed. It's still rare for a shortstop to hit 33 home runs.

    Larkin played his entire 19-year career in Cincinnati, and his 1996 season was his best offensive season. His performance was good enough to earn him the Silver Slugger at the end of the year.

    To go along with his offensive numbers, Larkin was great defensively. He won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1996.

    Larkin's No. 11 is now retired, and this franchise will have a hard time finding another shortstop who can put up numbers like the Hall of Famer did in 1996.

No. 4: Danny Jackson (1988)

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    1988 stats: 2.73 ERA, 23-8, 260.2 IP, 18 CG/6 shutouts

    In what is arguably the greatest single season by a Reds pitcher, Danny Jackson came away without the Cy Young in 1988.

    He just happened to have a great season in the same year that Orel Hershiser threw 59 consecutive scoreless innings. Had it not been for that incredible streak, Jackson likely wins the Cy Young.

    Hershiser led the league in shutouts with eight, but Jackson finished right behind him with six. He also tied Hershiser for the league lead in wins and complete games. His 260.2 innings pitched finished only behind Hershiser's 267.

    While Hershiser deserved the award, Jackson's performance was good enough to be named the best single season by a pitcher in franchise history.

    The southpaw put together a remarkable season, which he never came close to matching in any other season during his career.

No. 3: Ted Kluszewski (1954)

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    1954 stats: .326/.407, 49 HR/141 RBI, 28 2B, .642 SLG/1.049 OPS

    Ted Kluszewski was a big hitter, and his 1954 season was one of the best performances in franchise history.

    Not only did he hit for power, but he also managed to hit for average and get on base. It's amazing that he didn't win the NL MVP with those numbers.

    Willie Mays won the award, but some of Kluszewski's numbers were better. Big Klu hit eight more homers and drove in 31 more runs than Mays did in two fewer games.

    Kluszewski's 49 home runs and 141 RBI led the major leagues. He also ranked third in the NL in OPS and slugging percentage.

    His numbers were off the chart, and he set several team records along the way.

    He became the first player to hit a home run in five consecutive games and set the franchise record for most home runs hit at home in a season with 34.

    The first baseman, whose number is retired by the franchise, is one of the greatest power hitters Cincinnati has ever had.

    Kluszewski's numbers made it tough to decide who had the No. 2 spot on this list, but his season should be recognized for how great it was.

No. 2: Johnny Bench (1970)

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    1970 stats: .293/.345, 45 HR/148 RBI, 35 2B

    Fans can make a case for Ted Kluszewski being No. 2, but it's tough to go against Johnny Bench.

    Two years after winning NL Rookie of the Year, he put up unbelievable numbers.

    The 45 homers, 148 RBI and 177 hits were all the most he put up in his career. His power numbers were good enough to lead the majors, and he ranked second in the big leagues with 355 extra-base hits.

    Bench was easily named the NL MVP in 1970, and it was the best offensive season the Hall of Famer ever put together.

    His defense was a factor when putting him above Kluszewski. Bench won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1970 and was on his way to one in every season through 1977. Bench put up great offensive numbers and got the hardware on defense to put together a phenomenal season.

    Cincinnati retired Bench's No. 5, but his 1970 season was not good enough to earn the No. 1 spot for best single-season performance in team history.

No. 1: George Foster (1977)

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    1977 stats: .320/.382, 52 HR/149 RBI, 31 2B, .613 SLG/1.013 OPS, 388 total bases

    The No. 2 and No. 3 spots were difficult to decide on, but there is no question that George Foster's 1977 season was the greatest performance by a player in team history.

    In that season, Foster led the major leagues in home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage. The next person did not even come close to matching his numbers. He also led the NL in runs scored and OPS.

    Take a look at how wide the gap was between Foster and his NL competition:

      HR RBI R Total Bases SLG OPS
    Foster 52 149 124       388 .631 1.013
    Second place 41 130 117       338 .594 1.003

    Those numbers are ridiculous, and there was somebody different in second place in almost every category.

    Foster was absolutely unstoppable in 1977. He had monster numbers, and he finished fourth in the NL in average.

    The left fielder still holds the franchise's single-season record for most home runs, home runs hit on the road and most RBI.

    His 1977 was in the middle of a great three-year stretch for the left fielder, and it was by far the most impressive. When compared to the other players that season, it's incredible that he was able to put up such big numbers.

    Foster did not have the same type of career as other players on this list, but his 1977 season was the best single-season performance in the history of the Cincinnati Reds.