Winning TeamsBased on a five-year moving average, the Reds have had six collections of winning teams: the late 1890's, the late 1910's-1920's, the late-30's-early-40's, the teams of the 60's and 70's, the 1990's, and the current 2010+ teams. All but one of these winning stretches have at least produced one playoff appearance. The playoffs weren't a thing in the 1800's, although the Reds never finished in first place in the National League until 1919. Of the successful stretches of Reds teams during times when the World Series was an annual event, only the current incarnation has not won a World Series.
The highest winning percentage in Reds' history is not the Big Red Machine's peak in 1975, but rather the 1919 Reds team that won the World Series in the Black Sox scandal. They went 96-44 (.686 WPct in 140 games). That was a brilliant team, and the fact that their victory was tainted by what happened with the Black Sox just make that episode all the more irritating. There's no reason to think that they couldn't have won that series anyway.
For the stat-minded Big Red machine fan, though, fear not: the 1975 Reds have the best PythagenPat winning percentage in Reds history (their mark of .662 just edged out the 1919 team's .654 PythagenPat). The best PythagenPat winning percentage for the current Reds' squad was last year, 2013, at .576 (2010: .567; 2012: .558).
Losing TeamsThe Reds have also have really only gone through four extended stretches as losing teams. These include the 1900's, the 1930's, the mid-40's/early 50's, and then Jim Bowden-era from the late 1990's through the 2000's.
Great PlayersI listed the top-26 players by rWAR (courtesey of Baseball Gauge). I would have included more, but I ran out of space (sorry, Frank McCormick!). Not surprisingly, the 1960's and 1970's, the most successful stretch in Reds history, were home to a lot of the great players from the Reds' past. But I was surprised at how many of the great Reds players appeared not just during the peaks in the 20's and late 30's (as would be expected), but also during the big swoon in the early 30's. That said, when you look at it, most of those greats were either finishing up their careers, or just starting out during that time...and many of them were responsible for the successes of 1938-1944. I'm looking forward to digging into those teams a bit more.
The Cost of the StrikesIn 1981, because of a player strike, MLB played a shortened season. And for some reason, the justification for which seems lost to history, they opted to take the winners of the first half and the second half as the teams that made the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Reds, who had the best record in their division overall, went home in October.
In 1994, the Reds were in first place when the season ended, again due to a player strike. That team would repeat their success and go to the playoffs in 1995, but it's hard not to wonder what might have been.
I tend to side with players over owners most of the time these days when it comes to financial disputes. I might not like that players make bazillions of times more money than people who do more important work outside the entiertainment industry. But society has made its choices on how it spends its money, and I'd much rather the players share in those profits than it stay in the pockets of owners. That all said, the strikes have come at awful times for the Reds.
Afterthought: I have no memory of writing it, but I found this somewhat similar post from 2009 after writing this article. Funny when that happens!