Table of Contents

Friday, October 14, 2016

Alternative Universe Reds Hall of Fame: Intro & 1912-1920

Bid McPhee. Library of Congress.
Over six years ago, Sky Andrechek did a post on what the Hall of Fame might look like in an alternative universe in which voters got to elect just one--or, later in his scheme, two--players per year, rather than relying on the 75% vote criterion currently employed.  I've always loved that post, and wanted to do something similar for the Reds.  Furthermore, because of my slant, I wanted to see what it might look like if we used metrics like WAR (both total and converted to a rate stat) as one of the primary metrics by which we judge hall of famers.  Here is what I did.

Rules for the Alternative Universe Hall of Fame

  • Players must be retired for three full years prior to being eligible.
  • Players must play for the Reds for at least three years.
  • Inductions occur every two years, beginning in 1912.
  • Players must accumulate at least 3 career WAR with the Reds to be eligible, according to The Baseball Gauge.
  • The Hall will alternate between two players and one player inducted.
That's it!  The requirements of three years post-retirement, three years of playing time with the Reds, and every-other-year inductions are the same as the actual Reds Hall of Fame.  I'm simply starting in 1912 and requiring a player (or two) be inducted every two years.  Not coincidentally, this will result in 80 players joining the Alternative Hall, which matches the current Reds hall.  There is no expiration to a player's eligibility; if they are the best eligible player in an induction year, they can still be inducted, even if they have been retired for 100 years.

Decisions on who is inducted will be made primarily on WAR and WAR/yr metrics.  However, for the purposes of making selections, I'm making similar adjustments as those made by the Hall of Stats: catchers get a 20% bonus given their restrictions on playing time, and pitchers from pre-1893 get a 20% penalty due to the absurd number of innings they threw.

So, without further adieu, here is the first decade...

Alternative Universe Reds Hall of Fame: 1912-1920


With the opening of Redland Field in 1912, the Cincinnati Reds ownership decided, in a stroke of marketing genius, to begin a Hall of Fame to celebrate the history of the Cincinnati Reds baseball club.  The team still hadn't won a championship since its inaugural 1882 season when they topped the fledgling American Association.  Nevertheless, the team had hosted a cast of outstanding players, and a Hall of Fame would help honor those players...and hopefully many others in more successful years to come.  The first class had two inductees: quite simply the best Reds hitter, and the best Reds pitcher to date.

Bid McPhee, 2B, 1882-1899, MLB Hall of Fame, Reds Hall of Fame

McPhee was the cornerstone of the Reds franchise during the late 1800's, combining gloveless excellence in the field with a strong bat and excellent speed.  His stolen base total reported here is likely an underestimate; we do not have data on stolen bases from 1882-1885.  While he rarely posted flashy numbers--unless you call his league-leading 8 home runs in 1886 flashy--he was extremely consistent, posting 2 WAR or better from 1889-1896, posting a 109 OPS+ during that time.   He ranks 6th in career WAR among Reds position players, 5th in games played, 2nd in runs scored, and 1st (by a long shot) in both triples and stolen bases.

Noodles Hahn, LHP, 1899-1905, Reds Hall of Fame
Noodles Hahn is the all-time leader in career WAR by a starting pitcher.  More than Rijo.  More than Maloney.  More than Derringer.  More than Eppa Rixey, Buckey Walters, or Dolf Luque.  For the deadball era, the left-hander was very much a strikeout pitcher, leading the league in strikeouts for each of his first three years with Cincinnati.  While he broke in as a 20-year old and was immediately dominant, his career was not long.  Noodles' last full season was 1904 as a 25-year old.  He only three a combined 119 innings during his last two seasons as arm problems took their toll.


In the alternating format chosen for the Hall's inception, every other cycle received one inductee.

Frank Dwyer, RHP, 1892-1899.  Second time eligible.

Dwyer joined the Reds as a 24-year old after begin released by St. Louis and blossomed into a dominant pitcher over the next several years.  He became their ace until   He ranks 5th on the Reds WAR leaderboard among pitchers, just ahead of Jose Rijo.  He was extremely durable for the Reds, posting a minimum of 240 innings for seven consecutive years while he anchored the staff.  There was something of a passing of the torch as he retired; his last year, in 1899, was Noodles Hahn's first.  He is not presently a member of the true Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.


Cy Seymour, CF, 1902-1906, Reds Hall of Fame.  First time eligible.
A converted pitcher, Cy Seymour is perhaps the greatest flash in the pan stories in Cincinnati Reds history.  In 1905, he put up the 10th best season ever by a Reds position player, posting 8 Wins Above Replacement (b-ref reckoning), while slugging .377/.429/.559 while leading the league in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS+ (182).  It was the highest batting average in Reds history.  Unfortunately, even with Seymour teaming up with Bob Ewing (see below), the 1905 Reds only finished five games over .500, and finished fifth in the National League.  Aside from that year, Seymour was a good hitter, but never approached those lofty heights.  He played with the Reds until mid-1906, when he was purchased from the Reds by the Giants for $12,000.

Bob Ewing, RHP/OF, 1902-1909.  Reds Hall of Fame.  First time eligible.

Bob Ewing is notable because he didn't throw a pitch in the major leagues until he was 29 years old.  The Reds discovered him during a barnstorming tour through Ohio, and signed him quickly after he held the major league team to a tie against the local squad.  Ewing was the most prolific spit-baller n Reds history, and he rode that pitch to more than 2000 innings for the club over eight years.  He was rarely the clear #1 pitcher on the team, but he topped 5 WAR for three consecutive years in 1905-1907, and cleared 300 innings in two of those three years.


Jake Beckley, 1B, 1897-1903.  MLB Hall of Fame.  Reds Hall of Fame.  Fourth time eligible.
Beckley's long Hall of Fame career spanned across four National League teams, but the majority of his value stemmed from eight years with the Pirates followed by seven years with the Reds.  Throughout most of this time, Beckley was a steady, reliably excellent performer, posting between ~4 WAR in four of his seven seasons.  Nothing really jumps out at you in his batting line, but he was a guy who got on base and provided good extra-base potential (especially for the dead-ball era) via lots of doubles and (especially!) lots of triples.  His case for the Hall seems likely based on longevity and batting average; in our alternative Reds Hall, voters were happy to vote him in, but not ahead of the players who preceded him.  Or, maybe they were just waiting to let him highlight his own year, as 1918 was a single-induction year.  You can decide.


In 1919, the Reds won their first World Series, defeating the White Sox 5 games to 3.  While allegations of the "Black Sox" throwing the game tainted their victory, the Reds threw a huge celebration for their two inductees into the Reds Hall the following year.

Tony Mullane, RHP (mostly), 1886-1893.  Reds Hall of Fame.  Fifth time eligible.
One of the best pitchers in the American Association, Mullane was an extremely durable pitcher that anchored the Reds' pitching staff for nearly half of its first 20 years.  While you can argue that it was a different game at the time, Mullane averaged 4.8 WAR and 354 IP per year from 1886-1892 for the Cincinnati Red Stockings.  He was also known to occasionally throw left-handed when his arm was sore.

Billy Rhines, RHP, 1890-1897.  Fifth time eligible.
During his rookie season, 21-year old Billy Rhines had one of the best seasons in Reds history.  He went 28-27, but led the league with a 1.95 ERA in 401 innings pitched, good for 11.4 WAR.  He'd spend most of the rest of his career with the club, often pitching alongside fellow Alternative Hall of Famers Tony Mullane and Frank Dwyer, posting four more 3+ win seasons through 1897.  He missed substantial time from 1892-1895--perhaps due to injury.  That, along with often not having the gaudy win totals that were typical for their time, might be why he is not better remembered by Reds fans.  But when he was healthy, he was as important as any other player on the teams during his tenure with the franchise.

Hope you enjoy the post.  This is something that I've wanted to do for years.  It takes a while to research each player, but I'll be working on this over the offseason as time allows.