How do you go about picking out the best players in Cincinnati Reds history when that history is just so darn expansive??
There are as many approaches to that problem as their are Reds fans, but we’re going to take an analytical approach here at Outsider Baseball.
In particular, we’re going strictly by the numbers — the players who have accumulated the most Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference, in the team’s long history.
Here, then, armed with the facts, are the ten best players in Cincinnati Reds history.
Pete Rose (78.1)
Though several players on this list spent their entire careers with the Reds, and though Rose spent most of six seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos, Pete still tops them all when it comes to WAR accumulated as a Red.
He was also a constant thorn in the side of Cincinnati Reds rivals over the years.
Over 19 seasons in Cincinnati, Rose played all three outfield positions, as well as first, second, and third base en route to collecting 3358 hits among his record 4256 safeties, topping Ty Cobb’s 4191 in 1985.
Rose may never make the Hall of Fame, but he’s a Reds legend forever.
Johnny Bench (75.2)
Bench was maybe the greatest catcher of all-time and easily the greatest receiver in Reds history. His 356 home runs as a catcher were the standard until Carlton Fisk, and then Mike Piazza surpassed him.
The National League MVP in both 1970 and 1972, Bench helped turn the Reds in The Big Red Machine.
Barry Larkin (70.5)
Larkin had big shoes to fill when he took over the shortstop hole from Reds great Davey Concepcion … and Lark stepped up to the plate in a big way.
The 1995 NL MVP, Larkin was a 12-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who helped the 1990 Reds lead wire-to-wire, and then waltz to a World Series title.
Frank Robinson (63.8)
Had Robinson stayed with the Reds his entire career and maintained the production he put up in this 30s with the Baltimore Orioles, he’d easily be number one on this list.
As it stands, F. Robby stands as one of the greatest Reds ever and certainly one of the most potent power bats the Queen City has ever seen.
The 1966 AL MVP, Robinson used his new digs to win the Triple Crown that summer after the Reds had famously traded him in the offseason because he was “an old 30.”
Joey Votto (62.0 through 2020)
Votto blends the best of the old and the new, playing the game with the kind of hustle that Rose would have loved, while also turning pitch selectivity into an art.
One of the great on-base men of all-time, Votto won the 2010 National League MVP award and entered the 2021 season with a gaudy career .419 on-base average. He also still has an outside shot at 3000 hits.
Joe Morgan (57.9)
By most accounts, the Reds turned the corner on transforming into the Big Red Machine when they traded for Joe Morgan.
In Cincy, Morgan developed into probably the greatest second baseman of all time, won two MVP awards, and led the Reds to title in 1975 and 1976.
Though he slowed down in his mid-30s, few men have ever combined the on-base abilities, power, speed, baserunning smarts, and glovework the Little Joe brought to the Riverfront in the 1970s.
Bid McPhee (52.5)
In some ways, McPhee was Morgan’s predecessor … just 80 years removed.
Plying his trade for the Reds from 1882 through 1899, McPhee was a star of the dead-ball nineteenth century game, collecting more than 2200 hits and stealing close to 600 bases.
Heck, he even led the National League with eight home runs in 1886. Then, then next year, he topped the game with 19 triples.
Vada Pinson (47.7)
Through the first decade of his career, Pinson looked like a sure Hall of Famer, regularly reaching double digits in homers and stolen bases while hitting close to .300.
He even won a Gold Glove in centerfield in 1961.
A drop-off in performance in his 30s led to a fairly early retirement at 37, but Pinson still accumulated more than 2700 hits, slammed 256 home runs, and stole 305 bases.
Tony Perez (45.6)
Plenty of observers will tell you that Big Dog was the heart and soul of those great 1970s Reds teams, and that The Big Red Machine basically lost its mojo when they traded Perez to the Expos after the ’76 championship.
Reunited with Morgan and Rose in Philadelphia, Perez helped the 1983 Phillies “Wheeze Kids” make it to the World Series before returning “home” to finish his career with the Reds in the mid-1980s.
Noodles Hahn (44.3)
Hahn played just eight years in the majors, and just seven for the Reds, but he made the most of them as one of the game’s great workhorses.
In 1901, for example, Noodles led all of baseball with 41 complete games (in 42 starts), 375.1 innings pitched, and 239 strikeouts.
He led in Ks two other times and finished his Reds career with a 127-92 record and 2.52 ERA.