All-time best Reds starting rotation based on WAR

It's quite likely that most Reds fans have never heard of these pitchers before.

Bucky Walters wide-eyed and displaying the uniform
Bucky Walters wide-eyed and displaying the uniform / File, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn
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Over the entire history of Cincinnati baseball, it's fair to say that the Reds organization is more widely-known for those players who've stepped into the batters' box and not so much those who've stepped on the mound.

All-time greats like Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Johnny Bench were known for swinging the lumber, not their backdoor slider. But that doesn't mean that the Cincinnati Reds have been devoid of pitching talent.

Joe Nuxhall, Jose Rijo, and more recently Bronson Arroyo, have won the hearts of fans throughout Reds Country. But when you break down a pitcher's performance based on Wins Above Replacement, referred to as WAR, who rises to the top? For this exercise, Baseball Reference (bWAR) will be the tool of choice.

1. Tony Mullane, Reds right-handed pitcher (38.5 WAR)

Tony Mullane was born in Cork, Ireland in 1859. According to, Mullane was the first-ever ambidextrous pitcher in major league history. Mullane pitched for the Detroit Wolverines in 1881 and then joined the Louisville Eclipse of the American Association in 1882.

After posting a 102-69 record during his first four seasons, Mullane joined the Cincinnati Reds in 1886. Mullane's first season in the Queen City saw him post a 33-27 record while leading the league in hits allowed, home runs allowed, and earned runs.

Mullane would go on to play six more seasons in Cincinnati while racking up a win-loss record of 124-91 with a 2.93 ERA from 1887-1892. Midway through the 1893 season, Tony Mullane was traded to Baltimore Orioles for first baseman Piggy Ward.

The 1894 season was Mullane's last as he split time between the Orioles and Cleveland Spiders. Mullane finished his career with a record of 284-220 with 163 of those victories coming in Cincinnati. Mullane's career bWAR while pitching for the Reds was 38.5. If you're looking for a fun fact about Mullane, he still leads baseball with 343 wild pitches.

2. Eppa Rixey, Reds left-handed pitcher (40.1 WAR)

Being a Hall of Famer, Eppa Rixey might be a bit more familiar to baseball fans. That said, the southpaw from Virginia pitched for the Cincinnati Reds over 100 years ago. Rixey suited up in Cincinnati from 1921 until 1933, at which time he was 42 years old.

According to, Rixey was the longtime record holder of the most wins by a left-handed pitcher in major league history until Warren Spahn surpassed the lefty's 266 win total in 1959.

After an eight-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Rixey was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 1921 season. The year prior, Rixey led the league in losses with a record of 11-21 despite a sparkling 2.27 ERA.

But after landing in Cincinnati, Rixey became a fixture in the Reds starting rotation. The left-hander finished a 13-year career in Cincinnati with a record of 179-148 and an ERA of 3.33. Rixey led the league in wins, starts, and innings pitched during the 1922 season in which he threw over 313 innings.

Eppa Rixey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1963. Unfortunately, Rixey's death came a few months he was formally inducted into Cooperstown. Rixey's bWAR with the Reds stands at 40.1.

3. Noodles Hahn, Reds left-handed pitcher (44.5 WAR)

Noodles Hahn debuted for the Cincinnati Reds in 1899 and spent almost his entire major league career in the Queen City. Seven of Hahn's eight seasons were spent in a Reds uniform, but the left-hander finished his career in the Big Apple as a member of the New York Highlanders in 1906.

During his first three seasons in Cincinnati, Hahn led the league in strikeouts. In 1901, Hahn not only led the league in punch outs, but also innings pitched and complete games. Hahn was on the bump for 375 innings that season.

For those who are curious, the major league record is Will White with 680 inning pitched in 1879. Just for reference, Graham Ashcraft led all Reds pitchers this season 145 innings on the mound.

Hahn won at least 20 games in four of the seven years that he pitched in Cincinnati and eclipsed 300 innings pitched four different times. Unfortunately, according to, this ironman mentality caused Hahn to suffer a dead arm at the age of 26.

Noodles Hahn finished his career with over 2,000 innings pitched in just eight seasons. Hahn's career-ERA with the Reds was a measly 2.52. That'll do. As for his real name, it's actually Frank George Hahn. The nickname Noodles has a few different origin stories, but regardless, he was one of the best pitchers in Reds history.

4. Bucky Walters, Reds right-handed pitcher (43.8 WAR)

Bucky Walters played 11 seasons in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. The right-hander actually played in an era when some of the accolades that exist today were actually part of the recognition for a player's performance.

As such, throughout his entire major league career, Walters was a six-time All-Star and won the MVP 1939. Walters was also part of the Reds roster when the team won the 1940 World Series.

Walters also began his career in 1931 as an infielder. With the Boston Braves at age 22, Walters played nine games in the big leagues and spent time at both second and third base. It wasn't until 1934 with the Philadelphia Phillies that Walters began to pitch. He worked seven innings that season before starting 22 games the following season.

By the time Walters arrived in Cincinnati, he'd left his infielder's glove behind and was focused solely on pitching. During Walters' MVP season in 1939, he won the Triple Crown by leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA.

Bucky Walters is one of the best players, and certainly one of the best pitchers, in Cincinanti Reds history. While among the top five pitchers in team history based on WAR, Walter's 43.8 WAR ranks him 11th among every player who's ever put on a Reds uniform.

5. Dolf Luque, Reds right-handed pitcher (42.6 WAR)

Dolf Luque spent 20 years in the major leagues before finally retiring from the game in 1935. The right-hander began his career in 1913 with the Boston Braves and eventually made his way to the Reds franchise in 1918.

Luque is actually a two-time World Series champion. The right-hander was part of the Cincinnati Reds team that won the infamous 1919 World Championship over the Chicago White Sox. Luque also was part of the 1933 New York Giants team that won the title.

Luque uniquely led the league in loss (23) in 1922, only to turn around and lead the league in wins (27) a year later. Luque also led the league in ERA (1.93) in 1923 while posting six shutouts. While some of Luque's success came during the dead-ball era, don't let that detract from the fact that he was one of better hurlers of his generation.

Dolf Luque twice led the league in ERA and over the course of his 20-year career, the right-hander 26 shutouts, 24 of which came while playing for the Cincinnati Reds. Like so many on this list, today's fan probably doesn't recognize the name Dolf Luque, but he was one of the best pitchers in Reds history.