I just started a blog. Once I get a few more posts, I'll link it in my signature. In the meantime, I figured I'd post the content here since some good discussion might come from it. Might.
The past 20 years have been an abysmal era for the Reds. There were some exciting times in the '90s, but until the Reds won the NL Central this past season, the 2000s had been downright depressing. It's a period of time in which we've seen players like Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson, and Joey Hamilton all make Opening Day starts. And yes, I capitalize 'Opening Day'. It's the biggest holiday in Cincinnati as far as I'm concerned.
Keeping that sad fact in mind, you may be surprised to hear that there have been some very good seasons turned in by Reds pitchers. Before I start the countdown, I want to explain the lack of relievers. This is due to the fact that a starting pitcher throws significantly more innings throughout a season, making a starter more valuable than a reliever. But in case you were wondering, Jeff Shaw wasn't far from making the list a few times thanks to a couple excellent years in 1996-7. Anyway, on with the show . . .
10. 2005 Aaron Harang
Harang was coming off a mediocre season, and the speculation was that he wouldn't last much longer in MLB. When the Reds traded for him, he was expected to be a back-of-the-rotation starter at best, but fate would have it that he become the team's ace and turn in the Reds' best season from a pitcher since Pete Harnisch, who checks in at #9.
9. 1998 Pete Harnisch
1998 was a lackluster year for the Reds. As indicated by their record, the team was merely average, but one player who was certainly above average was Harnisch. Many thought his career was finished when he joined the club, but he rebounded from a disastrous 1997 to become one of the top-10 pitchers in the league.
8. 1991 Jose Rijo
Rijo was coming off a World Series MVP award, so the bar had been raised pretty high for him. He responded by leading the league in W/L% and WHIP, establishing himself as one of the most dominant pitchers of the '90s.
7. 2006 Aaron Harang
Many people saw 2005 as a fluke for Harang, but 2006 proved the doubters wrong. He led the league in many stats including wins, games started, complete games, strike outs, and batters faced. Despite that, he didn't receive a single vote for the Cy Young Award. It's not often you see a guy lead his league in wins and strike outs without getting a single vote for the prestigious award.
6. 2008 Edinson Volquez
Wayne Krivsky made a bold move by trading Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez. Hamilton was one of the most exciting young players in all of baseball, and Volquez was still a huge question mark. Josh Hamilton eventually became MVP of the American League, but it wouldn't be accurate to say Volquez hasn't been impressive when healthy. The fireballer displayed a wicked change-up that helped him earn an All-Star bid in his first year in the National League.
5. 1992 Greg Swindell
It's easy to forget about Swindell. He was around only one year before leaving to earn big bucks as a free agent. But without his stellar performance, you could argue that the Reds wouldn't have been in the post-season hunt that year.
4. 1992 Jose Rijo
Seeing as how two players from the same season made this list, you'd think that team would've made it to the playoffs. Unfortunately, it didn't happen as a result of the back of the rotation being so weak. But you can't blame not making the post-season on Rijo because he was once again one of the league leaders in every major pitching category.
3. 2007 Aaron Harang
You make look at Harang's 3.73 ERA from that season and come away unimpressed, but there are a couple things to keep in mind: a) half his games were in the very hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, and b) hitters were putting up more impressive numbers at the time, presumably due to a lack of testing for PEDs. That said, despite having less appearances on the leader boards as he did in 2006, he managed to earn 4th place in the Cy Young Award voting. The starter was solid game-in and game-out while suffering only 6 losses to 16 wins.
2. 2006 Bronson Arroyo
Bronson Arroyo came over in return for one of this blog's favorite players, Wily Mo Pena. (To give you an idea of how much I love Pena, I was once in a band known as 'Wily Mo & the Penas'.) Needless to say, there was disappointment upon his arrival, but all that went out the window when Arroyo outperformed all expectations. The fly ball pitcher led the league in games started and innings pitched, which helped him garner an All-Star bid and a vote for NL MVP.
1. 1993 Jose Rijo
1993 was one of the most disappointing seasons in Reds history. The team was decimated with injuries, and all the starting pitchers except one were under-performing. The exception was Jose Rijo, who led the NL in strike outs for the only time in his career. He also led the league in games started, which may have been one of the causes for his multiple Tommy John surgeries. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't have been counted on to do so much, but sadly, he was forced into a very rigorous role as a result of being one of the Reds' only effective pitchers.
As far as I'm concerned, in the history of the Cincinnati Reds, only one pitcher's season has been better than Jose Rijo's 1993, and that was Dolf Luque's 1923 performance. That's a 70-year gap, but if you look at the young player's currently in the Reds' rotation, I doubt we'll need to wait another 70 years before we see such a standout performance from a Reds pitcher.