A closer look at Cincinnati Reds outfielder Vada Pinson

CINCINATTI - UNDATED 1966: Vada Pinson of the Cincinnati Reds bats during an MLB game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pinson played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1958-1968. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CINCINATTI - UNDATED 1966: Vada Pinson of the Cincinnati Reds bats during an MLB game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pinson played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1958-1968. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

A dive into the numbers of one of the most overlooked hitters in the history of baseball, Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Vada Pinson.

Vada Pinson’s Lifetime Stats

AB: 9645   R: 1365   H: 2757   HR: 256   RBI: 1169   SB: 305   AVG: .286   OBP: .327 SLG: .442   OPS: .769

When listing the best “pound for pound” players in the history of the game, no list is complete without 5’11, 170-pound centerfielder Vada Pinson. When looking at his statistical resume, it’s hard to find a category he didn’t produce and/or excel in.

We’ll only briefly touch on his upbringing, coaching career, and off the field matters, but the focus of this will be on the spectacular numbers he produced, emphasizing the ones that really separate himself from the pack.

A standout player at McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, Pinson was monitored and quickly snatched up by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, all before turning 18. Bouncing around their minor league system and raking baseballs in the process, it wasn’t too much longer until Pinson attracted the eyes of the club’s front office and got an inevitable major league call-up.

Debuting in 1958, he would earn himself center field and bat second right out of the gate. Which at 19 years old, no matter the era or sport, is a feat in itself. Pinson was as sure of a thing a manager and front office could rely on coming into fruition.

Vada would go on to be the top of the order catalyst for Cincinnati for nearly the entire decade of the 60’s. A perennial MVP candidate in that span for his unique pure hitting ability, he would help the Reds earn a World Series berth in 1961 and be a part of several winning seasons for the club.

Pinson would be traded prior to the 1969 season to St. Louis after 11 years in Cincinnati at the age of 30. He would bounce around from St. Louis to Cleveland, Cleveland to California, and California to Kansas City via a series of trades throughout the tailing part of his career. While his production naturally declined after his top tier Cincinnati days, his bar was higher than most and still produced at a major league level.

After his playing career ended via retirement in 1975, Pinson would soon embark on a coaching career. Becoming the Seattle Mariners’ first ever coach in their inaugural season in 1977, Pinson remained so for 4 seasons before moving on to coach for the Chicago White Sox for the 1981 season.

After a few years away from the coaching scene, in 1985 the Detroit Tigers would appoint Pinson as a coach and would be a staple of the staff for the following 6 years, developing into one of the most respected and admired faces in the game of baseball, Vada was a very liked individual in the business.

In 1993, The newborn Florida Marlins organization would make Pinson their first ever head coach, making him the only manager ever to take the reins of 2 expansion clubs.

Among his wonderful statistical resume, a handful of feats and accomplishments were worthy of note:

  • 5 seasons of 300+ total bases, 3 of them in a row. (’59, ’60, ’61)
  • In 1959 at the age of 20, Pinson led the majors in doubles (47), runs (131), plate appearances (706) & at bats. (648)
  • 4 seasons of 200+ hits. (’59, ’61, ’63, ’65) Leading the league twice (’61, ’63)
  • 7 seasons of 20+ HRs. For more of a reputation as a “pure” hitter, that is remarkable power.
  • 9 seasons of 20+ stolen bases.
  • A career .286 lifetime hitter, Pinson hit .300 or over in 4 different seasons, including a whopping .343 in 1961
  • 5 seasons of 10+ triples
  • Never struck out more than 100 times in a season
  • Other than his rookie season in which he played 27 games, Pinson never played less than 103 games a year for the rest of his career, being very evasive of the major injury bug for most of his career
  • A career .981 fielding percentage, Pinson oddly enough won his only Gold Glove award in 1961 in center field despite posting a fielding percentage (.976) lower than the league’s average (.981) that year for the position

Vada Pinson’s 2757 career hits are 56th all time currently, which in the grand scheme of it all, is an elite company all things considered. Before Cincinnati was introduced to Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and the famous Big Red Machine days, Vada Pinson and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson ran the Reds.

Some speculate Pinson himself was Cooperstown worthy. The numbers are very impressive. Filling stat categories all over the place. An elite hitter with above average power and reliable speed to boot. The hard part about getting in, longevity, he has that box checked off.

Pinson may be in fact a player much ahead of his time that would be more commonplace in today’s style of play. With handfuls of power/speed combo players in the game today, one could say Pinson is a pioneer of today’s style.

So, why isn’t he in? Was it the name that lacks “star power”? Did it get lost amongst the others? Did the voters simply think he wasn’t good enough? Was it simply the ring on the finger he never won that might have changed his whole perception in the history of the game? We may never know the answers.

dark. Next. What Will The Mariners Do At First Base?

What we all know is that Cincinnati Reds star Vada Pinson was truly a unique, phenomenal player.