So, would you rather have a serviceable starter or a dominant reliever? That may not be precisely fair, because there’s no evidence that the Braves ever even considered Reed for relief.
Reed was one of the last pre-draft players, signed out of Notre Dame in 1965 (after spending a couple of years playing forward in the NBA) and was in the majors in September of the next season. He pitched briefly for the big club in 1966 and 1967 and was up to stay in 1968. Reed’s 3.35 ERA that year looks superficially impressive, but that’s in a context of a 2.99 league average (the Year of the Pitcher, remember). His ERA was in the low twos in May and he made his only All-Star team that year, finishing 11-10.
In 1969, offense began to go up due to rules changes but Reed’s ERA didn’t go up as much as some; his 3.47 was 4 percent better than the league. He went 18-10 as the Braves’ #2 starter but got beaten to a pulp in the second game of the NLCS. 1970 was an off year, as it was for so many Braves: Reed obviously had some injuries and fell to 7-10, 4.41.
For the rest of Reed’s Braves career he was basically an average pitcher. He had an injury dip in 1974 but otherwise was average or a little above, but the team wasn’t very good so he wound up with records like 13-14, 11-15, and 10-11. He got off to a slow start in 1975 (4-5 but with a highish ERA) so the Braves (as usual) sold low, trading him to the Cardinals for two guys who had once been good, Elias Sosa and Ray Sadecki. He finished out the year with the Cards, who then traded him to the Phillies for a terrible outfielder named Mike Anderson.
I normally focus on the Braves career of the players in this series, but what happened in Philadelphia is fascinating. Someone in Philly knew something. Reed only made seven starts for the Phils in his first two seasons there and mostly was used in relief. If you want to see a bullpen by committee that worked, take a look at what the Phillies had from 1976-78: Reed combined with Tug McGraw and (until he was traded to the Braves in mid-78) Gene Garber for what must have been one of the best bullpens God ever made. Reed saved 14, 15, and 17 games in those three seasons while McGraw and Garber were picking up similar numbers. He was also pitching over 100 innings a year. That caught up to him in 1979-80, but he rebounded for three solid years of relief with the Phillies before finishing up with a strong year — at the age of 41 — with the White Sox.
Obviously, the Braves needed starting pitching in the early part of the seventies, but gosh, Reed’s statistics as a reliever are good.
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