Joey Votto and the Value of a Walk

Joey Votto is a fantastic player. There is absolutely no denying this fact. Any and all arguments regarding the quality of Votto’s offensive ability should be, and generally are, made in terms of whether he is simply an excellent hitter, or one of the very best hitters currently playing baseball today.

The argument “against” Joey Votto commonly refers to his “inability” to “drive in runners”. In other words, Votto had a low RBI total in 2013, given his salary, place in the lineup, and position. Votto’s 73 RBI ranked 17th in baseball among first-basemen, and 65th overall.

We all know that RBI is not an effective way of measuring offense, or even the ability to drive in runners, because of its dependence on the offensive quality of the rest of the team. To rectify at least this flaw of the RBI, let’s look at a variant of the statistic, one that is reflective of its purpose, but more effectively measures said purpose. We’ll call it RBI per  Opportunity, or RBI/Opp. Simply, it is the percentage of runners, on base while a player is up, that are driven in by said player, removing plate appearances in which the player is intentionally walked:

Num Player RBI Opps RBI/Opp
1 Wilson Ramos 48 196 24.5%
2 Allen Craig 87 359 24.2%
3 Freddie Freeman 91 382 23.8%
4 Chris Davis 85 376 22.6%
5 Miguel Cabrera 95 423 22.5%
6 Matt Carpenter 68 307 22.2%
7 Paul Goldschmidt 94 428 22.0%
8 Robinson Cano 81 374 21.7%
9 Salvador Perez 67 312 21.5%
10 Yadier Molina 71 342 20.8%
192 Joey Votto 53 412 12.9%

Note: these are not literal RBI, but the number of times the runners on base actually score. In other words, I’m counting runs that score as a result of double plays or errors as RBI.

The leaders in RBI/Opp are, for the most part, the players that we would expect to be leaders. These are primarily players that are, and should be, leaders in MVP voting. Joey Votto is a not a leader in this statistic. Joey Votto was not a victim of opportunity, a victim of the players who batted in front of him. Joey Votto drove in well fewer runners that we would expect from a player of his caliber.

Of course, that does not mean that Joey Votto should not be considered in MVP voting. There is more to being an effective offensive player than the ability to drive in runners. You know this. I know this. Even someone like Harold Reynolds knows this. However, the argument made by people like Reynolds is that whatever value Votto brings apart from driving in runners is minimal compared to the value he loses by failing to do so.

A simple way of posing this argument is that Votto is responsible for driving in those runners, that it is the job of Joey Votto, being a middle-of-the-order player, to drive in the runners that are on base when he is up, because the players behind him may not. Specifically, the implication is that a walk is of little importance with runners on base, because unless the bases are loaded, a walk does not immediately score runs. A walk just passes responsibility to someone else to drive in runs.

This is almost true, in a way. If we’re considering the context of plate appearances, then walks with runners in scoring position and first base open are surely less valuable, relatively, than walks in other situations. Walks with two outs are surely less valuable than walks with no outs. Certain events have more value in certain situations, and walks have less value in situations with more RBI opportunities, in general.

How far less? Consider the run value of each type of outcome based on the base-out state:

Outs Runners 1B 2B 3B HR BB K Out
0 ___ 0.37 0.60 0.91 1.00 0.37 -0.22 -0.22
1 ___ 0.24 0.40 0.67 1.00 0.25 -0.15 -0.15
2 ___ 0.12 0.21 0.25 1.00 0.12 -0.09 -0.09
0 1__ 0.68 1.12 1.53 1.63 0.59 -0.34 -0.38
1 1__ 0.44 0.95 1.42 1.75 0.38 -0.28 -0.31
2 1__ 0.22 0.70 1.14 1.88 0.20 -0.21 -0.21
0 _2_ 0.72 0.98 1.31 1.39 0.36 -0.42 -0.31
1 _2_ 0.64 0.98 1.26 1.60 0.22 -0.34 -0.33
2 _2_ 0.71 1.00 1.05 1.79 0.11 -0.31 -0.31
0 __3 0.40 0.64 0.95 1.03 0.37 -0.52 -0.40
1 __3 0.62 0.77 1.03 1.38 0.27 -0.52 -0.24
2 __3 0.80 0.89 0.97 1.68 0.06 -0.41 -0.41
0 12_ 1.01 1.59 2.00 2.09 0.91 -0.51 -0.47
1 12_ 0.85 1.53 2.01 2.34 0.61 -0.49 -0.56
2 12_ 0.90 1.63 2.01 2.75 0.39 -0.34 -0.34
0 1_3 0.68 1.14 1.58 1.66 0.48 -0.66 -0.54
1 1_3 0.78 1.30 1.78 2.10 0.38 -0.67 -0.51
2 1_3 0.96 1.45 1.87 2.62 0.26 -0.47 -0.47
0 _23 0.85 1.15 1.46 1.54 0.36 -0.57 -0.38
1 _23 0.92 1.28 1.56 1.89 0.17 -0.78 -0.47
2 _23 1.44 1.74 1.79 2.53 0.17 -0.57 -0.57
0 123 1.07 1.60 2.10 2.18 1.00 -0.76 -0.68
1 123 1.18 1.92 2.40 2.72 1.00 -0.78 -0.73
2 123 1.50 2.19 2.62 3.36 1.00 -0.74 -0.74

There’s a lot of information in the above table, and you don’t need to sift through all of it. The important thing to notice is that the values of each event relative to other states, as well as relative to other events within the state, vary greatly. A home run with no one on and two outs is worth more than eight times more than a walk in that situation. But a home run with a runner on first and no outs is worth less than three times as much as a walk.

To really understand the value of a walk relative to other events, we need to do more than just manually compare the values —  we need to standardize each state so that the average event in each is worth the same. If the average event in each base-out state is the same, then we can see more clearly when the walk is more and less important. Using a similar process as the one for calculating wOBA, we do this by subtracting the run value of an out from the run value of each event, then normalizing so that the average positive event in each base-out state is worth ’1′, to mimic OBP.

When all is said and done, the relative “value” of a walk — or, the wOBA weight given the situation — in each base-out state looks like this:

Runners/Outs 0 1 2
___ 0.843 0.806 0.715
1__ 0.795 0.719 0.621
_2_ 0.667 0.582 0.446
__3 0.882 0.631 0.430
12_ 0.844 0.749 0.568
1_3 0.765 0.643 0.507
_23 0.647 0.514 0.452
123 0.879 0.802 0.713

You can see that in the states with runners in scoring position and first base is open, a walk, in general, has far less value relative to other events, especially as the number of outs increases. With two outs, runners on, and first base open, the value of a walk drops dramatically, whereas its value is almost average (1) relative to other events with no outs and bases empty or a man on third.

With these values in mind, let’s now look at where Votto’s 116 non-intentional walks came this season, along with the above relative value or wOBA weight of the walk in that state:

Outs Runners PA niBB niBB% BB wOBA
0 ___ 147 12 8.2% 0.843
1 ___ 92 17 18.5% 0.806
2 ___ 155 27 17.4% 0.715
0 1__ 30 7 23.3% 0.795
1 1__ 66 14 21.2% 0.719
2 1__ 43 7 16.3% 0.621
0 _2_ 17 5 29.4% 0.667
1 _2_ 39 5 12.8% 0.582
2 _2_ 9 2 22.2% 0.446
0 __3 2 1 50.0% 0.882
1 __3 13 4 30.8% 0.631
2 __3 7 0 0.0% 0.430
0 12_ 15 3 20.0% 0.844
1 12_ 14 3 21.4% 0.749
2 12_ 16 3 18.8% 0.568
0 1_3 7 0 0.0% 0.765
1 1_3 7 2 28.6% 0.643
2 1_3 6 0 0.0% 0.507
0 _23 2 0 0.0% 0.647
1 _23 2 0 0.0% 0.514
2 _23 4 0 0.0% 0.452
0 123 3 0 0.0% 0.879
1 123 6 0 0.0% 0.802
2 123 5 4 80.0% 0.713

It’s difficult to tell, based on this table alone, whether Votto walked in the “correct” situations or not. You can easily point out situations in which he walked too much given the value of a walk (runner on second, 1 out) and situations in which he did well in not walking when a walk wasn’t as important (runners on second and third).

We can determine whether Votto walked at the right times overall by taking the weighted sum of the wOBA weights of the walks in these situations. In doing so, we end up with .727. Using league-wide numbers and the above weights, the average wOBA weight on walks is .719. In other words, Votto walked in equally or more important situations than the average hitter. In other other words, Votto’s walks were not useless. Votto’s walks were about as useful as we expect walks to be.

This analysis can be extended to more than just walks. We can calculate these base-out wOBA weights for every event, applying them to all of Votto’s plate appearances in order to measure how well he hit to the situation overall.

When we do so, Votto ends up with a .403 base-out wOBA. His actual wOBA was .400. Just as with with walk, we find that Joey Votto’s hitting when considering the relative value of events in the base-out states was equivalent to Votto’s hitting using context-independent weights. Votto did not walk when he should have singled, or homered when a single would do. And lest you think Votto simply got fewer hits, instead of the wrong hits, in important situations, his RE24 on the season was 51 runs, compared to 49 weighted runs above average (wRAA).

Whether or not Votto’s lack of RBI in 2013 is predictive of a lack of RBI in future seasons, fans are right to be concerned that he did not live up to expectations this season. With no other information, one would be justified in believing that Votto did not do enough with runners on base, that he did not do enough to produce runs, that he walked too much when walks were far less valuable than hits.

One would be justified in believing this, but one would also be incorrect in believing this. Votto did not walk at the wrong times, and he did not hit more poorly in important run-scoring opportunities than otherwise. Votto’s run production taking context into account was as we would expect it to be without context taken into account: not just good, but one of the greatest in the game.

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65 Responses to “Joey Votto and the Value of a Walk”

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  1. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Off-topic: ack! Is the background of the website plain white for anyone else, or only me?

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  2. Rule of Law says:

    It’s definitely plain white.

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  3. Brandon says:

    Excellent article–I’ve always been curious about Votto’s actual value since he’s such an exceptional case of a ballplayer.

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  4. Spencer says:

    White for me…

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  5. Ryan Ritchey says:

    Awesome job! You did an excellent job of stating the numbers for people to actually get an understanding of just how great of a hitter Joey Votto is.

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  6. LeeTro says:

    I saw an article by a CIN writer asking Jocketty if Bryan Price would be able to “rid Votto of the thought that a walk is better than a sacrifice fly.” The worst part is Jocketty seemed to agree with the writer, and that the coaches would try to convey this to Votto. Using general run expectancy tables, a walk is always better than a sac fly, so there are very few instances, when considering score, where sac flies are better. I hope that was just a make-the-writer-happy response and this is not their philosophy.

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  7. Ryan says:

    Disagree – it’s Votto’s fault Cozart (.284 obp) was in the #2 hole all year.

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  8. This is good stuff and doesn’t even take into account the fact that pitchers will pitch differently depending on the situation. Joey Votto is an excellent hitter, so they are going to be at least marginally more careful when pitching to him when hits are more valuable than walks.

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  9. Jamie says:

    Joey Votto should forward this article to every major league pitcher in the hopes that it will convince then to throw him more strikes with runners on base. (Or the Reds could just bat him 2nd and everyone will magically stop caring about his RsBI.)

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  10. Justin Bailey says:

    Here’s how to put this argument in a way that Joe Morgan types can understand: “Votto may have had only 73 RBI this season, but he scored 101 runs. It’s because he’s a team player. He gives his teammates chances to get RBIs instead of selfishly hoarding the RBIs all for himself.”

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  11. Steve B says:

    Thank you for this article.

    But I have one question that I think was unanswered: what actually caused Votto’s lack of RBI production? I understand that the argument you’re making is that it doesn’t matter– Votto’s giving elite-caliber production. But I’m still curious to know what’s actually causing it. And I own him in my fantasy keeper league, so RBI’s actually do matter for me!

    Your article talks about the low percentage of runners on base Votto drove in, but what caused that low percentage? Please tell me if I’m misinterpreting, because it’s very possible given the depth of your analysis, but you said two things that it isn’t: it’s not that he’s misallocating his hits so that they’re less valuable, and it’s not that he’s getting fewer hits…

    So what’s that actual cause if not for these things?

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    • nil satis nisi optimum says:

      The actual cause, I would guess, is pitchers not giving him a chance to get quality hits, namely by only offering him pitches outside of the strike zone. As a result, Votto is smart enough not to swing at such pitches, and a lot of the hits he might otherwise get are converted to walks.

      I think it’s partially a reputation Votto has built. Has anyone ever looked at this? Whether certain sluggers acquire a reputation, such that the percentage of pitches thrown in the strike zone to them falls (especially in RISP situations) after they have been excellent for some period of time?

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  12. badenjr says:

    How does the distribution of the base-out states that Votto saw compare to the average player? The average middle-of-the-order player?

    With Choo getting on all the time and the black hole hitting second, was Votto unusually likely to find himself at the plate with a runner on first and first only?

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  13. DaveP says:

    What do I have to read to understand that a run scored is worth less than a run that might score (e.g. sac fly scores a run vs walk puts a guy on base)?

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    • Matt Hunter says:

      The run expectancy table here is a good place to start:

      With 0 outs, runner on 3rd, teams score 1.43 runs in the inning. With 1 out, bases empty (after a sac fly), teams score 0.29. 0.29-1.43 = -1.14 change in expected runs scored, plus the run that actually scored is -0.14 runs.

      A walk in that situation changes it to 1st and 3rd, 0 outs, which is 1.85 expected runs. That’s a difference of 0.42 runs.

      So, the difference between a sac fly and a walk with 0 outs and a man on third is .56 runs. You can repeat with other sac fly scenarios, but I believe that all, or almost all, will show the walk to be worth more runs, because it’s not an out.

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      • LeeTro says:

        You’re right. The closest is guy on third with one out, when it’s only a .02 run difference, but it’s still better to walk.

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      • Pale Hose says:

        The run expectancy tables are averages. How much of a variance can we expect given a specific situation? Let’s look at runner on second with two outs. On average we can expect .348 runs in the inning. If the batter walks the new expectancy is .471 runs. But, the Reds situation isn’t average. Votto is significantly above average and Phillips is at our slightly below average. That should cut into the .123 run increase, but by how much? Can it be justified for Votto to be more aggressive in that situation?

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        • Matt Hunter says:

          The specific case with Phillips batting next is interesting. Though he was below average overall, he was slightly above average as far as batting average, and didn’t strike out much. So if you’re in a 1_3 situation, my guess is that Phillips would be about average as far as RE, though I’d really need to use a Markov simulator-type thing to know for sure. Then Bruce is up next, who is definitely above average, and then usually Frazier after that, who is exactly average. I definitely agree that you need to look at the players batting next, but my educated guess is that they are about average in this case.

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        • Kris says:

          @Matt, a lot of Twins fans say more or less the same thing about Joe Mauer, ie he isn’t productive enough, doesn’t get enough RBI’s, takes too many walks. Would you say his case is similar to Votto’s?

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      • One Rub says:

        Expected value isn’t always the best way to value some choices (e.g. St. Petersburg Paradox). In your example, the walk has a higher expected value, but also a larger variance. The utility in a lower expected value but lower variance can be seen in a lot of late-and-close situations – most obviously the bottom of the 9th and tied setting.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, but flat out deriding of sac bunts and sac flies while pointing only to run expectancy is a bit naive. That said, managers rarely use them correctly…

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        • skippyballer486 says:

          The St. Petersburg Paradox isn’t a paradox, it’s just people being stupid and/or risk-averse. To cite it as an example when one SHOULDN’T use EV is crazy; it’s actually a great example of why people SHOULD use EV more! If people would properly use EV, they would play the game and win lots of money. If they don’t use EV, they refuse to play the game and pass on the free money being offered.

          It would be possible to make a win-expectancy analysis of Votto’s walks, but it would be a massive undertaking. There may be some specific situations in which a walk is significantly less valuable than a sac fly, but situations in which the walk is better are much more common. If Votto could simply choose to hit a double in every big spot, he obviously would. So the question is, essentially, is Votto better off taking a small chance at a hit, decent chance at a sac fly, good chance at an out, or taking an excellent chance at a walk, small chance at a strikeout. To do this, all we can do is look at RE or WE, or run it through a simulator (which is close enough to WE). If you want to roll up your sleeves, analyze all of Votto’s walks and see if their WE is different than expected. If it turns out his walks are much less valuable by WE than by RE, we’ll all be happy to change our stance. Until then, there is no evidence that his walks are anything other than what we would expect.

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      • Pat says:

        I’ve seen about ten times this season where the Pirates failed to score a run with a runner on third and no outs so I’ll take the sacrifice fly and a guaranteed run over the potential of a big inning.

        If someone can pull up their numbers with runners on third and less than two outs, they have to be some of the worst percentages of all time.

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    • RMR says:

      Put quite simply, with the sac fly, your intuition likely fails to account for the expected run cost of making of an out. You get one run for sure, but you really hurt your teams chance to score beyond that run.

      The walk, meanwhile, has no negative offset – it’s simply makes your team likely to score more runs. People tend to view the walk as a failure to drive in a run so it feels like a negative, a lost opportunity. But by not making an out, you create a plate appearance for a hitter behind you. And that plate appearance is more valuable because there are more men on base for it than there were for the guy who’s walked.

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  14. Plato says:

    Every time I see Joey trot to 1B, I want to kiss him passionately

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    • Aristotle says:

      … and then you remember that Brandon Phillips bats clean-up?

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      • E-Dub says:

        Depends on what time of year it was. Philipps drove in 48 of his 103 runs in April and May, and led the N.L. for much of that time frame IIRC. Even that obscures the fact that his season total was undercut by a bizarre 4 RBI September. Had he been more in line with the previous five months he’d have driven in closer to 120 runs, which is a fine total in a vacuum. Whether or not it’s a fine total considering he had the two N.L. leaders in OBP in front of him is another matter. Regardless, no one was complaining about Votto’s approach when he was getting on base and Phillips was driving him in those first two months.

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  15. triple_r says:

    because of it’s dependence

    I expected more from you.

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  16. Chickensoup says:

    “Votto’s walks were about as useful as we expect walks to be.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I think this is where people have the disconnect. You are comparing Joey Votto to the MLB Average. In that context, sure he’s doing slightly better than average as far as weight of his walks goes, but this includes guys hitting 8th and 9th (in the AL, if i remember right pitchers are taken out of these kind of calculations), The Astros and Marlins as teams, pinch hitters etc. Isnt it useful to look at the actual context of things in this case and compare it to things that are similar? Even if you don’t like it, baseball lineups are constructed in a certain way most of the time. teams tend to front load OBP in the first 2 then power in the next 3 then generally best to worst overall for the last 4. this is what puts heavy emphasis on getting as much production as possible from your first 5 batters, especially in the NL. It’s also really important to get it the smaller the market/salary of your team as well since front loading the talent into the first 5 spots is generally going to be more productive over the course of a year.

    Wouldnt a better comparison be him vs all 3, 4, 5 hitters? It’s hardly fair to say he’s doing better than expected, when you are expecting him to be averaged in with the likes of Yuniesky Betencourt and other ineptitudes on the field (read: Brewers 1B all year long). Right now your analysis says yes, he’s doing better than average (especially in the wOBA of his walks) but that’s not saying much really. the “average” is set way lower than where Votto should be aiming given his real life circumstances of salary, position and placement in the batting order

    Basically, where does he rank as compared to other first basemen that bat in the middle of the order? or just every other middle of the order hitter overall? comparing that might get you closer to an actual reason why people were frustrated with his production this year IMO

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  17. jdbolick says:

    I had an argument with Rob Neyer about this ages ago regarding Barry Bonds. My contention was that Bonds could benefit the team by not being quite as selective, as I argued that the value of a walk is proportionate to the OPS of the next hitters in succession (wOBA would obviously be a vastly better metric, but it hadn’t been invented by Tom Tango yet). The basic concept was that the worse the following batters are, the less valuable you can expect that walk to be. Bonds then, and presumably Votto now, take pitches that are strikes but aren’t exactly what they’re looking for when it’s still early in the count. That generally shouldn’t be an issue for a 3/4 hitter since you’d expect the next two guys to be competent enough that the walk value is largely unaffected, but the Giants were particularly inept back then.

    And as others have mentioned, an obvious alternative is to move the frequent walker higher up in the order. But those who believe like Neyer did that walking should always be praised need to consider that it is affected by the quality of the hitters on-deck.

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    • NBarnes says:

      This assumes an ability on the part of the batter to adjust their batting profile and ‘true talent distribution’ according to both game situation and batting order context. I don’t believe that this is the case. I believe that hitters have, more or less, the ability they have to see pitches and be selective about swinging for good contact or laying off, and cannot change the way they approach pitches and at-bats without taking significant costs in terms of their overall performance.

      If hitters could do that, you’d expect to see bigger swings in OBA and SLG based on game situation and batting order context than you do.

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    • RMR says:

      This doesn’t account for why Bonds (or Votto) walks. The thinking is, he’s a .950 OPS hitter, if only he put the ball in play more…. But he’s a .950 OPS hitter because of not chasing balls that he can’t hit well. He’s already swinging at the pitches he can hit well; adding more swings to the mix may result in more balls in play, but the quality of those balls in play will not be the same. And some of those will come at the expense of better hit balls, not just walks.

      There may be some hitters hobo of have that kind of discipline and the contact skills to crush all sorts of pitches. But a Votto isn’t Miggy Cabrere. He’s not Vlad Guerrero. He’s taking an approach that maximizes his skill set.

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  18. Bagine says:

    It is clearly not within Votto’s control that he has a .396 SLG coming up next…

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  19. John G says:

    Great article Dave.

    I have a suspected correction for the readers’ benefit:
    “But a home run with a runner on first and no outs is worth less than three times as much as a walk.”
    should likely be
    But a walk with a runner on first and no outs is worth less than three times as much as a home run.”

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    • steex says:

      No correction needed. That correctly suggests that the value of a home run in that situation isn’t quite three times more valuable than a walk.

      It says “worth less than three times as much,” meaning more than twice as much, but not quite three times as much. I think you may be reading it as “worth three times less than.”

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  20. MGL says:

    Good job! Nice article and nice use of custom run values. Obviously any batter whose value is more in walks and even singles, as opposed to extra base hits is going to have fewer RBI per “unit of value.” I’m pretty sure you can find players with a lot lower RBI per “unit of value” than Votto. Look for someone with a high offensive value, very high walks and few HR, and you will find a player with low RBI (considering his overall value), especially RBI per opportunity.

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    • Matt Hunter says:

      Thanks! Definitely true in general, though Matt Carpenter, 6th in RBI/Opp, is the exception to that rule, with a 10% walk rate and only 11 home runs.

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    • pft says:

      Votto had a 491 SLG. Pedroia with 415 SLG and far fewer walks had an RBI per opportunity of 15.7, also by batting 3rd but with a far better protection.

      According to Baseball Prospectus, Votto was actually 11.1%, excluding DP and errors I guess, and he was ranked 116th among 135 hitters with 500 or more PA. Guys like Ichiro, Scutaro, Uggla, Castro, Moustakas, Ethier, Smoak and B Crawford bottomed out the list

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  21. pft says:

    He only scored 77 times without the benefit of a HR, how many of those BB results in an actual run he have no idea, nor do we know how many of his BB’s ended up with him crossing the plate. However, we do know that despite being on base by hit or BB 290 times, he only scored 77 times. Dustin Pedroia, with a legitimate cleanup hitter behind him (Papi) scored 85 times despite being on base 30 fewer times. So the walks were probably not as productive as they could have been. Phillips with his 706 OPS was somehow deemed worthy of batting 4th behind Votto for most of the year,

    He was 55 OPS worse with runners on base than with nobody on and 106 OPS less in late and close than overall. Votto had a -1.1 clutch. So Votto did not have a great year when it counted, fueling public perception he underperformed.

    Part of the reason for the poor clutch and low RBI numbers, besides luck, is likely because he had a weak hitting 2Bman following him in the order. Phillips probably should have batted further down in the order, and not 4th.

    Whatever the reason, baseball is a game won or lossed based on runs actually scored. Votto put up a lot of theoretical runs, not so many actual runs, at least relative to his numbers.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      Are you arguing that the only way a player can contribute to team runs is by either driving them in directly or by scoring them? Because that would be really stupid.

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  22. Leo the Lip says:

    Frank Thomas had the best eye in baseball, ever. I have been unable to figure out why I enjoyed watching him early in his career so much more than Joey Votto.

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    • Leo the Lip says:

      The jist of this is that Joey should not be batting where he is in the Reds order. He would probably do much better at 2nd in the order then comparisons with players like Matt Carpenter and others who bat 2nd would be better versus comparisons with cleanup hitters.

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  23. Menthol says:

    What would really increase Joey Votto’s value is having another Joey Votto batting behind him in the lineup for protection.

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  24. vivaelpujols says:

    Seems like WPA/Li would be good here as it is essentially custom linear weights, right? Votto’s WPA/Li ranks 3rd in baseball and his wOBA ranks 7th. Doesn’t that imply that Votto’s approach has actually been better than optimal?

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  25. RobL says:

    While the article is full of great information, the whole Joey Votto discussion this year really misses the point: Before this season, Votto had been dominant in high leverage situations. He would walk a lot, but when the ball was put in play, his babip was around .400. This season, his babip was .238. He was on the bad side of a small sample. If he hits for his usual career babip in high leverage situations, none of these Votto/walking articles are written. Unfortunately, the beat writers and broadcasters can’t see randomness in small samples. What they see is Votto walking (like he always does) and Phillips racking up RBI’s behind him. And they think that if Votto would just swing at anything, he would drive in more runs like Phillips and Bruce. They don’t see how this would just drop Votto’s effectiveness, and without him on base, Phillips and Bruce don’t go over 100 RBI each. Also disappointing is that his manager and GM seem to share the general media opinion (or help to shape it).

    Votto was “not clutch” this year. He had been “clutch” every year before. I would bet that next year he will be a lot closer to “clutch” than “not clutch”, without changing anything about his approach.

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  26. DHM says:

    How can I get the full table of all 2013 players?

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  27. RC says:

    This seems like the typical “Bad fan” problem, IE the fanbase that spends their time nitpicking the weaknesses of their best players, and thinking those are the problems, rather than assigning blame where it should go: the rest of the team.

    Its like fans bitching that Adrian Beltre doesn’t walk enough. He doesn’t, but he plays fantastic defense, has a high average (which keeps the OBP up), and hits homeruns from his knees, which makes him consistently one of the best players in baseball, whether or not he walks at a below average rate.

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  28. Hey Matt, I don’t know if you’re still around, but I was wondering about the base-out table you created. Can you tell us exactly how you created it? Did you work up the actual number of runs scored after each event and each base/out state? Or did you calculate the change in the value of the base/out state after each event?

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