Joey Votto: Run Producer

As I’m writing this on Wednesday night, the Reds are clobbering the Cardinals, 9-0. All those runs, incidentally, were charged to Adam Wainwright, which means both Wainwright and Felix Hernandez imploded on the same day. Joey Votto, so far tonight, has batted three times against St. Louis. He’s drawn three walks, as Votto is wont to do. He walked with two on in the first inning, and later scored a run. He walked with one on in the second inning, and soon thereafter scored a run. He walked again in the fourth, but the bases were empty — and that’s not what this is going to be about.

If you haven’t read the arguments, you’ve probably at least heard about them. Votto has been a polarizing player for the Reds, because he’s drawn a ton of walks in run-scoring situations. With runners in scoring position, he’s walked more than a quarter of the time. The end result is that Votto has an underwhelming RBI total, and he’s supposed to be in the lineup to produce runs. In theory, run-producers are supposed to swing the bat. Run-producers like Brandon Phillips. One’s instinct is to think this is absurd — and it is pretty silly — but we might as well dig in for a few minutes. Are people warranted to be frustrated by Joey Votto’s patient approach?

To give a face to the pro-swing crowd, here’s Dusty Baker:

“The name of the game is, ‘He who crosses home plate the most wins.’ So you’ve got to have somebody to cross home plate, and you’ve got to have somebody help him cross home plate.”

Baker makes it clear that he wants to see Votto be the latter guy more often.

“He’s done it before,” he said. “It’s not like he hasn’t done it before.”

To give a face to the pro-patience crowd, here’s Votto:

“All I want to do is do what I can,” said the 29-year-old first baseman who heard no complaints in 2010 when he took 91 walks and won the National League MVP. “Sometimes I take a pitch, but I might be timing a pitch and looking at it for a future swing. Sometimes I take a pitch in the middle of the plate and people say, ‘Ah, man, how can he take that pitch with runners in scoring position?’ Well, if I don’t see that pitch why swing. And it might result in a better swing later in the at-bat and a better day in general.”

Right now, Votto’s .487 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position ranks him fourth in baseball. For good measure, he’s also batting .318, but that comes with a whole lot of bases on balls, and bases on balls seldom drive runners home. The argument for swinging more is you should expand your zone a little bit with runners in scoring position, because hits become extra valuable. The belief is that Votto is good enough to do that. The argument for sticking with the patience is that swinging at worse pitches will lead to worse results, and drawing a walk is hardly a negative. It’s not up to Votto to drive in all the runs; he’s part of a lineup, after all, and he can add an extra baserunner for the next guy.

If I wanted, I could just leave it at this: Votto presently ranks fifth in baseball in runs scored. That’s not because of his outstanding speed, and it’s not because he’s constantly driving himself in like Chris Davis or Miguel Cabrera. Like Baker said, you need to have someone to score, and someone to help him score. Even when Votto walks, he’s still producing runs, just less visibly. This is pretty elementary stuff. Walks have a positive run value, because walks mean baserunners and baserunners mean more runs.

Here’s Votto’s first plate appearance from Wednesday. With two on, he drew a walk.

vottobb1

Those three red circles are swings. Votto didn’t go up there and take everything — he swung at the first pitch, and he even chased a ball out of the zone. But there wound up being a lot more balls out of the zone, so Votto took his walk and didn’t expand his zone too much. Here’s Votto’s second plate appearance from Wednesday. With one on, he drew a walk.

vottobb2

He took the first strike. He swung at the second, evening the count 2-and-2. But that was followed by a low ball and a high ball. Neither deserved a swing, so Votto didn’t — and he took his base. The runner on first moved to second, and the next batter went deep. For the second time in two innings, Votto scored.

For all the talk about how Phillips has been a better run-producer than Votto, here’s something to consider. Absolutely, Phillips has been clutch in 2013. He’s timed his hits for pretty critical spots. With runners in scoring position, Phillips has posted a 2.1 Win Probability Added in 169 plate appearances. Votto, meanwhile, has posted a 1.8 WPA in 152 plate appearances. Adjust to give them the same denominator and there’s hardly any difference. In terms of actually helping the winning cause with runners in scoring position, Votto and Phillips have been just about equally valuable. This despite Votto’s walks and Phillips’ RBI.

The simple fact is Votto is both disciplined and good. Because of the discipline, he’ll work a lot of counts and he’ll draw a lot of walks. Because of the talent, sometimes he’ll be pitched around in bigger spots. This year, with runners in scoring position — and excluding intentional walks — Votto has seen the fourth-lowest strike rate in baseball. That’s strike rate, not zone rate, but clearly, Votto isn’t seeing pitchers aggressively pound the zone. They’re aware of what he can do, and they don’t want for him to beat them.

In theory, Votto could try to swing at more strikes with runners in scoring position. In reality, he’s already selecting the strikes he deems to be most hittable, so swinging at other strikes would presumably yield worse results. And it’s almost impossible to increase swings at strikes without also increasing swings at balls, and that’s something people shouldn’t want Votto to do. For a hitter, a ball is always a good result. Swinging at a ball can lead to a better result, but more often, it’ll be a small or large mistake.

Using information at Brooks Baseball, I dug into Votto’s career. Here are some relevant splits:

BABIP

  • In-zone: .389
  • Out-of-zone: .318

Isolated slugging

  • In-zone: .317
  • Out-of-zone: .100

Contact

  • In-zone: 83%
  • Out-of-zone: 67%

When Votto has expanded his zone, he hasn’t been a disaster. But he also hasn’t been particularly productive. He certainly hasn’t hit for much power, and he’s had a tendency to whiff. With more swings, Votto would generate the occasional RBI hit, and people would notice. They wouldn’t always notice the increased number of outs, but that would happen and that would matter. There are people who want more flash, more explosions. Votto, instead, prefers the slow burn.

As a final helping of information, Votto has actually been slightly more aggressive this season with runners in scoring position. With runners not in scoring position, he’s swung at 39% of pitches, and 21% of pitches out of the zone. With runners in scoring position, he’s swung at 41% of pitches, and 24% of pitches out of the zone. The differences are so small that they’re hardly remarkable. But what he is with the bases empty, he is with the bases not empty. That’s Votto’s comfort zone, and taking a guy out of his comfort zone will reduce his effectiveness. Votto’s comfort zone, as we all know, has led to some absolute OBP silliness.

There are ways that Joey Votto could be a better baseball player, because he isn’t perfect. There have been pitches he’s taken with runners in scoring position that he probably could’ve hit. Likewise, with runners in scoring position, there have been pitches Brandon Phillips shouldn’t have swung at. This is just who Votto is, and there’s little sense in complaining about an elite player when he’s performing at an elite level. There are people who don’t particularly care for Votto’s patience. There is a person with a .435 OBP and a 159 wRC+. One of those is Joey Votto. Defer to the guy who reaches base all the time. He probably has the hitting thing figured out.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


66 Responses to “Joey Votto: Run Producer”

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  1. Xmus Jackon Flaxon Waxon says:

    Just bat Votto second and everybody’s happy.

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    • Iron says:

      The problem is not that the best hitter on the Reds is batting third, it’s that they have no one with a decent OBP to bat second. They have Votto, Choo and then the dropoff is almost 100 points. Moving Votto to second in the order does nothing to fix the team’s low .OBP other than those two guys, and would probably not increase runs.

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      • Iron says:

        Look at it this way, the Reds have a Team OBP of .325, good for 8th in MLB. However, every Reds hitter with more than 40 AB other than Choo and Votto are at or below the team average. How astounding is that?

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        • Xmus Jackson Flaxon Waxon says:

          Obviously, moving around the same 8 position players in the order will not change a teams overall OBP, but scoring runs is a lot about sequencing, not just mean production.

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        • ljc says:

          I think this may technically be incorrect. Moving the players with the highest OBPs to the top of the lineup and the players with worse OBPs to the bottom of the lineup would likely positively affect the team’s OBP, because players with higher OBPs would be getting more plate appearances, and hence would have more of a positive effect (and similarly the other players would have less of a negative effect) on the team’s OBP.

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        • Iron says:

          You are right ljc, and we can calculate exactly how much.

          The Reds have had 5176 plate appearances so far this season. In 134 games, Votto would get approximately 15 more PA’s. Let’s maximize the difference by assuming he replaces the long time 2-hole hitter who should never have been the two-hole hitter, Zach Cozart with a .280 OBP and also assume that Votto would not face any other disadvantage hitting second.

          In 15 PA’s Votto gets on base 6.5 times and Cozart 4.2.

          Out of 5176 PA’s and 1682 times on base would change to 1684. The .32496 OBP would change to .32534.

          Of course, if they had a decent 2-hole hitter the change would be even smaller.

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        • Travis L says:

          Iron – what about doing that all the way down the lineup? Suppose you put Cozart in the 7/8 slot, and moved everyone up. Taking 80 AB from Cozart and giving them to an average OBP guy (say, .320) is 40 points of OBP over 80 PA.

          Not a huge difference, but I bet it would be worth 3-5 runs.

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        • Iron says:

          True, but the question that started this was whether Votto should bat 2nd or 3rd. I think no one but Dusty wanted Cozart batting 2nd so while I agree that moving him as far back as possible will increase OBP, it isn’t pertinent to the miniscule individual effect in team OBP of moving Votto from 3 to 2.

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      • Xmus Jackson Flaxon Waxon says:

        Well for one, Votto would get about 18 more PAs over the course of a season batting second v. third. And the “problem” is that Baker refuses to put his best overall hitter 2nd. Against RHP, a lineup of Choo, Votto, Phillips, Bruce is pretty darn good, even with Phillips not hitting all that well this season.

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        • Iron says:

          18 more PA for Votto equals an extra run or two over the course of a season, and you probably get that advantacge back by having more runners on base for him batting him third and by alternating LH-RH-LH. Either way the difference is so small as to not be worth all the fuss people seem to put into it.

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        • jessef says:

          Trouble is that you’re letting Votto bat far too often with two out and none on. This is particularly problematic for a guy who walks as much as Votto. So far this season, he’s walked 25 times (137 plate appearances) with two out and none on. It’s much easier to cash him from first with less than two out. Contrast that with Phillips who has 49 plate appearances in those situations.

          Either flip-flop them and leverage Votto’s walks for the following inning or move Votto up a spot so it’s easier to cash him.

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        • bstar says:

          Iron, you can still go LH-RH-LH if you move Votto to second. Just bat Phillips third and Bruce fourth. And have Choo lead off.

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    • B N says:

      Or, alternatively, get more people behind Votto who can hit. Nobody complained when Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz took a ton of walks for the Red Sox during their heyday. Why? Because there were about 3 guys behind them who were a threat to knock a double off the wall and score the lot of them. And back when the Phillies were good, I remember a lot of people in Citizen’s Bank Park cursing at Ryan Howard to stop swinging out of his shoes and take some pitches. Why? Because the he had some decent bats behind him.

      Complaining about Votto taking too many walks is missing the point. You can’t walk everybody. If you have a man on base and somebody walks, the pitcher only has one more walk left before he has to either throw down the middle or risk walking in runs. So any team that can put two respectable bats behind their best slugger should never be complaining about this “problem.”

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      • Matt says:

        And earlier this year when Phillips was knocking the cover off the ball, no one complained… till Phillips got hurt, was out, and the pressure on Votto intensified by the talking heads and the fan base.

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  2. Dusty Baker says:

    But then where will I put Zack Cozart’s .280 OBP, smarty pants?

    Also, I am an idiot.

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  3. Rich Mahogany says:

    Dusty, if it ain’t broke …

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    • SeaBass says:

      Dusty has to have naked photos of Bud Selig. No way a manager could be as stupid to want more outs and less runs…

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      • olethros says:

        Dusty also doesn’t like to have guys “clogging up the basepaths.”

        Because he’d have to study up to be a halfwit.

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  4. steve-O says:

    I’m curious what the difference between Voto and the Reds number four hitters is for pithches in the zone versus out of the zone.

    If I had to guess it would higher for the number four hitter because a) Phillips is less of a threat offensively b) there are more times when the fourth batter could load the bases with less than two outs forcing the pitcher to be more aggressive.

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  5. J6takish says:

    Gardy finally came around and started batting Mauer 2nd. I wouldn’t hold my breath for Dusty though

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  6. soxghost says:

    Welcome to the state of the art in hitting these days, where aggressiveness is disdained and passivity is exalted. The modern hitter is guided by the accepted wisdom in catchphrases such as “driving up pitch counts,” “taking pitches” and “quality at-bats.” There is one serious flaw in this groupthink strategy.

    It isn’t working.

    Hitters are striking out more than ever before in baseball history while runs, walks, hits and home runs have been on the decline for years. And while teams still preach the religion of driving up pitch counts to “get into the bullpen” of the other team, they may be pushing an outdated agenda. So fortified are major league bullpens these days, especially with hard throwers, that last year relievers posted an ERA more than half a run lower than starters and averaged almost one strikeout for every inning.

    Walks are great because they are one indication of “winning” the batter-pitcher matchup and lead to runs. But walks, other than calculating on-base percentage, are not exactly as good as a hit. They put no pressure on a defense and advance runners only one base at a time, and even then only when a force is in play. Votto is a master at winning confrontations against pitchers with his discipline and patience. He is rewarded in the modern groupthink for a lack of activity — for not swinging the bat. Offense becomes defense. He is the supreme state of the art hitter.

    The problem is the state of the art isn’t working. Few hitters are as good as Votto. More teams than ever deploy two batting coaches, not one. More ballparks have constructed multiple batting tunnels that almost never go empty from four hours prior to the game to the last out. Video is more abundant and portable than ever. More data is available. And yet the modern approach to hitting is failing. Pitchers are four years into a run of dominance and there are no signs that their run is abating, especially when the modern passive aggressive approach to hitting has become so ingrained.

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    • AC of DC says:

      The Verducci piece you’ve plagiarized was already addressed in two articles by Dave Cameron back in May.

      +51 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • mario mendoza says:

      Did you not read Votto’s opening quote?

      There’s more to taking a pitch than BB-enamourment.

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    • Robert Gibson says:

      Walks are down each of the past four years. In fact, BBs per game are at their lowest levels since 1968, the year that the pitchers mound was lowered.

      +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cybo says:

      Chris Davis thinks this is Bologna.

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    • agam22 says:

      correlation != causation.

      Other reasons offense may be down

      End of the steroid era
      The improvement of bullpens which you yourself mention, increasing the number of at bats a player has against quality pitching
      A general increase in either talent level of the average pitcher or the number of talented pitchers.

      You can’t make claims like hitters are too passive and its bringing down offense with no evidence whatsover. I think Tom Verducci tried doing this a couple months ago and Dave looked at the data and showed that he was, as he usually is, largely full of shit.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      IT’S NOT ABOUT PILING UP WALKS, IT’S ABOUT SWINGING AT GOOD PITCHES. If you swing at bad pitches, they keep throwing you bad pitches! You have to be willing to take bad pitches in order to force the pitcher to throw you good pitches to avoid walking you.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • LK says:

      “But walks, other than calculating on-base percentage, are not exactly as good as a hit.”

      If only there were some metrics that took this into account. Oh wait, there totally are and they say Votto is awesome.

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      The big thing is to not be TOO passive: If Joey Votto was not swinging at good pitches (And since I have not seen ALL the data, I wouldn’t know yet) because of his patience, then he should swing more. But as long as he is swinging at the good pitches, his patience is fine.

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  7. mario mendoza says:

    Great article, but needs more exclamation points and outrage!!!!

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  8. Jim Price says:

    Am I missing something? If the choice Votto has is swing at the pitcher’s pitch or take a ball, seems like an easy choice– take it. Why are some people thinking like his choice is take a walk or hit a double? Thats not the option Votto has. He’s not going to help his team by swinging at bad pitches. Thats exactly what the pitcher would like Votto to do, and exactly what so many lesser hitters will do. Seems like the problem is more with the other Reds hitters, not Choo & Votto. Jeez, good thing Ted Williams didn’t have Dusty for his manager….

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      No, you get it. Somehow, the mainstream does not.

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    • Baltar says:

      Although I am primarily a Rays and AL fan, Joey Votto is my favorite player. He does everything right and sacrifices individual glory for the sake of the team.
      Walks are more important than HR’s. That doesn’t mean that one walk is more valuable than one HR, but in bulk walks improve scoring more than HR’s.
      List the teams in order of runs scored. Then list them in order of walks. You will see that the lists are very similar. Then list them in order of HR’s. You will see that the list is very dissimilar.
      QED

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        The Tigers have scored the second most runs in the league, first in overall offense, only 10th total in BB%. Similiarly, the Angels are tied with them, their 107 wRC+ is 4th. The Cardinals wRC+ ties the Angels, while being 18th in BB%. The Orioles 29th BB% gives a wRC+ of 103, barely above the 102 wRC+ of the Athletics, the team with the highest BB%.

        This is despite the Athletics having a good ISO, due to their love average. In general, the best teams are the ones that mix patience and power.

        If you want to compare HR to BB% directly (Using purely the amount of walks is faulty because of things like games length and all: I would use HR%, but I can’t find how to do it on the leaderboard. I will also do ISO afterwards):

        Top 15 HR teams(AKA 50%+):
        1. Orioles (103 wRC+)
        2. Blue Jays (99 wRC+)
        3. Tigers (115 wRC+)
        4. Mariners (95 wRC+)
        5. Braves (103 wRC+)
        6. Rangers (98 wRC+)
        7. Cubs (87 wRC+)
        8. Athletics (102 wRC+)
        9. Rays (110 wRC+)
        10. Indians (105 wRC+)
        11. Red Sox (111 wRC+)
        12. Angels (107 wRC+)
        13. Rockies (88 wRC+)
        14. Brewers (95 wRC+)
        15. Astros (88 wRC+)

        100+: 9
        100-: 6
        90-: 3
        110+: 3

        Top 15 BB% Teams:
        1. Athletics (102 wRC+)
        2. Rays (110 wRC+)
        3. Reds (95 wRC+)
        4. Red Sox (111 wRC+)
        5. Indians (105 wRC+)
        6. Braves (103 wRC+)
        7. Blue Jays (99 wRC+)
        8. Twins (91 wRC+)
        9. Tigers (115 wRC+)
        10. Angels (107 wRC+)
        11. Mets (91 wRC+)
        12. Diamondbacks (94 wRC+)
        13. Mariners (95 wRC+)
        14. Dodgers (103 wRC+)
        15. Yankees (86 wRC+)

        Totals:
        100+: 8
        100-: 7
        90-: 1
        110+: 3

        As you can see, the HR leaders have a higher rate of upper end run producers, but are more likely to have the bottom fall out of them: Note, however, that there is only one team that has above average offensive production (Dodgers) with a high BB% but little power: Likewise, only the Orioles have produced well with high HR power but a low BB%.

        It is 4:44 AM so I don’t feel like typing out a full ISO list: It has 8 100+, 7 100-, only 2 under 90 (88 and 87) and mostly consists of a mix of the BB% and HR list.

        While this is probably not very scientific, the conclusion seems logical to me: HRs will have a much higher ceiling, but BB% will be more consistant, because you walk more than you homer.

        It should be noted that, on an individual player basis, the one that hits more home runs is worth more value then the one who walks a lot (Only 1 of the top 30 players on the HR list have a wRC+ under 100: 2 on the BB% list too. While I am too tired to average it out, the HR numbers also seemed higher). In addition, there are almost no successful players on the BB% list without power (Only 2 with an ISO under .140: 3 if you want to be generous and add Billy Butler’s .141 ISO on there), while there are many power hitters who do well without walks (15 of them have single-digit BB% rates: The only one with a wRC+ of 100 or less is Dan Uggla, who ironically has a 13.6 BB%).

        ISO tells an even better story: Not a single hitter with under 100 wRC+ (Only Only 3 under 110 wRC+!), but 18 of them have single-digit walk rates.

        Walks are great and all, but on an overall basis, a home run is worth more than a walk. Think of it this way: If two guys homer, then you always score 2 runs. If a guy walks and a guy homers, then it can score 1 OR 2 runs, depending on if the guy walked before or after the homer. If a guy walks with the bases loaded, he scores one run: If he hits a home run, he scores four. And so on. A walk offers a chance of a higher run total: A home run ALWAYS increases your run total.

        This can even be seen with Joey Votto: He has had his highest walk rates ever the last two years, but very similiar wRC+ and a .001 worse wOBA than his two power hitting years beforehand. This despite also hitting for a better average in both of his higher walk rate years. According to FanGraphs “Values” portion of Votto’s career, his power hitting years were worth more pure batting runs then his more walking years, even if you prorate both of them to full years instead of Votto’s 40 missing games last year.

        Walks are good: Home runs are better.

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  9. CB says:

    For the record, for those bashing Dusty’s lineup: in the very game that this article is addressing, Baker switched things up, batting Choo-Phillips-Votto-Bruce at the top. Still keeping Votto at 3, but with a L-L combo at 3-4. (In fact, stacking left-handed hitters is something he’s done several times this year, at least against RHPs–contrary to the popular perception of his inflexibility on this subject.)

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    • abjohnson16 says:

      the L-R-L sequencing hasn’t really been the main issue anyone has taken with Dusty’s lineups. Its the fact that he has consistently batted their 5th-6th best hitter (Frazier) in the 2-hole all year. And then he gets hot and moves Phillips up to 2?? I don’t see this as progress.

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  10. GoodasGoldy says:

    This whole Votto should swing more argument is pretty crazy to me. Votto just isn’t going to get decent pitches to hit with men on base. There’s no fear factor with B.Phillips behind him despite Phillips having a great run so far this year with runners on base. I think Jay Bruce in the cleanup spot (finally!) might help change that dynamic a bit, especially the hot streak version of Bruce. It cost Wainwright 5 runs last night for nibbling around Votto with runners on to face Bruce. It won’t take much more of that for pitchers to take notice.

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  11. payroll says:

    Mauer gets the same criticism, although I suspect Mauer takes more in-zone pitches with RISP.

    Here’s a question. Is extremely good plate discipline something like an extremely high k-rate for a pitcher? That is, is there a sweet zone where your discipline isn’t perfect, but you get optimum results as a result?

    What I am getting at here is: Does taking close pitches with men on base lead pitchers to abandon plate appearances earlier, and just pitch around a guy from that point after (leading to the walk)?

    If you are Votto, or Mauer, or Miguel Cabrera, or one of these fearsome hitters, how many of your PAs will end in a walk after 2-0 with RISP, compared to Joe Shmoe?

    How many will end in a walk after going 1-1?

    How do the average results of the two scenarios compare?

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    • That Guy says:

      I’m not sure if I’m answering the question you’re posing, but I have noticed that pitchers will “pitch around” Billy Butler when they get to 3-0, having seen him get the green light as often as he apparently has.

      (it’s terribly anecdotal but it seemed like over a month with maybe 10 PAs that went 3-0 he was green light)

      It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see pitchers do the same with Votto. I don’t have them in front of me but I bet he’s doing very well in hitter’s counts.

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  12. TKDC says:

    I concur with Dusty Baker’s concern that perhaps Joey Votto doesn’t have the will to win.

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  13. Krog says:

    Is there a tool where you can insert a specific batting line that would generate wOBA?

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  14. Jacks says:

    It’s Joey’s choke em up approach with 2 strikes that’s diminishing him as a run producer. It’s the difference between this year’s good version of Votto and the great Votto of years past — an MVP candidate with game breaking power. Joey’s record with 2 strikes:

    in 2013: 300 ABs, 2 HR, SLG about .270,
    in 2012: 241 ABs, 2 HR, SLG about .400 (.484 in full count)
    in 2011: 342 ABs, 10 HRs, SLG about .450 (.590 with 7 HRs in full counts)
    in 2010: 330 ABs, 9 HRs, SLG about .400 (.446 in full counts)

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    • Iron says:

      We’ve had this discussion, I showed you where you were wrong, and you’re still wrong.

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      • Jacks says:

        What exactly is your counter to the above argument? That Joey is still a very good player per his WAR? Accepted. But he’s not as good as he has been and could be as a run producer. 43 RE24 this year by far his lowest since 2008. 69 RE24 in 2010.

        Something has changed, and intelligent folk take that as a cue to investigate. You don’t want to go there it seems, and yes that’s me impugning you. The most obvious change has been his extreme choking up with 2 strikes, evidence that he is looking more to not make an out than to drive the ball. The 2 strike stats above show the toll that is taking on his production.

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    • NBarnes says:

      Given the relatively small deltas, I claim sample size.

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      • Jacks says:

        When there’s an obvious change in approach (here, the extreme choking up) the small sample size argument loses weight and luster. It’s unlikely random. Pretty clear cause and effect.

        Iron has no argument. Specious SABRE infant terrible.

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    • GMH says:

      I’ve followed Votto’s career pretty closely, and I am certain that Votto has always choked up with two strikes. His approach has always been different with two strikes. He chokes up, shortens and simplifies everything, and tries to hit the ball up the middle or to the opposite field.

      Even a cursory Google search reveals a number of comments made by sportswriters and fans before 2012 about Votto’s routine of choking up with two strikes. Below are just a couple of comments that date from 2011 and 2010.

      http://www.forums.mlb.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ml-phillies&tid=99589

      http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/sports/baseball/ask-hal-a-friendly-park-sure-but-votto-still-leg-1/nNF5B/

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      • Baltar says:

        This was also Pujol’s and Ramirez’s approach back when they were 2 of the best hitters in the game.

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      • Jacks says:

        I see probably a couple of hundred Votto ABs a year. He started choking more last year and this year it’s been extreme at times … like a full hands width up.

        Recently, he’s been saying his #1 priority is to not make an out. I think it used to be to drive the ball hard. I’m not so sure those two goals have to be mutually exclusive, but choking way up on the bat pretty much ensures they are.

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    • db says:

      I’ll bite. I don’t see Votto that much, so it is possible there is a change in approach. I would rather see iso than slugging, but I am not sure why there may not be a benefit in having Votto switch from a “protect the plate” mode with 2 strikes to being more aggressive and trading some strikeouts for some more hits, if, it turns out, there is such a change.

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  15. Kimbal Binder says:

    Dusty Baker is not the sharpest knife…still, moving Phillips to the two hole and batting Bruce/Ludwick at 4/5 does improve the lineup a bit. Bruce and Ludwick make sense at the RBI positions. That game caught my eye as well…the pitcher didn’t want Votto to beat him (Wainright) but Votto “clogged” the bases enough to produce two big run-scoring innings. Barring the leadoff man, your best player will usually score the most runs on the team. The best hitter may not produce the most RBI, but he will likely be involved in the most run-scoring innings. Imagine where the Reds would be in the standings if they had a manager who understood lineups? We need a new Sparky Anderson!

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  16. Biff says:

    That’s the funniest Dusty line of the year!

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  17. Canard says:

    Joey Votto: future Hall of Famer?

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  18. Someone send this to the cards commentary team. Jesus that was an annoying series. Why can’t they be somewhat saber conscious given who their GM is?

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  19. Ben says:

    Can’t help but think that a lot of the supposed frustration is driven by people who are motivated by fantasy baseball of the standard variety. I have him in one such league and it can be frustrating to see the Reds score 8 runs or so, and then be disappointed when Votto has gone 1-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs. While obviously highly productive for the Reds, and a big reason why the Reds scored those 8 runs, it’s annoying to see Brandon Phillips with 4 RBI’s in the game and that Votto’s .500 AVG for the game is only across 2 AB’s.

    I am well aware of how standard fantasy baseball production should not be driving discussion of real life baseball, but I feel as though there must be others who feel like Votto could and should be doing more to “produce.”

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    • Fabio says:

      Talk about perception and reality, here, but the other way around: Votto is perceived as a great player for what he does in real baseball, but for his great numbers, his “fantasy reality” is not worth a first round pick..

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  20. Fabio says:

    Great piece, I was thinking about this situation yesterday. I love Joey, but from my egoistic point of view as a owner of his services in three fantasy leagues, I’d like to see him swing at more “bad pitches”. I’d rather have him under .300 but with more rbis and homeruns. Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Davis are my ideal fantasy first basemen, Votto’s production is similar to a second baseman, and I didn’t draft him with my first pick for this purpose. Too bad I am not in an obp league..

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