Joey Votto: The Most Underrated Player in Baseball?

Coming into today, if you had to guess what National League first baseman was leading the league in wOBA, whom would you pick? Albert Pujols? Adrian Gonzalez? Prince Fielder? It’s actually Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who, with a .425 wOBA, is also leading the entire NL and is fourth in all of baseball.

Those facts may come as a shock to some baseball fans, but they really shouldn’t. Ever since he came to the big leagues, all Votto has done is hit. With a career line of .310/.393/.543 (.400 wOBA), his breakout season at age twenty-six may just be a sign of things to come. With a UZR/150 of 10.1 this year (after -1.5 in 2009 and 11.9 in 2008), Votto has cemented himself as one of the most valuable properties in baseball.

What’s also been shocking is how Votto has been so upfront and honest about his struggles with depression. Playing in a macho sport where players are told to “suck it up” and “play like a man,” Votto has been completely candid about his issues, which has been extremely refreshing:

“There were nights that I couldn’t be alone…The one night I was alone, the very first night I was alone, was when I went to the hospital. I couldn’t take it. It just got to the point where I felt I was going to die, really….

I’ve been lumped into the Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis, Zack Greinke category…I’m not saying one way or the other about those guys, because I don’t know what they’re dealing with. But I do know I’ve had a real struggle with my father’s passing. It’s really something I’ve had a real hard time with. It was my biggest hesitation coming out and letting people know, letting my teammates know. We’re supposed to be known as mentally tough and able to withstand any type of adversity…

I was having such a difficult time getting through the night that once I felt like I could get through two or three nights of sleep without having the phone beside me and worrying about having to call the hospital, I felt like I could start playing ball again.”

Votto missed thirty-one games last season, many of them due to time on the Disabled List because of depression. He still put up 4.5 WAR for the season, hitting .322/.414/.567.

The Reds are a half-game out of a playoff spot right now, and Joey Votto is the biggest reason why. For his career, he has a WAR/Game higher than guys like Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez. Let’s take a minute to notice.




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


37 Responses to “Joey Votto: The Most Underrated Player in Baseball?”

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  1. The Usual SusBeck says:

    Underrated as a SB threat as well.

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  2. Dan says:

    The Reds are in a playoff spot right now, 0.5 games ahead of the Cardinals. It seems like many writers are making this mistake this season – St Louis is supposed to be in first.

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  3. philkid3 says:

    Career .400 wOBA halfway through his age 26 season?!

    Okay. That’s nuts.

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  4. Wowzer says:

    You know, you don’t get a nickname like The Canadian Crusher for nothing…

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  5. oompaloopma says:

    Add the fact he is only on the books for 525,000 until 2013.

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  6. bowie says:

    Pat — would you correct the link to the article that quotes Votto? I’d like to see the whole thing.
    thanks

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  7. Dave says:

    I got him for about $5 less than the suggested price in my fantasy draft, so I’ve been well aware of him :)

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  8. Jon says:

    The power seems to REALLY be turning on for Votto. 30+Doubles have always been there, but with a healthy season, and with him already at 18 HRs, I expect 30+ by season’s end. Hell, I say he pushes 40. Expect an MVP-type season from him. I commend the Reds for not jumping the gun and trading him away to make room for Alonso.

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  9. Mark says:

    Kudos to Votto for his candor on depression. Talking about it takes courage if you’re an ordinary joe(y), but doubly so in this macho arena. Different people are born with divergent tendencies in their brain chemistry, so they react to the same type of event (e.g., loss of a parent) differently. It’s like one person having a different insulin reaction to eating foods, and being diabetic. It has nothing to do with how much of man you are. In fact, Votto is more the man for having the guts to talk openly about it. (A cowboy, frankly, in my book.)

    And the perpetually high BABIP year in and year out while maintaining the power output is pretty nice too. How does he manage that? Bat-handling Christian Guzman this is not.

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  10. Josh says:

    I’ve likened Votto to Morneau, it would be great to see another great Canadian first baseman thrive in the majors.

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    • joser says:

      For a little while in earlier in the spring they were leading their respective leagues in batting average. Which has to be the first time that has happened with two Canadians. It probably hasn’t even happened very often with two first basemen.

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  11. KJ says:

    And, sadly, Votto is in 5th place in the all-star voting. Hopefully, Manuel does the right thing and picks Votto instead of Ryan Howard to back up Pujols at 1B.

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    • Bill says:

      There’s a DH this year right? I bet we’ll see Pujols, Howard, Gonzalez and Votto all selected.

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      • oompaloopma says:

        Yes there is a DH now for NL All Star games per Bud’s new competitive rules for the WS home field advantage. You are correct that we could see that lineup its a good point.

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      • joser says:

        Especially since they’ll want him there for the HR contest….

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      • Nate says:

        They’ll want Howard there for the Home Run Derby more than Votto, if it came down to the two of them. It’s not about who’s actually the best in the HRD (or the ASG for that matter), it’s about who’s got the most recognizable name.

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  12. LMack says:

    Votto <3

    That is all.

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  13. Reuben says:

    As a Reds fan, the only thing I don’t like about Votto is that he didn’t end up on any of my fantasy teams.

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    • Nate says:

      I missed him by one slot in the draft for my main league. I was furious. Especially because the player I ended up with instead was Jimmy Rollins. Got him for my secondary league, though.

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  14. Joseph says:

    Some mainstream publication I can’t remember came out with a ranking of the top 50 players in MLB a month or so ago, and I put the over/under at 5 years before Joey Votto makes this list.

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    [1] Votto is fortunate to be in this current time. I’m not sure that in the past organizations and society would be as understanding of his difficulty. He’s seems like a really good guy. I would imagine, in the past, that athletes would have self-treated this situation with alcohol and/or drugs (not the legal kind). His comments make me wonder if Matt Morris didn’t go through something similar when Darryl Kile died.

    [2] Votto may not be fully mainstream, but among fans that follow stats, and perhaps a good number of fantasy players, he seems to a common “secret weapon”. He’ll get his due soon enough. He’s competing with the ultimate 1b (Pujols), the most coveted young 1b (AGonz), and “Mr. CountingStats (Howard). But, in terms of value, he’s right there. He could very well become “Little Chase Utley” and be very valuable without being recognized as “the best”.

    He’s an easy guy to root for. He also might be more like Utley in the regard that even a teamate (Bruce) gets more attention while JB is less ‘valuable’ than JV.

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  16. Boo Cocky says:

    Park adjusted wOBA:

    Gonzalez: .428
    Votto: .415
    Pujols: .431

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  17. CircleChange11 says:

    And that’s also with Pujols having his worst wOBA since his 2nd year in MLB.

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  18. Shazbot says:

    He certainly showed it the other day with that HR off an ankle-high cutter. I could not believe.

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    • SteveM says:

      Off some slug named Roy Halladay.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I’m certain I saw a LHB crush a low and in cutter/slider off of a LHP the other day. Thought it was Votto. Maybe Hammy? Memory tells me it was a white jersey, red trim. Aw hell, I’ve lost it.

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  19. CircleChange11 says:

    No doubt. If I remember correctly it was off a LHP.

    I remember thinking the pitcher has to be saying WTF? Votto hit a ‘good pitch’.

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  20. Brett Moore says:

    Votto has a high BABIP because he tends to crush the ball an awful lot. There are not a lot of weak grounders off Joey’s bat. Its line drive after line drive. With Brandon Phillips’s much improved approach in the #1 or #2 spot followed by Votto & then the rejuvinated Scott Rolen the Reds offense has been suprisingly good. Joey’s defense was a bit shaky in 2008 but he has worked very hard & is now above average at 1B. He is a joy to watch as a Reds fan. As a prospect he was not nearly as hyped as say Jay Bruce even after his strong season at AA. I suspect it was due to his age (24 as a rookie). A bit of a late bloomer as studs go but he is the real deal.

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    • Aaron/YYZ says:

      If you at the numbers from his audition in 2007 then rookie year in 2008 he looks like the definition of a prospect that is set to succeed: High line-drive rates carried over the two seasons; practically zero Home/Road or Left/Right platoon split; plenty of counting numbers.

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  21. Truman48 says:

    Congratulations to Joey Votto an being an outstanding person (and baseball player). Reds fans are thrilled you are striking blows for Cincinnati. Go Joey and Go Reds.

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  22. Jeffrey says:

    Votto is as good as Cabrera in fantasy: minus a little power, add ~10 SB.

    This may be the last year he goes past round 2. He’ll likely be top 25 next year

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  23. indydoug says:

    He is “VOTTO-MATIC”!

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  24. Mark says:

    Yeah, but he’s not quite in Omar Infante’s class, or he might be deserving of an All Star berth. Just ask Charlie Manuel. He knows best!

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