The Joey Votto Technicality

Joey Votto didn’t pop up on Monday. Of course he didn’t. It’s not because he didn’t play — he did play, and he batted four times. The first time, he grounded out. He’s human. The second time, he singled on a liner. He’s a talented human. The third time, he flew out. He’s still human. The fourth time, he walked. He’s human, but less so than us. I remember, back in the old days, I was excited to get my hands on line-drive percentage. Batted-ball data! Could you imagine! Since then, I’ve taken a big step back, since LD% has seemed littered with flaws. One flaw is that Joey Votto’s career LD% isn’t 80%. There’s no way that’s correct.

Pick something there’s been one of this year. There have been more Astros sweeps of the Angels this year than there have been Joey Votto infield pop-ups. There have been more Travis Wood grand slams this year than there have been Joey Votto pop-ups. There have been more Jesus Montero triples this year than there have been Joey Votto pop-ups. There have been more home runs ruled non-home runs then reviewed on instant replay and still somehow ruled non-home runs this year than there have been Joey Votto pop-ups. That is, according to the data we have here on FanGraphs. Votto’s historically been unbelievable in his pop-up avoidance, and the pages will tell you his 2013 total is a big empty zero. We’re getting into the middle of June. Vernon Wells has hit 17 pop-ups, and Votto’s still sitting at none.

This post began as an examination, a look into how close Votto has come this season to hitting an infield pop-up. It was out of pure curiosity and nothing else, and I started by narrowing down candidate balls hit in play. I expected to find a fly ball hit to shallow left or a bloop to shallow center. A case where Votto clearly didn’t make real good contact, but a case where the ball in play was unquestionably an outfield fly. One always goes into these things with expectations. Even if you aren’t thinking about it. My expectations were not met, or perhaps my expectations were exceeded. I’m not entirely sure.

Here’s one ball in play I found. It’s from May 17, or, as you might remember it, “some weeks ago.” Votto was standing in against Cliff Lee, and then Votto swung at the first pitch. This is a ball in play of interest, but this is not the ball in play of the most interest.

VottoFlare.gif.opt

Votto broke his bat swinging, and he dropped the ball over the shortstop. Naturally, even with this kind of contact, Votto wound up with a hit. This is either a sign that Votto is mortal, or it’s a sign that he’s superhuman. In any case, this wasn’t an infield fly, and I’m only including it because it seemed like the thing to do. There’s been a closer ball in play. There’s been a ball in play of some disagreement.

I take you one day earlier to May 16, when Votto and the Reds were in Miami, facing the Marlins. The Reds wound up winning 5-3, but nobody cares. Votto batted five times in the contest. Here are the results:

  • fly out
  • double
  • foul out
  • foul out
  • intentional walk

The first of those foul outs was to moderate left, where it was tracked down by Juan Pierre. The second of those foul outs was tracked down by Nick Green. Nick Green was playing third base.

VottoPop.gif.opt

This is not an infield pop-up, in that it was not caught in the infield. This is an infield pop-up, in that it was caught by an infielder. According to Baseball Info Solutions, which gives its data to FanGraphs, this didn’t count. According to MLBAM, and therefore MLB.com Gameday, this did count. It’s right there in the Gameday window: “Joey Votto pops out to third baseman Nick Green in foul territory.” Meanwhile, reads the FanGraphs play log: “Joey Votto fouled out to third (Fly).”

Pretty clearly, this extended beyond the infield dirt:

vottopopup2

While I don’t know exactly what the classification rules are, though, it means something that MLBAM calls this a pop-up. It means that there’s a gray area, a kind of ball in play that some people think is a pop-up and that other people don’t. In a way, this is the whole problem with subjective batted-ball data, in a Joey Votto nutshell. It’s not really that important, but for our purposes, this certainly isn’t cut and dry. We can’t say that Joey Votto hasn’t hit a pop-up this year. We have to clarify by adding “…according to Baseball Info Solutions.”

Votto was behind Mike Dunn 0-and-2. Interestingly, Dunn threw Votto a fastball over the plate, which seems particularly hittable, given the situation.

vottopopup

But then, that ignores how the at-bat began. Here are the first two pitches that Dunn threw to Votto, before the arguable pop-out:

VottoPop_1.gif.opt

VottoPop_2.gif.opt

Dunn blew him away with heat, then he blew him away with heat. It’s hard to blame him for trying again, and it’s not like he wound up with an unwanted result. The result he got was as good as a strikeout, and yet far, far more interesting. Joey Votto arguably popped out, and he made a wonderfully appropriate face about it.

VottoPop2.gif.opt

I don’t know how Joey Votto usually looks after he pops out, because he doesn’t do it enough. This, however, is about what I’d guess.

Votto: er
Votto:
Votto:
-huh.
Votto: Huh.
Votto: welp
Votto: all right then
Votto: /leaves

It’s interesting, to me, that Votto’s possible pop-out was preceded by consecutive swinging strikes. It’s also interesting to me that, in this game, Votto made two outs in foul territory. They’re his only outs in foul territory of the season. Votto has 18 outs in foul territory in his career. This is the only time he’s made more than one in a game. This game wasn’t only weird because Votto might’ve popped out. Fittingly, it was weirder for other reasons, too.

One recalls that, on September 22, 2008, Votto hit two infield flies in the same game against the Marlins. That’s the only time that’s happened. There’s something about the Marlins. Or, there’s not, but, statistically, there is. That much is undeniable, and this is a stupid point.

I intended to find out how close Joey Votto has come to hitting an infield pop-up. After a thorough examination, I’ve found he’s come so close he might indeed have already hit an infield pop-up. According to one data source, he has. According to another data source — our data source — he hasn’t. I can assure you that most people don’t care, because Votto’s still got a 162 wRC+ and an OBP in the mid-.400s. I can assure you the overwhelming majority of people don’t give a crap whether or not Joey Votto has hit an infield fly. But I can assure you that Joey Votto most certainly does. You don’t get to be that good by not being a perfectionist.



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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.


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cass
Guest
cass
3 years 1 month ago

Joey Votto is amazing.

The Surging Danube
Guest
The Surging Danube
3 years 1 month ago

Joey Votto is a Seneca in counsel, a Paris in appearance, a Hector in battle.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 1 month ago

“Joey Votto hasn’t hit a pop-up this year.” What a lucky guy!

Roberto Alomar Spitting
Guest
Roberto Alomar Spitting
3 years 1 month ago

Best Canadian Ever

Bluebird in Boulder
Member
Bluebird in Boulder
3 years 1 month ago

Terry Fox, amongst others, would like a word with you.

Roberto Alomar Spitting
Guest
Roberto Alomar Spitting
3 years 1 month ago

OH! That must be where the term “foxtrot” comes from! Good show, guy

steex
Guest
steex
3 years 1 month ago

He’s not your guy, buddy!

prankmunky
Guest
prankmunky
3 years 1 month ago

He’s not your buddy, friend!

Redsguy82
Guest
Redsguy82
3 years 1 month ago

He’s not your friend, guy!

Oscar Taveras
Guest
Oscar Taveras
3 years 1 month ago

Regarding Canadian Baseball position players, Larry Walker and his five tools would like also like a word with you.

MustBunique
Member
Member
3 years 1 month ago

He’s not your buddy, pal.

Sparkles Peterson
Guest
Sparkles Peterson
3 years 1 month ago

Courtesy of a poster on VEB after Devin Mesoraco’s ultra-cheap HR on Saturday:

The reason Joey Votto hits no infield fly balls is that those end up as home runs in GABP.

GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
Guest
GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
3 years 1 month ago

WLB’s to the core.

RedsJacob
Guest
RedsJacob
3 years 1 month ago

Funny thing about baseball, the teams playing against one another use the same field.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 years 1 month ago

Ultra cheap home run that went 384 feet, further than 6 other home runs hit that day, including on in that same game.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 years 1 month ago

*one in that same game*

Sparkles Peterson
Guest
Sparkles Peterson
3 years 1 month ago

Guess how many non-GABP parks that was out of according to Hittrackeroline?

E-Dub
Guest
E-Dub
3 years 1 month ago

Also, an ultra-cheap homer hit to right center by a RHH. That’s some petty shit to pick at. The kid’s strong…

Oscar Taveras
Guest
Oscar Taveras
3 years 1 month ago

I have to say, never having played baseball (for good reason), one thing I still don’t understand is right and left hitting and all the directional stuff.

Nick
Member
Nick
3 years 1 month ago

Re: the first gif not being an infield fly, Sam Holbrook begs to differ. amiritebravesfans?!

Dan Ugglas Forearm
Member
Dan Ugglas Forearm
3 years 1 month ago

It’s always too soon, for that.

Dan Ugglas Forearm
Member
Dan Ugglas Forearm
3 years 1 month ago

Even if this SOMEWHAT made up for it…
https://twitter.com/mlbbowman/status/312610623529832448

Jeff Sucks
Guest
Jeff Sucks
3 years 1 month ago

Why does Jeff try so hard to be funny whenever he writes something? It is so forced and unnatural. Not to mention obvious. He tries way too hard.

scraps
Guest
scraps
3 years 1 month ago

Why do you read Jeff, then? Plenty of other writers at Fangraphs.

Ohhhh… waitaminute. Are you a troll? Because you are very subtle, then. Not a all forced and unnatural and obvious.

Mark
Guest
Mark
3 years 1 month ago

+1

Comedy isn’t his forte.

Terry
Guest
Terry
3 years 1 month ago

Comedy isn’t anyone’s forte here… have you seen notgraphs? its like every forced internet meme distilled into one place.

The baseball articles are still top tier though, so I stick around.

nobleisthyname
Member
nobleisthyname
3 years 1 month ago

Meh, he makes me smile. Maybe you just lack a sense of humor?

rusty
Guest
rusty
3 years 1 month ago

Clearly, an investigation of Joey Votto pop-ups should be undertaken with a bit more… gravitas?

And I can see why you didn’t just skip this post, since you apparently don’t like the author, as this burning question would make the front page of any number of mainstream sports news sites. I’ll bet you saw the headline, thought “Aha!”, saw the byline, thought “:(“, and then plunged onward anyway, because, c’mon, Joey Votto gifs.

Mel
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Mel
3 years 1 month ago

Jeff has a writing style that many people, myself included, find informative and entertaining. If you don’t like how he writes then don’t read his columns.

Myran
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Myran
3 years 1 month ago

Love the er face. Wonder if he makes that face any other time.

steex
Guest
steex
3 years 1 month ago

At first I thought “The Joey Votto Technicality” was the latest show for Comedy Central to slot between Tosh.0 and The Daily Show, but then I realized this wasn’t NotGraphs.

Still, I think it’s a viable idea. An 8-episode run of Votto making faces like in the gif above would be just as successful as some of the garbage they’ve tried.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
3 years 1 month ago

“This is either a sign that Votto is mortal, or it’s a sign that he’s superhuman”

I’d say he’s superhuman. I hope by the time he his HOF eligible there are voters who will acknowledge how amazing of a player he is.

Jmpmk2
Guest
Jmpmk2
3 years 1 month ago

I hope he has to endure all the scrutiny Todd Helton will for playing in the Great American Small Park.

GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
Guest
GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
3 years 1 month ago

You are clearly uninformed.

Helton’s splits

home – .348/.444/.610
road – .289/.389/.475

Votto’s splits

home – .300/.403/.536
away – .334/.432/.561

One of these guys is going to the Hall of Fame. The other is Todd Helton.

Aaron Lehr
Guest
Aaron Lehr
3 years 1 month ago

pwned

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
3 years 1 month ago

Though Todd Helton doesn’t play in any road games in Coors.

Sparkles Peterson
Guest
Sparkles Peterson
3 years 1 month ago

As of now, Votto is peak-Thome without the 37 years of sub-peak Thome we got to enjoy. And without the power stats that several of the HoF electorate still loves. Thome is widely considered to fall short of the HoF standard.

Votto’s got a HoF case if he doesn’t falter through his 30s. Getting way ahead of ourselves pretending he’s already there.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
3 years 1 month ago

“Widely considered”? Jim Thome is considered HOF-worthy to lots of educated people. Maybe not sportwriters, who do the voting; that’s why the Hall of Fame is a joke, to me.

Anon
Guest
Anon
3 years 1 month ago

Helton has those road numbers with a large portion of his away games at SF, SD, and LAD.

Colorado and Texas are both hitter’s parks, but their home/road splits are exceptionally deceptive due to the pitcher’s parks in the rest of the division.

Astro Villain
Guest
Astro Villain
3 years 1 month ago

And a lot of informed writers consider Helton to be a Hall of Famer. The whole thing is a joke now, anyways.

Oscar Taveras
Guest
Oscar Taveras
3 years 1 month ago

Consider that the division the Rockies play in also has three pitchers’ parks.

David
Guest
David
3 years 1 month ago

“Votto has 18 outs in foul territory in his career”

Most amazing part of the article for me.

Jeff K
Guest
Jeff K
3 years 1 month ago

Joey Votto also went all of 2010 without an infield pop-up, and he has only pulled one foul ball into the stands in his career – and that was in 2007!

Daniel Schwartz
Member
3 years 1 month ago

His BIP data is why i thought he he can’t belt more than 25 HR anymore. His FB% is at 27% and here is the trend since 2009: 39.3>34.8>33.4>32 and now it’s at 27.2 and another 6 Plate Appearances we’re across the FB% stability threshold. Lucky his HR/FB ratio is 20% which is valid based on his FB & HR Avg dist. on Jeff Zimmerman’s baseball heatmaps leaderboard.

AB CT% FB% HR/FB expHRtotal
2013 as is 550 0.785 0.272 0.2 23.4872
my thoughts for ’13 545 0.795 0.32 0.165 22.87692

cs3
Guest
cs3
3 years 1 month ago

Any flyball caught by an infielder should be classified as a “infield popout”.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 1 month ago

Even if it’s on the warning track? (Yes, a minor league shortstop caught a fly on the warning track a couple years ago. Rather quick fellow, Billy Hamilton.)

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
3 years 1 month ago

Is there video of this?

Dingbat
Guest
Dingbat
3 years 1 month ago

Other weirdness on the Reds – Shin Soo Choo has hit 10 homers, and all of them have been solo homers. Not too unusual, since he hits leadoff, but it makes me wonder what the record is for most solo homers hit in a row, either to start the season or otherwise.

Brian Cartwright
Guest
Brian Cartwright
3 years 1 month ago

It was high in the air, and it was caught by an infielder. That sounds like a pop up to me. I use Gameday data for Oliver, and did see the one pop up recorded for this year.

More Votto trivia – watching the Pirates shift against Votto last weekend, I looked at my spray charts to see if it was warranted. I break field field down into 7 slices, 6 of 15 degrees, and the first and third base lines of 7.5 degrees each. In his major league career, Joey Votto has never hit a ground ball to the third base line slice. However, that does not mean he’s an extreme pull hitter, as his most likely target was between the second baseman and the second base bag. Jay Bruce, on the other hand, hits almost 50% of his grounders to the second baseman or the first base hole.

Dave Studeman
Member
3 years 1 month ago

Got to disagree with Brian. The BIS way of determining infield flies is obviously the right way to do it. Otherwise you will have different infield fly rates depending on the range of the infielders on pop flies. To me, this isn’t a technicality at all, but a best practice. Of all the things to complain about regarding batted ball data, I think infield flies are way low down the list (as BIS categorizes them).

Brian Cartwright
Guest
Brian Cartwright
3 years 1 month ago

When I watched the video, I thought “that’s a pop up”. It was in an area of foul territory where outfielders rarely make a play.

I am also of the opinion that the definition of a pop up should not be dependent on who catches it. If a batter hits a ball high in the air behind second base and the shortstop catches the ball, it’s a pop up. If the center fielder calls off the shortstop and makes the catch, it’s an outfield fly. Why? The ball had a certain vertical angle and hang time, why should it’s definition change because one of several possible fielders caught the ball?

Pop ups caught by an infielder will have, on average, a higher vertical angle and a very low hit rate. Pop ups to an outfielder will still have considerable hang time, but a somewhat lower average vertical angle in order for the ball to carry far enough for an outfielder to get to it. This would imply a slightly higher hit rate. The next lower group of angles would belong to outfield flies, then outfield line drives, infield line drives and finally ground balls.

Having a reliable count of the number of balls in each category allows computation of an expected hit rate for the batter or off a pitcher.

Mark
Guest
Mark
3 years 1 month ago

Reds are playing two games at Oakland Coliseum this year. High foulout risk there.

JS
Guest
JS
3 years 1 month ago

After watching several Reds game recently, Votto’s reaction after making an out is yelling ” F*ck, F*ck, F*ck, F*ck, F*ck”. Definitely loud enough to be picked up by any open microphone.

http://deadspin.com/lets-listen-to-joey-votto-scream-fuck-over-and-over-510184364

scraps
Guest
scraps
3 years 1 month ago

Ooooh, he’s not ready for the big show!

.^.
-1

Gerwin
Guest
Gerwin
3 years 1 month ago

The real question: would this be considered the infield at Turner field?

mdahess
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Votto approaches the game just like Wade Boggs did; except, Votto has more power. I’d like to know how many hits Votto has with two strikes, though.

MentalGuy
Guest
MentalGuy
3 years 1 month ago

In his career Votto has 1646 plate appearances in which he has had two strikes. He has 314 hits, 74 doubles, 8 triples, and 32 home runs. He has walked 204 times, struck out 619 times, been hit by pitch 8 times. He also has 5 sac flies. His batting average is .220, his OBP is .320, and his slugging avg is .350.

Data is from baseball- reference.com.

rob
Guest
rob
3 years 27 days ago

Is that on an 0-2 count?

jb21
Guest
jb21
2 years 10 months ago

Tough to walk 204 times with an 0-2 count

harold
Guest
harold
2 years 11 months ago

Votto just hit a popup in the infield, top of the 4th against Cubs 8/13/2013.

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