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Votto’s Reaching the Grass

While pulling some numbers last night about Joey Votto for my post on the Triple Crown* I stumbled across Joey Votto’s number of infield pop ups this season. It’s zero. According to BIS, Joey Votto has yet to hit a single fly ball that hasn’t at least reached the outfield grass.

*For what it’s worth, I think the edge goes to Votto over Pujols because I believe more in his high batting average than ZiPS does and I think his home field advantage in home runs and RBIs puts him in a better situation. However, it wasn’t a conclusion based on any exhaustive study of projections and I thought that was obvious since I didn’t back it up with anything. It was a single sentence reflecting a personal feeling only.

In case you were wondering, that is pretty impressive. The list of qualified hitters who have managed an infield fly per fly ball (IFFB%) rate under 1.0 since 2002:

2004 Larry Bigbie 0.0%
2009 Ryan Howard 0.6%
2009 Derek Jeter 0.8%
2006 Bobby Abreu 0.8%

Derek Jeter makes the list once and several times was amongst baseball’s best. He has perhaps best been consistent in avoiding hitting pop ups with 4.9% being his highest rate, which is still lower than the league average.

Larry Bigbie is an interesting case. 2004 was certainly the high mark of his short Major League career and he still ended up as a below average player with only a slightly above average bat. 2004 was the only season that Bigbie qualified for the batting title otherwise he would be all over this list. According to BIS, and Retrosheet’s markers have a similar interpretation, Larry Bigbie hit exactly one infield fly ball in his Major League career over 1,367 trips to the plate.

Like Jeter and Bigbie, Votto has never been one to hit into many pop ups. More impressively, he’s done it as a hitter not inclined to ground balls the way Jeter and Bigbie are or were. Votto’s career 42% ground ball rate is much lower than either Jeter’s 52% or Bigbie’s 56%. Votto doesn’t shy away from hitting fly balls, he just hits them with consistent power.