Votto finished as the No. 2 first baseman in 5×5 leagues via Brad Johnson’s postseason rankings.
Only one first baseman held a higher 5×5 value ranking than Joey Votto this season, and you can probably guess which one. That’d be Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who pulled a rabbit out of his hat by leading all first basemen with 32 stolen bases.
That’s not to say it’s unusual for Goldschmidt to steal bases, but that 32 — a career-high for Goldy — is more than he stole the previous two years combined (nine and 21, respectively). As a result, the steals vaulted Goldy over Votto, who swiped only eight bags and hit 30-plus points higher than his Arizona counterpart, with the rest of their 5×5 stats being comparable across the board. Frankly, you wouldn’t be complaining with either player, and the differential was pretty close, as Goldy checked in at $28.70 while Votto was at $26.40.
Also at $26.40 was Miguel Cabrera, who pummeled 38 home runs to Votto’s 29, but hit 10 points power, and didn’t steal any bases. Cabrera scored nine fewer runs, but drove in 11 more as both played in 158 games. Votto would probably be a better value pick in this sense, as I suspect Cabrera went a fair amount higher in drafts than his Canadian counterpart. Fantasy Pros had Miggy as the No. 10 player overall, and Votto at No. 22, so there’s some room for additional value with a round or so between them depending on your league size.
Maybe the best part of it all is that the beginning of Votto’s season was an absolute disaster. Like, in that he and Brian Dozier had very similar starts. For instance, on May 23, Votto was hitting .203/.341/.351. That was the first day that Paul Molitor benched Dozier, who came into that day hitting .199/.288/.318.
Votto’s tough start spurned some takes — if you’ve monitored his career in Cincinnati, you’re not surprised by this — and the Canadian slugger fired back. “I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level,” Votto told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosencrans after a brutal April. “I’m here to play and be part of setting a standard. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in. I love to play at a really high level. So far this year, it’s not been that. I will not be a very satisfied, happy person if I don’t perform at the level that I expect.”
Votto hit just .229/.327/.313 in April, and was better but a still decidedly un-Votto-like in May (.200/.333/.484), but after that, Votto hit like a man possessed.
Here’s a look at his month-by-month OPS for the season:
April – .640
May – .818
June – 1.015
July – 1.176
August – 1.107
September – 1.108
He was basically a machine from June 1 on. Over that stretch — spanning 106 games — Votto hit a blistering .378/.482/.619 with just under 50 extra-base hits and more walks than strikeouts — and not by a small margin. His 162-game pace for that stretch would include 219 hits, 42 doubles, 31 home runs and 97 strikeouts with 123 walks.
Nobody had a higher second-half wOBA than Votto (.478). Hell, just two hitters — Freddie Freeman and Cabrera — were within 50 (!) points of him after the break.
Hitting righties has never been an issue for Votto (.988 career OPS), but he took it to a new degree with a 1.033 mark this season. It wasn’t just a home thing either for Votto, as it’s pretty well known that the Great American Ballpark can inflate offensive numbers. StatCorner had a staggering 124 home run park factor for lefties at GABP this year, with doubles and triples (91) more hard to come by but singles a solid 103 as well. Both of those played into Votto’s hands this year, as he hit 16 home runs and a ton of singles while hitting .967 at home this season, but amped up the doubles on the road (22 versus just 12 at home) for an even better OPS mark (1.002) away from Cincinnati.
Basically speaking, outside of an occasional left-handed reliever, Votto was matchup-proof. A big reason why is that he hits the ball to all fields, and does so with authority.
In fact, take a look at his home run distribution:
To left field (oppo) – eight
To center field – 10
To right field (pull) – 11
There isn’t a part of the field that Votto doesn’t sting the ball to:
Left – .395/.382/.714 (.451 wOBA)
Center – .500/.490/.792 (.538 wOBA)
Right – .350/.348/.607 (.401 wOBA)
In other words, to his WORST side of the field, he hit like Josh Donaldson (.403 wOBA) did this year. That’s absolutely bananas. It’s pretty much always been this way with Votto too, whose career has basically been as Joe Mauer plus massive power. Mauer also is push-side dominant, and for his career has been underappreciated by fans in his market for not racking up RBIs or home runs. It’s all nonsense.
Votto is headed into his age-34 season, but frankly I just don’t see any way he slows down anytime soon. It’s hard for him to have more value than he does in 5×5 leagues, but with a 16 percent walk rate this season, I’d move him up the rankings a bit in leagues that take that into consideration. He still probably doesn’t leapfrog Goldy — who walks a ton — but those would be my top two guys for sure.