All Systems Votto

Joey Votto has been one of the Reds brighter spots since they made him a second round selection in the 2002 draft. He progressed steadily through the minor league system and made his major league debut late in 2007.

Votto had a very solid rookie season (.373 wOBA) in 2008 and built upon that strongly in 2009. Despite missing a few weeks in June due to a bout with depression and anxiety attacks over the sudden loss of his father, Votto, had an extremely encouraging 2009 season. In 131 games and 469 at-bats Votto hit .322/.414/.567 with 25 home runs. He had the third highest wOBA (.418) in the majors trailing only Albert Pujols (.449) and Prince Fielder (.420).

Votto’s .373 BABIP in 2009 stands out like a sore thumb and when we refer to the expected BABIP calculator from The Hardball Times Votto’s expected BABIP is .317 based on his batted ball profile. This number would severely damage Votto’s triple slash. The calculator would have spit out this unimpressive line assuming that all hits subtracted from Votto’s line were generously singles:

.266/.358/.511

Color me unimpressed. I’m just not buying this. While we should expect some natural regression from Votto’s 2009 BABIP going forward I think the calculator is being too harsh here. It should also be noted that Votto has consistently strung together high BABIPs. Here are his BABIPs dating back to his 2006 season in Double-A:

2009: .373 (MLB)
2008: .330 (MLB)
2007: .354 (MLB-84 ABs) and .341 (AAA)
2006: .371 (AA)

Votto has consistently hit the ball hard and I think his 21.7% line drive percentage (a component that the calculator considers) in 2009 is hurting his expected BABIP score from the calculator. In 2008 his line drive percentage was 25.2% and it was 26.1% in 84 big league at-bats in 2007. While the 2009 mark suggests that he hit fewer line drives I believe that natural scorers bias could also be coming into play here especially considering his high 2009 BABIP and very low 2009 line drive rate compared to his 2008 and 2007 (small sample size) rates.

Votto has flown under the radar and isn’t quite a household name because he plays on a bad team and is overshadowed by four big name first basemen in his division in Pujols, Fielder, Derek Lee, and Lance Berkman. I wouldn’t peg Votto to hit around .320 again with some normal and expected BABIP regression but he’s going to be a good power source and provide a nice batting average around or slightly above .300. The Bill James (.311/.397/.550) and Fans (.311/.398/.535) projections look quite fair for Votto and much more accurate than the BABIP calculator’s glum forecast.

Bill James is projecting a .344 BABIP in 2010 and you, The Fans, have his projected BABIP at .352. That sounds about right to be but I’d expect a home run total north of 30 for Votto in 2010 since he has no significant injury history and appears to be over his depression and anxiety issues. Expect more long balls if he appears in 150+ games especially in the homer friendly ballpark in Cincinnati.

Votto deserves more recognition than he’s been granted and he may be a candidate that could slide to you in rounds 6-8 of your fantasy drafts. You would be getting fantastic value with him there and don’t be afraid to pop him a little earlier if need be. It’s all systems go for Votto.




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Dan is a Sports Marketing major at Duquesne University and most recently interned with Baseball America. He also spent parts of two seasons as an intern with the Washington Nationals. He aspires to work in a baseball operations department and can be reached at danbudreika@gmail.com.


8 Responses to “All Systems Votto”

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  1. Quintero says:

    Nice read, much appreciated. According to firstinning.com, in ’09, 25% of Votto’s batted balls went thru 2nd&3rd as GB, registering 0.571 batting average among them.(17%GB went thru 1st&2nd, .200BA)

    (in ’08, 30.5%GB went thru 1st&2nd, .198BA and only 13.6%GB went thru 2nd&3rd .321BA)

    Maybe these addition info shows that: A) if teams are willing to adjust their defense against Votto, things might change, or B) teams already shifted their defense according to the ’08 splits but paid for Votto’s ability to spraying it around all fields. No matter what, theoretically no team would shift their defense against him now if they are paying attention to these splits, therefore if Votto can maintain hitting the ball hard and spraying it around, his high BABIP should continue, until other teams figure him out which is unlikely to happen suddenly because there is no major hole in his peripheral stats.

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  2. Chuck says:

    It is an interesting theory that the scorekeepers’ bias held down Votto’s LD%, especially since Jay Bruce had an extremely low rate. Perhaps it is a Cincinnati thing? Votto would be fantastic in rounds 6-8 however the mock drafts I have seen peg him in the 3-4 range.

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    • ADP of 25 on Mock Draft Central right now.

      I love Votto’s potential, but that ADP puts him above some more established hitters like A-Gonz, Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Morneau.

      Interestingly enough Kendry Morales, who has now done what we hope Votto can do, has a ADP of 56.

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      • Neil says:

        25 for Votto seems way high. In 2008 he had 150 games, a better batted ball profile and better contact numbers (with a lower K%), but he still didn’t crack 84 RBI or 70 runs. Even if he goes .300, 26, 90, 100, 2 – is that worthy of late second round/early third round? I would maybe vote “yes” if it’s a guy that does it forever (like Carlos Lee), but I don’t want to use my #2 pick on a guy that has no speed and hasn’t craked 90-90 yet. It’s hard for a guy with no speed to generate top 25 value. That being said, I would love Votto in or around round 5 or 6.

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    • Dan Budreika says:

      I think this theory is certainly plausible. This gets more interesting when we consider this excellent study by Brian Cartwright before the start of the 2009 season: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/what-i-hate-about-line-drives/

      I urge you to read that link where Cartwright talks about scorer’s bias and line drives. His study concludes that from 2003 to 2008 the Great American Ballpark had the THIRD HIGHEST line drive rate. So it was the third likeliest park to code a batted ball a line drive.

      Glenn Sample was the official scorer for 29 seasons in Cincinnati and passed away in November of 2008: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20081121&content_id=3688644&vkey=pr_cin&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

      Someone else was scoring games last year in Cinci and they probably didn’t determine what and wasn’t a line drive in a similar manner to Sample. They could have on the opposite side of the spectrum when compared to Sample.

      Bruce’s 13% line drive mark is just baffling. He had a tough year but the guys always had a much consistently higher LD rate dating back to his time in the minors.

      Another interesting note: Scott Rolen finished 2009 with an overall 22.6% line drive percentage. And in 137 at-bats in Cinci after the trade from Toronto he had a 15.8% line drive rate.

      It’s a small sample size…but the numbers are begging to suggest that perhaps Rolen saw some scorer’s bias. It doesn’t appear that the new scorer in Cinci is a big line drive fan and he certainly doesn’t score a game like Sample. This is definitely something to consider going forward.

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  3. John says:

    Sorry, a personal fantasy question: In a 10×10 roto league (lots of counting stats, including negatives for Ks, GIDPs, etc), would you keep Granderson (lefty in Yankee Stadium?) or Votto?

    Thanks.

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    • Dan Budreika says:

      That’s pretty tough. You can make good arguments either way especially when you consider Granderson’s massive troubles versus lefties. But he’s going to enjoy the cozy hitting environment in NY and the short porch in right field.

      I’d lean towards Granderson due to his speed and he’s going to hit near 30 bombs (quite close to Votto’s projected total) along with 20+ stolen bases. Votto hasn’t run much at the big league level. Grandy should also have ample RBI opportunities even if he hits towards the beginning of line up. The Yankees have threats 1-9 in their line up. But remember to sit Granderson against lefties and if that’s a big issue for you and the way your team is constructed you can go with Votto and it’s certainly defensible.

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    • Garrett says:

      I agree. I love Votto, but Granderson’s value in fantasy in Yankee Stadium and that lineup is incredible.

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