What if we haven’t seen the best Joey Votto? Doug Gray January 2, 2017 18 Comments Joey Votto is clearly the Cincinnati Reds best player. He has been that since his first full season in the big leauges back in 2008. The lone exception of the 2014 season in which he suffered through a leg injury. In the 2016 season he played 158 games and hit .326/.434/.550, good for a National League best 160 OPS+ (OPS adjusted for ballparks played in). That 160 OPS+ is only the 3rd best full season mark he’s ever posted. Votto bested that mark in his MVP season of 2009 (171) and in 2015 (174). He also topped it in 2012 (177), but only played in 111 games that year. For his career he’s posted a 157 OPS+, so in reality, 2016 was simply an average Joey Votto year. You may recall just how good Joey Votto was in the second half of 2016. He hit .408/.490/.668 in the final 72 games of the year for the Reds. While it’s completely unrealistic to think that anyone is a true .400+ hitter, if you were to try and build a player who could do it, they would look an awful lot like second half Joey Votto. In order to hit for a high average you need several things: You need a low strikeout rate. Spray the ball all around the field helps. You need to avoid easy outs (pop ups). You need to be lucky (high BABIP). Ideally, you’d also like to hit for power since home runs can’t be fielded and turned into outs. Second half Joey Votto was incredible. The biggest reason for his turnaround, and absolute domination of opposing pitchers, was that he simply stopped striking out. The Reds first baseman had 32 strikeouts in 314 plate appearances. That’s a 10.1% strikeout rate. You just don’t see that low of a rate from players who have any sort of power. That’s the rate for guys who slap at the ball and just try and outrun things. Of course, Joey Votto isn’t a slap hitter. In 72 second half games he had 19 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs. He also walked 47 times. As I noted above, you’ve also got to be a bit lucky in order to hit over .400, and in the second half, Votto had a batting average on balls in play of .418. While he’s constantly been one of the highest BABIP hitters in baseball since coming into the Major Leagues, even he isn’t THAT far up the list. The 2016 version of Joey Votto wasn’t the best one we have seen if we are looking at the entire season. But the 2016 second half version is the best one that we’ve seen. What would a full season of Joey Votto look like, if he kept up his rates he showed in the second half, but had a more “Joey Votto-like” BABIP? PA 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG OPS 675 41 4 32 101 69 .363 .459 .619 1.079 Over a full season, that would be one heck of a year. It also puts into perspective just how good Joey Votto has been in his career given that it’s not really far off from what he’s been in a few other seasons of his career. Votto came out last week and said that he wasn’t going to participate in the World Baseball Classic this upcoming spring. There were some aspects of my performance in 2016 that I have decided were lacking. The first half didn’t go as he would have liked. But if the second half was lacking, I’d like to see what the heck that version looks like. Hopefully we get a chance to see that version. A Joey Votto who rarely strikes out and had 75+ extra-base hits would be an incredible thing to see. Going back to 2000, there have only been 29 player seasons where a player has had both 75+ extra-base hits and a strikeout rate of 10.5% or lower. That’s what second half Joey Votto would do. Among those 29 seasons, seven were accomplished by Albert Pujols, three by Nomar Garciaparra, three by Todd Helton, two by Barry Bonds, Brian Giles and Carlos Lee. It seems like forever ago at this point, but man, Albert Pujols was some kind of special. 18 Responses Reaganspad January 2, 2017 What if we haven’t seen the best Joey Votto’s? One word: Playoffs Adam January 2, 2017 What does that mean? Playoffs. Stock January 2, 2017 Don’t look it up. The Reds won’t be there anytime soon. Colt Holt January 2, 2017 If votto becomes the second coming of ted williams, he will pead the reds back to the playoffs sooner rather than later. Colt Holt January 2, 2017 *lead Stock January 2, 2017 When he first came up I thought Billy Hamilton would impact the Reds in two ways. First he would help the pitchers by running down balls others had no chance to get. But second he would help those hitting behind him. The pitchers would be distracted by Hamilton. They would also throw more fastballs. This combination should lead to better stats for those who bat when Billy is on base. Billy finally came to life in the second half of 2016. Joey Votto followed. Maybe it is a coincidence but I would think there is some correlation there. It would be interesting to see Votto’s stats when Hamilton was on base. wes January 2, 2017 Well said. Be nice to have an effective Hamilton, Peraza, Votto 123 to start the order. 400 may be norm for Votto then and our power hitters batting 4 and 5 will see better pitches too with so many guys on all the time. Bill January 2, 2017 I’ve noticed the same. Billy Hamilton is a true difference maker for the Reds and hopefully coming into his own as a hitter that can get on base at a descent clip for the next 3 years and put his wheels to use. He’s a very nice top of the order complement to Votto. RMR January 2, 2017 Great stuff, Doug. I would note, there’s a pretty good comp for 2nd half Joey Votto: Cardinals Albert Pujols. As a Cardinal, Pujols hit .328/.420/.617 (170 OPS+), with a 13.1% BB rate and a 9.5% K rate. 2nd half Votto was basically a left-handed peak Pujols. With average 1B defense and a full season of playing time, that’s an 8 win player, a solid step up from from the 6 win player he’s been on average and the difference between down-ballot MVP vote getter and winning the MVP. Krozley January 2, 2017 When I’ve watched the Reds at Goodyear, there hasn’t been a player that worked harder than Votto. He has always been the last player off the field when I’ve been there, usually working extra on his defense (which he has said he will concentrate more on this year). He even takes a couple minutes to sign a few autographs. I think most Reds fans don’t understand how truly special a player he is. Greenfield Red January 2, 2017 My experience was just one day at Goodyear, but I saw him working on a small field that had an infield only. He had a coach watching his footwork, a coach hitting hard ground balls, and a catcher helping the hitter. He worked for about 45 minutes that we watched. Over the course of that time, about 20 or 30 fans gathered behind first base to watch. Several of the watchers were kids. The whole thing was cool, except I think he really should have made 5 minutes to acknowledge the kids who had gathered to watch. He could have dumped his bucket of practice balls over the fence for them and signed 10 or 12 autographs for the kids. I wish he would have. Sultanofswaff January 2, 2017 Send this to Marty Brennaman every day until spring training begins! DaveCT January 2, 2017 With an explanation DaveCT January 2, 2017 Part of the appreciation of Votto is simply that he wants to play here. Then there are all of the residual effects. Mentoring Billy Hamilton, for one. But also the day when he’ll have eager students named Winker, Senzel and possibly Ervin. Coming to GABP with ‘on base hitters’ the likes of those will make opposing pitching staffs have night sweats. One last thing. I believe giving credit where credit is due to Don Long is in order here. In 2015, Joey’s turnaround came after spending the All Star break with Long, as the story is told. 2016 apparently saw the Votto/Long dialogue continue. For Long to have Joey’s respect says lots to me. Mustang John January 2, 2017 Little bit missunderstood but one of the hardest workers and player in MLB. Love this guy. Be fortunate he plays and wants to play for the Reds. Cam January 2, 2017 I’m afraid that Joey Votto’s 2015 season might not be fully appreciated. Everybody knows he was really good and it was an important bounce back after being injured in ’14. But I don’t think I fully appreciated that ’15 has a good argument to be the best season of his career so far. When I think of his best seasons, I think of ’12 first (man, what could have been), then the MVP year in ’10, and then ’13 or ’11 in some order. After looking at it though, I think I’d rank ’15 number one with the caveat that if he wouldn’t have had the knee injury in 2012 that would easily be his best. Had an OPS+ of 174 and 7.6 bWAR in 2015. Decent defense with 6 defensive runs saved according to fangraphs which is his third best mark behind 9 in 2012 and 7 in 2011 when he won the gold glove. And the baserunning wasn’t great, but one of the better marks since really early in his career. I knew he was really, really good. But I don’t think I realized that 2015 was arguably the best Joey Votto we’ve seen. I hope that his season that year doesn’t get buried in the history of the reboot/rebuild. Side note: I’m only 22, so this statement doesn’t have the greatest historical depth, and I never saw Junior in person during his prime in Seattle, I never saw Barry Bonds during his prime, and I have yet to see Trout in person. But I saw peak Pujols in person a few times when they came to Cincinnati, and peak Albert Pujols is the best player I’ve ever seen in person in my life. Colt Holt January 2, 2017 Not to forget, Joey Votto’s second half of 2016 was not much different from Joey Votto’s second half of 2015. On that 7.6 WAR (7.5 on BR), he had 5.1 in the second half with a line of .362/.535/.617. Crazy good. Cooper January 3, 2017 I think his legs were shot most of the season. He is an incredible hitter –best I’ve seen at bat control etc….but I think he only gets back to 6 WAR space only if he gets his legs back, thus helping his defense and running. When getting older -I can’t emphasize how difficult it is to have your legs feel at full strength, but even more difficult is to have them at full flexibility. You saw the same thing happen with BP- his legs were zapped- you could see the stiffness. I’m hoping they find a way to help Votto with those type of limitations.