2013 Reds / Editorials / Joey Votto is Perfect / Reds - General

Joey Votto and the Eyeball Test

 

VOTTO… Time to rattle the SABR cages again, I suppose. But yesterday was another example why some of us believe he has had a subpar season. A chance to give the Reds the lead passed him by. in the 8th, when the Mets dissed him by not walking him with a base open and two outs, then made that decision stand up by getting him to fly out to CF.

Earlier, Votto was the beneficiary of a kind scoring decision on a liner hit by Dice-K that the Gold Glove Joey fields about 90 percent of the time. And we won’t bring up the baserunning mistakes over the season.

You can extol the virtues of the almighty walk all you like. You can tell me how wonderful it is that Votto makes fewer outs than anyone. I understand all that, and it is all good. Especially if you’re leading off or batting 2nd. If you are batting 3rd, your responsibilities are different. Seventy-three RBI with Choo ahead of you all year is substandard.

All numbers aside, Votto doesnt pass the eyeball test this summer. There have been times when he simply looks disengaged. I havent talked to him about it. I owe him that. He remains diligent as always in his preparation, and thoughtful as ever in dealing with the heathen media. But he isn’t the same player.

And before you start your rips of me, no, I’m not blaming him for the Reds occasional woes. I am citing him, because he has been their best player for several years, and he is their highest-paid guy now.

Feel free to disagree.                  —Paul Daugherty

 

Dear Paul,

And therein lies the folly in your assessment of Joey Votto. The EYEBALL Test. The measuring tape of casual fans everywhere. A cheap turnstile giveaway. Here are your cardboard 3D glasses, sir. Enjoy the show.

Imagine Buzz Aldrin piloting his Apollo spacecraft for re-entry and turning off the panel of dials and gauges in front of him:

Who needs pitch, roll and yaw numbers? Heat shield temperature measurements? Get this complicated stuff outta here! I don’t need all this damn data. The ocean’s right there over my shoulder out the window. I got me a visual. That’s all I need. Houston, we’re coming in.”

This is pretty much what you’re doing here, Doc. Perhaps it’s just me, but your words ring untrue to these old ears. Nice cherry-pick on yesterday’s ABs. When you say it was just ANOTHER example of a subpar season, implying there were many other yesterdays that tell the same tale, know that the numbers say otherwise. Whoops. I forgot. “Numbers” are vilified in these here parts.

There goes that crazy Newton guy with his apple, again. Sheesh.”

So perhaps I should say RESULTS. Because that’s just what many of Joey’s numbers are: results. A record of what happened on the field.

Oh, and your eyeballs? They will most certainly lie to you, even as they whisper sweet nothings in your corneas. Like sacrifice bunting a runner to third with no outs. Statistically, the chances of scoring a run just dropped. But, hey, the eyeballs love it.

Look at Choo! He’s so much closer to home than he was a minute ago! I can see it all the way up here from Section 521!. Can’t you?

And indeed, when a base hit drives the runner from third to home, confirmation bias sets in. Of course, as the season plays on and this scenario is played out over and over again, this strategy fails more often than it succeeds. And the team ends up scoring fewer runs than had they simply swung away. Maybe those fewer runs turn into losses. Maybe they don’t. Either way, the EYEBALLS see none of this. The brain can’t process all this information over days, weeks, months. So it’s forgotten and an old baseball shibboleth continues on it’s merry way down the basepaths. Third base is so close to home, 90 feet and nothing more. The simple geography of it trumps all logic and prior history. Not to mention fifth grade math.

Are you still here with me?

This is what you are doing with Joseph Daniel Votto. It’s why he doesn’t listen to you. Or Marty. Or even his own manager, who would rather he compromise himself by swinging at pitches he cannot drive into places that that cannot help his team score runs.

Joseph Daniel Votto is arguably the best hitter in the NL.

Yes, he’s not creating runs with his power as he did in 2010. He’s doing it a different way. And that’s okay. He’s still one of the best hitters in the NL. That should tell you something. As much as you want to make this an argument of RBIs vs. WALKS, it isn’t.

For nearly seven years, I’ve made my way to work into midtown Manhattan, past the slow, methodical construction of the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center. At no point in the construction did I value the work of those who topped off this magnificent building over those who built the first 103 floors. And yet this is exactly what those who serve their RBI masters would have you believe. Undervalue the men who build the foundation, who fill the bases. Reward those who have been given the opportunity to finish the job, drive them in. It makes no sense.

No, the real measure of a hitter is the total offensive output of the player. If only there was a way to measure the singles, doubles, triples, HRs, stolen bases and caught stealings and yes, WALKS a player produces—and roll that into one easy to understand value that gives you a more complete view of the offensive contribution of the player. Something easier than attempting to juggle a dozen or more stats in your head at one time—like a guy desperately counting cards at a blackjack table in Vegas.

If only. Oh wait. There is. It’s called Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). Not only does it calculate the overall worth of the sum total of all these various offensive stats that we worship, it also adjusts for ballpark and eras, so you can compare players over decades; so you’ll cut down on the extra credit you want to give Jay Bruce for hitting cheap home runs to right field in Great American Small Park, while penalizing David Wright for having to hit HRs in a cavernous Citi Field.

Today, Joseph Daniel Votto is 3rd in the NL in wRC+, one point behind Jayson Werth and two points behind Paul Goldschmidt. Not long ago, Votto was ranked FIRST.

You’re gone now, right? Alas, too complicated and thus suspect? Some might say the search for accuracy is a uniquely complicated endeavor. Once, we thought the sun revolved around the earth. Now we know better. But let’s not over-aggrandize things. Baseball isn’t the cosmos, right? Who needs a Hubble Telescope when you have those EYEBALLS? Maybe staying true to ways and beliefs handed down by generations is the way to go. Better to stick with the stuff that doesn’t get all up in our faces and challenge us—that doesn’t creep into the crevices of our conscious mind like a nagging toddler at 6:00 a.m. Easier to shun the inner voice that says, “Hey, maybe I was wrong about this all along.”

It’s only Baseball. And yet, one has to wonder where we’d be if the whole world quit questioning, quit digging for more information. Quit looking for something more.

So keep keepin on Mr. Daugherty. Keep telling us how Joseph Daniel Votto should have 100 RBIs simply because Shin-Soo Choo is getting on base 40% of the time, even as the logic of these simple numbers belies your case. Keep telling us he’s no longer the Reds’ best player. Just understand the consequences as you sally forth on your Heming-way.

Marty Brennaman—and you, sir, whom I consider the best writer of all things athletic in the city of Cincinnati and points beyond, occupy the sports pulpit. Fans listen to your homily. Your opinion carries the weight of a packed ballpark on Opening Day. Your voices are as far reaching as Paul Sommerkamp’s once was, God rest his soul. That’s important because many of the masses are already predisposed to rail against Joey Votto. He makes far too much money. Just as you by your own admission can’t grasp BABIP, most of us fans can’t grasp $225,000,000.00. Fans don’t necessarily understand Mr. Votto’s on-field demeanor. Some see a dedicated professional going about his work. Others see an emotionless and un-invested athlete playing a child’s game they can only dream of playing.

Human nature and all that. So, we need to get this right. Right?

You, Marty and the other keepers of the Big Scorecard in Our Heads can level the playing field for young Mr. Votto as the next decade unfolds for him in Cincinnati, as the next wave of baseball fans pour through the turnstiles and look for their generation’s Johnny Bench. You can help us appreciate him for who he is, not what we wish him to be. Today didn’t help. And that’s not just a disservice to Joseph Daniel Votto.

It’s a disservice to the fans. Every bit as much as Ryan Ludwick’s words were on Wednesday.

143 thoughts on “Joey Votto and the Eyeball Test

  1. GO GET ‘EM, MR. FITCH!!!!

    If I ever have another child (unlikely thought that might be), I will name him (or her) Fitch. Little Fitch might take some guff once he or she reaches school age, but it will be totally worth it.

  2. I posted the same question in a thread at Red Reporter a few days ago, and the question here is valid.

    Is this how regression begins? Votto surprised many of us when he burst on the scene in 2009 and 2010. His minor league numbers were good but he exceeded the expectation they generated. He actually played better when the ‘second level of the stadium was added’. A rare thing. His season this year, both defense and offense, would be more in line with expectations generated from his minor league numbers, which admittedly are stale.

    If that were the case, he would still be a player on this team that would be impossible (nearly) to replace, but the MVP caliber years may be a thing of the past. Another thing that may be happening too is letting perfect become the enemy of great (in Votto’s case).

    I am not saying I have the answer. Just brainstorming. As sherlock holmes said, ‘whenever you have eliminated all other possibile answers, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer.’

    • @Lost and Found: It’s possible that this is a case of early onset regression, but it’s also possible that it’s just a down year. He is coming off of knee surgery, and while he may not be physically hurting, his body may not be a fully armed an operational battle station yet.

      It’s not uncommon for great hitters to have dip seasons like this:
      Frank Robinson in 1963 hit .259/.379/.442. He hit a combined .307/.399/.575 over the next 4 years after that.
      Hank Aaron hit .279/.356/.539 at the age of 32 and then batted .303/.382/.581 over the next 5 seasons.

      See, two examples! I’m sure I could find more but those were the two that I’ve noticed before. It’s hard to say, but Votto’s dip year may just be a one year thing. Unfortunately, we need more data to be able to tell if it is more than that.

      • @Joel:
        I was speaking mainly to his drop in power numbers, its not huge, but its there. His projections off minors was sean casey with more power (simplistic but more or less the general feeling at the time).

        I’m not concerned, but on quiet off days like yesterday its something I wonder about.

  3. Humans are much better at storytelling than computation. This is the problem with the eyeball test. We’re already building the story in our head (typically biased one way or another). The eyeball test allows us to fit data points to our narrative (“But yesterday was another example why some of us believe he has had a subpar season.”). As humans we look for those patterns and then start in on the confirmation bias once we start to see the pattern form.

    For what it’s worth, those of who use stats more than our eyeballs do this too, but a good stathead will hopefully take the time to look at more than just a couple of data points to make an argument. Sometimes we don’t (we’re human too!), but I trust a good stathead over a good pair of eyeballs by themselves every time. Maybe Votto’s had a down season, but I sure ain’t gonna believe one man’s eyeballs (even mine) to make that determination.

    (Thanks for tolerating all of my parentheticals)

  4. Baseball is a business. How many people in any business who prioritize an “eyeball test” over legitimate statistical analysis stay in that business for any length of time?

    • @RichmondRed: I don’t think Daughtery is suggesting Votto isn’t worth the money or that the contract was a mistake. I’ve said all season it just seemed like Votto was having an off year. And here we are at the end of it and, low and behold, his numbers are down. They’re still above the level that warrants his contract and I still wouldn’t want him playing for any other team, but he’s having a down year. I firmly believe he’ll bounce back next year. I don’t think his MVP contending years are behind him. I think he works this offseason on getting his power swing back and hopefully he gets some help from management in the form of a proper #4 hitter to bat behind him.

      • @eric nyc: We already have a proper #4 bat to hit behind him. His name is Jay Bruce. We just don’t have a manager with enough sense to hit him there everyday.

        • @homerandbruce: That’s why I didn’t say “sign a proper #4 hitter.” The easiest thing to do is to put Bruce in that spot. But if they’re absolutely not going to do that, then a signing or trade would help.

  5. I appreciate everything that’s said in this article and it is all totally valid, but Daughtery is not COMPLETELY off base here. Look, baseball more than any other sport relies on the large sample size. Clearly. It’s a giant numbers game and I think even hardened old timers know that to some degree. I believe in all of the advanced metrics and I know they tell me the Reds have gotten their money’s worth from Votto this year and are likely to get roughly their money’s worth for the better part of his monster contract. Great. I’m glad Bob Castellini’s business decision was more or less a sound one. Smart businessing, Bob. Yay business!

    But it’s hard to ignore the times this year when Votto had the opportunity to put the team on his shoulders and single handily take over a game. I believe he is the best or one of the best hitters in the NL. If I believe that, I have to believe that there are times when a true great of the game can pull himself up out of the law of averages and, for lack of a better word, will himself and his team to a much needed win. Wednesday was a chance for that, as there have been many this season, and Votto didn’t deliver. He just didn’t. That was the result. And so for those of us who don’t purely watch the game for the glory of the numbers, it stung. That one AB did practically nothing to his season stats and will be long forgotten when he finds himself on a Cooperstown ballot for the first time, but in the heat of the 2013 NL Central pennant race to a lifelong fan who knows and appreciates all of the metrics, it hurt. Eyeball test. Is it everything? No. Not by a long shot. But you can’t totally discount it. As much as it is a game of numbers, it is also a game of PEOPLE and the beauty of the game is that people have it in themselves to supersede what is expected of them. To take a circumstance and be MORE THAN the sum of what the numbers say would be acceptable. To WIN. Joey Votto will go down as one of the all time great Reds. One of my favorites. But I don’t know if there will be much of a mythology about him. I don’t know if we’ll be building statues of him in 30 years. Even if he ends up with the most WAR in the history of the club.

    • @eric nyc:
      Actually have to do some work today so I don’t have time to get involved in the Votto debate. I just want to say that I agree with this comment almost 100%.

    • I appreciate everything that’s said in this article and it is all totally valid, but Daughtery is not COMPLETELY off base here. Look, baseball more than any other sport relies on the large sample size. Clearly. It’s a giant numbers game and I think even hardened old timers know that to some degree. I believe in all of the advanced metrics and I know they tell me the Reds have gotten their money’s worth from Votto this year and are likely to get roughly their money’s worth for the better part of his monster contract. Great. I’m glad Bob Castellini’s business decision was more or less a sound one. Smart businessing, Bob. Yay business!

      But it’s hard to ignore the times this year when Votto had the opportunity to put the team on his shoulders and single handily take over a game. I believe he is the best or one of the best hitters in the NL. If I believe that, I have to believe that there are times when a true great of the game can pull himself up out of the law of averages and, for lack of a better word, will himself and his team to a much needed win. Wednesday was a chance for that, as there have been many this season, and Votto didn’t deliver. He just didn’t. That was the result. And so for those of us who don’t purely watch the game for the glory of the numbers, it stung. That one AB did practically nothing to his season stats and will be long forgotten when he finds himself on a Cooperstown ballot for the first time, but in the heat of the 2013 NL Central pennant race to a lifelong fan who knows and appreciates all of the metrics, it hurt. Eyeball test. Is it everything? No. Not by a long shot. But you can’t totally discount it. As much as it is a game of numbers, it is also a game of PEOPLE and the beauty of the game is that people have it in themselves to supersede what is expected of them. To take a circumstance and be MORE THAN the sum of what the numbers say would be acceptable. To WIN. Joey Votto will go down as one of the all time great Reds. One of my favorites. But I don’t know if there will be much of a mythology about him. I don’t know if we’ll be building statues of him in 30 years. Even if he ends up with the most WAR in the history of the club.

      The Reds haven’t WON and been in the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years?

    • @eric nyc: Really thoughtful and well-written, as is Richard Fitch’s article. I only add this: The eyeball test is, by definition, subjective and therefore hard to support in any concrete sense. Statistical analysis, however, relies on the validity of the stats used, and that is often subject to debate. My sense is that baseball metrics have considerable value and probably don’t yet tell a complete story. The eyeballs alone can lie, but so can stats, so use both. Joey is clearly a great hitter and is having a productive year(though I agree with Doc that he’d look better batting 1 or 2). His power numbers are down and his defense has deteriorated, and we don’t know why. I have a level of concern for him as a Red and as a human being. If he’s okay and it’s a good but different year, then fine. If he’s hurting and not saying anything, not so fine.

    • @eric nyc: 1 game means nothing. How about the 1 game in Pittsburgh where Votto homered in the 10th that proved the game winner? He didn’t put the team on his shoulders then?

      We often remember the disappointments more than the successes. That’s human psychology and that’s the point of the article. Yes that makes us human but it also makes us fallible. Analyzing things gives us an objective way to be accurate. And I for one appreciate that.

  6. I posted this earlier this week and have edited to fit this post.
    After watching Votto this season I decided to follow up on a notion of mine. I was prompted to do this after watching many fly balls to center and left-center being caught well short of the wall and heard Jeff Brantley use the expression that a batter really “back legged that swing”
    From an Associated Press article on February 15, 2013 http://espn.go.com/mlb/spring2013/story/_/id/8953100/joey-votto-cincinnati-reds-says-knee-not-perfect-feels-really-good
    The writer (un-named) interviewed Votto and the following are some quotes from that piece;
    When he returned, the knee wasn’t back to full strength, and it showed in his swing. The NL’s 2010 MVP was reduced to hitting mostly singles.
    Votto knew he would be limited when he returned. Unable to push off his left leg as much as normal, he became more of a singles hitter. Pitches that he would drive into the gaps when healthy never made it to the wall.
    In the last 25 games of the 2012 season, Votto hit .316 with eight doubles. He hit .389 in the division series against San Francisco, but all seven of his hits were singles.
    “I knew what I could and couldn’t do,” Votto said. “I tried to make the most of it. Despite the lack of power, I was pretty proud of what I did do.”
    About the 2013 season Joey said;
    “They (doctors, trainers) had very positive things to say, but ultimately the real test is on the field,” Votto said. “I am just trying to get my legs back to 100 percent. It’s not perfect ( his left leg), but I think that after surgery, my expectations — realistically you’re not going to be perfect five months out.”

    My thoughts;
    If Votto’s leg wasn’t 100% perfect this March, does it make sense that it would get better playing baseball every day (he has started every game)? First, many people whine that he walks too much, local media writers mention that at his salary he should be this or that, as if salary could make a difference in performance. Would more money make a writer write better? When you look at Votto’s results so far this year does anything look familiar? Looks like the games he played after coming off the DL. The so called “eyeball test” is a flawed concept, Ask any law enforcement person about eye witness testimony versus digital camera evidence.
    The quote that rings loudest to me is this one; “I knew what I could and couldn’t do,” Votto said. “I tried to make the most of it.
    Making the most of it could mean getting on base by whatever means possible and give his team mates a better chance to drive in runs and win the game.
    I would think that most of us are aware that secrecy in the club house is a way of life and discussing a player’s health openly is never going to happen. When you have a passive local media, a manager that treats any question with disdain and an organization that controls the information (the company line is he is healthy) end of discussion. Numbers aside, because there so many available that most use only the ones that support their theory(Global Warming anyone).
    My humble opinion is we have been watching the best one-legged first baseman in MLB “make the most of it” all year. Thanks to the Reds for giving us an opportunity to watch him play.

    • @George M: Also thoughtful and well-written. A slight quibble: eyewitness accounts concern one incident, usually an unexpected incident. The eyeball test is, or should be, watching a player perform over the course of a season.

      • @greenmtred: Thank you. In the phrase “cause and effect” the eye ball test is the “effect”. My entire work history was to accept the effect (results,numbers,facts) and deal with the “cause” part of the equation.

  7. I agree with pretty much absolutely everything you sade, but you kind of put daughtery on blast. while i believe that he is wrong and you are right, that is still is his opinion and he has every right to feel that way just as you do about your opinions, and to blast him so hard for how he feels about the situation isn’t entirely fair.

    • @CorkyMillersMustache: Daugherty is certainly entitled to his opinion. But when those opinions are published in newspapers, and broadcast by others in the team’s own media cohort, they really do *need* to be countered in whatever ways are available to the rest of us.

      • @RC: I totally agree, they should be countered, but it was done almost in mockery like “how could this be how you view baseball” and while i agree that his views are fairly outdated as far as the game goes, i was just a little disappointed at the overall tone of the article. i’m not really that worried about it, i just think that as long as it’s someones opinion it’s tough for me to berate them for what they beleive, even when they’re wrong(which he is)

        • @CorkyMillersMustache:
          The business side of today’s newspapers requires a certain amount of page views. P D has to get viewers in a failing industry and he is using the best way to get them, the time honored practice is to beleaguer a local high profile person. P D is a company guy protecting his retirement and status at the expense of others.

        • @CorkyMillersMustache: Paul Daugherty knows me. I’m a regular contributor to his blog. I’ve filled in for him a few times. I really hope He doesn’t view this as the harsh criticism you’re accusing me of. We’ve gone back and forth on this for some time now, so this is nothing new.

          I love Daugherty. I know many don’t and I was hesitant to write this piece because I was concerned some might take it as an opportunity to “go off” on him. He’s a brilliant writer and from everything I know about him, a fabulous father and good friend to those lucky enough to be in his company. I went at him hard because to cut him slack on this issue because of my fondness for him seems wrong to me.

          I’m trying to get him to re-think his opinion on this topic. The man has a big megaphone. Unlike some in the local media, it’s well-deserved, IMO.

        • @Richard Fitch: fair enough sir. You raise a very good point. i certainly did not mean to make it sound like i disagree, or even that i don’t like the article. Maybe i need to read more Daugherty to fully understand. My apologies sir, and please, continue the good work. You guys are great writers. I think the only reason i even thought about it or even thought to comment is because online and on blogs people are so eager to put people on blast(and i don’t mean you specifically, just anyone or anywhere on the internet) and sometimes that bugs me. Maybe it’s just cause i hate arguements and whatnots(not that they aren’t critical to progress) but it seems nowadays sometimes people just aren’t respectful like they should be(i sound old now. I’m 20 lol) but anyway, i can see my comment was that of the unpopular type and i was probably wrong, so my apologies.

    • I agree with pretty much absolutely everything you sade, but you kind of put daughtery on blast. while i believe that he is wrong and you are right, that is still is his opinion and he has every right to feel that way just as you do about your opinions, and to blast him so hard for how he feels about the situation isn’t entirely fair.

      His opinion is based on the way he feels ignoring actual facts. It’s a stupid opinion. That’s my opinion.

  8. Some points:

    I have been an “eyeball” critic of Votto’s non-clutch performance, and probably I needed to re-think that earlier than this. I’m a fan, not a statistician.

    Votto hasn’t been good on defense this year and his base-running has been shaky. Maybe he never really WAS good at those two facets of the game. We just seem to think he is.

    None of that has much to do with his ability to hit the baseball.

    The rest of the team (from 5 through 8) has looked so lethargic at times that we’ve come to depend on JV to be Casey-at-the-Bat more often than is humanly necessary.

    It would be helpful if some of the other not-so-great hitters were to come through here and there.

    The notion that he shows no discernible emotion is incorrect. It’s a little less immature than some others, but it’s there.

    Still Daugherty is writing from an every-man viewpoint, and that’s what makes him popular.

    And Paul Sommerkamp was the best.

  9. There’s a more subtle point in Doc’s article that’s getting lost in the clutter. Why isn’t Votto batting 2nd? I know that’s not the first time anyone has said that on this board. But imagine the damage this team could have done batting Choo and Votto 1-2 all season? Put Phillips at 3, which he’s said is is his most preferred spot in the lineup, and Bruce at 4. I don’t even know how to begin to chew those numbers, but I’d bet that over the course of 162 games that would have equaled at least 3-4 more wins considering how much of the season was played with Cozart in that spot before he found his swing in the last 4 weeks or so.

    If Votto is the god of OBP and is purposefully sacrificing his own power and RBI numbers to ensure reaching base, #2 is an IDEAL spot for him. Even next year if Choo leaves and Hamilton takes his place at leadoff. Imagine that – Joey batting behind a guy who’s always in scoring position. Hamilton running with a guy at the plate who almost never swings and misses. Dusty will never do it – and maybe we should be thankful for that because if he DID then we’d be seeing Votto bunt an awful lot. But the things a smarter manager could do with this roster…

    • There’s a more subtle point in Doc’s article that’s getting lost in the clutter. Why isn’t Votto batting 2nd? I know that’s not the first time anyone has said that on this board. But imagine the damage this team could have done batting Choo and Votto 1-2 all season? Put Phillips at 3, which he’s said is is his most preferred spot in the lineup, and Bruce at 4. I don’t even know how to begin to chew those numbers, but I’d bet that over the course of 162 games that would have equaled at least 3-4 more wins considering how much of the season was played with Cozart in that spot before he found his swing in the last 4 weeks or so.

      If Votto is the god of OBP and is purposefully sacrificing his own power and RBI numbers to ensure reaching base, #2 is an IDEAL spot for him. Even next year if Choo leaves and Hamilton takes his place at leadoff. Imagine that – Joey batting behind a guy who’s always in scoring position. Hamilton running with a guy at the plate who almost never swings and misses. Dusty will never do it – and maybe we should be thankful for that because if he DID then we’d be seeing Votto bunt an awful lot. But the things a smarter manager could do with this roster…

      Phillips at 3? With his numbers Phillips should be 7 or 8.

      • Phillips at 3? With his numbers Phillips should be 7 or 8.

        Clearly the most important part of the post…

        • Clearly the most important part of the post…

          I’m sorry, I didn’t even read the rest of what you posted. Putting Phillips in the top of a lineup is so ignorant I bother to read the rest of it.

      • @Kurt Frost: Maybe. Consider how high his BA with RISP is, though (old time numbers, I know). And consider his RBI total (not just old-timey but hugely maligned). I understand that RBI is dependent upon teammates getting on base. But it is also dependent upon doing something positive when they ARE on base, and BP has done that this year.

  10. The arrogance with which this article is written is very off putting. The “I’m right and everyone else it wrong” attitude made me only read about half of it. I go by the eye test so I guess I’m not very bright. Just like Marty and Paul Daugherty and anyone else who doesn’t totally subscribe to sabremetrics.

    I wouldn’t want to see Joey Votto on any other team but the Reds. He’s not my favorite Red but I certainly don’t dislike him. I think he’s having an off year (for him) and for all we know he might agree.

    • @Just A Fan: I re-assert that I believe JV has not been the ballplayer this year that we *OFTEN* needed him to be, but those are selected memorable moments. But it still takes 3 outs to complete a half-inning, so some other guys needed to take the heat too.

      As I’ve done my own personal evaluation of the season, expecting the Reds to have 110 wins, lead the division by 18 games and have a plus-200 RS-RA … that didn’t happen.

      Houston left the league and Johnny Cueto missed most of the season.

      We got 90 wins with a horrible approach to hitting. In the middle of that, it’s easy to identify the one guy everyone expected to be Ruthian.

      Everything else, we blamed on Dusty.

      • @Johnu1: I am not a Dusty fan but he gets blamed so often there are times I want to defend him just because.

        I agree, expectations are always high for Votto. I didn’t get upset with him for flying out 4 times the other day, or for taking walks when he does. But he is not perfect and he has failed at times this year. As has everyone else on this team. I just get tired of seeing anyone who says anything negative about Votto get told of how good his numbers are. And now an entire article about how great he is.

        • @Just A Fan: I am in that same camp, generally. When Votto goes 0-for-4, I am constantly reminded that his OBP is the best in the league. I wasn’t interested in what he has done all year — I wanted him to get a hit in that game instead of 0-for-4. I have good reason to expect that. But being force-fed the metrics is a bit off-putting as well.

        • @Johnu1: I’m relating to this. There appears to be a contingent, not the majority, that is off the charts as far as all things “Joey”. We have referred to them at times as the Fan Club Guys. To me it’s not healthy, because it tends to be “Tiger Beat” Fan Club stuff. The message seems to be, “I love Joey more than you because I don’t criticize him”.

          During Game Threads, emotions run high, and it really doesn’t matter who you are. If you have a bad moment, you are going to get called on it and same for the good moments, they will be praised. IMO, it is fine to criticize all the Reds players when they stink. And yes, at times, even the MVP has stunk.

        • @Johnu1: “When Votto goes 0-for-4, I am constantly reminded that his OBP is the best in the league.” Do you realize how rarely Joey Votto goes 0 for 4? Almost never. So if that’s when you’re “constantly reminded”, you don’t have to worry too much.

    • The arrogance with which this article is written is very off putting. The “I’m right and everyone else it wrong” attitude made me only read about half of it. I go by the eye test so I guess I’m not very bright. Just like Marty and Paul Daugherty and anyone else who doesn’t totally subscribe to sabremetrics.

      I wouldn’t want to see Joey Votto on any other team but the Reds. He’s not my favorite Red but I certainly don’t dislike him. I think he’s having an off year (for him) and for all we know he might agree.

      But he is right. I don’t think of sabremetrics as some number hocus pocus. I think of them as facts.

      • @Kurt Frost: And facts they are. But they likely are not all of the facts, in part because the discipline is relatively new and still evolving, and in part because eyeballs do reveal some important information as well.

  11. Is there a happy medium here? I mean I love the advanced metrics which is why this is the site I visit for Reds info. However, statistics just give you a probability of what might happen. Statistics told us that Joey Votto was the best person to have up to bat at that time because he was the most probable to not record an out and/or advance the runners. However, the eyeball test comes in time and time again when the Reds have failed in some painful and almost always the most memorable and important situations to live up to their statistical probability. And this isn’t just a Votto issue. It seem that many people on this site think this is about the worst 90+ win season a team has had. The W-L are just a statistic that the Reds are good. It hasn’t necessarily made them fun to watch this year or good when I am the most emotionally invested.
    Statistics just tell us that they should probably have beaten the Mets, not that they will score a run against a bad pitcher as we are all watching them hopefully build momentum and win advantages for the postseason. And statistics sure don’t mean that we will enjoy watching those probabilities play out. Statistics will tell us that they probably should have won more series against the Cardinals. My eyeballs tell me something else. Statistics tell us that they should win the Wildcard. My eyeballs make me not as confident. Does Doc need to better represent both sides of the issue as a professional sports writer? Probably but few sportswriters do anything more than through something out to be argued over.
    I statistically know the Reds are good. I statistically know Votto is good. This tells me that over the long haul they will continue to be good. However, this season what we’ve seen when we have been paying the most attention and when we and hopefully the players have been the most emotionally invested doesn’t match the statistics. I know the eyeball test is subjective but this season has convinced me more than ever that both sides of this debate are right. I hope the playoffs match the statistics more than the eyeballs. As always, Go Reds.

  12. Just a little perspective.. I think both of the recent articles here concerning that article by P D were very passionate. I think both had the best of intentions and I admire that passion. It’s a direct contrast to the earlier article written by Chad who was hinting that we should accept that this year’s team might let us down and to perhaps reign in that passion (or at least that was my take on Chad’s viewpoint, I could be wrong.) All 3 articles were well written. All 3 articles were provoking in their own way and all 3 articles were just another reminder of why I spend time here.

    We all express it in different ways but that’s what it means to be a fan. We take offense at things that in the larger scheme of things don’t really matter. We get worked up about things that a week later are forgotten. We live and breath each season for the Reds when our time and opportunity allows and that is what links us all together, no matter how contrasting our viewpoints are or become during that season.

    I love seeing that on display and I love reading the comments to those types of articles because the non-staff comments are equally passionate and involved. Thank you again RLN for letting me become more invested in my favorite hobby and my life-long love of a child’s game.

    I can’t wait for this last final Pirate’s series to begin and I can’t wait for that dramatic wildcard game to be played. I’ll be hanging on every pitch and probably saying some unkind things under my breath at some of the decisions that are made but in the end that’s why I’m watching in the first place. I want to drink in those moments, bitter or sweet and let them affect me because that’s the best part about caring about something regardless of what it is.

    • @Mwv:
      I can’t wait for this last final Pirate’s series to begin and I can’t wait for that dramatic wildcard game to be played. I’ll be hanging on every pitch and probably saying some unkind things under my breath at some of the decisions that are made but in the end that’s why I’m watching in the first place. I want to drink in those moments, bitter or sweet and let them affect me because that’s the best part about caring about something regardless of what it is.

      Well said.

  13. The problem I have is cherry-picking one particular at-bat, like the one in the 8th inning Wednesday, and saying “That’s where Votto SHOULD’VE gotten a hit and won the game”. But really, he shouldn’t, if you look at the law of averages.

    If Votto is a .300 hitter, then he’s going to fail in that situation 7 out of 10 times. If he’s closer to a .333 hitter, he’s still going to fail 2 out of 3 times. So you can’t just say that an elite player SHOULD get the game-winning hit in that particular at-bat, because the numbers say otherwise.

    Even the magical, mystical Allen Craig, with his unsustainable .450 average with RISP, isn’t going to succeed EVERY time. In fact, in any given clutch at-bat, he is still more likely to fail than succeed. That’s why you have to look at larger sample sizes.

    Votto definitely failed at his opportunity for the game-winning hit on Wednesday. He has succeeded in some of those chances this year, but has failed at many more, just like all players. But would I want anyone else on the Reds up there in that situation? Absolutely not. He is our best player, and I want our best player up with a chance to win the game.

  14. I am a Reds fan who lives out of market, so I try and read everything I can about the Reds–that includes RLN and PD’s TML. I am not a regular commentar, though I read it daily and enjoy the insight and game recaps. That said, I think this article is only looking at part of the Votto’s game this year, and that’s offense. His OBP might by sky high and some people will celebrate that and some people will call for more RBIs. (As an aside, I value the work of the guys who finish the top of the building much more because of the danger involved, but I digress.) Brennamen said the other day that Votto leads all MLB 1B in Es this year. Haven’t looked it up, but I know his defense has been very bad at times this year. He (and the rest of the team) have made an unholy number of base running gaffes. And of course there was the time when he lost track of the number of outs in the St Louis game, and headed to the dugout prematurely. In their totality, I think I can see where PD says that Votto has not passed the eye-ball test this year. It isn’t just offensively.

    • @GolfGuy75: We have gone out of our way to connect some dots there. JV is a great hitter, therefore we think he is a great fielder, therefore is close to great at everything. The GG he won in 2010 should be taken in context. The GG is a fraud. He never was fast and never claimed to be a great base runner.

      So the errors, while frustrating, are probably as much a symbol of his true defensive ability as we think his offensive numbers are key to trends in his hitting.

      • @Johnu1: Given his track record, 2103 is an outlier for defense. By no small margin either.

        Strictly eye test, I’ll confess, but I think he was a much better base runner prior to the knee injury. He seems to be far more tentative and has slowed a couple of steps. He was never Tim Raines, however.

        • @CharlotteNCRedsFan:
          I also live out of market so have only see the Reds 15 – 20 times this year. But doesn’t it seem the whole team’s base running has been worse this year? I really don’t recall as many TOOTBLANS being mentioned on RLN in the past as there have been this year.

        • @MikeC: I would love to see more TOOTB’s than the (LAN’s) but the problem is that most baserunning blunders aren’t as the result of an aggressive approach but rather miscommunication. From Hatcher all the way around to Berry, who’s paying attention?
          But all teams have this, I suppose. We just notice it when our heroes run themselves dizzy.

    • @GolfGuy75: A few weeks after Votto forgot how many outs there were–a play that didn’t ultimately impact anything–Matt Carpenter fell for the hidden ball trick in the first inning, and probably cost his team a run.

      We can all find individual plays where things don’t go right–baseball is a very difficult game. So I guess no one playing the game would pass your and PD’s eye-ball test.

  15. It is nice though when your best player has a “down” year and still among a handful of the best players in MLB. Won’t be surprised, even a little bit, if he wins the MVP in 2014. He is a magnificent talent.

    Only thing I don’t get is the overestimation of Marty’s influence on the fan base. My personal baseball philosophy is much more in line with Richard’s but I love Marty. Sorry Richard, but I would rather listen to Marty do the games on the radio although you might be very good. I’m not real big on “thought control” stuff and some folks need to look in the mirror before they go there. Don’t underestimate the average fan’s intelligence and ability to think freely. It is insulting when people do. MAaty’s opinions are just that, opinions. But he is one heck of an announcer. Just as Richard is a writer.

  16. Is everyone in Pittsburgh complaining about their (soon-to-be) MVP #3 hitter who has “only” driven in 83 runs this year?

    Just checking.

  17. Daugherty: There have been times when he simply looks disengaged. I havent talked to him about it. I owe him that.

    Should have re-read his own writing and meant it before he pushed send.

  18. Votto is the same guy he has always been. It’s time we stop complaining about the things he doesn’t do and appreciate the things he’s great at.

    He’s about to become the 6th man in the history of baseball to lead his league in OBP 4 years in a row. The others are Bonds, Boggs, Williams, Gehrig, and Hornsby. So 4 Hall of Famers and a 7-time MVP.

    OBP>RBI

    • @vanwilder8: Not to mention that runs scored ought be nearly = to RBIs. Which has been mentioned by some lately, to be sure. But I’ve never understood why RS is never talked about in the same breath as the other counting stats. A mystery to me.

    • @vanwilder8: votto has spoiled us reds fans fast. How quickly we forget the days of Dan Driessen, Todd Benzinger, Hal Morris, true singles and doubles hitters, low-rbi type of guys. When only Sean Casey for a few breif years hit 20+ HR, a feat practically un-seen since the early 70′s of Lee May and Tony Perez.

    • @vanwilder8: I think — here — is the crux of the conversation. Over the entire body of work, Votto has been every player we ever wanted. What we debate, however, as fans of the intensity that comes in the moment, what SEEMS to be more failure than success.

      The true students of the SABR are inclined to ridicule casual fans with this sort of data. And *ridicule* is what I meant there. As if people who just watch the games aren’t qualified to evaluate players because they don’t know what the acronyms mean.

      I don’t much care if the data is correct or not, and I assume it is way more correct than my perceptions. All the same, as a fan of the intensity connected to the moment, it is of quite shallow consequence to me that JV leads the league in anything if we don’t score that important run.

      Don’t much care how we get the run. I recall the Bill Bates moment in 1990 … and it wasn’t Eric Davis I had hoped to see up there. I just wanted the run to score.

  19. My problem with this article, and Daugherty almost all the time, is that it takes a limited situation and tries to extrapolate into a large point, that usually ends up being jocks vs. nerds.

    Here’s a stat: Clutch, as measured by fangraphs, which tells you how a player has done (relative to themselves) in high-leverage situations. Here are Votto’s numbers the last few years:

    2010: 0.2
    2011: 1.68
    2012: 1.48
    2013: -2.06

    That mark, -2.06, is not only the lowest of his career (by far), it’s the lowest on the team.

    And to me, that’s really what this is all about. Votto has laid egg after egg in big moments this year, and that’s what people remember. If you are predisposed to not like the “new stats” (as if OBP hasn’t been on baseball cards forever) then of course you are going to take the opportunity to say that the stats are dumb and they don’t tell you the truth about Votto.

    Or if you were suspicious of his knee this year, maybe you’ll want to blame the knee (even though his numbers in low leverage situations are fantastic).

    I don’t know why Votto hasn’t been so anti-clutch this year. But ultimately, he has been, and the advanced stats show it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Does it mean he’s declining? No. Does it mean that OBP is over-rated? No. Does it mean he’s had a bad year relative to his peers? No. Does it mean he can’t hit in the clutch? We’ll see. He’s been able to do that in the past, so it seems like a lot of it is chance, but maybe he’s in his own kitchen.

    ALl it really means is that he’s not come through for this Reds team when it mattered most, and that is worth criticizing him for. But that’s it.

    • My problem with this article, and Daugherty almost all the time, is that it takes a limited situation and tries to extrapolate into a large point, that usually ends up being jocks vs. nerds.

      Here’s a stat: Clutch, as measured by fangraphs, which tells you how a player has done (relative to themselves) in high-leverage situations. Here are Votto’s numbers the last few years:

      2010: 0.2
      2011: 1.68
      2012: 1.48
      2013: -2.06

      That mark, -2.06, is not only the lowest of his career (by far), it’s the lowest on the team.

      And to me, that’s really what this is all about. Votto has laid egg after egg in big moments this year, and that’s what people remember. If you are predisposed to not like the “new stats” (as if OBP hasn’t been on baseball cards forever) then of course you are going to take the opportunity to say that the stats are dumb and they don’t tell you the truth about Votto.

      Or if you were suspicious of his knee this year, maybe you’ll want to blame the knee (even though his numbers in low leverage situations are fantastic).

      I don’t know why Votto hasn’t been so anti-clutch this year. But ultimately, he has been, and the advanced stats show it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Does it mean he’s declining? No. Does it mean that OBP is over-rated? No. Does it mean he’s had a bad year relative to his peers? No. Does it mean he can’t hit in the clutch? We’ll see. He’s been able to do that in the past, so it seems like a lot of it is chance, but maybe he’s in his own kitchen.

      ALl it really means is that he’s not come through for this Reds team when it mattered most, and that is worth criticizing him for. But that’s it.

      There is the eye test. When the most eyes are upon you.

    • @al:

      But it’s not correct to say he’s not come through for the Reds when it mattered most (did you forget the “clutch” homer he hit in Pittsburgh last Friday?). What is correct to say is that sometimes he has come through, and sometimes he hasn’t. More often than not, he has failed in that situation, which is to be expected of any major-leaguer.

      It’s ok if you want to criticize him for failing to get the big hit. Just be prepared to do it a lot, because it will happen quite frequently. That is a statistical certainty.

      • @docmike: But that’s the nice thing about this stat, it’s relative to the player. So yes, of course all major leaguers are going to fail in most situations. What this stat tells you is that in high-leverage situations, he has hit much, much worse this year than he has in low leverage situations.

        There are lots of Reds with positive clutch scores. That doesn’t mean that they have hit better than Votto, it just means that they are doing more of their damage in high leverage situations. This year, Votto has done most of his damage in low leverage situations.

        • @al: Not exactly. Since that clutch stat is in relation to one’s own career, it doesn’t say anything about comparisons to other players.

          For example (using batting average to keep it simple, but that’s a bad measurement), say Player A usually hits .330 and Player B usually hits .260. Suppose in 2013, Player A hits .320 in high leverage and Player B hits .270 in high leverage. The “clutch” number for Player A would be negative and the “clutch” number for Player B would be positive. Still, the player you would want batting in an important situation is Player A.

          All that clutch number for Votto means is that he’s hitting below his own regular performance. You have to keep in mind how much higher that baseline is than it is for the other Reds’ players. Over a career, a player’s clutch numbers move toward zero. They randomly fluctuate around it.

      • @vanwilder8: Dude, that was one of the most misleading posts of all time.

        Look at my post. I said very specifically that I was talking about this year. Every single stat discussed in the article you posted combines stats from 2009 through 2013.

        If you’re going to refute or disprove a fellow poster’s comment, you should be fair in the comparisons.

    • @al: Nice post, Al. That is a clinic in demonstrating that one can observe a negative aspect of play without turning it into “declining, walk-for-nothing, how-can-he-get-paid, blah, blah, blah” noise. It’s that stuff that makes SABR people want to gate-check the noise… turning one point of reasonable frustration/disappointment into a personal attribution of ineptitude that just doesn’t wash.

  20. Maybe the most frustrating part about all this “to SABR or not to SABR” stuff is that people think it’s optional. These numbers are just as real as the traditional ones, and they make sense. They’re just not as “easy to understand” or “time honored” as AVG/HR/RBI. Maybe it’s a masculinity thing or a coolness thing or just a popularity thing. I don’t know what it is.

    Choosing to ignore sabermetric stats is like looking at the weather and completely discounting humidity or wind chill because you can’t see them.

    It’s like looking at a clock and not trusting it because the sun is in a different place in the sky than it was earlier in the year. Eyeball test!

    It’s like looking at any debate and only cherry-picking the facts you like. Cognitive dissonance is an evil force and it makes people ignore the obvious or just choose the facts that best suit their view…or worse, just choosing facts they understand.

    • @John: I totally agree with this, but I also think the post above is really fair because it does the same thing. It rips Doc for his focus on RBI, and I agree that RBI aren’t a good overall measure of a player.

      But…

      From baseball reference, here are the percentages of base runners that have scored when Votto has been up:

      2010: 20%
      2011: 19%
      2012: 16%
      2013: 12%

      That is a real number that can’t be ignored. He is factually, statistically, driving in fewer of the runners that are on base for him. And it’s by a lot.

      • @al: These numbers can and should be ignored because they are misleading stats. He’s walked more, so you’d expect them to go down. Unless you feel that he should swing at pitches outside the strike zone.

        • @CincyGuy: Actually, his walk rate was higher last year and the percent of runners who scored on his plays was higher. See my discussion of the fangraphs clutch stat above.

        • @CincyGuy: He’s walked more.
          More than what?
          For what reasons?
          Perhaps he was hitting pitches outside the zone in the past and was reaching base despite that.
          Comparisons on statistics are sometimes bewildering.
          If you want to blanket it by saying he’s walked “more” than before, therefore producing fewer runs … there are a whole lot of dots that need to be connected.

      • @al:

        I interpret that as a statistical blip, nothing more. It means that compared to his career norms, he is getting the hit with a RISP less often. If that % was up to say, 24% this year, I wouldn’t think that Votto suddenly got a lot better at clutch hitting. I would also take it as an outlier.

        I’m not saying that hitting with RISP isn’t important. But so is hitting with the bases empty, because that’s how you get those runners in scoring position in the first place.

        I believe you will see that over time, the best hitters with RISP are going to be the same guys who are the best hitters overall. i don’t care what Brandon Phillips’ RISP average is, I know that Votto is a better hitter overall, and that’s who’s more likely to get a hit when you need it.

        • @docmike: I think that is totally possible. As I said above, I don’t know what Votto’s bad clutch numbers this year mean, and a statistical anomaly is just as good of an explanation as anything else.

          What it doesn’t mean is OBP is over-rated, or any of the other things the non-SABR crowd wants it to mean.

          At the same time, it’s understandable that people aren’t happy with Votto this year, when you understand just how uncluch he’s been. To just try to say, “look at his wRC+! he’s been great!” that seems to be putting your head in the sand just as much.

        • @al: It does seem, in a Monty Python sort of way, to evoke an image of … Votto GIDP in the 5th inning and instead of the fans groaning, they all stand up and say “Well, that’s not so bad. After all, his wRC+ is among the best in baseball.”

        • @Johnu1: Time and time again the jist of your posts seem to be that you EXPECT Votto to come through all the time. Such as the example you’ve used in more than one post saying you can expect him to not go 0-4 like he did the other night.

          I would really like to understand where are coming from on this subject. How can you expect a person who doesn’t get a hit 69.5% of the time to not go 0-4 sometimes? I don’t see why an 0-4 is a problem. He goes 0-4 less than anyone else on the team, and less than all but 12-14 people in the league.

          This season isn’t as good in most ways as most of his past seasons. I get it. I agree with it mostly. But the unrealistic expectations many of the posters put on him are mind-numbing.

        • @prjeter: Of course I expect him to get a hit. Why would I not? I am not inclined expect the best hitter on the team to go hitless. I realize it happens but I can’t ever say I EXPECT it. I expect sunrise. I HOPE the Reds win. I don’t saddle myself with the usual *7 times out of 10* — it’s vapid and self-satisfying. If you watched baseball over an hour, that’s obvious.

          Doesn’t mean I can’t expect Votto to deliver. I am happy when he does, unhappy when he doesn’t. I am not strapped to the “law of averages.” I have 100 percent anticipation that no Reds player will fail.

        • @al:

          I really do think it’s an anomaly. I think of as if say Votto bats .333 for the season, then theoretically, he would also bat .333 both with RISP and without. But, in any given period of time (month, season), that can change, and the smaller the time period, the more likely to see a fluctuation.

          If he had 600 at-bats in a season, those 200 hits will be, by pure chance, randomly distributed among at-bats with RISP and those without RISP. If by chance, more ended up in the RISP subset, he would appear to be “clutch”, but if more ended up in the no-RISP subset, the it would appear to be the opposite.

          Here is my “eye test” observation. It seems to me that most of Votto’s singles this year have come with a runner at second, which doesn’t drive a run in, but does set up the guys after him (Phillips, Bruce) with lots of opportunities to drive in runs. No stats to back that up, just seems to be what I recall.

        • @docmike: Yeah, this has happened quite a bit. Also, he’s had several doubles that don’t score runs from first and several singles that haven’t scored runs from 2nd. Take on maybe 4 RBI for those random situations, tack on 2 more for the Gomez HR robbery, and tack on 10 more for all the times (20 or so) he’s been intentionally walked and all of a sudden he’s closer to 90 RBI and no one thinks he’s having an off year, except for maying in the field.

          Random variation. That’s all it is.

          I liken it to Tiger Woods (especially before the scandal). He’s the best golfer. Just because he loses doesn’t change the fact that he’s the best golfer.

        • @docmike: All I can say is that I hope so. I do think that some guys can be prone to “pressing,” i.e. trying to do too much in pressure situations. Votto seems really high-strung to me, with the violent outbursts in the dugout etc. So he seems like a guy who might be pressing some this year.

        • @al:

          I guess some guys could be prone to pressing, and thus not performing as well in clutch situations. I just don’t think Votto’s career up to this year would indicate that he is that guy. I believe this year is a statistical anomaly. I sure hope I’m right.

          Getting back to the eyeball thing, doesn’t it seem like a lot of Votto’s hits this year were either singles with a runner on first, or bases-empty doubles? Seems like his hits may not have knocked the run in, but sure set up the guys after him with tons of RBI chances.

        • @docmike: Yeah, for sure. I mean, sort of by definition, if a guy has an overall line that is really good, and his Clutch score is REALLY bad, then he must be doing really well in low-leverage situations.

          So yeah, he probably has gotten a lot of doubles with a guy on first in games where the Reds are winning 3 – 0, and stuff like that.

        • @al:

          My opinion is that stuff will even out over time. He could have a year next year where he also hits .333, with 200 hits, but does just the opposite with respect to RISP and not. I really think it’s a statistical aberration.

        • @al: Wait, is he high strung and pressing, or disengaged like PD says? It gets so confusing when we psychoanalyze these guys….

        • @Eric the Red: I’ve never understood the whole disengaged thing, have you? This is a guy who had to be talked to by his manager for screaming obscenities on TV. I’ve seen him break bats in the dugout, I’ve seen him throw helmets in the dugout.

          He doesn’t look like a particularly happy guy on the field, but he always seems really intense to me.

  21. I love that Joey Votto is a Cincinnati Red, and newly sporadic hot-dogging this year aside, I love that he is going to be a Cincinnati Red for years to come. His contract (and expectations from Castellini/fans) are based on HIS last couple of years. He has not performed up to them yet this year. I imagine a few clutch hits in the next month will erase much of the hand-wringing from us folks who still feel that a key late-game high pressure situation means more than a run scoring double to extend a 3 run lead to a 4 run lead in the 5th inning. Both impact the statistics the same way, but certainly not the specific games. The Joey MVP of 2011-12 was CONSISTENTLY AWESOME in those “clutch” situations. He’s not been this year. Yes, he may well lead the league in OPS for the 4th year running, but I hope we look back at this year as his “down” year. I said at the All Star break, that I anticipated he would have a monster 2nd half. Hasn’t happened. Yet. Let’s GO, REDS!!

  22. Don’t know if this has been said, but Paul akes a valid point:

    OBP and walks are great if you bat #1 or #2. When you get to #3, your job is to SWING and get those guys in. Votto, for as great of a hitter he is, should not be passing the buck to lesser hitters like Phillips and Bruce.

    In a sense, Marty is right when he says “Votto isn’t paid to walk.” Now, if he was a #2 hitter, this would be a different story. But as a #3 hitter, his job isn’t just to get on base; it’s to get others in.

    Like it or not, that is the reality of it. In that sense, he is substandard at his job.

      • @RC: Fangraphs did a great article about Joey’s 5 walk game the other day. They broke down each at bat and looked at which pitches he MIGHT have been able to swing at. Over the course of the entire game there was ONE that was solidly in the strike zone that he laid off and THREE others that were outside of the zone that they deemed were “hittable” but more than likely would have been outs. Four pitches in 5 at bats. That’s the part of Joey’s game I can’t fault him for in the least, obviously.

        That being said, in the AB in the 8th inning Wednesday, it was a different story. If Feliciano wanted to pitch around him, he would have just intentionally walked him. But he came RIGHT after Votto with three strikes right in Joey’s wheel house. He fouled the first one off, watched the next two, and then flailed at a 4th ball outside of the zone. (I might not be completely right about that sequence…doing it from memory.) Point being he laid off some very hittable pitches in that AB when any kind of contact would have likely scored at least the tying run. It’s moments like that when I do occasionally question Joey’s approach. His conservative style is the absolute right way to go 99% of the time, but he doesn’t seem to adjust it to in game circumstances. I think in that spot he was expecting to be pitched around so he laid off. I’ve seen him do that in the past – sometimes I think the legend of Joey Votto even gets into Joey Votto’s head.

    • @CI3J: That probably comes off more snarky than I meant it to sound. So my apologies…

      But what I’m getting at is that this analytical discussion isn’t complete without talking about how Votto’s been pitched to this season. There was a post about that here a few weeks back, but I couldn’t find it on my lunch hour…

    • @CI3J:

      But that means that his choice is often to swing at less-than-ideal pitches, which have a higher probability of resulting in an out than usual, or letting them go and taking the walk. If he gets more aggressive at swinging at pitcher’s pitches, he will probably get more RBI, but you would also see his regular BA, not to mention his BA w/RISP, go way down.

      In that case, I would rather him do what results in the best chance of the Reds scoring that inning. If that means take a walk rather than swing at a bad pitch, then so be it.

    • @CI3J: I find the “job” argument fairly ridiculous.

      If Choo suddenly hit 60 home runs this year, would people be saying “it’s not his job to hit homers, he’s supposed to get on base”? I highly doubt it.

    • @CI3J: I disagree 100% with your assertion. Your job as a major league hitter is to not create an out. That’s it. Nothing else. If every single player had this mindset you’d win lots of games.

      Some will disagree, but math keeps me warm a night. A walk with a man on 3rd and no outs is better than an RBI groundout. Unless it’s the bottom of the 9th and the game is tied. But that’s a fringe case.

      (see Boston and Detroit. Top of the majors in OBP, top of the majors in runs scored)

  23. Off-topic, but here’s tonight’s lineue:

    Choo
    Ludwick
    Votto
    Phillips
    Bruce
    Frazier
    Cozart
    Hanigan

    Why oh why is it so very difficult for our manager to put Bruce in the 4 hole? And why must our worst hitter always go in the 2 hole. It makes my head hurt. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this team’s only real handicap is it’s manager.

    • @homerandbruce: That lineup is a joke right? Ludwick? What, Dusty sees this as so unimportant that it’s up to spring training goof around lineups? I’m sure he’s also thinking “Well, Brandon’s played the Pirates pretty well this year, he has the most RBI against them, so, yeah, he’s gonna bat clean-up.”

      • @RC: Maybe, just maybe it’s some gamesmanship by Dusty. “Clint, I think so little of your team, I’ll pull my lineup out of hat today.” Actually, now that I think of it, probability wise, the hat would have constructed a better lineup.

        • @Matt WI: The crazy thing is that they’ll probably score 10 runs tonight and Dusty’ll think he’s an outside-the-box genius.

        • @Matt WI: Well, the Frazier experiment appeared to work briefly. So *briefly* is probably all we need to depend on.

    • @homerandbruce: This is why it’s so hard to follow a Dusty Baker team. Every day you have to tell yourself, well, right out of the gate we’re at a disadvantage, but it probably won’t mean that much, I hope the players can just overcome it.

      That gets so old.

    • Off-topic, but here’s tonight’s lineue:

      Choo
      Ludwick
      Votto
      Phillips
      Bruce
      Frazier
      Cozart
      Hanigan

      Why oh why is it so very difficult for our manager to put Bruce in the 4 hole?And why must our worst hitter always go in the 2 hole.It makes my head hurt.The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this team’s only real handicap is it’s manager.

      Perhaps Ludwick is a killer bunter? In fairness to Baker, it’s not like BP has been effective #2 hitter. At least he changes his approach (READ – hit the ball the other way) to get the mighty RBI as a clean-up hitter so it probably won’t matter. I do agree that Bruce in the 4 hole needs to happen to protect Votto if nothing else, but does allow the Pirates to use less relief pitchers in later game situations. Hanigan in for Mesoraco weakens the whole lineup further. Regardless, it is time. GO REDS!!!!!!!

      PS – I hope the fans give Ludwick plenty of noise tonight to give the team no excuses. (And, that was a pretty pathetic one.)

    • @homerandbruce: Bruce is 3-for-24 in the last 5 years against Burnett. I am not saying I agree with this lineup, but my guess is that Dusty took that into consideration, small sample size or no.

  24. Great article, thank you. Lots of thoughtful comments and not much I can add, except that I would have to guess that Daugherty doesn’t have as hard of a time understanding the numbers as he might let on. I don’t have any evidence to back that up, but he often mentions the grind of coming up with things to say about the Reds every single day. He also talked about all the fans that fly off the handle one way or another after each and every game. I think he kind of has to write to those people every day, because his writing about the Reds would be instantly boring if he quoted the advanced numbers and maintained every single day that Joey Votto is amazing. I was really bummed after the game on Wednesday, especially with Votto’s at bats, even though he hit the ball pretty hard every time. I wanted to see him punch through a game-winning base hit in the 8th, but it seemed like he was trying to hit a home run. I was emotional about it and come Thursday morning I wanted to talk/read about that specific game and that specific at bat, and how the Reds looked flat and like they just don’t have the fire to win this year. That’s all dramatic and a bit silly and the numbers say otherwise, but especially at this heightened point of the season, I think it probably makes for more interesting conversation. As does the argument between the eyeballs and the calculators, and these colorful debates would stop if he didn’t keep up what he’s been saying. Anyway, again, great article. Go Reds!

  25. Some really great responses to to this post. A few months ago, I thought this whole conversation was going to become moot, because Joey would have a hot streak (or a lucky streak, since some people seem to imply that accumulating RBIs is just a matter of luck) and he’d end up around 90 RBIs when all was said and done. Instead, he may not even reach 75.

    I figured he’d finish with around 90 RBIs because baseball history (and the law of averages) said that he would. I’ve posted this question here before, and never gotten a response to it: Can anyone think of another #3 hitter in baseball history who played a full season for a very good offensive team and managed to finish with so low an RBI total? I can’t. I came up with one that was close – 1988 Kirk Gibson. What’s the point of my question? The point is, we’re supposed to believe that Joey Votto is the first player in baseball history to somehow find a way to be MORE productive by not driving in runs? I think it’s more likely those 73 RBIs are indicative of him having a down season. Sometimes the traditional numbers tells us enough.

    And when the traditional numbers aren’t enough – someone here posted that only 12% of Votto’s baserunners have scored, as opposed to 17% – 20% through his career. But there’s an excuse for that. Someone else posted that he’s hit WAY worse in “high leverage” situations. But we’re supposed to ignore that stat as well.

    And just to be clear – I don’t think anyone seriously argues that he should walk less or swing at pitches outside the strike zone. We argue that he should be getting the job done more often when he doesn’t walk. Somehow Ted Williams and Frank Thomas (who Joey is often compared to) managed to walk 100 times and still drive in a respectable number of runs.

    I love Joey Votto. I own his jersey and have his fathead on my wall and I was literally dancing around my office when I heard the news about his contract. I want him to play his whole career for my team. And I believe he will have a better season in 2014. But this has been a disappointing season.

    • @PRoseFutureHOFer: earlier in this thread, it was pointed out that Andrew McCutchen wasn’t going to get 100 RBI either. He comes into play at 83 RBI. In 442 career games batting 3rd, McCutchen has 239 RBI. That works out to 84 RBI per season (assuming his average of 156 games/year.)

    • @PRoseFutureHOFer: A few weeks ago I did an analysis of the amount of times Votto has led off an inning in relation to his total plate appearances. At the time I did it, he had led off an inning more often than any other #3 hitter in baseball, which is in direct correlation to the poor production from the #2 spot.

      Agreed, he’s having an off year, but RBIs are not the indicator of that. His slightly lower BA than career and his worse defense is the indicator of the off year to me.

      I posted this above, but if he doesn’t get intentially walked 20 times and he hits .250 in those situations, that’s 5 more hits with RISP, whihc, in the situations he’s walked in, would lead to 5-8 more RBI. Then, take away his Gomez game winner (which would have been his 3rd GW homer of the year) which is 2 more RBI, and he conceivably could be in the mid-80′s, even having an off year.

      To me, all counting statistics are variable by some percentage even when player skill remains constant.

  26. All great hitters have had down years and this is one for Votto. Physically I don’t think he’s been at 100% this season. As for Daugherty, I’m sure he’s a fine writer, but I don’t read his column having found an overlay of sarcasm regarding most sporting activities in Cincinnati. I regret that the Enquirer lost Tim Sullivan to the newspaper in San Diego.

  27. Votto leads the majors in plate appearances, with 715 (Choo is 7th with 701), so I doubt that his knee is really bothering him. If so, it would have flared at some point this year.

    Votto is pretty much the victim of his previous success. His 2010 was off-the-charts good. I don’t know what his wRC+ was that year, but I’m guessing its better than 2013. If all Daugherty is saying is that Votto isn’t as good as he was 2010, it’s hard to argue with it, but it’s also hard to argue with Richard’s point that he is having a good year. He is not in Baseballreference.com’s top 10 WAR men, though.

    This is the most odd-ball series I can recall. It’s a 4-game series, where the whole point is to win the 4th game.

    • @Big Ed: Exactly right. It’s like being surprised Tiger didn’t win the majors every time when he was in his prime. 5th? How could he finish 5th? Where’s his swing coach? Is this the end?

  28. Some of the comments earlier got me intrigued and I wanted to look some things up before I posted. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but I did have a couple of notions. I only looked at a handful of offensive stats only and compared them year by year back thru 2009. I wasn’t trying to cherry-pick stats. I just wanted to compare what Votto has done in previous years to this year in regard to singles and walks in relation to runs and RBI’s. (I hope it lines up right, many times they don’t.)

    H %1B %2B %BB R+RBI=RRBI
    2009= 151, 57.6, 25.2, 12.9, 82+84= 166
    2010= 177, 57.6, 20.3, 14.0,106+113=219
    2011= 185, 61.0, 21.6, 15.3,101+104=204
    2012= 126, 54.0, 35.0, 19.8, 59+56= 115
    2013= 132, 67.2, 17.2, 18.5,100+73= 173

    I wish I could have posted all the numbers along with the %’s. I also wish I could have broken up 2012′s numbers as pre-injury and post-injury. The 2B’s had me concerned back in July. Remember JV had 40 2B’s going into the All-star break in 2012, ended up with 44 for the year, and has 30 thus far this year. His % of singles/hits is way up, up to 67.2 %.

    I think these numbers SUGGEST, that JV is more COMFORTABLE, maybe that is the right word, drawing walks and slapping singles this year, than driving the ball into the gaps. However, this goes against what Votto has said himself, that he has not changed his approach. I think the numbers say otherwise.

    • @WVRedlegs: He walked at a higher rate last year than this year, so I don’t agree that he’s gotten more comfortable taking walks.

      If you’re saying that he’s become more of a singles hitter than a doubles hitter, that’s objectively true this year, but we don’t know why.

  29. Joey Votto is clearly the best hitter on the Reds. There is no disputing that. He is not overpaid anymore than any other major league player. And no one forced the Reds to sign him to a 10 year contract extension that will pay him through his 40th birthday. I appreciate the statistical analysis but I also appreciate what I see. Votto contributions to the success of the team are obvious. It is also obvious that he has not had a good year in the field and at times his base running decisions have been comical. He also is clearly not the clutch performer at the plate that he was in 2010. Chances are good 2010 will be his career year.

    Kudos to Joey Votto that he parlayed that season into a 225 million dollar contract extension. I don’t begrudge him that, but I do worry what that contract will mean going forward as it relates to the Reds ability to sign their pending free agents such as Latos and Bailey in 2015. As we all know the Reds minor league system is not loaded with talent that will likely make an impact in 2015.

    I’d love to ask Jockety and Castellini if the year Joey Votto is having in 2013 meets the standards they set for the guy making 17 million dollars a year. Maybe they would say yes. I’m guessing they expected more or to be fair let’s say a different contribution. Speciffically more power, more clutch late inning hits and much better defense.

    Here’s another take on this argument: For me the guy getting paid the most should be a guy who puts butts in the seats. Votto was that guy in 2010. He is not in 2013. Blame Daugherty or Brennaman if you must but truth be told Votto is not a compelling player to watch. In part it is because he seems lost at times when he is playing defense or running the bases. In part it is because he also happens to not be too fan friendly. (Have your child try to get his autograph) But the biggest reason I find him less then compelling is that he just isn’t one of those guys that when he comes to the plate I find myself saying I can’t miss this at bat because something special might happen. A walk helps the team. I get it. Getting on is far better than not. I get it. I just think Votto is getting paid to be than the a table setter. Call it the eye ball test if you will.

    As a kid I remember how the the feel of Crosley Field changed when Frank Robinson came to the plate. It was almost electric. The anticipation of what might happen started a buzz in the stadium. It was the same for many of the Reds of the 70′s at Riverfront. Even Junior was able to get that buzz started for much of his career in Cincinnati. That doesn’t happen when Votto comes to the plate. He’s getting paid to be that guy. The Albert Pujols of a few years or the Miguel Cabrerra of today. A guy who strikes fear in the opposition.

    Skewer away Richard.

    • @robby: I’ve been at the park, even recently, when it got pretty exciting when Votto came to the plate. He may walk a lot, but he also has the most hits and second most home runs on the Reds. So for hoping someone comes up to bat who is going to get a hit, Votto is still #1 on the team.

    • @RC:

      Exactly. If what many on here believe is true, that Votto has indeed lost his mojo and is on the downside of his career, then it will start to show in his walk rate. If Votto is not to be feared, then there’s no reason to pitch carefully to him. He will see more strikes, walk less, and put more balls in play.

      BTW, there’s a reason Barry Bonds led the league in walks all those years. Pitchers were scared to death of him.

  30. Paul Daugherty is one of the worst sports writers of all-time, in my opinion (and others that have worked with him that I know). I lived in Cincinnati for eighteen years and after a while I just stopped reading him. He’s not funny, writes like a twelve year old and knows nothing about baseball or sports.

    I remember, way back in 2001, when the Reds signed Seth Etherton. Paul was all excited as Etherton went 5-1 for the Angels in 2000. His minor league stats weren’t all that great either and I pointed out (forgot it it was email or a Reds group) that he was 5-1 mainly because the Angels scored a lot of runs since his ERA was a stellar 5.52.

    Paul replied that he was 5-1 and that’s all that mattered, wins. At that point I was pretty much done with him. Not surprised to see that his writing his still sub-par and he still sticks to old baseball stats that mean pretty much nothing, like Votto’s RBI total.

  31. Steve,

    I too have been to many games and maybe Ludwick is right in some ways about the lack of fan participation in general but the bottom line from my perspective is Votto doesn’t elicit the same response in the crowd that other great players do. He is a great player. He just isn’t quite what everyone thought he would be after 2010. Maybe he is hurt. Who knows? I wonder if Votto were entering free agency this off season would the Reds still give him the 10 year deal they gave him. I’m guessing not, but we’ll never know the answer to that question.

    RC
    Walks don’t necessarily mean a team is pitching around someone. Frankly once you get a reputation for having a good eye umpires seem to give you the benefit of most close pitches. My point I guess was that Votto is not feared like Pujols used to be or like Cabrerra is today and he gets paid to be that guy. I realize most teams don’t have that guy. I think the Reds thought they had that guy in Votto when they gave him a 10 year extension. I doubt they think that now.

  32. docmike,

    Pitchers are not scared to death to face Votto. Votto is still the Reds best hitter and if you had to pitch to Votto or pitch to Ludwick which would you choose? If there is no one hitting behind Votto that poses a serious threat why pitch to Votto.

  33. I went to a Pirates game about two weeks ago in Pittsburgh against the Cubs while traveling to visit my brother. I had gone to a Reds game in Cincy on Labor Day against the Cardinals. There was definitely better energy and atmosphere at the Pirates game (but not necessarily a larger crowd).

    I think some of it’s natural. Remember how excited Reds fans were a couple years ago when they first made the playoffs?

    But it’s unfortunate too. There is an apathy with us Reds fans. I think the disapointments in the playoffs, and kind of that general feeling that Dusty Baker is going to get out-coached have led to a negative vibe around the Reds. Home field advantage didn’t matter much last year in the playoffs, but I think it could give the Pirates quite an edge this year.

    But who knows really! All we can do is root the Reds on from this point forward, and hope Dusty’s managing skills clicks in this postseason.

  34. It seems to me a big part of the walks as clubs have decided to just not let Joey Votto beat them. Really his power is only off around one extra base hit a month.

    Only thing that catches my eye is how much JV strikes out considering how well he knows the strike zone, but then again batters strike out a whole lot more now.

  35. There is no defense of the Cincinnati media. They’ve proven to be spineless when it comes to questioning the manager and holding him accountable for his terribad decisions while choosing to use their bully pulpit to vilify or glorify players based on imbecilic criteria.

    As a whole I have lost all respect for them and view the groups’ work as incompetent, useless journalistic offal.

  36. To highlight my statement, look no further than the way the local media has heaped praise on Brandon Phillips while bashing the production of players like Bruce and Votto. That shows a lack of even basic statistical analysis and reliance on complete subjectivity that is unacceptable for so called ‘professionals’.

  37. Hello there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts.

    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal
    with the same topics? Thanks a ton!

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