Just in case you are not aware: Joey Votto is awesome. He is having a fantastic season at the plate, one that rivals his 2010 MVP campaign and in some ways exceeds it. There is only one hitter in the National League having a better season than Votto. That player is the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, who is putting up epic, monster stats in Washington. I think Joey Votto is under-appreciated around the league and even right here in Cincinnati by Reds fans in general and by the Reds’ broadcasters specifically. Everyone realizes that Votto is good, but many folks don’t comprehend just how startlingly good Votto has been and still is. Today we will look at some rate stats to try to get a better picture of Votto’s status.
Rate stats are percentages or scores like batting average and slugging percentage. They differ from counting stats like home runs and RBI. Counting stats depend as much on opportunity and playing time as they do skill and talent. Hitters who play more games can accrue higher totals than more talented hitters who played fewer games. That is why someone like Pete Rose can have a lot more hits than many players who had higher career batting averages. Pete played more games than anyone else, and that was one of the reasons why he accumulated more hits than anyone else — he had more chances. Rate stats level the playing field by eliminating the playing time differential. Rate stats help us see how often and to what degree a player took advantage of the opportunities he had.
Here is how Joey Votto stacks up this year against the other players in the National League in the most important statistics:
Harper dominates in every category, but Votto has been gaining ground very quickly. While Votto has been obliterating everything in his path since the All Star break, Harper has been tailing off. Although Harper has big leads over Votto in all these stats right now, it is possible Votto could catch him if current trends continue. Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks has been the 3rd best hitter in the NL. Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs round out the top five.
Votto’s OBP, OPS+ and wRC+ this year are better than his scores in his MVP season. He won’t win the MVP for two reasons. Number one, the Reds stink. Many MVP voters will not vote for him no matter how good his stats are. Number two, Bryce Harper is having a clearly superior season, although his team is not in line for a playoff slot either. That could create an opening for a lesser player like Andrew McCutchen of the playoff-bound Pirates to take home the hardware.
Now let’s look at how Votto’s career statistics rank against all the other top active players in baseball. Votto is one of the most elite players in the league and has been for a long time. His career rate stats prove it:
Votto has without question been one of the top five players in all of baseball throughout his career. You could make a strong argument that Votto ranks right up there with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as the best players of this generation, although Pujols is several years older. Mike Trout is threatening to break into that group but he needs to keep it up for a few more years before cementing his status as a perennial superstar. Other active players have put up one or two uber-elite seasons but their career stats do not merit consideration alongside the likes of Votto, Pujols and Cabrera as consistently great hitters. How many Reds fans are aware of how stellar Votto has been during his career?
How does Votto compare to the greatest hitters in Reds’ history? Pretty good…
Here we can see that Votto dominates the rate stats among all the great hitters who ever played for the Reds. Yes, Votto’s career rate stats are better than Joe Morgan’s, Johnny Bench’s, Pete Rose’s and Frank Robinson’s. It is possible that Votto’s rate stats will degrade as he ages, but right now we can say that Votto is the best Reds hitter any of us has ever seen. Many will argue that point, and we can certainly make good arguments that other hitters may have been better, but Votto is without question the best Reds hitter since the Big Red Machine days. Barry Larkin was excellent. Eric Davis was an even better hitter than Hall of Famer Larkin in my opinion, although he didn’t keep it up as long.
The gold standard for comparing hitters across eras is Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). That metric makes adjustments for year, league and ballpark to balance the playing field for everyone. In my opinion it is the best way to see which Reds hitters were the best of all time (min 3000 PAs):
|21||Ken Griffey Jr.||119|
Keep in mind those numbers are only for when the players played for the Reds. Stats for years in which they played for other teams don’t count here. wRC+ only grades hitting and does not take into account baserunning or fielding prowess. Votto may not remain at the top of that list when he retires (or gets traded), but he is a lead pipe cinch to remain in the top 5 I think.
The naysayers who say Votto walks too much or isn’t aggressive enough must not be aware of his overall stats and how he ranks compared to the all-time Reds greats. Joey Votto is a great hitter. Hitters like him don’t come around very often. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.