2015 Reds / Joey Votto is Perfect

Quantifying Joey Votto’s Awesomeness

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:

2015 Votto Stats

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:

2015 Active Leaders

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…

2015 Reds Leaders

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):

Rank Name wRC+
1 Joey Votto 157
2 Joe Morgan 150
3 Frank Robinson 149
4 George Foster 140
5 Eric Davis 138
6 Edd Roush 136
7 Heinie Groh 132
8 Adam Dunn 129
9 Tony Perez 127
10 Ernie Lombardi 126
11 Ken Griffey 126
12 Pete Rose 126
13 Johnny Bench 125
14 Lee May 125
15 Ted Kluszewski 124
16 Jake Beckley 123
17 John Reilly 122
18 Frank McCormick 121
19 Bug Holliday 120
20 Vada Pinson 120
21 Ken Griffey Jr. 119
22 Reggie Sanders 119
23 Barry Larkin 118
24 Ival Goodman 118
25 Curt Walker 116
26 Dan Driessen 116
27 Hal Morris 115
28 Mike Mitchell 115
29 Chris Sabo 113
30 Sean Casey 113

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.

 

19 thoughts on “Quantifying Joey Votto’s Awesomeness

  1. When I open the boxscores, anymore I just find myself looking for Joey’s line. The rest is usually just sad. It just seems funny to me that he can have the second-half that he is having, Suarez can be doing as well as he is, Phillips actually being somewhat consistent, and Frazier and Bruce being at least not horrible, and we can score next to nothing. Even Barnhart and Pena have not been all that bad. Have left and center really killed our production that much? my brain is too small to figure all that out, but I am sure you guys have a statistical explanation for the lack of productivity in spite of what would seem like decent individual numbers on the year.

  2. There is an excellent, excellent, article written by the amazing Joe Posnanski about Votto over at NBC Sports. He even mentions Marty and Doc’s attacks for his approach!

    • My only criticism of Joe Posnanski’s article is that it wasn’t long enough. That man can write.

      • I agree. I loved that article, I was actually hoping for a multi-page expose and was sad when it ended. Usually I hate multi-page stories on the internet.

      • Amen to that. Read his most recent book this summer… The Secret of Golf. Very good.

  3. I remember about 3 years ago, one of Cincinnati’s scribes asked Votto what he thought the most important statistic was for batting, and he replied wRC+. It blew that scribe’s mind that that was the one stat that Votto picked out. Many people scoffed. And Nick now says it is the gold standard.
    Votto is ahead of his time. And the ninkompoops continue to complain about his contract. We’re lucky the Reds have signed him for such a length of time. I would think that Votto ranks at the top in WAR/contract $$$=value.

    • I agree with WV Redlegs. I really do not see as much harping about Votto from fans perspective. People don’t really understand that it takes a period of time to come back from a significant injury.. or they remember but have knee jerk reactions when someone is getting their rhythm back.
      Add to it a Reds spokesman like Marty and it plays into the narrative.
      What has changed along that score is that he is playing so well…and Marty is still barking. People have finally noticed the disconnect. He is worth every buck they pay him.
      Posnanskis article was spot on. Daugherty clueless.

  4. Joey is back to his on-field aura/persona that was missing when his knee and quad sapped his hitting base and power. Just watching him on the field now, takes me back to the 1st half of 2012 when Joey ruled over the baseball diamond. Without a word from Joey, everyone on the field understands and recognizes that he is Joey Votto and he can do anything on that baseball diamond, things beyond mere mortal players at the major league level.

    There have been few players capable of such command on the field by their sheer presence: Ruth, Gerhig, Mays, Williams, Aaron, Bonds. Votto may not have the career to match those players, but if his health holds, Votto could very well make it to the HOF as one of the all-time great hitters. His performance in 2013 on one healthy leg for half a season was nothing short of assounding, but his performance during 2014 on one useless leg also demonstrated his limitation.

  5. It’s disappointing that the Reds couldn’t put a better team together this year. One of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of the franchise will be wasted on a bad team. Still, watching Votto this season has been a treat. What an amazing hitter.

    • Amen to that. He’s the only reason I tune in on a daily basis. (I’d tune in every 5th day for Raisel, even if Votto were hurt).

  6. Nick. Fantastic write-up!

    Most interesting thing to me that I didn’t know was that Votto ranks FIRST in wOBA among active players. Recently, I’ve begun to weight (zing!) wOBA higher than wRC+. Not sure why, I just feel it is a slightly better picture of productivity.

    Also, something not mentioned in your article but that I found very interesting is this: at the end of April I did an analysis of of all active players with a few thousand PAs (don’t remember the exact parameters I used) from 2008 to April 2015. Among the interesting things I found out was the Votto has the highest wRC+ in all of baseball (it was in the 175 wrC+ range) with runners on base. Now, that may not be the dreaded “scoring position” split, but it has a lot larger sample for all players. After all the crap Votto got in 2013 and 2014 (and even some this year) for not being ‘cluch’ enough or being too passive in those situations, it was good to see that he, in fact, has been the most productive hitter in all of MLB since he started playing when men are on base.

    One more note and I’ll end the diatribe… after last night’s performance, Votto moved to 2nd in all of MLB in Win Probabiliy Added (WPA), and passed Goldschmidt for 4th in all MLB in WAR (1st at 1B). Given his poor baserunning and negative positional adjustment for 1B, to be in the Top 4 is pretty big stuff.

    • Good points JDX19. Its a shame that Reds fans don’t know how awesome Votto is, but I blame the broadcasters and beat writers for not telling them.

      wRC+ is based on wOBA. It is like OPS vs OPS+. wRC+ is basically wOBA adjusted for era, league and park. I think both wOBA and wRC+ are the best of the best when it comes to evaluating hitters.

  7. Nice summary by Nick Doran. Daugherty listens to Marty too much. Probably happens when the play golf together. Doc actually thinks Marty knows something about baseball. Marty thinks he knows a lot about the game too. It is amazing that a guy who has broadcast Reds games for 40 years can’t appreciate excellence when he sees it. It is hard to understand but there has to be a personal issue forming Marty’s opinion. It can’t be the facts which overwhelmingly support Votto as an excellent hitter.

  8. Been listening to the Chicago Sports radio besides them enjoying their Cubbies,they been talking about what a complete hitting machine Votto is. I like the machine comparsion.

  9. He is a great player and worthy of all of the accolades thrown his way.
    While I can’t recall the exact percentage, no team has ever made the playoff with 1 player receiving more than (approximately) 20% of the payroll. Assuming payroll is flat, Votto will be about 20% next year. He’s worth every penny, but I question if the Reds can win with him at that price relative to their budget.

    • While that stat may be true (no idea, really), it’s pretty misleading.

      Basically what it says is you need a lot of good, highly paid veterans (to increase the denominator). (Yanks, Sox, Dodgers)

      Or, in the absence of a single superstar, you need a lot of good young cost controlled guys (A’s, Rays).

      And yes, they can win with him at that price.

      You can’t replace his production for less money unless you get lucky on a farm player (Winker, perhaps?) You could get two free agents for $10M each that would be very, very unlikely to combine for the 7 WAR Votto will put up this year.

      Value is value, and you need it to win games. Votto provides fantastic value.

      • I’m not questioning his value.

        He’s having a great, almost historic year and the Reds have been out of contention since May. His play has made them
        ” less bad” but does it really matter if they win 68 games with him vs 62 games without him? They have no payroll flexibility and no margin for error. He may never have another year as good a this one and this team may lose 100 games.

    • I think the Reds can win with Votto’s huge salary as long as he is playing at a high level. Votto is currently worth his salary. The problem comes when you have a big-dollar player who is not pulling his weight or is injured. As long as Votto is healthy and productive his salary is not the problem. Hopefully he will still be a star in five years or the Reds could be in (even more) trouble.

  10. I will add some other aspect in which Votto is really elite: CLASS.

    Here are his comment about Brenneman’s opinion about him not being elite or All-Star:

    “”At the time, I wasn’t,” Votto said. “It was a fair statement by him. His job is to comment on baseball. It doesn’t bother me what you guys write or say. It’s my responsibility to play, and then you guys comment on it. … The elite players go to the All-Star Game. I wasn’t playing up to what I viewed as my level of play. ”

    In my opinion some people should end this nonsense against a Reds icon. It’s your right to like or dislike the guy – as people have the right to criticize Votto, BP or any Reds player for that matter- but to call a senior citizen, Hall of Famer and the voice of the Team’s city for 40 years “dumb”, “idiot” or some other nasty things is not just low-class but unrespectful and certainly untasteful.

    In the case of some of RN writers/commenters, it’d be must appreciated to take the high road and follow Votto’s steps. After all, in his own words, Mr. Brenneman was right after all. Now, before my eyes Votto is “almost” Perfect. 🙂

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