With Ken Griffey Jr. accumulating a record amount of votes in his election to the Hall of Fame Wednesday evening, many Reds fans are left wondering who is the next player who spent a large chunk of their career with the Reds that stands a chance at election to the Hall?

The answer is Joey Votto. And his chances at making the Hall of Fame are quite good.

As Steve noted on Wednesday, Votto’s career line of .311/.423/.534–Is that good?–in just over eight seasons of major league service time puts him within striking distance of an incredible club. Only 10 players in the history of the game have logged at least 5,000 plate appearances and hit .300/.400/.550: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Manny Ramirez, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, and Ted Williams. Only Walker and Ramirez are not Hall of Famers in that illustrious 10-man group. Walker was named on 15.5 percent of the ballots this year. Ramirez will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next year.

While it’s unlikely Votto will ever hit for enough power to join that exclusive fraternity–he’s slugged over .550 three times in his career, but hasn’t reached that mark since 2012–Votto’s slash line, in addition to his prowess in a few other statistical categories, exemplifies the rare air he inhabits as a hitter.

The following table illustrates Votto’s rank all-time among players with at least 4,500 plate appearances:

Statistical Category Votto’s Career Total All-Time Rank
On-base Percentage (OBP) .423 13th
Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) 157 14th
On-base Plus Slugging (OPS) .957 18th
Walk Rate (BB%) 15.9 22nd

And what about first basemen with at least 4,500 plate appearances?

Statistical Category Votto’s Career Total All-Time Rank
On-base Percentage (OBP) .423 4th
Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) 157 6th
On-base Plus Slugging (OPS) .957 10th
Walk Rate (BB%) 15.9 8th

If Votto’s career ended today, he would stack up well with the greats. But, let’s examine where Votto needs to end up–based on Baseball-Reference’s averages for Hall of Fame hitters–to state his Hall of Fame case.

Votto Hall of Fame Average
Plate Appearances 4,757 9,032
Hits 1,226 2,402
Runs 656 1,326
Slash Line .311/.423/.534 .302/.376/.463
OPS .957 .839
bWAR 43 69

Assuming Votto plays out his current contract that takes him through the 2023 season–the Reds hold a $20 million team option on Votto for the 2024 season–Votto will be a Red through his age-39 campaign, and he will have ample time to make his case for the Hall of Fame. Will Votto be tempted to retire before the end of the contract? He’ll have 25 million good reasons to keep playing.

Votto’s last four healthy years have produced single-season bWAR totals of 7.6, 6.6, 6.3, and 6.9. That’s an average of 6.9 bWAR. If Votto delivers another three seasons anywhere in the 5.5-7 bWAR range and hovers around his career marks in both standard and unfamiliar statistics, he will have put himself in very, very good shape.

There are, of course, other factors (and statistics) that factor into one’s Hall of Fame case. The fact that Votto has one MVP under his belt and came very to close to winning another (he was third in this year’s vote) works in his favor. Votto also has four All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, and a runner-up finish in the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year balloting working in his favor. He’s led the NL in on-base percentage and walks four times apiece.

Two things are working against Votto, the first of which is Father Time. Votto debuted as a Red in 2007, his age-23 season. Considering that Ken Griffey Jr. (and many other Hall of Famers) reached the majors by their late teens or by 21–for comparison’s sake, Jay Bruce was just over 21-years-old when he debuted in May 2008–Votto, a former second round pick, was a bit of a late-bloomer after spending much of 2002-07 in the minors.

Another potential headwind for Votto is his injury history. In 2012, Votto underwent two separate surgeries to his left knee. A quad injury in his left leg cost Votto nearly 100 games in 2014. But, Votto recovered well after each year, playing in 162 games in 2013 and in 158 contests last summer. Votto also plays a first base, a relatively low-stress position. Arguably, Votto’s greatest strength is his knowledge of the strike zone; that’s a non-physical attribute that will age very well. Furthermore, with baseball voters seemingly modernizing their line of thinking on voting and non-traditional statistics, Votto’s style of hitting should gain increasing esteem with time.

In conclusion, provided he can carry on near-peak form for around another three seasons or so, Joey Votto stands a good chance of having a Hall of Fame career. If Votto eventually gains induction into Cooperstown, the only question remaining will be whether he decides to rock a Reds or Canadian Mountie hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Join the conversation! 34 Comments

  1. He needs another 3-5 solid, healthy “Joey Votto” type seasons, then I think he stands a good chance. If he played his whole career in Boston or New York it would be a no-brainer, hopefully he doesn’t fall prey to the Detroit – Alan Trammell / Lou Whitaker ordeal…hidden in a midwest city for his whole career. Out of sight out of mind.

    • As with Larkin, the voters for MVP (who are basically the same as for HOF) have already made it clear they like him. Trammel and others NEVER got this recognition, so the low HOF votes are expected.

  2. The Reds really missed out on a marketing opportunity. There should have been/should be Mountie hats with a Reds logo on them. Then he could wear the Mountie Reds hat.

    As of right now, if Votto doesn’t make it, I don’t think anyone currently in the system stands a chance of being the next Red in the HoF; and your breakdown makes me hopeful he has it in him. That slash line comparison to HoF average… it makes you realize what a shame it is that the average Reds fan is calling for Votto’s head (due to the contract) instead of wallowing in the greatness we’re seeing.

    • Agreed. The Reds fans who don’t embrace Votto are, really, not much of fans in my opinion. He’s the best Red we’re likely to see in at least the next 25+ years. Fans need to appreciate what they have instead of worrying about how to spend a billionaire’s money for him.

  3. That Jamie Foxx is one talented dude. Actor, singer, and now a top 10 hitter in all of MLB. (Paragraph 3). Jimmie Foxx maybe?
    Kidding aside, nice article. I think Votto has another 4 or 5 elite seasons in him and another however many years he wants as a good hitter still to come. I don’t think he’ll ever reach 3000 hits, especially if the Reds cannot find some protection hitters to bat behind him. He won’t quite fit the mold for HOF for a corner INF position in the traditional stats, but he’ll crush the advanced metric stats. I hope he wins one more League MVP award which will help his cause. At 1,226 hits, 192 HRs, 276 2Bs, 633 RBIs, and 656 Rs he still has a long way to go. But certainly on the right track. No more injuries.

  4. A few things I *think* will be true:

    1) Votto will reach 60+ career WAR. A common benchmark thrown out among saber-folks for borderline HoF consideration.

    2) Votto will need to get to at least 2200 hits, or so, to get any consideration from some of the older voters. Should certainly be possible with health.

    3) Votto will maintain a .300/.400/.500 line for his career. This should help him among old school voters because they like nice round numbers.

    4) Votto won’t have any negative WAR seasons, barring injury. This narrative will help his chances by being able to say “he was productive his ENTIRE career.” Ex: He put up 1.0 fWAR in 2014 playing on 1 leg in 62 games. Over a full season on 1 leg, he’d have been a 2.5 WAR player… which is an above-average MLB starter… on one leg.

    5) If he can maintain his spot in the Top 20 All-Time in OBP, that might be his best calling card, because all those guys are in the Hall of Fame except Bonds and a few guys I’ve never heard of who played at the turn of the century.

    6) Without looking it up, I think Votto like likely end up reaching base via hit or walk more times than at least a few HOFers who have 3,000 hits and weren’t much for walking. Maybe in 15 years, this will carry as much weight as getting 3,000 hits alone.

    • I wouldn’t be too harsh on the “older voters” per se, since “old school” voters come in all ages. But taking your point, I think a big factor to be considered is that by the time Votto is retired and eligible, the way that players are evaluated will be very different than even you and I can imagine right now.

      My sense is, allowing for health, Votto will be the top hitter of his generation when it’s all said and done and voters will have ample evidence to rely on to make that conclusion.

  5. Votto is going to have a tough time from here on out matching what he has done in the past because of the scarcity of hitters the Reds are assembling to shield him from being pitched around. When he came up the Reds had a lot of hitters and one year even led the league as a team in the Triple Crown statistics- average, HR’s, RBI’s. The Reds will not be doing that anytime soon thanks to the trades that FO is making. Opposing pitchers aren’t dumb. They will walk Votto and give him few pitches to hit. I hate it for the Reds and for Votto. I personally think Votto is one of the best players to ever wear a Reds uniform.

    • If he starts walking 200 times a year and putting up OBPs near .500, that’s likely to help his Hall of Fame case just as much!

      I think it might go the other way, too… knowing that the rest of the team can’t do much damage, they’ll take their chances challenging Votto and hoping he can’t beat them single-handedly. Sometimes he might, but most of the time he won’t.

      • Interesting take on how opponents might approach Votto this year. If Meso is healthy hitting (behind Votto) like he hit in 2014, that could change the complexion of things too.

        • Absolutely. A mashing Meso and Votto (and maybe Bruce?) in the middle of this lineup could turn some heads.

  6. With all this talk about Justin Upton’s price falling, or he might take a one year deal, the Reds might be smart to invest some of their payroll shaving on Upton. This allows the trading of Jay Bruce to materialize. Upton can give Votto the protection that Frazier and Bruce just didn’t do on a consistent basis. I’d go to 6 years/$126M on Upton and give him an opt-out after the 3rd or 4th year, which he’ll most likely take. Re-build this team around Votto and Upton. Peraza leads off.
    1. Peraza SS
    2. Votto 1B
    3. Upton LF
    4. Mesoraco C
    5. 3B
    6. Suarez 2B
    7. Cave/YorRod RF
    8. P
    9. BHam CF
    The trading of Bruce and BP gets a good young 3B in return. I keep pushing for LAA’s Kyle Kubitza. Having Kubitza (LH hitter) learn more from Votto is icing on the cake.
    This would be a competitive team in 2016, near .500 in year 1 of the re-build.

    • Why spend the money on any FA? This team won’t be close to being competitive in 16 and very unlikely for 17. JV’s salary really starts ramping up quickly from this point adding a big salary before 18 seems like throwing good money after bad.

    • If you gave Upton an opt-out after 3 years, then the statement “rebuild this team around Votto and Upton” is sort of not really accurate, right?

      If Upton’s market value after those 3 years is greater than his remaining contract, he opts out and gets a new contract. If his market value is lower than his current contract, he stays in CIN, which inherently means he isn’t doing well since he’s not earning his paycheck.

      The 2018 FA class is supposed to be really good. I say stay the course in 16 and 17… let some of these young guys grow, find out who can be a meaningful contributor in 2018 and beyond, and spend like a drunken sailor in 2018!

      • You are right about 2018. Make it 4 years then. There is risk, no doubt, but also high reward. Upton with 81 games in GABP might equal 40 HR’s a season. He is almost a year younger than Bruce and 2 younger than Frazier. The new CBA will be in effect by then, maybe teams will get a supplemental draft pick for opt-out players by then.

    • With Upton, they are perhaps a 80 win team next year. Why would you spend the extra money to finish 20 games out of first and 12 out of the wild card? Why wouldn’t you retain earnings and use it when you’re ready to compete? Upton would need to directly or indirectly lead to 600k in attendance in order for the deal to pay for itself. Do you think 7,000 people are going to show up every night to watch Upton and a 4th place, 82 loss team? There is no reason….baseball or financial to look to consider a move like that.

      • That 80 wins would be a 16 game improvement on 64-98. That is a start. Shaving Bruce’s and BP’s salary from the books pays for Upton, with some extra money to pocket. An additional 6,000-7,000 fans per game wouldn’t come into play. Winning baseball and the new TV deal help pay for Upton after 2017 when BP’s and an option-picked up Bruce contract would have ended. Don’t want to languish through another 60-something win season with one .300 hitter, four .240-.250 hitters, and three .220-.225 hitters. Shake this thing up more.
        Just think at the damage Upton can do in the #3 spot in the lineup behind Votto and Peraza with 81 games at GABP. Upton has proved he can hit in just about any park, Arizona, Atlanta and San Diego. In those parks he had hit more than 50% of his HR’s at home. The split is usually about 60/40.
        Aim high. Not at the feet where Jocketty likes to aim.
        It would take a bold move to pull it off. Something the Reds front office certainly is not known for. You and Walt can be satisfied with 65 wins next year, not me.

        • 64 wins gets the same outcome as 80, no playoffs and a losing season. 64 wins gets a higher draft pick and doesn’t require paying millions to someone to man the outfield. BP is not going anywhere and based on the return for Frazier, I don’t think anyone will be happy with the return for Bruce. So at best you are dumping Bruce’s salary to pay Upton and not getting any closer to the World Series.

        • I’m happy with 65 wins if it is a step towards sustained and consistent success. I’d love it if BP were traded (so would the Reds) but that is highly improbable and there seems to be no market for Bruce.

          A bad Reds team draws around 1.8-2 million…..a good Reds team draws around 2.5 million. The difference in revenue between the 2 is 15-25 million…..not chump change, but roughly the cost of Upton. Their bottom line is roughly the same with 1.8 million in the seats and 68 wins and Upton and 2.5 million fans watching (by a miracle) 85 wins. 85 wins will not make the playoffs any more than 65 wins.

          I understand that you don’t want to watch them win 65 games…..no one does. However,I’d rather see them win 65 games, develop young players and retain earnings for when they actually need to add missing pieces. I want a consistent team with a deep farm system….that isn’t going to happen in one winter.

          Lastly, I wouldn’t count on the cable deal adding all that much. The industry is a mess, the Reds have one option (FSO). There is no winter sports partner to create leverage (fear of another network). As much as I love it here, its a small market, with limited population growth and a Reds TV audience is large, but old and almost entirely male. That isn’t a nirvana for advertisers. The broader Reds Country isn’t going to help much as on any given night in the summer 96% of house holds in Indianapolis and Louisville are doing something other than watching the Reds on TV.

        • I don’t know about Upton, or about trading Bruce if we got him–that would still leave the Reds with an incomplete outfield, wouldn’t it?–but I tend to agree with you about the value in short-term improvement. The baseball season is long, and enduring a hopeless and unwatchable team in the name of possible future benefit sounds dismal. Baseball is, after all, entertainment. It may well be possible to improve both short and long term, and that course would make the Reds more attractive to both fans and free agents.

    • I like any idea that involves the Reds obtaining wins at a significantly reduced value compared to the established going rate. If teams collectively overlook Upton because of this new league-wide emphasis on developing internal young talent, then that creates a market inefficiency that the Reds could choose to exploit. Should his price drop enough I like this idea very much as he just so happens to fill an obvious 140-150 game need for the team as well.

  7. The only Upton the Reds are going to hear about is “Why is attendance 13k tonite? All the fans have Upton gone” I would gladly settle for Dexter Fowler since the Giants signed Span instead but we’ll prob have to settle for Jay Bruce Free Air Conditioning Night. Everyone gets an ice cream cone if he Ks 3 times

  8. The Giants just got Span for 3 years for $31M. $4M of that is an option buyout on a 4th year @ $12M salary. Thus they could have have him for 4 years for just under $40M total.

    Bruce’s price tag is $13.5 for 1 year (includes 1M option buyout) or $25.5M for 2 years.

    The way the outfield market is starting to shape up, the Reds may be looking at getting little more than salary relief on Bruce if they move him now.

  9. I really don’t see Votto making the HOF. Even now, he’s not even the best 1st baseman playing baseball. That’s going to hurt the perception of his career, numbers aside.

    I think Votto’s peak of being perceived as the very best as his position was too short (sadly, largely due to injuries). HOF worthy players tend to trancend the game, where they are unquestionably one of the very best players to have ever played their position, and they dominate their position for a good chunk of their career. As I said, Votto had a very brief window where that was probably true about him, but now most people view him as a “really good player” instead of one of the best.

    You can already see that in the national perception that Joey Votto simply doesn’t have that luster to him. His 3 or so year window of dominance is probably not enough to get him into the Hall.

    However, when he retires, who knows what the HOF voters will be like or what stats will be in vogue. Maybe by that point OBP, WAR and other more advanced stats will have overtaken traditional stats as being that main basis by which to judge a player’s career. If that happens, and Votto maintains reasonable production for the remainder of his contract, then he might have a shot.

    • “Even now, he’s not even the best 1st baseman playing baseball.” I don’t think that’s a compelling or ultimately persuasive argument. Did Maddux’s induction preclude Glavine’s?

      More precisely though, Votto doesn’t need to be the best in the game now to be HOF worthy. His worthiness will be judged on his entire career accomplishments. Besides Pujols, I don’t think there’s another 1st basemen in the game now that has the career accomplishments that Votto has.

  10. I certainly have to think if Joey has 5 or 6 years more years of typical , healthy Joey he should make it. If we are choosing up sides, who do you think gets taken first. Joey, or Molitor, Yount, Biggio, Aparicio, Ozzie. I think I have a pretty good idea.

  11. I’m thinking by the time Joey is able to be voted into the Hall he will get a lot of support from the advanced metrics community. He’s pretty much right now the biggest argument in favor of advanced stats. I feel he has a good chance to make the it especially if he has a couple more seasons like last season. I’m too young to remember Barry Larkin a whole lot other than the last 5 or 6 years of his career and while still great he just wasn’t the same player. Votto is the best hitter I’ve ever seen on a Reds team in my lifetime. It is kind of crappy the team hasn’t been able to advance in the playoffs or will be able to put a winning team around him the next couple of years. He’s going to get overlooked easily because of his team but that’s not his fault.

  12. It would help if his team goes to or wins the world series.

  13. Ryan I think you make a good point about the metrics. Even tho I am an old dog ( near 70) who does not buy a lot of the metrics. I believe strongly in OBP and OPS. And Joey excels in both catagories.

  14. He reminds me a lot of another Canadian who isn’t going to get in, Larry Walker. (not that Joey won’t get in – but he’ll need at least 3 more years of typical Joey Years to do so – if not 5).

    • Do you think the Colorado years hurts Walker???

    • Actually, Larry Walker is a pretty good comp I think. I think one of the things that may be holding Walker back though is the era. People may see his 49 HR in 1997 and wonder if he was using steroids or HGH. It’s a shame really because I think that Walker has a strong case to be in the HoF.

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