This morning, on Twitter, I ended up in a little discussion about Joey Votto’s eventual Hall of Fame chances. As a result, I ended up staring at the glorious thing that is his stats page on FanGraphs. And then something struck me.
Joey Votto’s best season was in 2012. We all remember the knee. But he was out of his mind and would have put up something like 8.5 WAR if he’d played the full year healthy. He was also 28-years-old. Which is, frankly, exactly when ballplayers are supposed to peak.
Last year, he put up 7.4 WAR and we all felt lucky to have it. But the more I stared at it, the more I thought maybe it wasn’t luck at all. And it all goes back to his walk numbers in 2012. Before that peak year, Votto walked about 14 percent of the time and struck out about 18 percent of the time. Those are great numbers. Since then, however, he’s walked about 19 percent of the time while striking out about 18.5 percent of the time. Those are phenomenal numbers, especially in this era of inflated strikeout totals. And they speak to a change in his approach and/or ability.
So, follow me with what I’m about to say next… In 2013 and 2014, Votto was not nearly as good as he had been in 2012. But the decline can be almost entirely attributed to his leg and knee issues. Especially the power absence. However, these were not a problem last year. And we saw Votto rebound… to exactly where we’d have expected him to be at this point in the aging curve if we only looked at 2012. Because, between ages 28 and 31, the typical major league player loses about 1 WAR in true-talent.
Again, Votto was on pace for about 8.5 WAR when he got hurt in 2012. In 2015, when he was fully healthy again, he posted 7.4 WAR. Which is EXACTLY what he should have done.
Now, am I looking at this all through rose colored glasses? Of course I am. It’s February and this is not going to be a good team. I’ll take what I can get. But if I’m right, we can expect Votto to age normally such that he could be expected to produce win totals of 7.0, 6.5, 6.0, and 5.5 over the next four seasons with a steeper drop off after that.
I have no idea if that will happen. It’s pure fantasy with some cherry-picked stats because I had a flight-of-fancy. But it’s fun to think about and if it happens, he’s going to go to the Hall of Fame.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.