Joey Votto is Perfect

Joey Votto Might Actually Be Perfect

Joey Votto is an MVP candidate. His numbers versus the National League competition are stunning and some people, at least, have noticed. He probably won’t win, but he’ll get some votes for sure. And why? Well, he lead the league in walks, OBP, OPS, OPS+, and wRC+. He was fifth in homers and sixth in SLG. He was, in effect, the best hitter in the NL. He ends up 4th in WAR on FanGraphs and 2nd on BBRef.

His 1.032 OPS was the 46th highest total ever for a player his age or older.

I could go on and on and on, but  perhaps the most impressive number is Votto’s 1.61 BB/K ratio. This was 0.56 better than second place Justin Turner, which was also as big as the gap between Turner and 65th place.

Add to that his influence on Eugenio Suarez and Zack Cozart and I honestly have a hard time imaging any other player who provided more Value (that’s the word we always argue about, right?) to his team this year.

But the tales of his excellence go even farther. A while ago I wrote an article about his status in Reds history, let’s take a moment to revisit that.

Here are the best 10-season stretches in Reds history by WAR:

  1. Johnny Bench – 59.9
  2. Frank Robinson – 59.7
  3. Joe Morgan – 57.2*
  4. Pete Rose – 56.8
  5. Joey Votto – 53.5
  6. Barry Larkin – 50.5

*In only 8 seasons.

Votto has only played 10 seasons and his rookie year was one of his worst, so don’t be surprised if he passes Rose at some point.

With the season concluded, Joey Votto officially has 3 of the top 10 OPS seasons in Reds history.

He has 5 of the top 10 OBP seasons in Reds history.

In Reds history, Joey Votto currently ranks –

1st in OBP and OPS

2nd in SLG and BB

5th in BA, 2B, and HR

6th in WAR according to Baseball-Reference

7th in WAR according to FanGraphs (or 6th if you remove Bid McPhee)

7th in XBH and Times on Base

9th in total bases

11th in R, H, and RBI

 

Now, remember, Votto has been besting his career averages for three seasons now. If he has two more seasons where he performs merely at his career averages, his Reds rankings will be –

1st in BB

3rd in XBH, HR, and 2B

4th in Total Bases and Times on Base

4th in bWAR and fWAR

5th in R

6th in RBI

7th in H

It is certainly conceivable that, by the end of his career Votto and Pete Rose will be the only players to lead the Reds in significant offensive counting stats (though Johnny Bench might also have a say in there).

 

And we haven’t even touched on baseball as a whole yet.

Joey Votto currently has the 9th highest OBP in the modern era. He is behind only Ted Williams and Barry Bonds since WWII.

He has the 35th best SLG in MLB history.

He has the 15th best OPS in MLB history.

He just lead the league in OBP for the sixth time. Here is the list of players to do that:

  1. Ty Cobb
  2. Rogers Honsby
  3. Babe Ruth
  4. Ted Williams
  5. Stan Musial
  6. Wade Boggs
  7. Barry Bonds
  8. Joey Votto

In the last five years, there have been seven instances of a player reaching base 300 times in a season. Three of those are Joey Votto.

In the last three years, Joey Votto has reached base 936 times. Paul Goldschmidt is second at 859.

Over the last three seasons, only Mike Trout (1.013) has a higher OPS than Joey Votto (1.006).

According to Baseball-Reference, the average Hall of Fame first baseman generates 42.7 WAR from his seven best seasons. Joey Votto has generated 45.6 WAR.

41 thoughts on “Joey Votto Might Actually Be Perfect

  1. Terrific post, Jason. Let me add two stats to the case:

    O-Swing – This measures the percent of pitches out of the strike zone that a player swings at – one of the top metrics for plate discipline. Joey Votto has been the best on the Reds in O-Swing for years. His career average is 22.1%. This season, Votto’s O-Swing was 15.8%, best in all of baseball.

    Swinging Strikes (SwStr%)- This measures the percentage of pitches where a better swings and misses. Joey Votto’s career number is 8.3% – extremely low. This season, Votto’s SwStr% was 5.9%, his best ever. That was good for 14th best in the major leagues.

    To summarize: In 2017, at age 34, Joey Votto swung at far fewer pitches out of the strike zone, hit a larger percentage of pitches he did swing at, walked more, struck out far less and had the best power year of his career since 2010, his MVP season.

    • And Steve, this again emphasizes how well Joey plays the game from the neck up. He is very aware of what he is trying to do at each at bat.

      • Right. Everything starts with laying off bad pitches and Votto is perfecting that. If you just swing at strikes, it improves the quality of your contact, it minimizes swings and misses and it draws walks.

  2. So, what are you trying to say here? This Votto guy is pretty good? 🙂

    And yet, people keep trying to talk about trading him somewhere, for something.

    This guy will be a Hall of Famer, and is the best Red player in a generation, at least.

    Quick, somebody e-mail this to Marty Brennamen and Paul Daugherty for their reaction. Honestly, Marty says nice things about Joey, but I think his expectations are that Joey should swing more with men on base to try and drive them in, I understand that, and Marty’s frustration with the Reds losing (he honestly loves the team), but I think this is a fundamental disagreement on what baseball players should be trying to do.
    The underlying thing about Joey is that he is very smart, and actually understands what he is trying to do at each at bat, and he works terribly hard at being as good as he is.

    He fails sometimes, because this baseball thing is pretty hard to do, when facing guys that throw as hard as they do now, and can deal up some wicked breaking pitches.

    Jason, thank you for working on this and putting Joey’s statistics and achievements in perspective.

  3. By my estimation, this 3-year run Votto just finished has put him at better than 50/50 odds for making the HoF. From this point, a graceful decline puts him close to 70 WAR. At that point, with all the superlatives, he should be a pretty safe bet, albeit not a 1st ballot guy.

    • Agree. He just needs a non-disastrous rest of his career. If he delays aging long enough, he could put up some mind-boggling numbers.

    • Patrick, my big worry is that HoF voters will place too much emphasis on RBIs. At age 34 Votto is still well below 1000. He has been hurt by two things. First, in his prime at 30 he had a severe leg injury and drove in only 23 runs. Second, he has been handicapped by lead-off hitters with an OBP consistently below 300. I think Votto is a much better hitter than Perez was, but Perez had 1652 RBIs because he had so many outstanding hitters in front of him. I fear this my hurt his chances.

      • Run production is what counts. Either you drive them in (RBIs) or you score them (Runs). With Joey compare his runs scored with Pete Rose’s, while discounting Rose leading off versus Joey batting third.

        Given Joey’s proclivity to walk, he probably should bat second in the lineup. Stating the obvious….he should not bat leadoff because the future hall of famer is currently slow and a poor baserunner.

  4. Nice work.
    You would think with all those accolades, that the Reds would put the Captain’s “C” on Votto’s jersey. Dick Williams, please name this man the Captain of our Redlegs.

  5. Joey Votto finished the season 4th in the NL with a 6.6 WAR. The only factor keeping Votto from leading the league in WAR was the positional factor penalty for playing 1B. Votto was penalized 1.2 WAR for playing 1B.

    By comparison, Stanton was penalized 0.7 WAR for playing RF. Rendon and Bryant were rewarded 0.2 WAR for playing 3B. Blackmon and Pham were rewarded 0.2 WAR for playing CF.

    With the positional factor removed, the NL rankings for the WAR calculation of the top 6 full WAR calculation become:

    7.8 WAR => Votto
    7.5 WAR => Stanton
    6.7 WAR => Rendon
    6.5 WAR => Bryant
    6.3 WAR => Blackmon
    5.7 WAR => Pham

    • So what this is saying is that Votto is being penalized not because he is a lesser player, but because the “replacement” at 1B is better than that at RF, 3B, or CF?

      • Yes, which is why I don’t even bother with WAR. wRC+ is the best measure for me and also the one Votto himself says he cares about the most.

        • WAR is supposed to also account for baserunning and defense. wRC+ is really just offense. I’m not a huge proponent of WAR because I have some issues with how it’s calculated and how some people tend to use it as the final say on why player A is better than player B. That said, it’s a nice starting point on the discussion because it does take more into account than just simply offense as wRC+ does. WAR is also essentially a counting stat so sample size matters. Player A can have a higher wRC+ than Player B by a good margin but if player B played a lot more games than player A, it’s likely his WAR is justifiably higher as he likely did provide more value to his team. Generally, I like to look at a whole body of stats when evaluating players.

    • The penalty compared to 3B shouldn’t be so severe, in fact the two positions are a wash in my eyes. I mean, a first baseman fields nearly as many balls as a third baseman, plus he has the added responsibility of catching bad throws and holding runners on.

  6. He is a 5 WAR season in 2018 and 19 away from making a legitimate case for the HOF and greatest Reds player of all time. That would satisfy the quantitative counting stats folks who want to see 300 HR and 2000 hits and 1000 runs and 1000 RBI. It reflects sustained excellence. He also has a chance to flip his career K/ BB to less than 1……which is amazing.

    If he stays healthy 2 more years….he is arguably the best offensive player of this decade in the NL- and that’s important when considering HOF. Let’s hope he gets some help so he gets to play in the post-season again.

  7. The only season Votto tanked in WAR was the 2014 season lost to his mushed quad. Even the 2012 season cut short due to the left knee surgery and the 2013 season played at reduced strength in his left leg produced superstar WAR levels. Votto’s healthy seasons produced the following WAR results:

    2008 => 3.6 WAR
    2009 => 4.6 WAR
    2010 => 7.0 WAR
    2011 => 6.4 WAR
    2012 => 5.7 WAR
    2013 => 6.0 WAR
    2015 => 7.5 WAR
    2016 => 5.0 WAR
    2017 => 6.6 WAR

    That’s an average of 5.8 WAR, including his 1st two full seasons. Votto’s 2016 season was severely impacted by his very poor defense, which he acknowledged and addressed during the off season with superb results. Barring any significant injuries, there’s really no reason to expect a WAR of less than 6.0 for at least the next 3 seasons (70+ WAR after the 2020 season). Votto’s results in 2013 (6.0 WAR) reflect his ability with a diminished physical capacity. I expect the aging curve to reflect a similar diminished physical capacity. After 2020, Votto’s performance may experience a more significant physical decline, but I fully expect Votto to maintain a WAR in excess of 3.0 through the end of his contract if not the end of his career, which may extend beyond his current contract.

    • Not sure if you realized it….but the phrase “superstar WAR levels” hits the nail on head.
      Votto became a superstar this year. You could see it by his peer respect year round. It was also apparent by his teammates reverence for him.
      He is a superstar indeed.

      • Yes! The 2017 season represented a ground-swell of respect and acknowledgement emerging for Votto from players, coaches, national media and fans, but most important was the respect and acknowledgement from his teammates.

        I believe this resulted from Votto’s performance the prior two seasons (2015 & 2016) as a foundation for his 2017 results. The knee injury, two knee surgies and the related mushed quad created a severe kink in Votto’s armor regarding his accomplishments and legacy to the game. It took the past 3 seasons to reverse and eliminate those perceptions. Even Thom and Marty were forced to acquiesce to Votto’s excellence, although I personally believe that ‘force’ was delivered by the Reds, WLW and Fox behind the scenes in the form of an ultimatum.

    • I understand that WAR means that Player A gives that many more Wins to a team than a replacement (or league average) player. But would Joey’s WAR actually go up if he had more men on base in front of him and a better or more dangerous hitter behind him?

      • No. WAR is designed so that it measures the player contribution independent of his teammates. It’s possible a better hitter behind him might help, but most studies show that the concept of “protection” is a myth. Especially true when using a measure (like WAR) that accurately credits the positive value of a walk.

    • +1000 on Votto’s shortened, injury plagued seasons. 2012 was going to be one of his best years. Injuries happen and will play a role in his selection if he falls off the next few seasons, but man what his numbers could be if healthy in 12 and 14

      • Agreed. Votto’s 2012 season was on track for his 2nd MVP in 3 years and the best of his career. He was an absolute doubles machine that year, on pace to no just break, but shatter, the doubles record for a season.

  8. Votto’s age 33 season:

    0.320 AVG (4th) … Blackmon 1st at 0.331
    0.454 OBP (1st) … Turner 2nd at 0.415
    0.577 SLG (6th) … Stanton 1st at 0.631
    0.258 ISO (9th) … Stanton 1st at 0.350
    1.032 OPS (1st) … Stanton 2nd at 1.007
    19.0% BB% (1st … Carpenter 2nd at 17.5%
    11.7% SO% (4th) … Panik 1st at 9.4%
    1.61 BB/K (1st) … Turner 2nd at 1.05%
    165 wRC+ (1st) … Stanton 2nd at 156
    0.428 wOBA (1st) … Blackmon 2nd at 0.414
    69.12 RE24 (1st) … Blackmon 2nd at 55.14
    15.8% O-Swing% (1st) … Carpenter 2nd at 16.6%
    10.4% Soft% (2nd) … Turner 1at at 9.8%

    There are really just 2 position players in the NL who should be contending for the 2017 NL MVP: Votto and Stanton. The final result for the 2017 NL MVP will come down to Stanton’s power and counting stats v. Votto’s plate discipline and team contribution. Considering the population of voters for the NL MVP, Votto has no chance to win the NL MVP against Stanton, but he should.

    • P. Jeter just did a back flip out of his desk chair when you included RE24. That is a huge difference between Votto and the 2nd place Blackmon there. All of those hopefully add up to a NL MVP award. But 59 HR’s for many voters will overshadow this excellence.

    • Worth pointing out that Blackmon played half his games in Coors Field. Blackmon had a tremendous year, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the altitude was the most valuable player in his case. Blackmon’s wRC+ splits (with 100 = league average):

      Home: 185
      Away: 102

      Meanwhile, Joseph Daniel Votto:

      Home: 177
      Away: 153

      • I agree that Coors Field seems to have made a huge difference for Blackmon here but isn’t wRC+ park adjusted? If that’s the case, then either the home/away split is mostly due to luck or general variance; or possibly Coors isn’t being weighted even close to accurately. If it is the weighting that is so far off, then it calls into question the validity of every stat that’s using that particular park adjustment.

  9. Since Votto has entered the league he has been my favorite Red. He is the first player I really followed through their career and as my love of baseball has grown over the last 10 years, so too has Votto matured into the player he is. I hope he stays a Redleg until the end of his career, and am thankful I got to witness a future hall of famer play the game, in person, and on TV.

  10. I love Votto. just wish he was a little faster on the base pads. my word. lol. he is a base clogger like Adam Dunn was. he gets on base a ton but it takes 3 hits to drive him in from first. it is a lot to ask when you have low average guys like suarez, duvall and shebler behind him.

    that is why I am leaning towards Ervin over Winker because he has speed. it would be frustrating having 3 base cloggers at the top of your line up. (ASSUMING COZART STAYS).

    • Ah, you correctly busted Jason for his hyperbole JREIS. Votto is not perfect. Votto is a bad baserunner, or base clogger as you referenced. More than bad, he may be the worst baserunner in MLB. At least he has the worst UBR in the MLB at -10.1 runs below average. The next worst is Encarnacion at -7.5 runs.

    • Actually, speed on the bases is a nice luxury but what I’d really like even more than speed is guys who don’t make outs on the bases. I think Votto’s UBR number is so bad because not only is he slow, but he’s a slow guy who makes outs on the bases. A fast guy can still have a positive overall base-running contribution even if they make a reasonable number of outs on the bases. A slow guy has almost no margin for error. They can make a positive overall contribution by being very, very good and picking and choosing when to take an extra base. They can at least avoid being a detrimental contributor by greatly limiting the number of outs they make on the bases. I’m actually ok with 3 slow guys clogging the bases, as long as they aren’t making outs on the bases that they shouldn’t be making.

  11. I have to ask do you people cheer for Votto over the reds? Not me I am a reds fan through and through. Also I will never believe a walk is better than a hit.

  12. What has Votto’s numbers this year given the reds? They would have been in last place with or without him. Do people prefer Votto to the team? I am a reds fan and cheer for their success. I just will never believe that a walk is better than a hit.

  13. Votto is far from perfect. Reds would be in last place with him or without him. Only thing is that they would have won like 55 games.

  14. Joey’s 10 years seems like such a long time, yet one would hope he’s around for at least another 10. I hope he has the staying power of Pete Rose and some of those other greats that have put in 20+ years. Its seems much harder these days (altho I’ve not looked at the data).

    • Part of it is the money but another part of it is that the game is different. You’re not seeing things. There are definitely far fewer guys who are putting in 15+ years in MLB.

  15. It’ll be a crying shame if Votto don’t win the mvp…and all bcuz he doesn’t play on a winning/playoff team (probably). That’s at least part of the reason.

  16. Votto is a bum, we need to trade him and stop paying him $80 million a year to not get RBIs.

    Really he should be MVP I just think the HR numbers by Stanton will sway the vote toward Stanton. One day Votto will have a statue in front of whatever replaces GABP

    • Yes, Stanton will probably take the MVP award because homeruns usually get top billing, but increasingly baseball is cognizant of the stardom of Joey Votto.

  17. Votto’ statistics are amazing, but the most amazing thing to me is the same thing that makes him so extraordinary – the combination of discipline and focus. Obviously hand eye coordination, strength and conditioning are all critical to his success. Without them the work ethic and focus at the plate are useless. But what really separates Votto is his plate discipline combined with his commitment to every at bat and every pitch. He is must see TV when he comes to bat. It’s amazing to see him admonish himself when he misses a pitch he knows he should drive, or swings at a pitch out of the zone. And so cool to see a pitch coming in that looks like it’s in his zone, followed by a rocket off the sweet spot. We are lucky to be able to watch him play and it makes me wish we could have had similar access to Larkin, Davis, Morgan, Bench, Rose and Robinson. Thank you modern technology and thank you Joey Votto.

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