On Thursday over at Fangraphs, Craig Edwards put the digital pen to the digital paper for an article titled From Votto to Pujols to Chance: The Greatest Decades at First Base. Edwards has sort of been running a series in a similar fashion to this one where he looks at how certain players stack up, historically, in 10-year increments of their career to the best players ever.

At the start of the article, Edwards notes that it’s not so much the power that makes Joey Votto stand out – he’s only had two 30+ homer seasons in his career – but it’s his high average and walk rate that separate him from his peers. Starting with the year 2010 and moving forward, each of those years marking the end of a 10-year stretch, only three first basemen have been tops for “the decade”. Albert Pujols was on top from 2010 through 2014. Then Miguel Cabrera took over for 2015 and 2016 before Joseph Daniel Votto grabbed things away for the top spot for the past three seasons.

Joey Votto made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in September of 2007 and became a full-time player at some point in April of 2008. Two years later he was the National League MVP and the rest is history. While it’s tough to say that Votto’s the best first baseman of his generation given that he has had his career overlap with Pujols and Cabrera (and maybe in a few years some others can be tossed into the group with all three of these guys), for a good stretch Joey Votto at least had an argument that he was better than both of them for a prolonged period of time.

Edwards took a look at the best 10-year stretches for first basemen since 1961, looking at the players run by WAR.

The only players in the last 50 years with a 10-year WAR at first base higher than Votto’s are either in the Hall of Fame or are no-doubters like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. A little lower on the list we see more borderline cases like Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez, Dick Allen, Todd Helton, and Rafael Palmeiro. Votto’s 2019 season certainly didn’t bode well for his future or his case for the Hall, but he’s got an MVP award and a couple more solid seasons might solidify his case.

Right now, it seems that Joey Votto is kind of in that “tweener” area of Hall of Fame recognition. He’s not as good as the truly elite first baseman, but he’s better than the other “tweener” types, too. And he’s just as good, if not better than some guys that are already in the Hall of Fame. His career certainly doesn’t appear to be over, and no matter what happens he’s likely going to have to rely on voters down the line overlooking the counting numbers in his home runs and hit column and focusing more on his slash line and WAR totals if he’s going to get in.

With the Baseball Writers Association of America changing up who gets to vote (it’s no longer reserved for only newspaper writers), as well as who gets to keep their vote – something that hasn’t been there in the past, a more modern group of voters with more advanced approaches to how they view the games numbers could play into Joey Votto’s favor when he does get his name put on the ballot.

Father Time is still the undefeated champion of the world, and while Votto hasn’t lost the fight yet, it’s getting into the later rounds of the fight and with at least several months of 2020 lost already, he’s lost time to add a few numbers to the columns on the back of his baseball card when he was most likely to be able to do so moving forward in his career.

9 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    Pujols and Cabrera are locks for the Hall of Fame. Pointing out that their counting stats are better than Votto’s is accurate, but distracting. Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in the history of baseball at reaching base safely. Top 15 all time. Add to that his MVP award, a second incredibly close call, and note that those two came 7 seasons apart, and it’s clear that Votto is not just a one trick pony nor a flash in the baseball pan. Combined with the growing appreciation of OBP, OPS, OPS+ and WRC+, and I will be quite surprised if JDV doesn’t end up in the Hall some day. Plus, the dude kept his promise, helped his teammate make the all star squad, then bought him a donkey in celebration. Votto for Prime Minister (after Justin Trudeau has finished his hair flipping run)!

    In all seriousness it’s fair to debate whether Votto is clearly HoF bound, but the “for” case is strong and I do think it will ultimately be a yes. I’d be thrilled not just for Votto, but following Bench and Larkin as recent life long Reds who made it to Cooperstown? That would be pretty cool.

    Reply
    • Tom Reeves

      One great season here toward the end of his career would do wonders to help his chances. He’s on the precipice of being Larry Walker. He has a few more chances to put himself over the top. (What I mean by that isn’t that he’s Peak Votto again – I mean that he’s good enough once again that the HoF voters are willing to look at his amazing stats more favorably. I think if it appears he’s hurting the Reds the next few seasons, that tips the scales the other way).

      Reply
  2. Jim Walker

    Given that Votto’s stats are borderline the elephant in the corner of the room is that he spent half a decade on Reds teams which made mediocre seem like a gold medal achievement in 2019.

    Borderline guys who play on winners and come up big in big games tend to get the HoF nod which often eludes guys with perhaps better records who labored in obscurity. Maybe the world shouldn’t work this way; but it does.

    In the 1975 Worlds series, Tony Perez hit 3 home runs and drove in 6 runs in games #5 and #7 combined, both Reds victories. Those 2 games may have well have been what ultimately unlocked the HoF door for Perez. Yes, other guys did their part to be on base for Perez. However on the largest stage with the World Championship up for grabs, he capitalized on the opportunity by hitting those 3 home runs and driving in the 6 total.

    Such a moment may be what Votto needs to attain his HoF spot.

    Reply
  3. Melvin

    I believe OBP may be the most underrated stat. Getting on base consistently is arguably the hardest thing to do in baseball. I remember reading an article before the 2017 season even started that said if Votto would go 0-1300 the rest of his career he would still have a better OBP than Tony Perez who of course is already in the HOF.

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    • Jim Walker

      I was looking for career Re24+ to compare Votto and Perez offensively. To me, that would be the most valid. However I couldn’t locate that stat without doing some serious digging.

      A walk is always better than an out; but, in many situations, it isn’t as good as a home run or double. RE24+ would shed light on that.

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  4. TR

    OBP is very important. No doubt about that. But I prefer a stat that is sometimes less valued by today’s baseball cognoscenti, RBI’s. Tony Perez was truly the hitter you wanted at the plate with runners in scoring position. A part of many factors that have made recent Red’s seasons so frustrating has been too many runners left in scoring position. So this season the FO makes moves to change that, and we have the shutdown with fading hopes they’ll be a season.

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    • MrRed

      But considering that many other players, including Votto, had a batter batting average with RISP than Perez, whether you’re a baseball “cognoscenti” or “old school” fan, you can’t disagree that RBI’s don’t tell the whole story. Even Perez himself will tell you that Votto is a better pick with RISP.

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    • Melvin

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Tony Perez fan too and an RBI fan as well. Speaking of Perez there was an article about him recently that some here may have read. It basically asked the question is he underrated or overrated. The 10 years from 1967-1976 he lead the majors in RBI. It also pointed out that in the modern day stat of WAR he was fourth during that time frame. Who were the three above him in WAR during that time? Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Johnny Bench. Amazing! Every now and then I read something else about the Big Red Machine that blows me away.

      Reply
  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I don’t see Votto a tweener at all. I believe he will be in the HOF.

    And, I do believe he’s been one of the greater hitters of all time.

    However, when compared to others like Pujols, I would have to take the others, I believe. And, honestly, the reason why probably being something Votto couldn’t do anything about.

    For the Reds, when it comes to clutch hits, Votto just doesn’t come to mind with me. Oh, the numbers might show something. But, when you talk about clutch, you’ve have to be talking about certain situations. For example, not just the BA in the 9th, but the BA in the 9th against the Cardinals. Or, the BA when you had the opportunity to drive in a run that would tie the game or take the lead (that’s one stat I haven’t heard much of, how many “game winning hits” a player has). Or, the batting average in a playoff series, etc.

    For instance, when comparing Votto to Bruce, I would take Votto everyday of the week and twice on Sunday to hit the ball. However, when we remember clutch hits, I believe many if not most would first remember Bruce’s HR that sent the Reds to the playoffs, I believe it was.

    Again, I don’t necessary blame Votto for this, also. For instance, Votto rarely had anyone to “bat off of”, I will say. For example, for a good part of his time with the Cardinals, Pujols had McGuire batting right next to him. An opposing pitcher would purposefully walk one but not both. So, they both excelled. But, with Votto, opposing pitchers wouldn’t give much to Votto to hit since he rarely had anyone to hit with. Or, even when Votto did have someone to hit with, the opposing pitcher would more likely prefer to pitch to the other hitter and not Votto.

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