Votto Is Moneyballin’ – That’s Bad.

It’s a quiet little civil war outside the fandom of the Reds, but inside, there’s raging Cabrera vs. Trout c. 2012 type of debate over what kind of production Joey Votto should be providing to the Reds as their former MVP, franchise cornerstone and most importantly, the highest paid player on a mid-market sized team.

177 hits, 30 doubles, 24 home runs, 101 runs, 6 stolen bases. 

Very good numbers, but nothing besides the runs total is anything to blow anyone way.

So many of the traditional fans (the Cabrera people) are all kinds of angered that Votto’s not a thumping 35 home runs 110 RBI type of run producer – for what he’s being paid. 

More nouveau stats, which I’m proud to be a proponent of, say that Votto is annually one of the most productive players in MLB.

135 BBs.435 OBP, .926 OPS, .360 BABIP, 6.4 WAR, 19 IBBs, 154 0PS+, and 156 wRC+ (5th in MLB behind, Cabrera, Trout, Davis & Werth). Though slugging percentage took a tumble to 2008 levels.

Joey Votto is an exceptionally productive Major League hitter, and because his game is more powered by discernment and intellect, rather than speed and athleticism, Votto should age well during a contract that runs at least until 2023, where Votto will then be completing his 8th straight season with a salary of over $20 million. 

Whenever I’ve read one side of the heated Votto debate, instinctually I’ve thought, yea, hit a couple more homers, or keep smacking 40 doubles like he had in ’11 and ’12. But the advanced numbers are inarguable…with one exception. 

Votto’s approach, and I’ll make this brief, is to hit his pitch and really nothing else. He’ll never expand his zone, ever. He believes in the strategy my little league coaches used to ‘remind’ those really crappy and unathletic kids who batted 11th and 12th (yes, everyone batted when you’re 9), that was A WALK IS JUST AS GOOD AS A HIT.

Fans who want to see a franchise guy smack in runs every day, don’t like that. Votto doesn’t care. 

The problem is, some pitches that aren’t Votto’s pitches are still strikes. That can quickly get you behind in the count. Being the exceptional batsmen that he is, that’s not much bother to Votto. But let’s call a spade a spade. After reading through this praising of Votto, you’re probably thinking ‘this guy walks WAY more than he strikes out.’

You would be wrong, and this is my concern (particularly after last night). Votto led the world in walks, but he also struck out what I called a staggering 138 times. Whether you don’t think that’s awful or not it’s 20 more times than Prince Fielder struck out (in a lousy year) – who I used because in 2012 he walked more than he K’d, and 44 more times than Cabrera.  

Back to my raw fanatical DNA and instincts, I say ‘uhhhhh, Joey, if judiciousness is your thing at the plate, can’t you knock 20 K’s or so off your final tally!?’

Back to watching what we’ll call pitcher’s strikes go by. It’s fair to put Votto and Cabrera in the same class, no? You can look at the count by count stats yourself, but I chose this one: Votto with two strikes hit .174 while Cabrera hit .245. For a normalizer, I’ll use Torii Hunter who hit .205 with two strikes. 

I’m going to be careful here, but Votto MAY want apply to more of Cabrera’s approach. And perhaps he can implant some of his wonderully judicious discernment upon some of his teammates who lack the eye he does at the plate. 

I’m not the traditional fan screaming at Votto for not knocking in 100 runs every year, but dude, why you’d strike out as much as Nick Swisher and Juan Francisco (who!?). Cut down the K’s, PERHAPS, the walks go up, thus providing even more ‘Votto Value’ to the Reds. 

600 words into this I haven’t even gotten to my scatching eye arching about Votto.

Maybe his schtick just don’t work in the postseason. 

Huh?

It’s not a liftime of postseason PAs, but 37 in 9 games is enough for me ask questions. Votto’s hitting .250 with an OBP of .324 and he has AN RBI, and ZERO extra base hits. 

After winning the 2010 MVP and having an OPS of 1,024, Votto had A hit against the Phillies in the NLDS and NO walks. In 22 PAs against the Giants last year, Votto had a .500 OBP, but, no extra base hits. Last night Votto was 0 for 3 with RISP and laughably struck out twice. 

There are likely more postseasons in Votto’s future, butttttttttttt so far all this reminds me of the real Moneyball A’s of a decade ago. From 2000 through 2003, the A’s made the postseason each year. Those Athletics teams employed an approach that similiar to Votto’s now. They tried to walk you to death from the batter’s box. 750 in 2000 (2nd in MLB), 640 in 2001 (2nd), 609 in 2002 (6th) and 556 in 2003 (10th).

Those Oakland teams never escaped the Division Series, and a strong, yet elementary theory as to why is because there’s usually excellence and precise pitching in the postseason with a heavy dose of command. Infrequently are you facing mid-rotation starters sporting ERAs hovering in the mid and upper 4s, who would fall behind in counts letting you smack them around for runs. 

Votto faced a lethal Francisco Liriano last night, who is Kershaw-ian on night’s like last, and he looked anything but the most patient, discerning hitter in baseball. He only saw 10 pitches(!!!!!!!!!!) – remember with 2 K’s – in four plate appearances. Brandon Phillips saw the same, and he didn’t strike out, and he’s a hacker. 

Being delicate here, but PERHAPS Votto needs to alter his approach just a smidge at the plate, because right now – and the Reds can’t win on just Votto obviously – Votto’s postseason series W/L record is a big bagel, like those all too patient Moneyball teams that consumed lesser rungs of MLB teams, but quality postseason opponents had their way with them. 

It’s a whole ‘nother blog, but since isn’t Votto fast, nor all that good defensively, shouldn’t the skill of walking in nearly 20% of your plate appearances be something that costs a team a lot less than what Votto is getting paid?! Now I will duck the sabermetricians, I swear on almost always on your side!

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