Reds manager David Bell benched Joey Votto for the four games of July 26-28. In his 106 plate appearances in 2020 before that, Votto had hit .191/.321/.326 with a wRC+ of 76. That’s 24 percent below league average in overall run production. The average exit velocity on balls Votto put in play was 85.3, well below league average of 88.4 mph.
In the five games leading up to his benching, Votto was 0-for-20 with six strikeouts and two walks. There were understandable whispers about moving him to the bottom of the lineup or platooning him against left-handed pitchers.
The Reds first baseman has now had 82 plate appearances since his involuntary time out, covering 21 games. During that stretch, he’s hit .278/.366/.625. His wRC+ has been 155. Votto’s exit velocity since returning is 90.3 mph. That’s in the top 75 percentile of major league hitters.
To provide context for how well Votto has banged since Bell caught his attention, Votto’s home run rate over the past 21 games would equate to 54 homers in a 162-game season. His 16 runs scored would produce 123 runs over a full season. That number of homers and runs scored would be easily be career highs for Votto.
It’s a measure of the greatness of Votto’s career that his 155 wRC+ would be among his nine best seasons in run production. From 2009-2017, Votto averaged a wRC+ of 160. That’s 60 percent better than league average over that span. In the past four seasons, the NL MVP (Bellinger ’19, Yelich ’18, Stanton ’17, Bryant ’16) has averaged a wRC+ of 160. Joey Votto has been producing nearly that rate since July 29.
There have been observable changes. Votto has altered his stance to be more upright and he’s increased his front leg kick. Since the benching, Bell has batted Votto in the DH slot four times. Prior to that, Votto had played in the field at first base every game. Votto told Bobby Nightengale of the Enquirer:
“You’re always trying to learn and make adjustments. That’s just the course of any sort of career. You think you know a lot about the game and it’s really only a couple of games, but you think you know a lot about the game and yourself, and you’re always learning. I’m going to keep chipping away at that, for sure.”
Joey Votto debuted in 2007 with the Reds at age 23. He turned 37 years old during this resurgence. Last month, it looked for all the world that the slugger had succumbed to the dreaded decline phase. Not so fast, Reds fans.
Yes, Father Time gets the last at bat.
But the past few weeks Joey Votto has given us reason to hope he’s got a few great innings left.
Featured image: https://twitter.com/Reds/status/1135257960412844040