by Nick Carrington

Joey Votto’s Surge to Average

Joey Votto is old. Not in general, he still has plenty of life to live barring tragedy. But in baseball years, he’s at the twilight, the sun low on the horizon of an excellent career. For a while into his 30s, Votto put his foot on the neck of decline and pushed firmly. Unfortunately, that snake doesn’t die, and we are now seeing it bite at the heels of the former MVP.

The last three seasons have shown a decline in Votto’s production.

Votto’s OPS and wRC+ numbers are especially telling. He was an elite run producer in 2017, well above average in 2018, and roughly average in 2019. Votto’s xwOBA numbers show that he went from hitting the ball exceptionally well to middle of the pack in three seasons.

In his first 106 plate appearances of 2020, Votto was continuing this downward trajectory. Votto had a paltry 76 wRC+, meaning he was 24% worse than a league average hitter. His line of .191/.321/.326 would be unacceptable for Michael Lorenzen, let alone the Reds highest paid player.

Below the surface, Votto just wasn’t hitting the ball hard. His exit velocity was 3 MPH below the league average, and much of that weak contact was on the ground (42.7% GB%).

Joey Votto does not beat out many ground balls.

After watching the Reds first baseman go 0-for-20 over the previous five games, manager David Bell benched Joey Votto for three days — August 26-28 — covering four games.

Since the benching, we’ve seen a different player, granted in a small sample. In those 38 plate appearances, Votto’s exit velocity has jumped 5 MPH (90.4), and he’s hitting the ball in the air far more often (29.2% GB%).

The result is a retro Votto slash line of .333/.421/.667 and 183 wRC+. For the season, his numbers now look similar to his unspectacular 2019, but they are a far cry from his low point on August 25th.

Votto has proven he can regain his form for small stretches. Can he perform this way over a long period of time?

Probably not. Votto is not immune to the ravages of time and a long career. But, he’s shown that for a spell, he can still cause havoc with his bat, and if the Reds are going to sneak into the playoffs, they will need Votto to bang. For 19 more games, that’s not unreasonable.

Photo Credit: Hayden Schiff (https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxguy3/33713210684/)

Nick Carrington has loved the Reds since his youngest days. His father raised him on stories of the Big Red Machine, and some of Nick’s favorite memories involve listening to Marty Brenneman and Joe Nuxhall call games on the radio during warm summer nights. He has written about the Reds since December of 2014 and takes no responsibility for the team’s record during that span. Nick graduated from Cedarville University and earned a Master’s in Writing from Missouri State University. Soon, he will complete a PhD from Texas Tech. He currently teaches at Cedarville as an Assistant Professor of Professional Writing and is making sure his three sons know not to evaluate pitchers based on their wins. You can follow him on Twitter @ncarrington14 where he posts plenty of Reds stats when his kids let him.

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pinson343
pinson343
1 month ago

Since his return, Votto has been a different hitter. I don’t think he could sustain it over 162 games, but hopefully he can over the next 19 (19+ maybe ?).

In each of the last two games against the Pirates, he hit a bullet with a very high expected hit pct. right at someone. This is the problem with pull hitting into a shifted defense, but I’d much rather see him hit the ball hard than what we saw before the benching.

Sean D
Sean D
1 month ago
Reply to  pinson343

Yeah obviously ideally he’s just hitting bombs over everyone and in the gaps but as long as he’s hitting it hard in the air he’ll be productive. I have noticed his strikeouts have increased a bit but I’d happily trade a .650 OPS and no strikeouts for a 1.000+ and a few more

citizen54
citizen54
1 month ago

I was wondering if his production jumped as a result of rest. He started out the season well too. Maybe he needs to sit a couple of day a week to be effective.

Steve Mancuso
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  citizen54

Not a bad theory.