It won’t be announced until after the World Series (and I still think the Reds are going to make the World Series somehow), and most of the national pundits seem to have concluded that Joey Votto should win the National League Most Valuable Player award. I never tire of that conversation; a Red for MVP? Am I dreaming?
Anyway, I’ve understood for quite some time that what we saw from Votto this year was special. In other words, we really haven’t seen a season like this from one of our Reds in a long, long time. Yeah, Barry Larkin won an MVP (and I’m not denigrating Larkin, who is my favorite player of all time), and Dave Parker was awfully good for the Reds in the late-80s, but you probably have to go back to the Big Red Machine to find anything close to what we’ve seen from Votto this year.
How good has Votto been? Well, we’ll dig into the numbers in a moment, but first let’s acknowledge that Votto has been so good that many people consider him a lock for the MVP award. To wit, here’s Jayson Stark over at ESPN:
He used to be the best player in baseball that nobody outside of the Skyline Chili line had ever heard of. But it isn’t safe to say that anymore about Mr. Joseph D. Votto. From the moment the Reds nudged themselves into first place in May, Votto has been the single biggest reason. And that hasn’t changed, not even for 30 seconds, at any point since. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki needed to carry the Rockies all the way to October if they were going to win this award, so they’re out. There’s an excellent case to be made for the great Adrian Gonzalez, but he’s a not-quite. And you could argue Albert Pujols’ MVP credentials every year. But sorry, this is Joey Votto’s year. He’s in the top three in his league in just about every offensive statistic I care about. And he’s first in six of the categories I care about most — on-base percentage, OPS, OPS-Plus, runs created, offensive winning percentage and Win Probability Added. But what really sells me on this guy is that the bigger the moment, the larger he’s loomed: .374 with men on base, .369 with runners in scoring position, .355 in the late innings of tight games, .357 from the seventh inning on, .336 since the All-Star break and 27 homers that have either tied games, put his team ahead, brought his team within a run or broken open a one-run game. But the big thing to remember is that he’s done all this for a team that hasn’t won a postseason game in 15 years. And there’s zero chance the Reds would be getting a shot to rewrite that sentence if Joey Votto hadn’t exploded into stardom when they needed him most.
Can’t argue with any of that. Since the season is now over, let’s take a look at Votto’s final numbers:
.324 batting average
.424 on-base percentage
.600 slugging percentage
Very, very impressive, especially for a guy who was just 26 years old for most of the season.
How does all that rank against the rest of the league? Well, Votto was first in the NL in WAR, first in wOBA (by a healthy margin), first in OBP and SLG (and, obviously, first in OPS), first by a huge margin in WPA, first in OPS+, first in RC, first in OWP, 2nd in BA, third in HR, 3rd in RBI.* Those are absolutely staggering numbers, and I wish I could say that I predicted Votto would have such a breakout season. Heck, eighteen months ago, most of us would have said that Votto is likely to be a very nice player for many years, but who would have guessed that he’d develop into an MVP candidate by this point in his career?
*Sorry for all those ridiculous acronyms. Trust me, they all say Joey Votto is the wonder boy.
I know that the Reds need a LF, and I know they need a SS, and that GM Walt Jocketty is trying to find a stud pitcher. As far as I’m concerned, however, signing Joey Votto to a long-term contract should be the number one priority for the Cincinnati front office. Period.
It isn’t often that someone comes around who has all that talent, but Votto supplements that with the best work ethic anyone has seen. He is focused, he is driven, and he is the most indispensible player in this organization. Plus, Cincinnati is a perfect location for Votto, as he’s mentioned in the past. Cincinnati got more press this year than they’ve gotten in a couple of decades, but the Queen City is still a small market. That’s good news for Votto, who is clearly uncomfortable with the spotlight. This might be the perfect storm: an elite player who has no interest in the bright lights of New York or Boston.
I want to see Joey Votto wearing the red-and-white for many, many years. He’s the only untouchable player on the Cincinnati roster. I hope the Reds are getting serious about getting Votto’s name on a contract that will ensure he’s a Cincinnati hero for a long time.