VOTTO… Time to rattle the SABR cages again, I suppose. But yesterday was another example why some of us believe he has had a subpar season. A chance to give the Reds the lead passed him by. in the 8th, when the Mets dissed him by not walking him with a base open and two outs, then made that decision stand up by getting him to fly out to CF.

Earlier, Votto was the beneficiary of a kind scoring decision on a liner hit by Dice-K that the Gold Glove Joey fields about 90 percent of the time. And we won’t bring up the baserunning mistakes over the season.

You can extol the virtues of the almighty walk all you like. You can tell me how wonderful it is that Votto makes fewer outs than anyone. I understand all that, and it is all good. Especially if you’re leading off or batting 2nd. If you are batting 3rd, your responsibilities are different. Seventy-three RBI with Choo ahead of you all year is substandard.

All numbers aside, Votto doesnt pass the eyeball test this summer. There have been times when he simply looks disengaged. I havent talked to him about it. I owe him that. He remains diligent as always in his preparation, and thoughtful as ever in dealing with the heathen media. But he isn’t the same player.

And before you start your rips of me, no, I’m not blaming him for the Reds occasional woes. I am citing him, because he has been their best player for several years, and he is their highest-paid guy now.

Feel free to disagree.                  —Paul Daugherty


Dear Paul,

And therein lies the folly in your assessment of Joey Votto. The EYEBALL Test. The measuring tape of casual fans everywhere. A cheap turnstile giveaway. Here are your cardboard 3D glasses, sir. Enjoy the show.

Imagine Buzz Aldrin piloting his Apollo spacecraft for re-entry and turning off the panel of dials and gauges in front of him:

“Who needs pitch, roll and yaw numbers? Heat shield temperature measurements? Get this complicated stuff outta here! I don’t need all this damn data. The ocean’s right there over my shoulder out the window. I got me a visual. That’s all I need. Houston, we’re coming in.”

This is pretty much what you’re doing here, Doc. Perhaps it’s just me, but your words ring untrue to these old ears. Nice cherry-pick on yesterday’s ABs. When you say it was just ANOTHER example of a subpar season, implying there were many other yesterdays that tell the same tale, know that the numbers say otherwise. Whoops. I forgot. “Numbers” are vilified in these here parts.

There goes that crazy Newton guy with his apple, again. Sheesh.”

So perhaps I should say RESULTS. Because that’s just what many of Joey’s numbers are: results. A record of what happened on the field.

Oh, and your eyeballs? They will most certainly lie to you, even as they whisper sweet nothings in your corneas. Like sacrifice bunting a runner to third with no outs. Statistically, the chances of scoring a run just dropped. But, hey, the eyeballs love it.

“Look at Choo! He’s so much closer to home than he was a minute ago! I can see it all the way up here from Section 521!. Can’t you?

And indeed, when a base hit drives the runner from third to home, confirmation bias sets in. Of course, as the season plays on and this scenario is played out over and over again, this strategy fails more often than it succeeds. And the team ends up scoring fewer runs than had they simply swung away. Maybe those fewer runs turn into losses. Maybe they don’t. Either way, the EYEBALLS see none of this. The brain can’t process all this information over days, weeks, months. So it’s forgotten and an old baseball shibboleth continues on it’s merry way down the basepaths. Third base is so close to home, 90 feet and nothing more. The simple geography of it trumps all logic and prior history. Not to mention fifth grade math.

Are you still here with me?

This is what you are doing with Joseph Daniel Votto. It’s why he doesn’t listen to you. Or Marty. Or even his own manager, who would rather he compromise himself by swinging at pitches he cannot drive into places that that cannot help his team score runs.

Joseph Daniel Votto is arguably the best hitter in the NL.

Yes, he’s not creating runs with his power as he did in 2010. He’s doing it a different way. And that’s okay. He’s still one of the best hitters in the NL. That should tell you something. As much as you want to make this an argument of RBIs vs. WALKS, it isn’t.

For nearly seven years, I’ve made my way to work into midtown Manhattan, past the slow, methodical construction of the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center. At no point in the construction did I value the work of those who topped off this magnificent building over those who built the first 103 floors. And yet this is exactly what those who serve their RBI masters would have you believe. Undervalue the men who build the foundation, who fill the bases. Reward those who have been given the opportunity to finish the job, drive them in. It makes no sense.

No, the real measure of a hitter is the total offensive output of the player. If only there was a way to measure the singles, doubles, triples, HRs, stolen bases and caught stealings and yes, WALKS a player produces—and roll that into one easy to understand value that gives you a more complete view of the offensive contribution of the player. Something easier than attempting to juggle a dozen or more stats in your head at one time—like a guy desperately counting cards at a blackjack table in Vegas.

If only. Oh wait. There is. It’s called Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). Not only does it calculate the overall worth of the sum total of all these various offensive stats that we worship, it also adjusts for ballpark and eras, so you can compare players over decades; so you’ll cut down on the extra credit you want to give Jay Bruce for hitting cheap home runs to right field in Great American Small Park, while penalizing David Wright for having to hit HRs in a cavernous Citi Field.

Today, Joseph Daniel Votto is 3rd in the NL in wRC+, one point behind Jayson Werth and two points behind Paul Goldschmidt. Not long ago, Votto was ranked FIRST.

You’re gone now, right? Alas, too complicated and thus suspect? Some might say the search for accuracy is a uniquely complicated endeavor. Once, we thought the sun revolved around the earth. Now we know better. But let’s not over-aggrandize things. Baseball isn’t the cosmos, right? Who needs a Hubble Telescope when you have those EYEBALLS? Maybe staying true to ways and beliefs handed down by generations is the way to go. Better to stick with the stuff that doesn’t get all up in our faces and challenge us—that doesn’t creep into the crevices of our conscious mind like a nagging toddler at 6:00 a.m. Easier to shun the inner voice that says, “Hey, maybe I was wrong about this all along.”

It’s only Baseball. And yet, one has to wonder where we’d be if the whole world quit questioning, quit digging for more information. Quit looking for something more.

So keep keepin on Mr. Daugherty. Keep telling us how Joseph Daniel Votto should have 100 RBIs simply because Shin-Soo Choo is getting on base 40% of the time, even as the logic of these simple numbers belies your case. Keep telling us he’s no longer the Reds’ best player. Just understand the consequences as you sally forth on your Heming-way.

Marty Brennaman—and you, sir, whom I consider the best writer of all things athletic in the city of Cincinnati and points beyond, occupy the sports pulpit. Fans listen to your homily. Your opinion carries the weight of a packed ballpark on Opening Day. Your voices are as far reaching as Paul Sommerkamp’s once was, God rest his soul. That’s important because many of the masses are already predisposed to rail against Joey Votto. He makes far too much money. Just as you by your own admission can’t grasp BABIP, most of us fans can’t grasp $225,000,000.00. Fans don’t necessarily understand Mr. Votto’s on-field demeanor. Some see a dedicated professional going about his work. Others see an emotionless and un-invested athlete playing a child’s game they can only dream of playing.

Human nature and all that. So, we need to get this right. Right?

You, Marty and the other keepers of the Big Scorecard in Our Heads can level the playing field for young Mr. Votto as the next decade unfolds for him in Cincinnati, as the next wave of baseball fans pour through the turnstiles and look for their generation’s Johnny Bench. You can help us appreciate him for who he is, not what we wish him to be. Today didn’t help. And that’s not just a disservice to Joseph Daniel Votto.

It’s a disservice to the fans. Every bit as much as Ryan Ludwick’s words were on Wednesday.