Still early in his tenure as a major league manager, Bryan Price has demonstrated an open-minded approach toward lineup construction that clearly separates him from his predecessor. Whether Price’s motivation has been a genuine interest in modern, optimal lineup production or flat out desperation, it’s hard to know, although we can hope it’s more the former.

Price was willing to cross the streams and let Joey Votto and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back. He gets it that maximizing the first three trips through the lineup is more important than setting up hypothetical match-ups in the last couple innings.

The most telling indication of a new day in Reds batting order philosophy came with Price’s decision to move Votto out of his long-held #3 spot up to #2, a position long a desolate wasteland under Dusty Baker. This move showed the Reds’ new manager rejects the old-fashioned concept that the #2 batter be chosen for how he can help the #1 batter – by bunting, hitting the other way etc. – and instead should be selected based on being a good hitter in his own right. Price reinforced this thinking by his subsequent decision to bat Todd Frazier second after Votto went on the DL.

Finally, by promoting Devin Mesoraco from #8 to #3, Byran Price has shown a willingness to prioritize hot bats and match-ups over veteran status and the comfort of everyday sameness.

These developments are promising. Bryan Price’s lineups aren’t perfect, there is room to pick nits with any batting order. But Price’s flexibility and judgment have – on balance – been strongly positive. Yet Bryan Price needs to make one more major move that would solidify the Reds batting order not only for 2014, but going forward.

When Joey Votto returns from his quad strain, Bryan Price should immediately install him as the team’s new leadoff hitter, batting ahead of Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco.

[I’d prefer this column and related comments not become sidetracked in another rehashed debate about Billy Hamilton or his potential. Not that Hamilton isn’t an important topic. But that discussion has and will take place elsewhere. Moving Votto to the lead-off spot would make sense if Brandon Phillips, Skip Schumaker, Zack Cozart, Chris Heisey, Todd Frazier or, yes, Billy Hamilton, were batting there now.]

Joey Votto’s numbers with respect to plate discipline, pitch selection and a high on base percentage are well documented. Batting him first would take advantage of what he does best, which is getting on base. Votto has led the National League on OBP the last four seasons, dating back to 2010. The Reds would start every trip through the lineup with a hitter who gets on base more than 40 percent of the time.

And Joey Votto would bring power to the top of the lineup. While his home run numbers have fallen from 2010, his power is still a significant asset. Votto hit 24 home runs in 2013, good for tenth best in the NL. He was on pace for that before his quad injury this season.

You might ask if Joey Votto has too much power to lead off. Well, no one would confuse Votto with Willy Taveras or Ben Revere. Most Reds fans rightly think of Pete Rose as the paradigmatic leadoff hitter. Joey Votto isn’t quite the same kind of hitter as Rose, but the 2013-2014 Votto is not altogether different, either.

Or consider a slightly different template – Ricky Henderson. From the ten-year period of 1984 to 1993, Henderson’s average ISO was .176. That’s in the ballpark of Votto’s 2013 and 2014 ISO (.189).

[ISO is a simple measure of a hitter’s ability to hit for extra bases. To calculate a player’s ISO, you just subtract his batting average from his slugging percentage. It measures the player’s extra bases per at bat. Average ISO in the NL is 141.]

Did Shin-Soo Choo have too much power to lead off (2013 ISO .178)? If you’re going to make the argument that Votto has too much power to bat first, ask yourself if you ever said that about Choo last year. Joey Votto leading off would be extremely similar to Shin-Soo Choo,only without Choo’s painful split against LHP.

It’s not like the Reds pitchers never get on base. The combined OBP of the five starters is .171. Add in at least one AB per game for a pinch hitter at #9 and the leadoff hitter has ample opportunity to drive in runs. So power isn’t wasted in the #1 spot. And remember, power is no longer Votto’s best attribute.

And that’s OK. With the emergence of Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco as capable power-hitters, plus Jay Bruce, the Reds three legitimate big-time bats to anchor the middle of the lineup. Ideally, I’d go with: Votto, Frazier, Bruce and Mesoraco as the top four.

This move would finally recognize the reality of the hitter that Votto has become. Moving him from batting third to second was a step in this direction, but not enough. The Joey Votto of 2010, for better or worse, is no longer walking through that clubhouse door. Instead of lamenting the past, the Reds should convert him into an elite, historic leadoff hitter.

I realize that if you fall into one of these categories – you’ve given up on the Reds in 2014 and no longer care how many runs they score; or you’ve decided that Joey Votto’s quad strain represents an unprecedented baseball death sentence; or if you have pictures and newspaper headlines of Billy Hamilton taped to your bedroom wall – then you probably resisted most of the reasoning in this post. That’s certainly your right, thanks for reading.

Anyhow, that’s the case for batting Joey Votto first. It’s straightforward, almost obvious. Put the Reds’ best hitter in the spot where he bats the most often. Maximize Votto’s strongest qualities and therefore his value to the team. Get the leadoff hitter on base.

148 Responses

  1. wildwestlv

    Great post. This team needs more of this (the Ghostbusters reference) from Price.

  2. Chris Garber

    I actually love this idea. One of the comments I wrote – then deleted from an earlier Hamilton conversation is that the team’s few decent hitters are all power hitters (Votto being absent). This solves that problem, and gives a good enough reason to move Hamilton down.

    If Votto’s “quad” ever recovers and he starts SLGing .560 again, they can move him back.

    • John Walsh

      If this decision would be predicated on his quad injury, then fine. But Steve makes only one reference to the quad. He seems to think this is a good idea in general.

      If Votto still has other assets than getting on base, I’d like to see him in the #2 spot. At leadoff, I don’t think his value to create runs by driving them in (in addition to getting on base and scoring them) is maximized. Granted, at #2 the leadoff hitter is sub-optimal as well, but it’s still better than #8 and #9.

      I’d reconsider if Hamilton then batted #9. It would allow him to develop more, but also minimize his trips through the line-up. (Separate question: is minimizing Hamilton’s chances to get on base and leverage speed a good thing?).

      At any rate, I don’t delve much into the sludge of what Votto gets paid. But the comparison was made to Choo, and Choo is raking significantly less. I think that Votto needs to be in a position in the order that lets him contribute multiple assets commensurate with his payday. If he’s the best hitter, stick him right in the middle of the action…

      • Steve Mancuso

        Votto was 27 when he signed for $22.5m/yr, Choo was 31 when he signed for $18.5m/yr. And Choo can’t hit LHP. Comparable.

  3. AnnapolisHoosier

    I like it. I’ve actually said this for a while. It makes the most sense.

  4. Cinvenfan

    OMG, a $ 200 Million leadoff hitter/ 1B. I bet Mr. C had that in mind when he approved the extension. Whatever suits you, Sir.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Not exactly sure what your point is. Are you saying that lead-off hitters can’t be worth $20 million/year? That’s clearly wrong. I don’t think you have a good grasp of how easy it is to be worth $20 million. Lead-off hitters who earned more than $20 million last year (some by tens of millions): Mike Trout, Jacoby Elsbury, Carlos Gomez, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Carpenter, Shane Victorino, Sterling Marte and Coco Crisp. There may have been more, that’s just my quickie list.

      Are you saying that because Votto was one thing when he signed his contract extension, that the Reds should always view him that way? That seems unduly inflexible, to put it mildly.

      • charlottencredsfan

        None of the guys listed made anywhere near $20M last season. Some made the league minimum: Marte, Carpenter & Trout.

      • charlottencredsfan

        “Lead-off hitters who earned more than $20 million last year” – SM

      • Kurt Frost

        Yeah, I think he phrased that wrong.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Earned based on their performance. Not earned based on salary. That should be obvious. Those players were all lead off hitters who were worth more than $20 million to their team. So it’s wrong to assume that because Votto makes $20 million that he can’t be worth his contract.

      • jdx19

        Trout is probably worth $40M; but that’s neither here nor there. 😉

      • eric nyc

        Trout’s probably worth closer to $50 million and he hasn’t even touched his prime yet. I can’t even imagine the contract he’s going to sign some day…$350 million maybe?

      • jdx19

        Yeah! I think he’ll be 27 when he’s out of his current contract, maybe 28. That’s 7 more years or TV contract inflation and general inflation.

        I think $350M is probably conservative, unless by that time GMs have learned from Pujols-type deals (hopefully they won’t have “learned” anything from Votto-type deals! heh!)

      • eric nyc

        By that time you’ll have teams like the Dodgers with $350-400 million payrolls most likely. A team like that wouldn’t have to worry about giving a guy $50 million/year. I could easily see Trout getting $400 million/8 years by that time. And maybe even a 10 year deal…He’d only be 37 by the time that one would be up. Sheesh…

      • Cinvenfan

        My point is that Votto was given one of the top contracts in baseball to produce as one of the top hitters in baseball, a middle of the order 1B, capable of hitting for avg., power and bringing in runs (yeah, that nasty old school stats!!). I´m sure Pujols wasn’t paid to leadoff for the Angels.

        And as for your “quickie list”, once again you’re not stating FACTS as NONE of those players were paid 20MM last year, much less a 10-year contract to put up a Zombie Act, to put it mildly.

      • Steve Mancuso

        You should have read further. Someone else misunderstood my point, too and I clarified. I was referring to earning in the sense of value to their team, not salary. But I can tell that someone who says things like Votto is “putting up a Zombie Act” is pretty fact-based. So I’ll be more careful to be clear in the future. You might want to check that $20 million figure, too. He’s never been paid that. He’s making $12 million this year. Meanwhile, Votto’s Zombie Act in 2013 performed to the tune of 6-6.4 WAR, depending on the source, so he produced about $38 million in value (conservatively). Not bad for a guy being paid $17 million last year.

      • eric nyc

        Joey wasn’t paid $20 million last year either. He’s not being paid $20 million this year. Joey got paid to produce runs. Hitting for average is an antiquated skill – it’s only valuable in the sense that it boosts your OBP and limits outs. Walt and Bob (and a lot of old school fans) might have had certain expectations about BA and RBI’s when the contract was signed, but the fact of the matter is what they bought was an elite run producing hitter. The sooner everyone gets used to that fact, the easier the next decade is going to be for all of us. I still don’t know what the RBI-nuts want to do? He can’t be traded with his contract. You don’t want him swinging at bad pitches. This is what Votto is and he does it better than anyone in baseball. Appreciate it.

      • John Walsh

        OBP is important. But you can’t go from 1st to 3rd on a walk. You can’t plate a guy from 2nd or 3rd on a walk.

        Walks are good for not making outs. Walks are good for being able to score runs once you’re on base. But I’d take a guy who gets on base 40% and hits .320 over a guy who gets on base 40% and hits .270. Five percent of the time his method of getting on base does more than I get from a walk.

        To me, it’s disingenuous to throw out putting the ball in play as strictly “old school”.

    • Kurt Frost

      I’m surprised it took this long for this ignorant comment to be posted.

      • Cinvenfan

        Sir, I might disagree with your opinion but I assure you mine it’s always based on respect. It would be aprettiate it if yours would be too.

      • Kurt Frost

        I’m ignorant about a lot of things. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

  5. Robert Meyer (@Vandy1Fan)

    If, and that’s a BIG if, Joey Votto returns, I think it would be a excellent idea. But I don’t think Price would do it. Even though he is different (which is good) than Dusty doesn’t mean he still isn’t somewhat “old school”.
    If I was going to do that, I’d bat the pitcher 8th and put Hamilton 9th. That way, if Hamilton gets on, you have Votto, et al, to drive him in.

    • jdx19

      You think it’s a BIG IF that Votto returns? Do you mean on Saturday? Or this season? Or at all?

      Votto will return. 100% guaranteed.

      • eric nyc

        People are getting SUPER worked up about this injury. The conspiracy theorists are out in force. Yesterday there was talk that Joey was speaking in secret code to reporters that lawyers were being called in to determine if we could void his contract due to injury.

    • DD

      I like the sound of that. Billy would be the perfect player to throw in the 9 hole and would allow Joey to see a few more fastballs due to his speed.

  6. the next janish

    Great post, and a very compelling argument. With that I’ll take down my imaginary “taped headline”. I still think there is value in having Votto and Hamiliton paired, with Hamilton batting 9th.

    • Steve Mancuso

      That’s a good point that I meant to put in the post. If you like the idea of Hamilton batting ahead of Votto, you can always bat Hamilton ninth.

      • Nick Kirby

        I love this idea. It still basically makes Hamilton the leadoff hitter, but it takes pressure off him and gives a below average hitter at this point in his career less PA.

        1. Votto
        2. Frazier
        3. Bruce
        4. Mesoraco
        5. Phillips
        6. Heisey/Ludwick
        7. Cozart
        8. Pitcher
        9. Hamilton

      • eric nyc

        People have been floating some version of this since ST. Well, minus Votto at leadoff but Hamilton 9th. I know I brought it up before the season started a few times hoping Price might be open minded enough to lift a page out of LaRussa’s playbook. Alas, I think Walt is calling the shots on this particular lineup spot and Price isn’t going to do anything this drastic in his first year.

      • Brian

        If there is anyone else we can put in that 6 slot (Lutz or Berni I would like that to be done). And it is nice to see someone else want to move the pitcher out of the 9 hole. The only thing I hate giving up is Hamilton getting the least amount of AB’s.

  7. Drew

    Votto isn’t fast enough to hit leadoff. I am unsure but why can’t we put Hamilton there, let him play an entire season there and see what happens. Why must we be overreacting at this point?

    • Kurt Frost

      What does speed have to do with leadoff? Would you rather have a leadoff hitter that’s really fast running back to the dugout after making an out or one that actually gets on base. If you want the fast guy I’m sure Corey Patterson and/or Willy Taveras would answer the phone.

      • Drew

        I want speed at the top of my order. Votto already has knee issues, I don’t want to enhance that problem with him leading off. Also, I am not sure why people don’t think Hamilton Can’t do the job? I mean really I know we have become a Microwave society, but how about allowing Hamilton a chance? You know more then 2 months. How about an enitre season or two…

      • jdx19

        He’s never shown an ability to get on base at more than an average level (and that was in the minor leagues).

        Why do you think he can do better in the majors against people like Wainwright, Greinke, and Kershaw than he can in the minors against scrubs?

        Seems like poor logic.

      • jdx19

        Here are Billy’s OBP numbers by year, with level of competition:

        2009 (Rk) – .253 in 43 games
        2010 (Rk) – .383 in 69 games
        2011 (A) – .340 in 135 games
        2012 (A+/AA) – .410 in 132 games
        2013 (AAA) – .310 in 123 games
        2013/4 (MLB) – .301 in 50ish games

        His 2013 stint against the AAAstros helped his 2013/2014 OBP creep just above .300, even though he’s below .300 for 2014.

        His BABIP is fine (right around .300 for the year), which means he’s not walking enough and hitting too many fly balls for a guy with his speed.

        He’s just not a productive leadoff hitter at the moment, and barring some major maturation at the plate, he won’t be unless he’s playing against minor league competition.

        All my opinions, of course. I love Billy and hope he turns out to be Kenny Lofton Lite.

      • eric nyc

        It’s not completely meaningless. Yeah, you don’t have to be Billy Hamilton to lead off, but it’s nice to have enough speed to go from 1st to third on a well hit single and to not be a constant risk of a double play. Choo teetered on the line. Him standing on 1st led to a lot of double plays. I’m afraid Joey might actually be that rare mythological “base clogger” that Dusty Baker was always so terrified of. Now, overall run production versus 2014 Billy Hamilton? Votto in a landslide. But as to Steve’s original post, I might be one of those people who’s starting to see this season as a lost cause so I might be inclined to give Hamilton the extra AB’s. If it’s not there yet, it might be there by the end of this road trip.

    • jdx19

      What Kurt said, basically. Speed is the same anywhere in the order. Leadoff hitters get more ABs than any spot in the lineup, therefore, a guy who gets on base a lot (see Votto, Choo) is much more valuable than a guy who doesn’t, but is fast (see Hamilton).

    • Jackson

      Great Point. I can’t believe how many stupid Reds fans there are. Hamilton is hitting 300 since mid April. Votto is still third in HR and hasn’t played for two weeks. Hes your number three. He’s the Man.

    • Brian

      Billy needs to be batting with guys on base. He draws in the defense and allows the other runners a little more freedom and he can bunt for a hit and not get doubled up (very easily).

  8. hof13

    I generally have been an advocate of having Hamiliton batting leadoff by default … de fault of Walt for not having anyone else on the team that I consider a better option. (I know that can be debated, that is just my opinion based on on base percentage and wanting someone with more pop down a little further down in the lineiup) However given the latest iteration of Votto, I think it would be a great idea. I still like Votto ultimately batting 2nd – when Hamilton improves some more and Votto gets strength back.

  9. Jon

    Change APPROVED!!! Oh wait I have no say in the matter. Well I like the idea anyway.

  10. Jason Linden

    In as far as maximizing value matters, Votto should hit 2nd or 4th, but 1st isn’t the worst idea. It’s probably the 3rd best place to hit him.

    • Steve Mancuso

      This is out of date thinking. With Votto’s hitting skills moving more in the direction of OBP as opposed to SLG, the case for batting him first is stronger. There’s a good chance that Bruce, Frazier and Mesoraco will all have hitter ISO than Votto, so they should bat fourth ahead of him. Votto’s huge edge in OBP over the other three argues for him batting first over second.

      • Drew

        But you can’t make your batting order based just off numbers. There is much more to it then plugging numbers into a computer and placing batters based on numbers. There is a human factor here that only a manager can see and work with. Batting Votto in the leadoff spot is just a bad idea. Batting Hamilton 9th is even worse.

      • jdx19

        Based on what, Deew? Why are they bad and worse?

      • Chris Garber

        If “only the manager” can judge these human factors, why are you so confident that it’s a bad idea?

      • drew

        At any point has a Reds manager said anything on Votto hitting leadoff?

      • jdx19

        Not that I’ve heard, but what does that have to do with anything? This thread is discussing the merits of Votto hitting leadoff. Just because Price hasn’t mentioned it does not mean it has no merit.

      • Jason Linden

        Out of date based on what? Best hitter hits 2nd or 3rd. Votto is the best hitter. There’s a chance those other guys will have a higher ISO, but even if they did, they still wouldn’t be better hitters. Averages would be lower. Votto’s value is OBP driven, but a lot of his OBP is still about his ability to hit for average and he does hit for above average power still.

        I doubt you’ll find any front-line sabrmetirc thinkers saying Votto should hit first, though they might acknowledge it isn’t a terrible idea.

        I think you’re looking too much at just this season. That’s fun to do, but it’s unlikely to prove entirely accurate.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Out of date based on who Votto is. Best three hitters should be first, second and fourth. Fourth should have highest slugging, which Votto won’t. Comes down to first or second. As I said, Votto has such a high advantage in OBP over the other candidates, that argues for him hitting first. Plenty of “front-line sabermetric thinkers” (I guess this means you think you’re one of them?) would put the highest OBP guy first, especially if his power wasn’t anything remarkable. I’m assuming Votto of 2014 and beyond is basically Votto of 2013, with maybe even a little less power. “…unlikely to prove entirely accurate” — don’t go out on a limb, there. If you think projecting Votto on the basis of 2010 or pre-knee injury, go for it.

      • Jason Linden

        Last year, Joey Votto had a higher ISO than everyone on the team except Bruce. he had the highest slugging percentage period.

        The problem is that he’s so much better than everyone else on the team that he’s the best choice everywhere. I suppose he could hit first, but for someone who gets as many hits as he does, that’s a lot of PAs with the bases empty. I’d stick him second, which is the conventional sabr wisdom, I believe.

  11. ohiojimw

    So much about Votto moving forward depends on just what really is going on with his leg. Is this quad thing just a minor set back to be worked through or is it another step in an inevitable slide? At this point perhaps the medics and trainers don’t even know the answer to this question with any real certitude.

    On the previous thread, I came down on the side of the slippery downhill slope theory and said it might be time for the Reds to get the $200M+ remaining on Votto’s contract off of their books. I said find an AL team that would take him as a DH and fit him with a knee brace to provide him with a stable power platform (at the cost of mobility) then use him in an RBI slot in the line up.

    If his injury is not career defining or even career threatening, I suppose using him in the lead off spot makes sense for the Reds because as constituted they certainly don’t have enough high OBP guys to slot in front of him. However in the long run if the Reds are going to live with the contract for a decade, they need to start obtaining and cultivating OBP guys to put in front of Votto and at least one to put behind him so there is a price to pay for pitching around him.

  12. Dale Pearl

    An unusual methodology, however, I think it could work. Biggest problem that i would see is that Joey is slow as mud, chances are that when he returns he will be even slower and so you now have a guy who walks as his primary source of getting on base and behind him you stack a few extra bats that are inclined to hitting into double plays. You would have to make sure whoever is in the two hole can bunt, has decent speed, and hits a high percentage of fly balls versus ground balls.
    Not saying hamilton is ideal at lead but to me Votto needs to bat in front of someone who has power…. A massive void in our lineup.
    Ideally we would have signed Choo for 3 more years, had him bat lead and put votto behind him followed by frazier and mesoraco.

    To be clear votto has such a high on base percentage because nobody behind him is a threat to drive him in. Votto is not this elite on base machine that you make him out to be and chances are the way he is trending wont even get a call to the hall.

    • Kurt Frost

      Go look up the guys who have led the league in OBP four years in a row and then come back and tell me if that’s elite. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

      • Dale Pearl

        Kurt, if you face a lineup with eight batters and only one can hit you walk the one who can hit. There is no other threat to pitchers and joey is great sitting on base since he is easy to double up

      • jdx19

        By this logic, the best hitters should lead the league in walks every year. Is this true in most cases? Nope.

    • jdx19

      “To be clear,” you’re wrong. Protection in the lineup has been statistically disproven.

      Votto has a high on-base percentage because he swings at a league-leading or near league-leading lowest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone, he hits a high percentage of line drives, which fall in for hits more often than grounders or fly balls, and he’s just a good overall hitter.

      Those are the reasons.

    • gus0341

      How do you figure “a few extra bats that are inclined to hitting into double plays”? It makes perfect sense to put the guy who can get on base the most, first. Speed doesn’t matter walking into the dugout chalking up one out on the board. Great article and idea Steve! I’m not a baseball crazy stats guy, don’t get into it enough for that, but I would like to think i have a basic grasp on what makes sense in a lineup, and sticking players in a spot just because of how they used to hit makes 0 sense to me!

      • eric nyc

        Well moving him to 2nd was precisely because of how he has evolved as a hitter. You can deal with less speed from your #2 guy because he has the power bats right behind him. If Joey was an even halfway decent baserunner I would say this makes perfect sense, but Joey is probably one of the worst baserunners in the NL, especially with the knee now. I’d bet Brayan Pena could give him a go in a foot race. Like I said above, if your’e talking about total wRC’s in 2014, Votto at leadoff would beat Hamilton’s any day. And that might be true for the next 4-5 years. The proboem is, it might NOT be maximizing Joey’s wRC’s and almost certainly wouldn’t maximize Hamilton’s if he develops into a .330+ OBP hitter. So like Steve said, it all comes down to how you like our chances for the rest of 2014. This time last year we were 1.5 games out of first and we ended up 3rd in the division. This year we’re 7.5 games out. I don’t like our odds of making a run at anything this year so I’d be leaning towards getting Hamilton as much experience as possible. By the end of this year he’ll either prove he can be the guy we need him to be or we’ll know we need to try something else in 2015.

  13. Kurt Frost

    Ideally Choo would come clean my house once a week. There was a better chance of me having a romantic relationship with Choo than him signing somewhere for 3 years.

    • Dale Pearl

      My was that steve compares bham to choo. If any team had bham besides the reds he would either be back in the minors or batting lead. Steve wants to construct a lineup based upon on base percentage.

      • jdx19

        As do some major league managers like Joe Maddon and whoever the A’s employ from year-to-year. This is why those managers are generally considered to be “good” and why they can make the playoffs with tiny payrolls.

  14. Dale Pearl

    I forgot that this blog has a massive crush on Votto. I didn’t initially read the topic of Votto is perfect otherwise i would have remained silent.
    Like i said you Votto lovers Steves idea is good as long as you dont put hitters such as phillips behind him.
    Votto one Mes two frazier three bruce four ludwick five phillips six cozart seven and bham eight. Might as well try it what the heck cant produce poorer results

    • Kurt Frost

      I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.

    • jdx19

      The “Votto Is Perfect” tag is sort of a runing joke, I think. It’s a tag put on articles about Votto, just like “Believe” is the tag put on articles written when the fandom begins to lose hope during losing streaks.

      No one thinks Votto is perfect, but this site is home to many people who put a large weight on advanced statistics which truly show how good of a ball player Votto is. He’s not “historic” like Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout might be, but he’ll go down as one of the best (top 5) or this generation, I believe. And definitely worth his contract, in my humble opinion, even if he never hits 25+ HR again.

      • Robby20

        Votto won’t go down in history as one of the top five players of his generation and he won’t be worth the salary if his injury is chronic. One could argue a small market team like the Reds shouldn’t be signing anyone to 10 year extensions, which in Votto’s case amounted to a 12 year contract.

  15. Quiche

    Like the idea and there no shame in evolving your view and optimizing a player based on his current (and projected) productivity profile. Would love see Votto as a Boggs/Molitor-type machine for the next 10 years with a bit more pop.

    • jdx19

      I’ll +1 this. I’d love to see him slapping singles and walking all the time to the tune of .430 all the way into his 40s! Talk about consistent value. Young power hitters will come and go, as will (has?) Votto’s power. His OBP skills will endure and continue to help the Reds win ballgames. Assuming his “dead quad,” doesn’t turn out to be literal!

  16. WVRedlegs

    You are going to put the Reds worst base runner in the leadoff position??
    Now thats throwing in the perverbial towel !!!!!!!!!!!

    • Kurt Frost

      You are going to put the Reds leader in getting on base in the leadoff position??
      Now that’s revolutionary!!!!!!!!!

  17. jdx19

    Here’s ALL-TIME MLB HISTORY OBP (minimum 3000 PA):

    The + near some names indicate a HOFer, and the number in parenthesis is years played, and if they are active, their age.

    Notice JV is .0003 away from being tied for 18th all-time, and currently in 20th; in the history of baseball.

    I doubt a lot of his detractors realize this type of performance in a historical context.

    1. Ted Williams+ (19) .4817 L
    2. Babe Ruth+ (22) .4739 L
    3. John McGraw+ (16) .4657 L
    4. Billy Hamilton+ (14) .4552 L
    5. Lou Gehrig+ (17) .4474 L
    6. Barry Bonds (22) .4443 L
    7. Bill Joyce (8) .4349 L
    8. Rogers Hornsby+ (23) .4337 R
    9. Ty Cobb+ (24) .4330 L
    10. Jimmie Foxx+ (20) .4283 R
    11. Tris Speaker+ (22) .4279 L
    12. Eddie Collins+ (25) .4244 L
    13. Ferris Fain (9) .4241 L
    14. Dan Brouthers+ (19) .4233 L
    15. Max Bishop (12) .4230 L
    16. Shoeless Joe Jackson (13) .4227 L
    17. Mickey Mantle+ (18) .4205 B
    18. Mickey Cochrane+ (13) .4192 L
    19. Frank Thomas+ (19) .4191 R
    20. Joey Votto (8, 30) .4189 L
    21. Edgar Martinez (18) .4178 R
    22. Stan Musial+ (22) .4167 L
    23. Cupid Childs (13) .4157 L
    24. Wade Boggs+ (18) .4150 L
    25. Jesse Burkett+ (16) .4149 L

    Hilariously enough, an old-timer named Billy Hamilton holds down the #4 all-time slot. 😉

    • WVRedlegs

      How many of those players were leadoff hitters?? Only a very few. Most were #3 and #4 hitters.

      • eric nyc

        Billy Hamilton. I’d bet he batted leadoff, though they don’t seem to have records of that.

      • jdx19

        Good point, there.

        I think most of those guy’s OBPs come from high BA. Votto, while still respectable with BA, is much lower than the majority of the guys on the list.

        Notice how only 3 guys in the top 20 are right handed? That’s weird, too.

      • ohiojimw

        Don’t think it is so weird that only 3 of the top 20 are RH bats. Yes these guys are the elite of the elite but the preponderance of RH pitchers and them doing better versus RH batters probably comes into play.

      • jdx19

        Ah, yeah. That makes sense, I suppose.

        Although, is the split of R vs R as bad as L vs L? I seem to remember something about it not being as bad for the same reason; a righty gets more experience from a young age all the way to the bigs hitting against righties, so there isn’t as pronounced a difference.

    • eric nyc

      Also a speedy base stealing specialist.

  18. i71_Exile

    Love it. More Votto ABs. Billy Hamilton batting 8th or 9th. Get BP out of the heart of the line up. Wade Boggs had no speed and was a fine lead off man. Pete wasn’t exactly a burner either.

  19. Redgoggles

    I would just love to see about 5 months of a healthy lineup that includes Votto, Mes, Bruce, et al. Oh, and Latos too.

      • Chris

        I hope this +1 refers to plus one right-handed LF masher free-agent in the lineup!

    • Redgoggles

      ^^Point was: regardless of where they bat in the lineup.

  20. wildwestlv

    The only thing I dislike about this idea is that it was proposed in the first place. Because it will NEVER happen, and now I will dwell on it, as a legitimate shake up to turn things around (assuming Votto comes back before we’re too far in the hole to do anything). Thanks a lot.

  21. WVRedlegs

    At first, I thought this was bit out of desperation. But the arguments for it are compelling, to say the least. I’d feel better about it though, if the lackadaisical Walt J. go obtain a LF who is capable of providing some offensive punch. Not necessarily power, but some production. Someone who can hit in one of the #3- #6 spots to compliment what the Reds have. Having BP and Ludwick in the #5 and #6 spots does nothing for me. BP can bat 7th and Ludwick has no business on the 25-man roster.
    No problem with BHam batting #7 – #9. Not much has worked offensively.
    Why not try it.
    Its quite possible a lineup of:
    Votto, Frazier, The Unknown, Mesoraco, Bruce, BP, Cozart, P, and BHam could be very productive. They just need that missing link.

  22. Dale Pearl

    Votto only has 8 years in. You guys think his OBP is going to increase if he plays for 8 more? I don’t think his numbers will ever go up, I hope I’m wrong but sorry to say I”m not in love with Joey Votto. Sure he is a good hitter, maybe for a few years there he was this generations Tony Gwynn but ummm I think the guy is done. Again I hope I am wrong. In either case I hope we get an insurance claim on him for is time lost this year.

    • Eric nyc

      Votto’s contract was NEVER about him getting better. It was about him putting up an average of about 4-5 WAR over the life of the contract. So far he’s on pace to do that, should be good for 5-6 over the next few years and then 3-5 for a couple after that. He could easily rip off a 7-8 WAR year in there and even if he doesn’t the contract will be fine. Every team has to pay for a star or two at market value. Our challenge now is to find cheap WARs to surround him with. We would be in the deep deep grass without Votto. Who would you rather we were spending that money on realistically?

      • charlottencredsfan

        BS, the contract was all about JV being the best all-around hitter in the NL. Any other claim is a revision of history. I would love to ask Bob C how he views the value of that contract now.

        2010 Stats: .324/..424/.600, 37 Hrs, 106 R, 113 RBI 16 SBs; he was signed to the contract after “this ” season. He had a 6.6 oWAR and was a GG-quality 1st baseman. Joey Votto no longer resembles this player and probably never will again.

        This is who he is and at $20-25M/season he “will” be an albatross around the team’s neck. You further reducing his value by sticking him in a spot in the order where his value to the club will be further reduced. Great, just great.

      • Eric nyc

        I don’t know what to tell you. Smarter people than you and I have analyzed tens of thousands of baseball games, millions of ABs across eras and every conceivable game situation, and they have come to the scientifically provable conclusion that runs produced are a quantifiable thing. And based on that, Votto is elite. The end. What do you want? He can’t be moved, he isn’t going to change. Are you going to spend the next 10 years ringing your hands over what you consider a bad contract? If for no other reason than your own sanity, accept the advanced numbers.

      • jdx19

        No one knows what the contract was all about.

        From a strictly economic point of view, ERIC NYC is closer to correct.

        You pay for a guy for 10 years even though he’ll only be super-productive 5 of those years because if you don’t SOMEONE ELSE WILL! 🙂

        Supply and demand. The demand for one of the 20 best OBP guys to ever live is higher than the supply. The supply right now stands at… one.

      • charlottencredsfan

        So Joey is elite “and” can’t be moved?? I don’t get the contradiction. No, I expect he will be moved at some point in the next year or two because a Sabermetrics obsessed GM will take him on and overpay for him – more power to them. Simply, he was paid based on being the best hitter in the NL and he just isn’t.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Votto was paid to produce an average of 4 WAR per year. That’s what it takes to earn $20-25 million/year on the open market.

        I don’t get your point. Maybe Votto isn’t the best hitter in the NL any more (he was last year, or second to Paul Goldschmidt or third to Jayson Werth, but right up there).

        You’re talking like a spurned fan, not with any business/market sense. Contracts aren’t about “best hitter” they are about concrete production. And there are more than one way to do that.

      • Eric nyc

        Here’s the economic reality everyone has to keep in mind: 1 WAR at market value is worth roughly $5 million/year and that number will only go up (probably substantially) over the next few years. So at an average of $22 mil/year Votto has to put up about 4 WAR. He hadn’t done worse than that since 2008, including injury plagued years. If you wanted Votto’s contract to be a great bargain you’re out of luck. It was never going to be that. It was what was necessary to keep an elite hitter in a Reds uniform. I do t understand continuing to litigate that decision. Let’s talk about what else we can do to re enforce the lineup. Votto’s going to be here for a long time.

      • Eric nyc

        Sorry Charolette, you’re just not correct. Votto was paid based on an estimate of how many WAR he could produce and he’s on pace for that. The hope was (and is with every contract by definition) that he would exceed that. You fail when the guy doesn’t live up to the minimum. We are years away from knowing if Joey does that and I would bet a lot of money he will be just fine.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Votto is paid to provide value to the team. Just because you have a view of what he was, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way he can provide value. I guess you only read the title of the article and not the content. Votto provides value by getting on base. That’s what got Shin Soo Choo paid by Texas, right? His WAR last year was 6.1-6.4, so just a little below.

        You don’t understand how easy it is to produce $20-$25 million in value. That’s 3-4 WAR, not even counting for inflation. Everyone expects older players, whether it’s Votto or Jayson Werth or Prince Fielder to not be worth their contracts in the last years. What they are counting on is that those players earn surplus value earlier in the contract. Votto earned 6.1-6.4 WAR last year. Even with a conservative estimate, that’s $36 million in value on the market. Votto was paid $17 million. So he’s nearly $20 million to the good just from one year.

      • Robby20

        I understand Vottto is the Reds best hitter and there might very well be people in the front office who still think the contract given Votto was money well spent. I would guess there are also those in the front office who now think that contract was a mistake. Votto is not the player in 2014 that he was in 2010 through 2013. Maybe it his injury, and possibly that injury is going to be chronic. I would argue that small market teams can’t afford contracts like those given to Votto because they limit a clubs ability to improve via the free agent market.

        If paying Votto 20 plus million per year prevents the Reds from addressing glaring needs and means watching the likes of Ludwick in left field I’d rather Votto be traded for prospects or players who aren’t yet eligible for free agency.

  23. Chris

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. In fact, I’ve begun to look at Votto as our modern Pete Rose. He’ll walk a bunch, get a ton of base hits, smack some doubles, and be our best overall hitter. But, he won’t be your clean-up guy on the BRM. Love this idea a ton. Make it happen Price!

  24. charlottencredsfan

    Votto has scored 19 runs in 173 PAs, Hamilton 20 in 170. Where is the additional value that warrants putting JV in a spot that is better suited to his value (#2) and removing Hamilton from the one spot that he is valuable? I just don’t get because the math doesn’t support the move.

    I just want to see JV return at full strength

    • Eric nyc

      Runs scored is not runs produced. That is false math. That is bad back of the baseball card thinking.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Didn’t say that. Point is Billy can score runs and JV can produce them. So, we put JV in the worst possible spot to do just that by having him lead-off. Great so he can drive in the pitchers and the #8 hitters? In as pot that Billy exceeds the run scoring efficiency? No team in the NL would do such a thing, in the AL it could make sense but not in the NL.

        Jeez, I see what your getting at so I to will support this wrong-headed decision 100%

      • Steve Mancuso

        If Votto gets on base 42% of the time, that increases the chance that HE will score runs. It’s not all about driving them in.

      • charlottencredsfan

        I don’t know, I’m just too slow. I’m just as slow as every GM in the NL, who would do the same thing as I would: not waste MVP’s skills in the lead-off spot. So I’m in good company, I guess.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Votto doesn’t have the same skills as he had his MVP season. You should read the article. It addresses that. Votto’s skill set has changed. If he was capable of hitting 35+ home runs, it would be wrong to move him to lead off.

        How on one hand can you say Votto isn’t an MVP any more – yet you insist on using him in a role premised on the fact that he is.

        As I explained in the article, you can only afford to do this if Frazier, Mesoraco and Bruce continue to be solid power hitters in the middle of the lineup. That’s why this is a good idea now, but wouldn’t have been before. You really should read the posts instead of just judging based on the title.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Was Shin-Soo Choo a waste in the lead-off spot last year? Is he this year for Texas?

    • jdx19

      You don’t think BIlly can produce a Hamilrun hitting 7th or even 9th? Why not?

      • charlottencredsfan

        Oh God man, I’m not arguing about BHam but rather that JV is wasted in the lead-off spot. He is the prefect #2 hitter and no one that I know of has batted their slowest runner in the lead-off position. That’s it, I’m out of here. Votto will never see the lead-off spot of this line-up anyway, so it is all academic. I’ll keep checking the posts to see if someone can make a better argument.,

    • Steve Mancuso

      Scoring runs is largely a derivative stat based on who hits behind you. Hamilton scores most of his runs because people behind him drive him in. Just like Shin-Soo Choo did last year and just like every other leadoff hitter. Sure, Hamilton also generates a few extra runs from his own skill set. But he could do that in any position in the batting order. Votto, by getting on base more than 10 percent more often than Hamilton, will create more run scoring opportunities. Votto’s current run total is based largely on hitting ahead of Brandon Phillips, who has had a poor RBI year so far.

      • jdx19

        Steve said it better than I. This is what I meant!

  25. Shchi Cossack

    I see 86 wins as the absolute minimum to make the playoffs this season. That means the Reds would need to go 64-48 for the remainder of the 2014 season in order to even have a chance of making the playoffs. The Reds offense is still a disaster. The Reds bullpen is still a disaster. Key players are still not playing. The lineup has too many holes to effectively hide. The team is on a 4 game losing streak and facing the best pitcher in the NL tonight. Every game that passes creates a more challenging task of making the playoffs. I’m sorry, but the Reds 2014 season is toast. Put that fork in the 2014 season. The time is ripe to begin planning for the 2015 season and beyond.

    Ludwick, Heisey and Schumaker are not capable of starting or platooning effectively for a contender. Santiago has no business on the 25-man roster of a contender. Pena is a good utility catcher option and clubhouse presence (great pickup by WJ!). Schumaker provides a good utility OF/2B option as a primary LH pinch hitter. WJ must make a decision between Heisey and Ludwick as a RH utility OF. Pay Ludwick $4.5MM strictly as a RH pinch hitter or eat $4.5MM from Ludwick’s 2015 option and keep Heisey as the primary RH pinch hitter and a good utility OF. The odd man out is gone and the remaining OF becomes strictly a bench option. The hole in LF must be filled or a REAL plan for filling the hole in LF must be formulated and implemented. To that end, Lutz plays every game until he proves that he is the answer in LF for 2015 or he proves that he is not the answer in LF for 2015. My money is on the Big Lutz as at least a marginally effective short-term answer in LF for 2015, but we’ll only know if he plays…a lot!

    Then the issue of Votto must be addressed (ergo the topic of this post). Votto stays on the DL until he is fully recovered from whatever injury is actually troubling him now and Votto has ZERO (-0-) say in his full recovery status, even if that keeps him on the DL the rest of the 2014 season. Personally, the Old Cossack is in favor of batting Votto in the #2 hole for the rest of his career, but that opinion is based on a good OBP (significantly above league average) option hitting in the #1 hole ahead of Votto. The option for the #1 hole could be Hamilton IF and AFTER he proves he can get on base significantly above league average or the option for the #1 hole could be someone to fill one of the lineup holes with an OBP significantly better than league average. If neither of those two options for the #1 hole materializes, then the argument for Votto in the #1 hole becomes compelling.

    Votto has the best on-base skills in the league, can hit for power, can hit to all fields, but does not have the speed typically associated with a leadoff hitter. Votto lacks the speed to sometimes go from 1B to 3B on a single, sometimes score from 2B on a single, sometimes score from 1B on a double, or steal a base. The lack of speed is a given and a known weakness for Votto. Votto is also the best hitter in the Reds lineup on any day and maximizing Votto’s plate appearances is a critical factor for any Reds lineup. The issue is really not whether Votto should lead off or Hamilton should lead off. The more critical factor is Hamilton hitting in front of Votto and maximizing Votto’s plate appearances. The #1 hole is actually guaranteed to lead off only once per game, so the #1 hole being designated as the leadoff hitter is actually a fallacy in nomenclature. The #1 hole tends to actually lead off more frequently only because the #9 hole is typically reserved for the worst hitter in the lineup (the pitcher in the NL), who will frequently make the last out of an inning for many reasons, all related to being the worst hitter in the lineup. So unless Hamilton can prove he is capable of getting on base significantly above league average, Hamilton hits in the #9 hole. Not because he is a poor hitter or the bane of the lineup, but because he would hit directly in front of Votto in the #1 hole and still frequently ‘lead off’ since the worst hitter in the lineup (the pitcher in the NL) would hit in front of Hamilton. The rest of the lineup simply falls in place after Votto:

    1B: Votto
    3B: Frazier
    RF: Bruce
    C : Mesoraco
    LF: Lutz
    2B: Phillips
    SS: Cozart
    P :
    CF Hamilton

    Oh, and for those wishing or hoping to trade Votto, Votto has a FULL no-trade clause in his contract.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I agree with about 95% of what you wrote. Nice comment. My only quibble would be that I think you’re writing off 2014 too soon. IF the Reds can get Votto back in a reasonably healthy condition, IF Mat Latos is ready to come back in the next week or so, IF Jay Bruce can return to his hitting pace from last year, then I think the Reds can put together four months with 16 wins per month, which gets to your 86 win threshold. I know that’s three IFs but each of those is not unlikely.

      The Reds situation looks grim right now, but it’s also not surprising. They are playing essentially without their two best hitters (counting Bruce not being back in form yet) and they have just played the Cardinals and Dodgers – facing a murder’s row of pitching. Without Votto and Bruce, they aren’t as good as those teams.

      But the Reds did beat Washington in a series and Colorado. And they won three of four from Milwaukee. To me, the four games in Arizona will say a lot more about the team than the games against the Dodgers, which no realistic Reds fan should have expected them to win unless Cueto threw a gem (and his defense played capably behind him).

      I don’t think you can judge this Reds team until mid June. We’ll see where Votto, Bruce and Latos are then.

      • Shchi Cossack

        The Old Cossack’s heart will never write off the Reds until they are mathematically eliminated and I will hold on to every one of the ‘IFs’ you identified as the 2014 salvation for the Reds. The Old Cossack’s head often diverges from the Old Cossack’s heart and in this instance it’s a wide divercation, but even that doesn’t really change anything for 2014. The preparations needed for 2015 morror the needs for 2014. The key is Votto’s health and I do not believe Votto should see the lineup again in 2014 until he is healthy and ready to fully contribute, even if that means removal of that ‘IF’. Lutz still has to play and play every day, because neither Heisey nor Ludwick provide the LF aanswer for 2014 or 2015. The only caveat would come into play if a major trade was contemplated, but even that would coincide with your mid-June timeframe so it becomes a non-factor also.

        Oh, thanks for reading and digesting the Old Cossacks lengthy post. I had decided to avoid continuing any contributions of the Hamilton and Votto efficacy arguments since virtually everyone had simply dug in their heals with very rigid viewpoints, but I thought this topic created a real opportunity for additional discussion.

    • Drew

      You can’t be serious? You are hitting Hamilton 9th? Over all of time of baseball outside of the couple times Larussa did it, how many managers have hit their pitcher 8th? As for Lutz, exactly what has he done to deserve playing time and no chance Phillips will except hitting that low. And yes a player excepting it is important because if not you have issues.

      • Michael J Hampton

        As for playing time for Lutz, it’s not so much what has Lutz done as what the other guys haven’t done. Heisey has had 4 or 5 years and multiple chances to produce and stake a claim to left field (or possibly even center field). I liked Heisey when he first came up (I still like Heisey), but unfortunately, it appears he is never going to be productive enough to take over an outfield spot but will be best suited as a fourth outfielder.

        Ludwick is an aging outfielder whose best days, even without the injury, are behind him. He may still have some good moments left and may still provide some value, but he should not be in the Red’s future plans.

        Bernadina………..what is there to say.

        It’s time to see what Lutz can do. Lutz is probably the most promising Reds non-pitching/non-catcher prospect close to being major league ready at this time in their depleted farm system. He can play the outfield or firstbase. According to Price “He’s got power. He’s got speed. He’s got good, youthful aggression, and he brings all the right type of energy we like to the ballpark”.

        Growing up in Germany, he never played baseball until he was 15 and this has delayed his development some. He has a good attitude and work ethic. After his time with the Reds last year, he was injured twice upon returning to the minors and essentially missed most of the remaining season. However, during the offseason, he played in Mexico to work on some things. Playing for Obregon during the offseason in Mexico, he batted .271 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 35 games.

        Again, according to Price, “I think he did a really good thing by going down to Mexico and having to deal with a lot of the offspeed pitches, which were somewhat his nemesis last year,” Price said. “He had to hit 2-0 changeups and breaking balls and understand that even though you get yourself in a good cripple count, you’re not always going to get a fastball in the big leagues. He addressed a weakness. He had some holes and they exposed those holes last year. He’s working to close those up. He’s a good defender. He runs the bases well. He’s a good instinctive player for a guy who started playing baseball at 15.”

        He batted .360 with 6 homers in 23 games at AA before being promoted to AAA (5 Games) and then being called up to the majors, so maybe he has learned some things. It’s time to see. He needs to play to continue his development. He should be playing some 1B while Votto is out and some LF, too. I cannot see any advantage to playing Santiago and Bernadina over him, or at this point even Heisey and Ludwick.

    • Robby20

      Votto can waive that no-trade clause if he wants to and I am guessing if the money is right he’d waive it in a heat beat.

      • eric nyc

        What money? He already has the money guaranteed. The only reason he would waive the no trade clause would be if there was a team he actively wanted to go to who was also actively interested in picking up his contract as is. The odds of that are pretty slim – MAYBE if for some reason Toronto came calling, but they don’t need much help on offense.

  26. Whoa Bundy!

    At this point I just want to see him bat in 2014. I don’t care where in the order.

  27. VaRedsFan

    Just a question….and be honest. If Votto had put his 2013 number up in 2010, what kind of contract do you think he would have been offered? If you say 200 million, you are lying to yourself.

    • eric nyc

      I’m sorry but this is a RIDICULOUS question. You’re asking what kind of contract he would have gotten after a MAJOR injury. Immediately after the contract in the first half of 2012 Votto was putting up the best numbers of his career. You can’t look back on a contract after an injury and say “Should have known better.” Fact of the matter is his contract was based on an average WAR of 4-5 WAR/year and that most likely factored in an injury at some point that would curb production. Just so happened that injury came earlier than we would have liked. Let’s all just agree to regroup and assess in 3-4 years.

      • VaRedsFan

        I was merely looking at the stats he put up. A lot of people said that his 2013 season was hugely successful. I just want to know what kind of contract would have gotten if the 2013 season was the norm. I’m not assessing injuries/war/or the price of tea. Just the 2013 season in a bubble.

      • eric nyc

        I guess I don’t understand the point of the question then. Why would you look at any single season in a “bubble” when talking about a 10-year contract? Why stop at a year? Why not a month? Why not a game? Votto put up 6.4 WAR last year. That’s actually 0.1 more WAR than he put up in 2011, the year before he signed the contract and only 0.5 fewer than his MVP season in 2010. And he did it with a gimpy leg. So you could actually very easily make the argument that Joey was, in fact, a better baseball player in 2013 than he was before he signed the contract. And that shouldn’t be surprising because his first half of 2012 showed us a player entering his prime and taking his game to another level. The injury put a dent in his power numbers, but he was taking his overall hitting game to a whole new level. One he still plays at.

        So I don’t know how to approach your question. Are you asking if a player 2 years older having had 2 knee surgeries would have gotten a 10 year contract worth $225 million? The answer is almost certainly no. Are you asking if Votto the baseball player in 2013 was magically transported back in time 2 years and given a healthy knee would get that contract? He’d probably get more. The fact of the matter is we still haven’t seen Joey healthy since the first half of 2012 when he was playing at an MVP level. We can be cynical and suppose his leg will never be right again in which case there’s nothing we can do about it. Or we can be hopeful that he will recover and regain some of his power. Combine that with the hitting prowess he has continued to develop since signing the contract and he could easily be more valuable than he was in 2010-11.

      • eric nyc

        Now, if you’re asking whether Bob and Walt hand out contracts exclusively for RBI’s and HR’s all I can say is I sure hope not.

  28. I-71_Exile

    I think many of you guys need to let go of the contract. It’s not your money. Get over it. Bob would never have offered it if he couldn’t afford it. I’m happy for Joey and hope that he gets healthy soon and can contribute in any way his body allows. No one questions his work ethic, baseball acumen, or desire. Sheesh. I’m also certain if Bob needs and influx of capital to push the Reds over the top, he can simply open the door to the Reds ownership group. There are plenty of people out there looking for a seat at that table.

  29. Brian

    The Reds paid Joey what they had to, to keep him in Cincy. Drop the money talk. I couldn’t care less about where he bats, I just want the guy in the lineup.

  30. Sparky

    Love the blog, but sometimes people stare at the stats more than the field on here. JV batting #1? must be a slow blog day. LOL!

  31. John Walsh

    Okay… I’m a SABR believer, but now we’re crossing a Rubicon. Joey Votto has to do more than just be a good leadoff hitter. I have no problem with his approach OBP-focused approach. But I’m assuming that in the #2 or #3 spots he has as many chances to drive in runs as score runs. I expect a hitter of that caliber and price tag to have the commensurate versatility.

    I’d like to maximize Votto’s ability to create runs by firstly not getting out, but also by swinging his bat and getting into position to score runs or swinging his bat and driving in runs.

    We already let a great leadoff hitter at a far lower price. Joey must be able to do something more that. I’d like to see him stay hitting in the #2 spot.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Why start the lineup off with a hitter that has no power and an OBP of .300 or less if you can hit Votto there? Now that Frazier and Mesoraco have become legitimate power hitters, you don’t need Votto to drive in the lead-off hitter. He can be the lead off hitter, get the most at bats, still drive in plenty of runs (see stats on #9 spot OBP). If the current lead-off hitter isn’t on base much, Votto’s usefulness in the #2 spot is greatly diminished. I’d agree with you if the Reds still had Shin-Soo Choo to bat leadoff. But moving a 40% plus OBP person to leadoff would be a huge improvement. It’s not like the leadoff guy never has a chance to drive in runs.

    • Steve Mancuso


      Reds #1 position: .223/.275/.313
      Reds #9 position: .173/.191/.254

      Not that different. Compare to Votto:

      Votto 2013: .305/.435/.491

      So, the leadoff hitter gets on base 43% of the time instead of 27%.

  32. preacherj

    This sure is an awful lot of, uh, passion being spent by a group of people who are mostly convinced that lineup construction doesn’t really matter.

    I am of the belief that Joey’s skill set is best used in the #2 spot. If Joey was healthy, I doubt this discussion is happening.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Maybe. What’s changed: The collapse of the lead-off spot (see stats above this comment), the emergence of Frazier and Mesoraco. If Votto is healthy and hitting like he did in 2010, you’re right. You don’t stick a 35 home run guy at #1. But if Votto is healthy and hitting like he did in 2013, which I think is more likely, then you do look at your .435 OBP guy at #2 and your .275 OBP lead off guys and say that’s a waste of Votto. Same reason it was good to move him up to #2 is to move him up to #1. It removes one more weak hitter from the top of the lineup. If Shin Soo Choo is here, Votto stays at #2.

    • jdx19

      We like to hear ourselves talk!

      Even if lineup construction doesn’t matter “a ton,” it still matters.

      Another interesting way to look at Votto in the #2 spot with bad OBP ahead of him is that he’s essentially already leading off 72.5% of the time (albeit with 1 out). Why not make it 100% of the time with 0 outs? Seems a better proposition given the current lineup and Votto’s perceived loss of power.

  33. preacherj

    Having both Choo and Pena on the same roster would be too much man-crush for my wispy heart to endure. I don’t know if I’d be delighted or feel dirty.

  34. jdx19

    Just for fun, I decided to crunch some numbers and get the run expectancy of the first two batters of the game if they were Hamilton-Votto and if they were Votto-Frazier.

    Now, disclaimer: this doesn’t take into account Hamilruns. I don’t know how to mathematically quantify that in actual calculation.

    Anyways, given each players rate stats so far this season (OBP, BB%, 1B%, 2B%, HR%, etc) it’s easy to calculate each of the base-out-run states for each possible base-out-run state that occurs after two players have batter. The best outcome, of course, is bases empty, 0 out, 2 runs; the worst outcome is bases empty, 2 out, 0 runs. There are 11 different combos.

    Without further adieu:

    Run expectancy Hamilton-Votto:0.063, or 1 run produced after their ABs alone once every 16 games. (error: +/- 1.8%)

    Run expectancy Votto-Frazier: 0.1106, or 1 run produced after their ABs alone once every 9 games. (error: +/- 1.5%)

    I understand this is apples to oranges, and a full lineup analysis with many more contingencies would have to be done (such as how much of a drop off Votto’s production would have with the pitcher hitting ahead of him, even if it’s a low drop off) to truly say the numbers agree that Votto-Frazier produces more runs than Hamilton-Votto would, but I figured I’d toss it out here nonetheless.

    • eric nyc

      Well certainly if Hamilton continues to produce at his current level he shouldn’t be anywhere near the leadoff spot. I’m curious what the numbers for Frazier-Votto would be. Just the fact that you’re switching out a much better hitter for Hamilton would skew the equation.

      • jdx19

        Most definitely. But that’s the name of the game: skew the game in your favor whenever you can.

        Also, Votto’s currents numbers are pretty poor compared to his career numbers, so that also skews this Excel-napkin math exercise.

  35. BillOfRights

    I’m going to differ slightly. It IS our money. The team’s money comes from us by way of buying tickets, parking and concessions, jerseys and other gear, watching TV commercials, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, etc. I don’t begrudge JV getting $200M+, @DatDudeBP getting his, or even Homer getting $105M. I think they made the right decision not to give Choo what Texas gave him. My problem is overpaying for Bailey, then not being able to afford Cueto, Latos, Leake, and Chapman. JV’s contract may make sense based on his production up to that point, but I’m trying to understand how we aren’t overpaying if he’s a high OBP hitter w/diminished power and no speed. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right decision at the time, but it also doesn’t mean, based on his recent injury-plagued seasons, that we aren’t overpaying (and may be for some time). I maintain it IS our money. Why does a team complain that they can’t go get the player they need because attendance was down or they need a new TV contract (or luxury suites or a new stadium)?

    Here’s hoping Joey comes back soon and healthy, and Hamilton continues to grow into the leadoff spot. Best of both worlds. Go Reds!

    • charlottencredsfan

      Really, really well said. The false argument that we envy JV because of the money he is paid is the All-time evasion of serious debate. Put your adversary down because he is so consumed with jealous rage over Votto’s contract and this becomes the sole basis of discourse. Hogwash. The fact is Bob C is only going to be able/willing to spend so much money on player’s salaries. So if a player is projected to receive 20% of the overall budget, he has to perform as such. Nothing against Votto but it is a very tall order to be worthy of this percentage. Now if he played for the Yankees it would be more like 10% and much more practical.

      This 20% of the overall salary budget can be spent in a variety of ways by percentage share of the 20%. We have a inherent allocation of resources issue. Every time I hear bellyaching, “Why won’t/didn’t WJ do something to fortify the team”, this is the very first thing I think of. Walt has to live within a budget but his budget is drained so he has to make due with the resources he has left. Do we know for sure that it was Walt’s idea to sign JV, BP and HB to these long-term contracts or could it be Bob C wanted to reward the fans by signing these poorly written contracts? Some say, well he will just raise the budget by another $50M. I wouldn’t bet on this, I would guess he is telling Walt to figure out how to spend the funds in a more productive manner. I would be shocked if we don’t see a major shakeup over the next couple of years to remedy this situation and rebuild this team with a focus on spreading the budget out so as not to bet the farm on just a couple of players. It is also the right thing to do, very much like the A’s and Rays but with a much larger budget.

      • Robby20

        That’s the point from my perspective.The Reds need to rethink their approach on how they spend money. Giving a 10 year contract to anyone just doesn’t make sense.They had to do so to keep Votto. I get that. But did they really need to keep Votto past his contract he was in when they extended him for 10 years? The Reds need to work on developing a deep and productive farm system. Too much money tied up in too few players is a problem.

      • eric nyc

        The Reds payroll will be in the top 10 of MLB next year. We’re not as small market as you might think. Reds TV area is fairly substantial and has consistently top ratings. We were conditioned to think we were a “small market” team for a long time, but we currently have the highest payroll in the division, though the Cubs will surely top that in the next few years.

        Votto’s contract hasn’t stopped us from doing anything yet. You could argue that it stopped us from re-signing Choo, but Votto is much better than Choo. You could argue it stopped us from going out and buying a LF, but who has been out there in recent years to buy? Fact of the matter is, any very good to elite hitter is going to cost a mint on the open market. We spent that money on Votto – who happens to be one of the best hitters in the game. And he will continue to be for a number of years. Sure, the back end of the deal will not look so good, but that’s just how you have to do business anymore. Great players get contracts with bad back ends. Even Homer, who is a fairly marginal top pitcher, commanded a couple bad years at the end of his deal. Imagine what Cueto’s contract is going to look like for whoever signs him for 7-8 years – you think he’s going to be competing for CY’s at 36? But that’s what it’s going to take. Your only other option is to play straight Moneyball and hope you hit it big in the draft year after year. And that sounds fine and good, but how many WS’s has it produced recently?

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