Joey Votto is enjoying about the best possible rebound season he could have expected after suffering through a lost 2014 campaign. But is the Reds first basemanÃ‚Â worthy of being an All-Star in whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s become a stacked position in the National League?
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dive into the numbers by examining how VottoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2014 and 2015 numbers compare with his career averages and career-best statistics in eight categories: walk rate (BB%), strikeout rate (K%), isolated power (ISO), batting average on balls in play (BABIP), weighted on-base percentage (wOBA), weighted runs created plus (wRC+), hard-hit percentage (Hard%), and Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs WAR). (I excluded 2007 because Votto only recorded 89 plate appearances).
Note: All 2015 numbers in this piece are through WednesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s games.
|wOBA||.359||.405||.407||.438 (2010 & 2012)|
The only real Ã¢â‚¬Å“setbacksÃ¢â‚¬Â Votto has encountered in 2015 in relation to 2014 are his walk and strikeout rates, which have inched back to his career norms as the thunder — evidenced by leaps in ISO and Hard% — has returned to VottoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lumber. Despite those strong numbers, the part-time MountieÃ‚Â may not make the NL All-Star team.
How is that possible?
Well, as I mentioned in the introduction, first base is a loaded position in the NL. Unquestionably, the top first basemen in the NL right now is Paul Goldschmidt. The 27-year-old Diamondback paces the majors — regardless of position — in on-base percentage, ranks second in wRC+ and WAR, third in walk rate, and fifth in ISO. When one factors in his traditional numbers, Goldy is chasing the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Goldschmidt is also far and away the leading All-Star vote-getter among NL first basemen, per the latest NL All-Star ballot update that was released Tuesday. Votto still hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cracked the top five among NL first basemen, but he does fare well among the position group in terms of wRC+ and WAR. (NL rank among first basemen is noted in parentheses.)
|Paul Goldschmidt||Diamondbacks||3,562,399||206 (1)||4.1 (1)|
|Adrian Gonzalez||Dodgers||2,699,729||151 (4)||2.1 (4-tied)|
|Matt Adams||Cardinals||1,725,108||79 (N/A)||0.0 (N/A)|
|Anthony Rizzo||Cubs||1,646,781||168 (2)||2.7 (2)|
|Brandon Belt||Giants||1,557,407||133 (7)||1.8 (7)|
Note: Adams underwent surgery for a quad tear in late May and is likely out for the year.
|Joey Votto||Reds||N/A||158 (3)||2.5 (3)|
How loaded is the position? Six NL first basemen — Goldschmidt, Rizzo, Votto, Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman, and Lucas Duda — rank among the top 11 NL hitters in wRC+.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s go back through the last fiveÃ‚Â years and see if we can figure out how many NL first basemen are likely to be chosen for the All-Star Game in 2015…
At last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s All-Star break, seven NL first basemen — IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not counting Todd Frazier even though FanGraphs does since Frazier only started at first seven times prior to last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ASG — ranked among the top 20 NLers in wRC+. Goldschmidt wound up the NLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s starter at first base in 2014, with his backups being Freeman and Rizzo.
2013: Six first basemen in the NL wRC+ top 20. Votto started and was backed up by Goldschmidt, Freeman, and Allen Craig.
2012: Two first basemen in the NL wRC+ top 20. Votto started. Bryan LaHair (!!!) also made the team.
2011: Six first basemenÃ‚Â in the NL wRC+ top 20. Prince Fielder was the first choice and was backed up by Votto and Gaby Sanchez.
2010: Six first basemenÃ‚Â in the NL wRC+ top 20. Albert Pujols started, and the reserves were Votto and Gonzalez.
In three of the past five years, three first baseman were NL All-Stars. One year there were four; another year there were just two. So, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good bet at least three first basemen will make it in 2015, and four is a real possibility.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a reminder on the voting procedures regarding position players: the fans choose the starters; the players, coaches, and managers vote on a single backup; and the All-Star manager (and his staff) round out the remaining roster. There is also an internet vote-off to determine the last player on each leagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s roster.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to envisionÃ‚Â Goldschmidt being surpassed in the fan vote, and in any case, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the NL first baseman most deserving of All-Star recognition to this point. Barring a catastrophic slump or injury, Goldy is a lock. The remaining three spots will likely come down to Votto, Rizzo, and Gonzalez. If Votto can continue to stay hot — heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slashing .345/.441/.724 with a wRC+ of 211 in June — and establishÃ‚Â himself as the NLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second or third-best first basemen statistically, it will becomeÃ‚Â unsuitableÃ‚Â for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to leave VottoÃ‚Â off the roster.
What can we gather from all of this? Again, as I noted in the intro, Votto has compiled a superb season, even by his standards. Presently, his numbers are certainly worthy of being on the All-Star team, and if the Mid-Summer Classic was held tomorrow, it would be shocking to seeÃ‚Â VottoÃ‚Â off of the NL roster.
But given the depth of the position and the lacklusterÃ‚Â seasonÃ‚Â currently taking place within the confinesÃ‚Â of Great American Ball Park, Reds fans should prepare themselves for the unlikely scenario in which Votto fails to make the team. That scenario should only matter so much; after all, witnessing Votto return to form should be good enough for Reds fans.