Joey Votto climbed up another rung on the ladder of the greatest home run hitters in baseball history last night. He is now well within the top 400 and is tied with a Hall of Famer, an active player and a guy I have never heard of until today. The Hall of Famer was former Yankee’s great Tony Lazzeri. The active player is Justin Upton. The unknown (to me) player was Harlond Clift of the St. Louis Browns. You can learn more about those players below.

Votto’s blast on Tuesday night was his 15th of the season and 178th of his career. The victim was Max Scherzer, who has been the best pitcher in baseball so far this season. It was the first time that Votto has ever taken Scherzer deep, which is not surprising considering this is Scherzer’s first season in the National League after winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2013. Votto had faced Scherzer in only one prior game and went 1 for 3. It was Votto’s 12th career home run against the Nationals. The ball flew only 358 feet to right field, but that was more than enough in Nationals Park, which is not an easy place to hit home runs. It was Joey’s shortest home run of the season. The ball speed off the bat was 97.1 mph and 80 feet off the ground was the highest it reached. For comparison’s sake, Votto’s fastest ball speed off the bat on a home run this year was 110.2 mph on a 425 foot home run that got only 64 feet off the ground at Miller Park. That was Votto’s fastest, longest and lowest homer of the season. Talk about a screaming line drive! The highest height one of his homers has reached this year was 124 feet in the air. You can watch last night’s home run off Scherzer HERE:

Joey Votto Homer off Scherzer

Since my last update a month ago Joey had hit only one home run . It came on June 13th against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs and put him all alone in 388th place with 177 home runs It was the first time he had homered off the Cubs right-hander. That ball traveled 383 feet over the left field wall at Wrigley Field in Chicago. You can watch the home run HERE.

I enjoy seeing how the best players of today compare to the great players of years gone by. So I will keep you updated on Votto’s progress up the home run ladder. Who knows what sort of interesting stories and facts we will uncover as the Reds’ best all-around hitter of our generation climbs the charts? Adam Dunn hit a lot more home runs and had a very good on-base percentage to go with his stellar slugging, but I think we can all agree that Joey Votto is the most complete hitter the Reds have had since the Big Red Machine days, Barry Larkin and Eric Davis notwithstanding. To learn more about Votto’s previous home runs and the players he passed refer to my last update of the Joey Votto Home Run Tracker.

In that update I wrote about two active players whom Votto had passed this season but have since passed him back. Justin Upton moved briefly ahead of Votto but Joey caught him again last night. Giancarlo Stanton also moved ahead of Votto and is sitting on 181 career homers, but Stanton is now out for six weeks with a broken bone in his wrist. That should give Votto enough time to catch back up to Stanton and open up a bit of a lead before the 25 year old super slugger can return and blow past the 31 year old Votto permanently.

At the time of the last update, Votto was only one homer behind Brandon Phillips. That is still the case. DatDudeBP has hit a couple longballs since then and remains one rung above Votto on the ladder. Brandon better get busy if he wants to stay ahead of Joey.

The Players Votto Passed — Bios and Minutiae

Tony LazzeriTony Lazzeri — He was the second baseman for the famous Murderers’ Row Yankee teams of the 1920’s and 30’s. He played alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and was part of the 1927 Yankees squad that is often compared to the 1976 Reds as the greatest teams in baseball history. Lazzeri played for the Yankees from 1926 to 1937, then played his last three seasons with the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. The most home runs he ever hit in a single season was 18, but he did that four times. He placed in the top 15 of the MVP voting five times, peaking at #3 in 1928. He only made one All Star team, mostly because his best seasons came early in his career before the first All Star game was held in 1933. Lazzeri was the first player ever to hit two grand slams in one game, which he did late in his career in 1936. He is also one of only 14 players ever to hit for the “natural cycle”, which means to hit for the cycle in order: single, then double, then triple, then home run. He is the only player to complete a natural cycle with a grand slam. Lazzeri was expelled from school when he was 15, then he worked as a boilermaker and become a semi-pro boxer before being signed to play minor league baseball in 1922. In 1925 he played for the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League and hit .355 with 60 home runs and 222 RBI, which is the most RBI in professional baseball history. Not bad for a guy who weighed 170 pounds. After that season he was offered to the Cubs and Reds (!), but both teams passed due to Lazzeri’s epilepsy, then the Yankees snapped him up.

In 1927, Lazzeri finished 3rd in the AL in home runs behind his teammates Ruth and Gehrig. He set an AL record for RBI in a game with 11 in 1936, the same year he hit the second grand slam in World Series history. He still holds the major league record for RBI in consecutive games with 15. He set major league records by hitting 6 home runs over three consecutive games (broken in 2002 by Shawn Green) and seven homers in four consecutive games (broken by Ralph Kiner in 1947). After his major league career ended in 1939 he played several more seasons in the minor leagues. He died young, at the age of 42 from a fall that was caused by either a heart attack or an epileptic seizure. Lazzeri was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1991.

Harlond CliftHarlond Clift — A third baseman for the Browns from 1934 to 1943, then played a couple years with the Senators in the war years. Clift maxed out at 34 home runs and 118 RBI in 1938. He finished 18th in the MVP balloting that year, which seems criminal but when you consider that his team was absolutely awful it makes more sense. The Browns went 55-97 that year. He scored a whopping 145 runs in 1936. In those days third basemen were highly valued for their fielding, much like shortstops are today. It was rare to see a third baseman who was also an excellent hitter. Clift could certainly hit but he was also a great fielder, setting major league records for double plays and assists in 1937 that held up for 35 years. His career was cut short by a bad case of the mumps and a horse-riding injury. Clift only made one All Star team. From 1936 to 1938 he was one of the most elite players in the majors, but some poor seasons late in his career put a big dent in his career averages. He ended up with a good-but-not-great career OPS+ of 116. He walked a lot more than he struck out during his career, but that was not all that uncommon back in those days of wacky pitching mechanics and 80 mph fastballs. In his rookie year of 1934 he actually led the league with 100 strikeouts. Coincidentally, Tony Lazzeri (above) led the league in strikeouts his rookie year as well, with 96 in 1926. Lazzeri also walked slightly more than he struck out in his career.

Votto’s Victims:

With his 15 home runs this season, Joey Votto has climbed from 435th place to 385th place on the all-time list. He has passed 55 players, including 4 Hall of Famers and 5 former Reds:

178 Tony Lazzeri — Hall of Fame
178 Harlond Clift

177 <None>

176 Ron Kittle
176 Don Money
176 Justin Upton (Active player)

175 Hideki Matsui

174 Bill Buckner
174 Ian Kinsler (Active Player)

173 Nate Colbert
173 Walker Cooper (Reds 1949-50)
173 Julio Franco
173 Mark Grace
173 Giancarlo Stanton (Active player)

172 Eddie Robinson
172 Mickey Vernon

171 Richard Hidalgo
171 Melvin Mora
171 Dmitri Young (Reds 1998-2001)

170 Joe Cronin — Hall of Fame
170 Bob Elliott
170 Jim Ray Hart
170 Kevin Millar
170 Tim Raines

169 Ramon Hernandez (Reds 2009-11)
169 Lloyd Moseby
169 Pete O’Brien
169 Enos Slaughter — Hall of Fame
169 Ty Wigginton

168 Jose Hernandez

167 Casey Blake
167 J.J. Hardy (Active player)
167 Elston Howard
167 Charles Johnson
167 Gus Triandos

166 Tony Conigliaro
166 Larry Hisle
166 Dwayne Murphy
166 Alex Rios (Active player)
166 Bill Robinson
166 Paul Sorrento

165 Jose Cruz
165 Jacque Jones

164 Hank Bauer
164 Chick Hafey — Hall of Fame (Reds 1932-37)
164 Jim Lemon
164 Andy Seminick (Reds 1952-55)
164 Al Smith
164 Andy Van Slyke
164 Claudell Washington

163 Don Demeter
163 Damion Easley
163 Ken Keltner
163 Bill Madlock
163 Roy Smalley

NOTE: active players are listed where they were when Votto passed them, not where they are now.

Previous articles in this series:

Updating Joey Votto’s Progress up the Home Run Ladder — HRs 171-176
Tracking Joey Votto on the All-Time Home Run List — Home Run #170

28 Responses

  1. Tom Reed

    It’s too bad that Harlond Clift missed playing in the all St. Louis Browns/Cardinals world series of 1944. Tony Lazzeri also played on the Yankees with their all-time winning pitcher, Waite Hoyt.

  2. tct

    Joey Votto currently has the 22nd highest wRC+ of all time. The 3 guys ahead of him are Mays, Thomas, Greenberg and the 3 behind him are Cabrera, Aaron, Robinson.

    And yet the idiots in our fan base continue to bash him. It’s frustrating because he deserves better, and I really can’t figure out what the problem is. The stuff about not hitting with runners in scoring position is so stupid. Votto for his career is hitting .330 with runners in scoring position which is the 8th best mark in the last 25 years.

    • Steve Mancuso

      We should post this in our banner.

      (And part of the reason fans feel that way is they are taking a cue from a couple of the the team’s announcers.)

      • tct

        There was a point in the game last night where Cueto went into his turn and did a little shimmy before hanging a breaking ball right in the middle of the plate vs Desmond. Now, Desmond didn’t swing, and ended up striking out. But it was one of the worst pitches Johnny threw last night and could have been hammered.

        Now, I’m not criticizing Cueto for that. He deserved to have some fun. But can you imagine if Votto had done something like this, a little showing off right before a swing and miss or a weak ground out. He would have been relentlessly criticized.

        The guy can do nothing right with a large portion of the fan base, and it’s just sad that he’s not appreciated.

    • User1022

      (First, disclaimer:
      I am not a Votto basher. I love the guy. I feel very lucky to have him on our team. But realistically, I know he is already past his peak, although his peak was right up there with some of the very best. He is a great player, and I loved it this season when he was finally utilized correctly.)

      Now then….

      I think a problem a lot of Votto “bashers” would have with that is wRC+ it is a only one stat. Granted, it is probably the best (known) stat for guaging offensive production, but at the same time, you could look at other stats that don’t paint Votto in such an other-worldly light.

      For example, how is Votto’s WAR compared to other players, all time? He’s tied for 343rd on the list with 38.7 WAR. He may have a chance of cracking the top 100 (which is currently 63.3 WAR, held by the “other” Billy Hamilton) when it’s all said and done. I would wager he’ll probably sit right around 40 WAR at the end of this season, meaning he’d need 23.3 more WAR in his career to catch Runnin’ Billy. Votto is 31 years old. WAR aging curves tend to start dropping pretty steeply around age 33 or 34. His defense is already suffering. It may very well be that in 5 years, Votto will be a putting up somewhere between 1-2 WAR each season. Of course, I could be blown away and he keeps knocking out 5-6 WAR seasons for the next 5 years, but I don’t think anyone can say they expect that.

      You can focus on one stat which makes Votto look god-like (wRC+) and I can pull out a stat that shows that, up to a certain point, he’s has been phenomenal but in the grand scheme of things will probably wind up with a career most people would call “pretty good, but not legendary”.

      The thing I find about truly “legendary” players is, no matter which stat you choose to look at, their careers hold up.

      • Steve Mancuso

        That’s a fair comment. But the reason Votto’s WAR is limited is because of defense. WAR is really one of the few major stats in which Votto isn’t tremendous.

        His batting IS other-worldly. Votto’s career numbers .308/.415/.529 are astronomical. His career batting average is higher than Joe Morgan’s and top ten all-time for the Reds. His career OBP is higher than Pete Rose’s and tied with Morgan for the best ever for the Reds. His career slugging is higher than Johnny Bench or Tony Perez – behind only Frank Robinson, second all-time for the Reds.

        Joey Votto has the highest career OPS (on base plus slugging) of any Reds player, ever.

        Based on what he has done so far – by multiple stats – Joey Votto should be considered a legendary hitter.

      • User1022

        I get that, and I think I knew most of those factoids, but here’s what I think is the larger issue:

        Joey Votto, triple slashline aside, is truly the posterboy of the modern or advanced metrics.

        The “idiots” in the Reds’ fanbase look at Votto and they don’t quite comprehend what they are seeing, becuase they are looking for the wrong things. (“He isn’t paid to walk!”) I get this too, because I wanted Votto to be a middle-of-the-order slugger. It took me awhile to accept and understand the way his skillset profiles.

        Stats are numbers, and numbers don’t lie, but when it comes to the “idiots” and their “Votto bashing”, it’s all about perception and perspective. Joey Votto is a 1st baseman. People expect and want their firstbasemen to be mashers and RBI machines in addition to OBP machines.

        One last thing to consider about his rate stats: I am willing to bet that when his career is finished, they will be quite a bit lower than they are now. You are comparing rate stats that have been compiled thus far by a 31 year old Joey Votto with rate stats that others compiled after having played through their decline years. Votto has not done that yet. He is going (and already has begun) to slow down, and his stats are going to come down with him.

        And again, don’t get me wrong. I like to think I appreciate what we have with Votto, and I love reveling in his super-human feats, which our numbers can quantify for us. But like I said earlier, it’s all about perception and perspective.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I agree with all of that. Maybe not that his career stats will be quite a bit lower, lower for sure. He has a chance to add a couple more highly productive seasons.

      • tct

        Interesting points, but here’s the problem; Votto is really good at traditional stats too. He’s a career .308 hitter and has hit over .320 three times. He has hit at least 24 homers in every full, healthy season he has played, and is on pace for close to 30 this year. And he has knocked in 100 + runs twice, and put up at least 84 RBI four times in his 5 complete seasons.

        I think the bigger problem is that most of the people who hate on Votto don’t follow baseball outside of Cincinnati, and so they don’t realise how much offense has declined. They are still expecting Votto to put up.steroid era numbers.

        But where the whole “the fans expect the first baseman to be a big run producing slugger” argument breaks down is with Sean Casey. He was never a slugger, only hitting more than 24 homers twice and never more than 25. And he never knocked in 100 runs, although he did get to 99 twice. And yet, he was, and still is, wildly popular with the fan base.

      • jdx19

        Excellent points by all in this discussion.

        Even more nuanced, though, is the fact that WAR uses the “positional adjustment” concept, so even the defensive component of WAR can be misleading when trying to evaulate the “skill” vs “contiribution” of a player.

        For example, FG’s current posiitonal adjustment is -12.5 runs above average for a first baseman.

        That is to say even if Votto (or any 1B man) was nominally 10 runs better than average at defense at 1B, he’d be given credit for -2.5 runs above average. This is because there are a lot of good hitting first baseman available in the market and because almost any player with proper glove and little practice can become a decent defensive 1Bman.

        So, even if a 1Bman was actually helping his team by preventing runs on defense, odds are he’ll get a negative defensive adjustment in WAR, which is sort of the problem with using WAR to just a player’s skills over a career. Votto gets penalized because baseball has developed in a way that good hitters happen to play 1B more often than any other position.

        If Votto were an average LFer (not a huge stretch), he’d have about 4 wins more credited to him over the course of his career so far, even if he didn’t particularly help the team any more on defense than if he were at 1st. I think this gets lost a lot when folks are comparting WAR.

      • tct

        What?

        Of course he’s not among the all time leaders in WAR. This is just his 8th season. You’re talking about comparing him to guys who had 20 year careers.

        Votto came in the league in 2008. Since then, Fangraphs has him at 37 WAR. Only 3 players have more over that period; Cabrera, Longoria, and Pedroria.

        If he gets 20 more WAR ,he will pass Tony Perez. If he gets 30 more, he will pass Larkin.

        But the point isn’t what Votto will do in the future. I could easily see him getting 60-70 WAR which would make him have a good case for the hall of fame. I could also see injuries and age cutting his production and leaving him in the 40-50 win range. The point is what he has done so far, which is be at the very least one of the top 10 players in baseball since he came in the league.

        So why don’t the fans appreciate that? He’s been far superior to Johnny Cueto, who came into the league at the same time. Yet many fans worship Cueto and hate Votto.

      • User1022

        In my post above you, like I said, it’s about perception and perspective.

        Cueto has flair, seems pretty outgoing and every time he pitches, his mug is plastered across our TV screens front and center for much of the night.

        Votto, on the other hand, is quiet and reserved and some nights you may even forget he played.

        Fans are people. Players are people too. Votto may do more for the team than Cueto, statistically, but Cueto is pretty darn good too and may be easier for people to relate to. (And it also helps it’s much easier for a casual fan to quantify what Cueto brings to the team than Votto. A strikeout! A double play! A win! 7 innings pitched! Votto.. Oh, I.. I, uh.. Guess he walked a few times?)

        It’s like politics: (most) People don’t vote for who they think will do the best job. They vote for who they like.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I think two other factors play a role beside the ones you mention. Votto has signed a $200 million-plus contract. Big money deals change the way many fans look at players, for some reason. Second is the Brennamen factor. I don’t think you can underestimate the way father and son have generated misunderstanding and misperception, both through their tone and substance. Can’t believe the Reds organization allows their broadcasters to spread such vitriol about their best player.

      • WVRedlegs

        It is past time for the Reds to place the captain’s “C” on Votto’s jersey. He has shown a little more team leadership this season. That would be one petition I would sign. He might not be on the NL all-star team this year, but he is always an all-star with me. I believe he would honor the honor it would be to be named the team’s captain.

      • ohiojimw

        Correctly or incorrectly for any individual player, most guys who end up generally recognized by “most people” as “legendary” played on teams which won championship(s) while that player was forefront in the team’s efforts.

      • jdx19

        That’s a good point. Or, they were at least perennially in the playoffs showing off on the game’s biggest stage.

        If this rebuilding doens’t work, I fear Votto will retire without a playoff win to his credit and that will keep him under the radar for any future HOF consideration.

      • ohiojimw

        Sort of how Ernie Banks is legendary to probably more people for the saying “let’s play 2” than for what he did to get folks attention in the first place.

  3. cfd3000

    Strangely compelling Nick. Thank you! I find it fascinating that in all the history of Major League Baseball not one player has ever ended his career with exactly 177 home runs. How many other totals between 0 and, say, 250 are equally unequalled?

    • Nick Doran

      Interesting question. There are no players currently at 216, 225 or 243 career home runs. Those are the only vacant numbers between Votto’s current total of 178 and 250. Once you get up above 250 there are lots of vacant numbers. For example, there are no players at 257-259 on the list. Only 212 players have hit 250 or more home runs. More than 18,000 players have played major league baseball.

  4. IndyRedMan

    I love Joey Votto! He’s def a different kind of guy…..very cerebral at the plate. At the same time… for $20 mil a year I don’t want him trying to inside/out a single to left on a 3-1 pitch. Lets be honest….guys like Cabrera or Stanton play in huge parks. If they played in GABP they’d hit 50 in an off year. That’s not Joey’s fault….he only signed the contract they put in front of him. Joey and Frazier hit a lot of opposite field HRs and that’s the way to maximize your offense in GABP. We need more Mike Piazza type guys like that and pass on the strict pull hitters like Jay Bruce

    • tct

      Votto is a career .318/.421/.528 hitter on the road. He is not a product of GABP. He’s got more homers at home, but his average is 20 points higher on the road. I think GABP hurts him more than it helps because it takes away singles and doubles.

    • Nick Doran

      The Reds’ worst hitters (Hamilton, Pena, Byrd and Phillips) hit the ball to the opposite field a lot more than their best hitters do (Frazier, Votto, Bruce and Cozart). Frazier has the lowest opposite field percentage on the team, Hamilton has the highest.

    • jdx19

      If you watch Stanton’s games, he doesn’t really hit balls the warning track (GABP homers) very often. For guys like Stanton, it doesn’t matter what park he plays in. He’d get a similar amount of homers. Like, last year he hit 37… a full season in GABP maybe he hits 40-42? The difference wouldn’t be as stark as you suggest, IMO.

      Guys like Votto are helped by GABP because of the amount of homers they hit in the 370-390 ft category.

      • IndyRedMan

        That’s true with Stanton….that guy is built like an NFL tight end. Now Cabrera hits to all fields and Detroit is a huge park. He’d have atleast 10 more HRs per year in GABP imo. Comparing anyone to Cabrera is wrong though…..Votto or anyone else

  5. old-school

    Joey Votto is a legendary Red simply for being an MVP and the best player during a pretty good Reds era…2010-2013. He is still really good, but not MVP good….more 20-30 best players. Hoepfully he can stay healthy and maintain that top 20-30 status as player. Maybe the Reds can package the BP contract with one of the trading pieces. Saurez looks like a middle infielder who can hit.

    • Nick Carrington

      I really like your idea of trading Phillips. Not because I dislike Phillips. Love watching him play. But overall, we can probably get the same level of production with someone else for less money.

      Before Cozart’s injury, I thought the Reds could trade either Cozart or Phillips and have Suarez take the open spot. Now, I guess they could put DeJesus at second if they can get some value for Phillips. But I’m not sure how much you can get for BP on his own, so your idea to package him with others would have to work.

  6. jdx19

    Here’s my favorite Votto stat:

    ALL-TIME (1909-2015) BABIP LEADERS (Min 4000 PAs)
    1) Ty Cobb .378
    2) Rogers Hornsby .365
    3) Rod Carew .359
    4) Joey Votto .352

    After all the talk about BABIP this season, everyone around here knows its downfalls in a short sample size. However, in a large sample size (saaaay 4000 PAs) it really shows a lot. Skill at hitting line drives, avoiding pop ups, hitting the ball hard, squaring it up, not swining at pitchers pitchers, etc.

    Really, regardless of what anyone says, I feel this really shows Votto is a legendary-level hitter. I’ve never seen a logical argument to the contrary and never will because one does not exist.