You already know that Joey Votto has been on fire since the All Star Break. This is not just any old hot streak however. Votto has been playing at an historically great level in the 49 games he has played in the second half of the season. Let’s compare his stats to the best hitters in baseball to see how he stacks up.
Starting with batting average:
Votto does more than walk, although some people won’t admit it. Votto’s second half batting average is nearly .400 and is 26 points higher than the 2nd-best player over the same period. That is dominance. He has been hitting the ball sharply with regularity.
Look at that On-base Percentage:
|5||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||0.429|
|9||Adam Eaton||White Sox||0.416|
|10||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||0.411|
Oh my goodness. A .575 OBP over a third of a season? Unheard of. Votto has a 101 point lead over likely MVP Bryce Harper, who is having an epic season of his own. Former Red Shin-Soo Choo is doing his normal thing with an excellent .437 OBP and another former Red Edwin Encarnacion is right there with him, but that pales in comparison to Votto. A player normally gets 5 plate appearances per game. If Votto doesn’t reach base three of those five times his OBP is going to go down. Wow. Reds fans have been spoiled by Votto’s talent for creating RBI opportunities for other batters. Votto keeps the train rolling by rarely making an out. Votto’s monsterÃ‚Â batting average plus his high walk rate combine to create an incredible on-base machine. As we saw last week, Votto has the highest career OBP of any active baseball player as well as the highest career OBP in Cincinnati Reds history.
Perhaps his slugging percentage proves he is a mere mortal:
|2||David Ortiz||Red Sox||0.721|
|4||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||0.709|
|5||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||0.699|
Rockies’ slugger Carlos Gonzalez has hit an amazing 23 home runs since the All Star Game, so it is no wonder that he leads in slugging percentage with a score that is nearly twice the league average. Votto’s SLG is fantastic, but not quite the best in baseball. Likely AL MVP Josh Donaldson is behind Votto, and there is Edwin “the one that got away” Encarnacion again. Remember that SLG equals total bases divided by at-bats, so it doesn’t include walks. You can’t walk your way to a high slugging percentage. To get a high SLG you have to crush the baseball, and Votto has been doing just that.
Let’s check out OPS:
|2||David Ortiz||Red Sox||1.127|
|3||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1.127|
|4||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||1.120|
This is just insane. Votto is blowing away the best hitters in baseball. Only two players have ever put up a season OPS higher than 1.293 — Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. Votto has a 166 point lead over the second place hitter in this all-important metric. He has a 553 point lead over the league average hitter. Amazing.
Here is Weighted Runs Created Plus:
|2||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||201|
|3||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||198|
|4||David Ortiz||Red Sox||194|
The premier performance metric (and Joey Votto’s personal favorite stat) is wRC+. It measures all aspects of a hitter’s prowess and adjusts for ballpark, league and season. Once again Votto’s light shines brightest. Ã‚Â He has been well over twice as valuable as a league average hitter, and about fourÃ‚Â times as valuable as a replacement-level batter. Once again only Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds have played at this level for a full season. Ted Williams came close a couple times. Joey Votto’s last 49 games have been played at a level matched only by the greatest superheroes the game has ever seen. That is how good Votto has been the last two months. Epic. What are the chances we will ever again see a Red play soÃ‚Â well for soÃ‚Â long?
We know it is good to hit the ball hard:
|2||David Ortiz||Red Sox||11.7%||38.7%||49.6%|
|5||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||13.3%||40.6%||46.1%|
These players hit the ball hard most often. Hitting the ball hard leads to more hits and better hits (of the extra-base variety). Votto is not quite the best but is comfortably in the top 10 here. He hits the ball softly less often than the rest.
You don’t want to hit the ball weakly:
Votto rarely hits the ball softly. If he hits the ball he stings it. Notice that Votto and Bryce Harper are the only two players in the top 10 of both the Soft and Hard hit rates. It is no surprise they have been the best hitters in the National League this season. It goes to show that batters should not go to the plate trying to make contact. They need to go to the plate trying to hit the ball hard or not at all. Making soft contact leads to boatloads of outs (a la Billy Hamilton).
Wins Above Replacement:
|2||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||3.7|
|3||Yoenis Cespedes||– – –||3.3|
WAR is the stat that combines all aspects of a player’s value into one number. It accounts for batting, baserunning, fielding and pitching. Votto has been 6 times as valuableÃ‚Â as an average major league player. Donaldson and Harper are the likely MVP winners in each league this year. Votto will garner consideration for the MVP awardÃ‚Â but since the Reds are awful he doesn’t have much chance to win. That doesn’t take away from the fact that we are watching one of the best seasons a Reds player has ever had, which is really saying something considering all the great batters the Reds have had down through the decades.
How often does he swing at pitches outside the strike zone?:
|6||Delino Deshields Jr.||Rangers||21.4%|
|7||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||21.7%|
Remember when Marty and others whined that Joey needed to expand the strike zone and swing at more pitches? Did Votto take that advice? Heck no. He is swinging at fewer pitches than ever and the results have been fantastic. Votto is a hunter. He hunts good pitches to hit and he crushes them. He picks the best pitches to hit and ignores the rest. He doesn’t swing at the ones the pitcher wants him to swing at. Don’t argue with Joey’s approach. He knows what he is doing. This season Votto has swung at fewer pitches outside the zone and fewer pitches inside the zone than any other year of his career. He did the exact opposite of what Marty and his detractors wanted him to do. He is having perhaps the best season of his career at an age when his physical talents are startingÃ‚Â to wane.
There is no question the Reds stink this year. They have no chance of winning anything except the first pick in next year’s draft. But that doesn’t mean this team isn’t worth watching. Joey Votto is worth the price of admission all by himself. If you are watching the game on TV, stop what you are doing when Votto comes to the plate. You may never get another chance to watch a batter at a higher peak of performance than what we are seeing on a daily basis from Joey Votto right now.
All stats from FanGraphs.