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:

Name Team AVG
1 Joey Votto Reds 0.397
2 Michael Brantley Indians 0.371
3 David Peralta Diamondbacks 0.368
4 Ian Kinsler Tigers 0.365
5 Asdrubal Cabrera Rays 0.364
6 Buster Posey Giants 0.358
7 Odubel Herrera Phillies 0.350
8 Francisco Lindor Indians 0.349
9 A.J. Pollock Diamondbacks 0.348
10 Eric Hosmer Royals 0.346
MLB AVG 0.260

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:

Name Team OBP
1 Joey Votto Reds 0.575
2 Bryce Harper Nationals 0.474
3 Michael Brantley Indians 0.438
4 Shin-Soo Choo Rangers 0.437
5 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 0.429
6 Dexter Fowler Cubs 0.426
7 Andrew McCutchen Pirates 0.425
8 Asdrubal Cabrera Rays 0.419
9 Adam Eaton White Sox 0.416
10 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 0.411
MLB AVG 0.321

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 monster 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:

Name Team SLG
1 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies 0.753
2 David Ortiz Red Sox 0.721
3 Joey Votto Reds 0.718
4 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 0.709
5 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 0.699
6 Chris Davis Orioles 0.680
7 Nelson Cruz Mariners 0.663
8 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 0.652
9 Yoenis Cespedes Tigers/Mets 0.637
10 Michael Brantley Indians 0.600
MLB AVG 0.419

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:

Name Team OPS
1 Joey Votto Reds 1.293
2 David Ortiz Red Sox 1.127
3 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 1.127
4 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 1.120
5 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies 1.113
6 Chris Davis Orioles 1.067
7 Nelson Cruz Mariners 1.055
8 Michael Brantley Indians 1.038
9 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 1.024
10 Bryce Harper Nationals 1.023
MLB AVG 0.740

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:

Name Team wRC+
1 Joey Votto Reds 243
2 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 201
3 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 198
4 David Ortiz Red Sox 194
5 Nelson Cruz Mariners 192
6 Chris Davis Orioles 187
7 Michael Brantley Indians 186
8 Asdrubal Cabrera Rays 179
9 Bryce Harper Nationals 178
10 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies 177
MLB AVG 102

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.  He has been well over twice as valuable as a league average hitter, and about four 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 so well for so long?

We know it is good to hit the ball hard:

Name Team Soft% Med% Hard%
1 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 9.9% 38.6% 51.5%
2 David Ortiz Red Sox 11.7% 38.7% 49.6%
3 Chris Davis Orioles 11.0% 40.4% 48.6%
4 Matt Kemp Padres 9.4% 43.2% 47.5%
5 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 13.3% 40.6% 46.1%
6 Joey Votto Reds 8.4% 46.2% 45.4%
7 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies 17.7% 37.1% 45.2%
8 Miguel Sano Twins 14.9% 40.2% 44.8%
9 Bryce Harper Nationals 8.1% 49.2% 42.7%
10 Jung-ho Kang Pirates 18.1% 39.4% 42.5%
MLB AVG 18.3% 52.7% 29.0%

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:

Name Team Soft% Med% Hard%
1 Bryce Harper Nationals 8.1% 49.2% 42.7%
2 Joey Votto Reds 8.4% 46.2% 45.4%
3 Matt Carpenter Cardinals 8.7% 53.5% 37.8%
4 Jake Lamb Diamondbacks 9.0% 53.3% 37.7%
5 Matt Kemp Padres 9.4% 43.2% 47.5%
6 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 9.9% 38.6% 51.5%
7 Jonathan Lucroy Brewers 10.1% 52.2% 37.7%
8 Mike Trout Angels 10.3% 52.6% 37.1%
9 Nick Castellanos Tigers 10.5% 50.9% 38.6%
10 Kyle Seager Mariners 10.5% 52.9% 36.6%
MLB AVG 18.3% 52.7% 29.0%

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:

Name Team WAR
1 Joey Votto Reds 4.3
2 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 3.7
3 Yoenis Cespedes – – – 3.3
4 Bryce Harper Nationals 2.7
5 Francisco Lindor Indians 2.7
6 Dexter Fowler Cubs 2.6
7 A.J. Pollock Diamondbacks 2.6
8 Ian Kinsler Tigers 2.6
9 Chris Davis Orioles 2.5
10 Michael Brantley Indians 2.5
MLB AVG 0.7

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 valuable 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 award 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?:

Name Team O-Swing%
1 Joey Votto Reds 16.9%
2 Anthony Rendon Nationals 17.7%
3 Dexter Fowler Cubs 19.2%
4 Shin-Soo Choo Rangers 19.9%
5 Chase Headley Yankees 20.1%
6 Delino Deshields Jr. Rangers 21.4%
7 Jose Bautista Blue Jays 21.7%
8 Francisco Cervelli Pirates 21.8%
9 Mike Trout Angels 22.0%
10 DJ LeMahieu Rockies 22.9%
MLB AVG 0.7

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 starting 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.

23 Responses

  1. Nate Dunlevy (@NateDunlevy)

    I’d love to see an article parsing how the Reds could spend the money they are spending on Votto in other ways. What real-world free agents could you sign? Which players would have gotten that cash.

    I think fans would be shocked to see how little you could actually get for $20 million. You are talking about a mediocre outfielder and a number four starter, basically.

    Anyway, if someone wants to do that research, I’d like to see the possibilities.

    • WVRedlegs

      Bat Crap Crazy insanity.
      Votto is the best value on the Reds team. Next best might be Suarez. And then there is Bruce putting up an fWAR of 0.8. That series that ends the season on Oct. 2,3, and 4 might be the last games in a Reds uniform for Bruce.

  2. Chuck Schick

    You’re correct in that 20 million buys very little in free agency. However, the last things the Reds need/can afford are free agents. They need to consistently develop above average players to have any chance of sustained success. Relative to other great players, Votto is not expensive, but the Reds cannot afford him.

    • Frogger

      Who have they developed to replace him Chuck? The last position player to come through the minors is Hamilton. Look at his hitting. Negron… Mesaroco came 3 years ago. He is now getting expensive as is Frazier. Both will be making Votto like money soon and won’t produce nearly as well. Suarez came on a trade. That allows you to get rid of BP or Cozart to save some money, but he can’t replace Votto’s hitting. The point is if you let Votto go you won’t replace his production. Not unless you develop that type of player. Anyone know what first baseman we have in the minors. Yeah, me neither. Please don’t say lets trade for a young hitter with Votto like upside. NO one is stupid enough to trade a young star position player. No the team will be trading away the best Reds hitter I have ever seen and get nothing but money back that won’t replace what you lost. Votto ain’t anywhere close to the problem on this team.

      • Chuck Schick

        Please allow me to clarify:
        1. Votto is not replaceable and the Reds have not shown the ability to consistently produce above average position players.
        2. The Reds have about 80 million committed to 8 players next year. Assuming Chapman’s salary stays about the same, that would be about 90 million for 9. This is greater than the entire 2012 payroll.
        3. Votto’s recent streak of unbridled excellence has coincided with one of the worst stretches in recent team history. In general, walking him removes any chance he can hurt you. One player can only make a bad team slightly less bad.
        4. Assuming they get the cable deal done, it will be far less than what was anticipated 2 years ago. History tells us attendance will drop next year. The Reds fixed cost are rising at the same time revenue is falling.
        5. The Cubs and Cardinals are better teams, with better farm systems and far greater financial resources.
        In summation, the Reds have put themselves in a position where Votto’s greatness is wasted. Their only realistic path to sustained success is the get younger and cheaper at all levels, focus on player development and hope 3 years from now that a young core can be kept together for 3-5 years and the system is good enough to produce adequate replacements as players approach free agency.

      • Frogger

        Your wrong. The problem is not Votto’s 20 million. You don’t cure a patient by cutting away the healthy tissue. You fix the Reds by getting rid of the pieces that are not healthy. Those you pay and don’t merit their pay. You don’t go to a corporation and say get rid of your most productive employee. That’s a strategy to fail. You eliminate waste. Expenses that are not helping you succeed. Start by using a basic metric. If you don’t earn 1 war for every 7.5 mil your gone. For a bucket of balls if necessary. If you can’t replace from in system it doesn’t matter. Cause you can replace 7.5 mil for one war in free agency. Obviously, timing is critical. Don’t turn over half your lineup at once, but how bout we start making some progress.

      • Frogger

        Your point on the free agents is noted CP. I didn’t see how poorly they performed. However, if you need to free up money you do it with players that you are getting less value from and move up from there. I don’t think you should just cut guys loose in the starting roster. You should trade them for something. Bailey is the only untradeable asset at this point. You can get something for Phillips and Bruce. Which I would certainly do before trading Votto. Your aggregate spending is well noted, but that is another symptom of poor decision making by Reds front office. Bruce was a good extension, and you can still make something work with him at his age via trade. No doubt the most wasted money is on the fringes of this roster as you said. Start there. My point is ti use common sense. You don’t get rid of the guy you get the most value from no matter how much you pay him. He is giving you the return on your investment. Not everyone is.

      • Chuck Schick

        Ohiojimw,

        During the ” dark ages” from 1996-2011, the Reds averaged almost exactly 2 million. They’ll finish this year around 2.5 million. Much of that was driven by season ticket sales associated with buying ASG tickets….that is not my opinion, but directly from the Reds.

        Will attendance drop back to 2 million? I have no idea, but decades of data regarding what drives Reds attendance indicates it will drop….and it will likely be significant.

        The Reds cable deal was estimated to bring in 30 million in 2013 and was ranked 18th of 30 at that time. Since then, several new deals have been signed. Do the Reds benefit from having other large cities near bye? Yes, but not to the degree you may think. If Indy, Columbus, etc. were truely part of the cable equation that would be a 7 million person ” market” and the Reds cable deal is not consistent with that sized population…..it just isn’t.

        Also, Reds Country consist of an older, less affluent demographic and doesn’t garner premium advertising. Being the top rated tv show in Bowling Green Ky isn’t worth much. Not my opinion…it is what it is.

        Given the current deal expires at the end of 2016 and there’s is no new deal in place is a huge financial uncertainty for the Reds. Regional Sports Networks are getting crushed as they’re on the hook for massive rights fees at the same time people are canceling cable in droves.
        The Reds timing couldn’t be worse.

        Yes, there are ancillary increase from MLBAM and other shared sources. Keep in mind, those have an affect on absolute revenue, but do nothing for relative revenue. Every major increase in revenue has driven up salaries, whether through arbitration or FA across all of baseball. It won’t keep up with baseball inflation.

        If you’re Bob C and you’re looking at the probability of an attendance decrease, no cable deal after 2016 ( as of today…that will change at some point) and 90 million committed to 9 guys next year….on a team that may lose 100 games… you’re looking to cut cost. Meanwhile, the 2 teams you need to beat in the long term ( cards-cubs) have better presents, are positioned for better futures and can spend you into the ground.

      • Chuck Schick

        Steve,

        I genuinely respect your ability and talent and enjoy reading your writing. However, I believe you’re responding as a fan who wants things to be a certain way more than an objective observer.

        Please read about the revenue trouble ESPN is having as more and more people drop cable. ESPN, who owns the rights to just about everything and gets on average $4 a month from every cable subscriber in America is having revenue trouble.

        Please reference the lawsuits and bankruptcies associated with the Houston RSN. Please reference the 1 billion dollar loss taken on the Dodgers TV rights deal. Please look at the earnings numbers for large media companies and their stock prices. Please read about legislative proposals to mandate “ale carte” cable packages so non sports fans aren’t forced to subsidize rights fees on their cable bill.

        Why is the second largest cable company (Time Warner) so eager to sell itself? Perhaps quarter after quarter of declines in subscribers indicates its an industry in decline?Why are leagues so eager to align themselves with Fan Duel and Draft Kings? Short term profits…..perhaps……or also an understanding that traditional media revenue is dropping , young people subscribe to NetFlix and are more likely to follow players on their phones than games on their TV.

        So, yes…..suggestions that RSN’s….as they are part of the cable industry.. have some issues …are rooted in fact.

        You made the assertion that the Reds need to add some exciting players to boost attendance. The Reds attendance peaked 40 seasons ago in 1976. No franchise has gone longer without surpassing a previous attendance record. They are one of only 6 teams to never draw 3 million and have the 4th lowest peak attendance (only KC,Pittsburgh and Tampa are worse) in baseball. The population of Greater Cincinnati has almost doubled over the past 40 years and yet the Reds will draw fewer people than they did in 1976. Perhaps they’ve just been waiting for Stephenson to be called up….or Chapman to pitch in the 8th…..or this really isn’t the great baseball town that its fan base bills itself.

        I want the Reds to succeed…..I hope their cable deal is for a trillion dollars and Votto retires as a Red, an all time great and a champion. I hope the Reds draw 4 million next year….we’re looking at the same glass, I just see it as half empty.

      • Chuck Schick

        Ok, Steve

        RSN’s must operate in a bubble.

        You’re asserting that the Reds deal will exceed the Cardinals deal which makes no logical sense. Smaller market, lower ratings, less than marquee brand must equal more money.

        If the Reds payroll is 150 million in 2017, I will donate $500 to the charity of your choice. I believe it will be closer to 75 million than 150.

  3. Susan

    U r so true someone said they should trade that would be worst thing reds could do

    • redsmadhatter

      What’s that supposed to mean…excellent hitter as far as balls and strikes? He is the BEST hitter in the major leagues

      • IndyRedMan

        Lets not get carried away here as a homer. Nobody is better than Miggy Cabrera with a bat in their hand…nobody! He hit atleast .320 in 8 of 9 seasons and avg. 37 hrs in a huge park during the same time frame. 37 in Detroit is atleast 45 per year in GABP.

  4. Steve Checkosky

    “This season Votto has swung at fewer pitches outside the zone and fewer pitches inside the zone than any other year of his career.”

    Terrific article! If I believed in reincarnation, I would say Joey was the second coming of Ted Williams.

    Don’t you mean “..more pitches inside the zone”?

    • VaRedsFan

      No, he said it correctly. Swung at fewer pitches inside the zone.

      I can’t argue his approach, because he is so successful, but most people (myself included) wanted to swing at more strikes. Yes, some people say “expand the zone”, that doesn’t mean turn into a Todd Frazier-like hacker. He is such a great hitter, that watching hittable pitches and later walking, puts the onus on his less talented teammates to deliver, and for the 2nd half, the have failed big time.

      Votto would be an even greater hitter with a competent All-Star behind him in the order. Next year it HAS to be Mez, or they are in trouble again. I hope Mez’s 1 season wasn’t a flash in the pan. He looked bad the little time he played before the injury this year.

      • Steve Checkosky

        “No, he said it correctly. Swung at fewer pitches inside the zone”

        So if Joey swung at fewer pitches both inside and outside the zone, that doesn’t suggest he is being selective. It just means that Joey generally takes more pitches, regardless of location. That may be true. But I don’t see a table in Nick’s excellent article indicating that. Am I missing something?

      • VaRedsFan

        Easy to say, hard to do. Antone who is worthy of batting behind Votto, is most likely not available. Thus, the need for Mez to return to form, or for Todd and Bruce to suddenly see the light.

  5. bob willis

    Thanks for this timely piece Nick – Anyone who appreciates the game loves watching Votto play the game. Muted to some degree by his own quiet personality he will not get the PR of other players with less talent. I come to the ball game to see him as a hitter and defensive gems by Phillips/Cozart/Billy/Bruce – and lets not forget the way he can start a double play off a grounder to first. Thanks again Nick

  6. Redleg 68

    I wish Marty and the boy wonder would just stop their assault on Joey, it is really getting old!