Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. He’s won an MVP, he should have won another one, and he’s led the league in OPS twice in his career. He’s hit .304/.419/.517 in his career, but in the last three seasons he’s been on a decline. While still above-average, hit .265/.382/.420 line hasn’t compared to what he had been earlier in his career. That’s to be expected as a player enters their mid-30’s. But for Votto, he began to adjust last year around the mid-point of the season after he sat for three games and not only did he look like a different hitter from a mechanics standpoint, his numbers were different, too.

On August 26th Joey Votto was hitting .191/.321/.326. He was benched for the next three days before returning to the lineup for a doubleheader on August 29th. From that point forward the Reds first baseman hit .258/.385/.557. The strikeout rate was up, but the power was also up significantly. His stance at the plate was also more upright and closer to resembling what he used to look like. He’s looking to bringing that back again in 2021.

“When I first came to the league, and certainly in the minor leagues, I was a bit more aggressive,” said Votto.  “When I was a younger player I idolized Todd Helton and Barry Bonds and a few other modern players of the early 2000’s and I love the great players of the past – the Williams, the Ruths, the Aarons, the Mays – when I first played in the minor leagues I was so dead set on cutting down the strikeouts because I wanted to be a well rounded hitter. And eventually over the past maybe 6-7 years I started really making that adjustment and seeing that change. A player has to have their own challenges, have their own goals.”

“I lost some of the things, some of my strengths I came to the league with – hitting the ball hard, specifically – hitting the ball all over the field with power, being difficult to defend and I did that in exchange for command of the strikezone, putting the ball in play, being a tough at-bat, and it zapped my power,” Votto continued. “In ’17 I played really, really well because I had that nice combination of low strikeouts, tons of power, lots of walks – it was the dream season of course, for me. I stuck to that the last couple of years – in ’19 a little bit, especially last year I had to let that go and get back to what got me to the league. The adjustments I made last year after the benching were very, very natural to me. I’ve kind of always hit the ball like that, stood up taller and I’m back to a more comfortable place in terms of hitting. It’s going to come with some more swings and misses and more strikeouts, but as long as I’m productive and as long as I’m dangerous at the plate, it’ll pay itself off.”

Even with the big turn around after being benched in 2021, Joey Votto’s average was just .258. The shift certainly could have played into that. So could the small sample size of just 28 games. Being more aggressive at the plate helped with the power. It helped give him some renewed confidence, too.

“I’ve led the league in slugging percentage, and I was top 2-3-4-5 almost every year of my career in batting average also,” said Votto. “I just got so dead set in commanding the strikezone assuming that I was going to help the team that way. You know, I led the league in extra-base hits at 18-years-old as a newbie from Canada. I have to remind myself, at the core, that’s who I am. I tried to make myself into the perfect hitter, and I’ve had some success with that – certainly not perfect, but copied my idols. I’m probably best suited to include some more air and get back to my natural approach. And I did last year, that gave me confidence last year and certainly this offseason. I’m as excited as I’ve been maybe in my Major League career to start a Major League season.”

“I’ve always been a power hitter – well, maybe not always, Lord have mercy the last couple of years, no,” said Votto. “But, yeah, I just want to get back to being dangerous, difficult to defend. I’d hit ball into the shift, and I’d hit it pretty hard and it’d be a step or two to the left for the a second baseman or shortstop, and I’d be out. And I was like ‘what am I doing? This is unsustainable, this will never last.’ So I’ve got to hit the ball harder, be more difficult to defend. And I did this last year. I refined last year, I’ll be better than the back little bit of the season just because I worked on it and I’ll dedicate myself to it and take some time. I can’t wait, I’m so excited.”

Joey Votto is excited. He wants to be a dangerous hitter again. He’s looking to be a power hitter again. There is a plan, and while it started last year and saw the results work out, it lasted just a month before the season came to an end. 2021 looks like it’s going to be a full year and it seems like Cincinnati’s first baseman is hoping to rebound in a big way and is excited to get started. If the Reds are going to be contenders, they’re going to need that to happen.

53 Responses

  1. Jimbo44CN

    I certainly hope that he continues with the upright stance. I think that makes the difference. Wish him nothing but the best.

  2. Bred

    Since they deadened the ball this year, I hope by hitting for power he means hitting line drives all over the field and not trying to pull the ball for right field homers. From what I’ve read a good deal of homers will be warning track outs this year.

    • Reaganspad

      Power for him is all over with most hrs to left center. He has not been a dead pull power hitter

  3. CFD3000

    If Votto hits as well in 2021 as he did after his three game benching, that will be a big plus for the Reds offense. If he hits BETTER than that? That would be a huge anchor for a potent offense. Of the key bats it’s easy to imagine that Castellanos, Moustakas, Suarez, Senzel and the catching combo will hit better than they did in 2020. Akiyama showed that he was starting to figure out how to be effective in MLB, and Winker is the only hitter that might regress. This Votto approach and attitude is exciting for the offense. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

    • JB

      The Reds need more Winker of August than Winker of September.

  4. LDS

    Zips projects him at .240 with 14 hrs. If that’s close to right, it won’t be much of a return for $25 million. Of course, even if Votto retired, the FO would pocket the money and sign some no hit nobody to man first base

  5. SultanofSwaff

    Joey is stubborn, mostly in a good way. On his approach and stance however, he’s been hardheaded. It was something for a long time even us fans could see was not in his best interest. The benching was his come to Jesus moment. I think he realized, that like most aging hitters, you have to sacrifice some part of your game to Father Time….maybe they cheat on the fastball or guess more……Joey is going to give up some of his otherworldly plate discipline for more power. With it will come more strikeouts, but I think we can all agree it’s the correct adjustment to make.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Jim Thome is probably a good template for Joey. In his age 37-39 seasons, averaging ~450 ABs, Thome was a .255-ish hitter with an OPS in the mid .800s. If we could get that from Joey as he finishes up I think we’d all be content.

    • Matt WI

      I think you’re dead on with the stubborn part of him- and it being a blessing and a curse. I watched the whole video clip where he made these comments, and he seemed almost uncomfortable and ill at ease. Usually he’s very eloquent and well argued. Instead it seemed like he was arguing with himself in real time. Made me think he was stuck in his head and almost worried about what it means to commit to this process based on how he wishes he could play.

  6. Vada

    I wonder what odds Vegas would give on Votto actually accomplishing what he wants to do in 2021. I wouldn’t think the odds would be very good. Spring training is BRAG time. The season is SHOW time. I am sure EXCUSES will be the norm among ALL THE PLAYERS once the reconfigured baseball makes its appearance.

    Side note: the MLB would be more attractive if the League and Union would agree that ALL the teams had to maintain payroll within $150 million and $175 million range, no less and no more. Every year a Cost of Living Index would increase those amounts based on the inflation rate. The owners that couldn’t bankroll the minimum would be FORCED to sell the team to someone who could. This would allow for a more level playing field. Of course, this is my private fantasy baseball world.

    • Doug Gray

      Being forced to sell the team is why the owners will never, ever agree to your plan.

      • ClevelandRedsFan

        Outside of the “being forced to sell” aspect, do you think we will see a floor and a cap after 2021 CBA?

        It seems like overall payrolls would increase across MLB if the floor is somewhere around 100-120 million. That could mean a lot more money for rank and file players.

        The losers would then be the 300+ million players. It seems as if the union protects them more than rank and file players.

        Also, losers would be owners under the floor. I’d imagine other owners would then have to subsidize these teams and share more money.

        Winners would be all fans (customers), rank and file for players, and owners in the middle of the pack (like the Reds).

      • Doug Gray

        No. The owners don’t want a floor, and the players don’t want a cap.

      • m2

        But what if a team could consistently field a winning team with a substantially lower payroll (nearly one fourth less) and still be very competitive with a club that spends approximately $250 million in payroll? If this were to happen wouldn’t it be a model for other franchises to at least consider? Meaning place emphasis on scouting development, and shrewd trades instead of dumping millions and millions of dollars into players who often turn out to be not worth the value? This paradigm shift also would compensate players for current performance with an eye on potential and not over-hyped past accomplishments. Moreover, players who did not perform would considered expendable. Just a thought – thank you for reading.

      • Doug Gray

        Imagine how good that team could be if they spent more than 1/4th the money. That should be the model.

        The goal should be to win the most games possible, not to win some imaginary wins/dollars spent title.

      • VaRedsFan

        @M2…. there is a team like that…Tampa Bay…..and to a lesser extent Oakland

    • Gonzo Reds

      I’m ok with this with but instead of forcing owners to sell… a hard cap should be enforced (like NFL) or at least more hefty luxury taxes that escalate each say $5M above the cap and for those below (Pirates etc) they have to also pay the minimum anyway with the difference going to a MLB fund of some sort.

      Frankly, while I’d miss baseball, I’m willing to lose a couple of strike years to get this in place. It’s the easiest way for all fans to have their teams be competitive on a regular basis.

  7. Still a Red

    To me, Joey at his best was hitting inside out. I remember him using bat control to take a pitch to left over the SS. He also hit lots of lofty hi-fly homers to left that carried out. And he did that standing upright. Not sure if that is where he will return. Hi flies with a dead ball won’t make it out. I’d take line drives off the wall for doubles. I do think he needs to get back to hitting to all fields though.

    • VaRedsFan

      That was Votto Circa 2012. For the last 5 years, he’s done most of his damage when he pulled the ball in the air. Most of his fly balls to left now, are just routine popups

      • Broseph

        Yep. 2012. Right before his knee injury he was about to smash the doubles record 44 in 111 games, the most in his career with an OPS of 1.041 and he’s only hit 14 hrs. He was ripping holes in the walls across all fields.

        At best, he gets his rf homers and drops some inside out balls over the SS, but left field Hr’s are not happening for Votto anymore

  8. MuddyCleats

    Not sure Reds need power fm Votto as much as they need someone who wants to hit and especially hit w/ runners on base. IMO, Votto takes too many pitches and is too happy w/ a walk – willing to let someone else drive n the runs. Walks R fine, but I want my 20+ Million $ 1st baseman to want to drive in runs. No I don’t want him swinging at bad pitches or pitchers pitches he knows he can’t handle, but IMHO, he sure takes a lot of get ahead 1st pitch FBs in the middle of the plate when he could/should b attacking those pitches

    • VaRedsFan

      Winning comment of the thread.
      Beware…. people will misconstrue your comment as to thinking everybody wants him to swing at pitches outside the zone. I’ve been on that soapbox a long time.

      • m2

        Yep well aware that Tampa Bay, Oakland, and others have relatively smallish payrolls. Moreover, Doug is clear I know this. I often agree with him, but I find the Reds problem not how much they are willing to spend but who they spend on and willingness to hold on to players other clubs would cleverly jettison in order to improve (see Winkler, Jessie). Sell high, buy low. The Reds squad is poorly constructed (fielding, running, contact, etc.). With discussion about Suarez and a couple of other players on the proverbial trade block, I had hope that management realized this is not a championship club (even with a different shortstop). To conclude: I am not suggesting this is a contest to spend the least – the goal is to win championshipS – through savvy assessment, acquisition, development, and movement). The solution isn’t necessarily to spend $225 Million particularly in the wake (middle) of a pandemic.

    • greenmtred

      We can’t know which pitches he feels he can’t handle well. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that he routinely lays off such pitches. His career stands as proof that he understands his own abilities. Perhaps we’re watching his process of adjusting to age-related physical decline and assuming that he’s just being stubborn?

      • MuddyCleats

        What I’ve noticed over the yrs is Votto likes the ball away. He elevates the ball more when he goes oppo and the jet stream in GABP is to the Left CF BP so these things work together for his/team good. Normally if he pulls the ball, he imparts topspin and doesn’t get as much carry. This is normal for most players. A lot of players have changed their swings over the last several yrs to a little more of an upper cut to negate this and improve their carry. Altering his grip might produce the same results w/out changing his swing? That and a hitting approach that says look for something I can pull and being more aggressive w/ early in the count. There R times hitters should take some pitches; Votto IMO takes too many hittable strikes and attempts to hit w/ 2 strikes too often. In essence, he’s setting himself up for more borderline/pitchers pitches were he can’t be as aggressive as our 20+ M $$$ man needs to be. Moreover, his skill may have declined to the point where he doesn’t handle those pitches as well as he use to??

  9. TR

    I’ll be encouraged if Votto takes fewer called third strikes.

    • Matt WI

      Joey Votto is the strike zone. Woe to the umps who have tried to assert this power from him.

  10. Hotto4Votto

    Got to admire the dedication to his craft. He’s not going to sit around and not make adjustments if it’s not working. I think as he ages, more regular time off would be good. I think the 3 day benching break was needed and seemed to help him readjust. I’m hoping he can defy Father Time and put in a few more good seasons.

    • Roger Garrett

      I am and will always be a big Joey fan but he was benched because he was not competing.If I remember correctly he struck out 4 times in the game the last time with the game on the line by taking 3 straight strikes and then was thrown out as he took the field the next inning.I said then and now he just tried to divert the attention from him not competing to bad calls by the home plate umpire.Having said all of this I still believe in Joey Votto and I like what he said and would just love to see him go down swinging from here on out until his career ends.Swing and swing often and hard Joey.

      • Hotto4Votto

        If by not competing you mean not trying to do well or caring, I don’t think that’s the case. If he didn’t care so much he wouldn’t have argued so hard with the ump. Was his head out of the game a bit? Was he slumping or in a funk? Did he exhibit poor decision making? Maybe to probably on all those. But I don’t believe for a second Joey was not trying or not caring about what occurred. And with regards to taking 3 straight strikes, it’s not the first time it’s happened. And as a fan it can frustrating to watch. But when arguing over 3rd strike calls, at least according to the stat-cast strike zone, he almost always has a point.

  11. Rednat

    i like the approach. with Joey’ s lack of speed Homeruns are much more valuable than walks. the “swing for the fences” is the best approach.

  12. RedleggsandHam

    If Joey Votto stated that he was working on his pitching form in hopes to be a contributor to the bullpen I’d have just as a much confidence that he’d get the results he’s aiming for. Swing away, Joey.

  13. DataDumpster

    It’s not Joey’s fault the Reds pay him $25 mill at age 38. If he hits .255 with 15-20 HRs and actually plays defense, I’ll be happy with that output and so will he. The real question is whether Senzel and all our trade “stars” actually begin to realize their promise. There is enough nucleus for a winner but David Bell is the key. If he can coach the team on fundamentals, get OBP up, and try to form an 8 man starting lineup instead of something akin to a dry cleaner clothes line, it might happen. I also surmise there is no shortstop issue when he recently said;

    “I feel great about the options that we have. I’m not ready today to name a starting shortstop by any means, but at the same time we know who we have. We’re familiar with our personnel and the options we have at the position – we feel great about that.”

    So, I guess everything will work out there also even though everything he said after the first sentence is trite and redundant.

  14. Gonzo Reds

    What we need from Votto, if he wants to stay near the top of the order, would be to get on base more, not expanding the strike zone like everyone else in the order is already doing.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t think he plans on expanding the strikezone, but being more aggressive within it.

    • scotly50

      “Getting on base more”. I remember Votto costing us a playoff win last year because he is such a pitiful base runner. I hope the Reds bat him 7th or 8th.

  15. JB

    Votto needs to be be better thats for sure. You know what else Votto needs? Suarez to be the hitter he was a few years ago when he was going with the pitch and hitting 30 bombs and getting on base. Votto needs Castellanos to quit swinging at crap off the plate and being a doubles machine again. Votto needs Winker of August and not July and September of last year. Votto needs Senzel to become the hype that he is “supposedly” to be. Votto needs Barnhart to have some sort of clue when hitting. Votto needs more out of Akiyama and Moose. Votto of old isnt coming back. He cant carry a team anymore and he needs these teammates to start doing their part in order to take the pressure off of him. Yeah he makes 25 mil a year. It’s not his fault. Maybe the FO should have gave him more per year at the beginning and less per year at the end. Everybody knew his contract would be a albatross at the end. It is what it is. I’m eager to see what all these guys do this year. I still think this is a talented team.

    • Jimbo44CN

      Believe you are right on. Too much blame or credit on Joey, those guys around him need to perform. My one lasting image from last year’s hitting was Winker screwing himself into the ground while striking out. Less of that, more on base.

  16. Rednat

    i think the big elephant in the room with Joey is, and has been over the past few years, his baserunning. i would also like to see a more aggressive approach on the bases. this would likely benefit the team more than hitting more homeruns. improving his running from 1st to 3rd and 2nd to home would be a great help to the team

    • VaRedsFan

      I don’t think I’m wanting the slow guys taking extra bases.

    • TR

      I doubt Joey’s baserunning skills will improve as the aging process goes on. That increases the importance of a fast runner replacing an on base Votto in late innings.

  17. Vada

    Doug, maybe an fan based stock ownership would work, it works great for the Green bay Packers.

    • Mark Moore

      Except, Vada, that the fans don’t actually own the Packers. A friend of mine has a share of GB “stock”. It explicitly states the cert is to show he’s a fan, not an owner.

  18. Kim Henry

    Don’t get me wrong: I am not a Votto hater. However, as I mentioned in a post earlier this season, over the past 2-3 years, Joey has stated he worked on his game in the off season to better the year before. His work has not proven out. I’ve also pointed out the many star players (and most players) whose performances have declined as they age. I agree with those who see him taking too many good pitches and has been satisfied with drawing a walk and in recent years being called out on pretty good pitches. As I and many of you have pointed out, one person, Joey, shortstop, or any one player can’t be blamed for the TEAM’S performance. Let’s hope everyone plays to their potential and that their manager plays a core 8 for most of the games. GO REDS!!!!!

  19. JayDubz

    I love Joey Votto. He earned every penny of his contract. He’s a great baseball player and a great Cincinnatian.

    But honestly, I’m tired of him waxing philosophical at the beginning of every season. I’d much rather hm channel his internal monologue into 2021 production, and spend less time trying to justify himself to fans. Joey’s come a long way in his media/fan engagement, but the philosophizing rings hollow after the past couple years. Better to smolder internally and prove all the haters wrong, than to overpromise and underdeliver.

  20. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Not worried about power right now at all. Just get on base, baby. Your power-hitting days are probably long past you. We need people to get on base.

  21. Roger Garrett

    Hotto4Votto,I went back and checked on the game where I said Joey did not compete.He struck out on 3 pitches looking in the first,saw 6 pitches each in the next two at bats and struck out looking both times and finished it up by looking in the eighth on three in a row.He saw 18 pitches in 4 at bats and swung at 4 and was called out looking all 4 at bats.The Reds lost 3-2.He was then benched and should have been.I called it not competing at the time and thats exactly what it was.He did not try to do well nor care.

    • Jimbo44CN

      How do you know he did not try? Obviously he was having a terrible day and it showed. Agreed on benching him for three after that. But I believe he does care and did much better after that game. It was just one game, an important one, but just one.

  22. Melvin

    I still think Votto has a lot more left in the tank than most people think including himself, maybe even in the areas of defense and base running. However baseball’s smartest hitter is his own worst enemy at times. He just plain overthinks which has the effect of slowing everything down and making things harder. Of course it doesn’t do him any good to have it if he doesn’t use/show it. I think that’s a little of what he’s been saying. We’ll see.