Reds left fielder Jesse Winker is finally healthy this season, and as a result, is showing his offensive talent in a big way. He currently leads MLB in both batting average and slugging percentage and is top 3 in on-base percentage and OPS. It’s been an MVP-like season so far and because of that, it has led to people on social media comparing him with a certain teammate.

First baseman Joey Votto is a National Baseball Hall of Fame contender, and Winker is not close to that status. However, Winker is playing very close to Votto’s level at the same age Votto was in 2011. In fact, right now he’s hitting better than Votto did in 2011.

Author’s note: I am aware 2011 is one year after Votto won MVP and Winker did not win MVP last year. However, this comparison is happening because each of these years are their age 27 seasons. Votto had an excellent year in 2011 and finished in 6th in NL MVP voting.

Overall

Votto and Winker were both 23 years old when they made their MLB debut. Each player takes an excellent approach at the plate, as they have similar career walk rates. Winker’s is almost 12% (11.9%) while Votto’s is an eye-popping 15.9%. They also strike out at the same rate (17.4% for Winker and 17.9% for Votto). Obviously, Votto is going to have a bigger number of counting statistics than Winker because he’s played a lot longer, but their career slash lines are pretty similar. Votto’s is currently at .303/.418/.516. Winker’s sits at .290/.384/.508.

The stark difference between Winker and Votto comes from their splits against left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Winker and Votto are both left-handed, so they are most likely always going to be worse against left-handed pitchers. However, Winker’s splits have been notoriously bad in the past. For his career, Winker hits .310 against right-handed pitchers and .204 against left-handed pitchers.

In 2017, his rookie year, Winker hit .344 off right-handers and .120 off left-handers. In 2018, it was sitting at .321 against right-handers and .211 against left-handers. Same thing happened in 2019 when he hit .287 against right-handers and .163 against left-handers. 2020, however, brought a different result for the outfielder. In the shortened season, Winker actually hit better (.265) against left-handers than right-handers (.252).

Votto’s splits are not as drastic as Winker’s, hence the better numbers and overall, being a better hitter. For his career, Votto hits .310 against right-handed pitchers and .287 against left-handed pitchers. In his MVP season of 2010, he hit .347 against right-handers and .283 against left-handers. In his “should-have-been”MVP season of 2017, Votto hit .331 against right-handers versus .292 against left-handers.

Age 27 Season

Through 41 games this season, Winker is hitting .348/.403/.665 with 13 home runs, 34 runs scored, 28 RBI, and a 187 wRC+. His strikeout rate is a little higher than his career rate at 19.9% and his walk rate is lower at only 8.0%, but he’s absolutely raking at the plate. He’s also hitting lefties better. He’s hitting .370 against right-handers and .250 against left-handers. The splits aren’t as drastic, which is going to lead to higher overall numbers.

In his age 27 season in 2011, Votto played 161 of 162 games and hit .309/.416/.531 with 29 home runs, 101 runs scored, 103 RBI, and a 157 wRC+. In 2011, Votto hit .333 against left-handers and .299 against right-handers.

It was an incredible season for Votto and it earned him sixth place in MVP voting. His stats that year also puts it into perspective just how insane Winker is currently hitting. Will Winker be this good all season? Maybe, but slumps do happen. A slump happened to him at the beginning of the 2020 season when he had just two hits in his first 22 plate appearances. But he rebounded in August and that carried him to a decent 2020 season. And that 2020 season served as a springboard for his outstanding 2021 season.

Winker’s always been a good hitter. Many forget that he was a first round draft pick in 2012. He made his debut in 2017, and despite the injuries he dealt with in 2018 and 2019, he has a career 135 wRC+. He may not be as good as Votto, but he’s closer than a lot of fans may realize.

All stats current through May 26, 2021. Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant.

16 Responses

  1. realist

    Great article! Just have to laugh at the whole Joey Votto Hall of Fame contender comment though. Reds hall of fame to be sure. No way for Cooperstown though.

    • Doug Gray

      Joey Votto has 61 WAR right now. That’s more than quite a few Hall of Famers who weren’t special circumstance guys. And you’ve got to remember who the voters are that will be voting when Votto is eligible, too. It’s not going to be the old guys who hate the game of baseball, hate “new” stats, and haven’t covered the game of baseball in 25 years but did at some point in the 60’s and 70’s and still have voting rights – those days are gone. The voters in the 8-22 years from now when Votto will be eligible are going to look at how he performed, not that he didn’t have 2800 hits or 500 home runs.

      • RojoB

        +1

        Thanks for the realistic comment, Doug

      • Tom Reeves

        Joey is one of 17 players in history to have a better than .300/.400/.500 career slash line. Add that to his 61 WAR and he should be in Cooperstown. Hopefully they don’t take off for poor base running.

      • Sliotar

        If Votto needs a case presented … Doug’s summation nails it.

    • LDS

      As I’ve said previously, the longer Votto plays, the less his HoF chances. Recency bias is real. Yes, he likely makes the HoF. Is he on par with Morgan, Bench, Larkin, Junior, or even Perez? Probably not. But the game is different. The writers are different. There’s an over abundance of data available today to construct all kinds of “metrics” and records. You see these tweeted or blogged with regularity. These are are descriptive but not necessarily predictive. For example, pick a player with a propensity to strike out. Look at his team’s W/L record in games where the player strikes out at least twice, or three times. Pick your threshold. My guess is that one can find an example where a team wins 60-70% of the time when player X strikes out at your threshold. Does that predict the team wins 60-70% of the time if player X strikes out that many times? Should he intentionally strike out to boost the team’s odds of winning? Nope but that’s how much of baseball seems to be managed these days. So I guess I’m one of those “old guys” that Doug just disparaged. Obviously, grad school ruined me. So it goes.

      • SultanofSwaff

        I disagree. For Votto to improve his HOF chances he needs to keep accumulating WAR and check off some of those counting stat thresholds. Most HOF’ers have a long tail at the end. It’s a separator imo.

  2. RojoB

    Great perspective, Ashely

    I also note Winker’s significant wrist injury from a car crash while in the minors, which undoubtedly affected his debut in the majors, as it took a year or so for the power to come back.

    The thing that I lament is that the Reds organization thought he was a platoon player for two years, and that stunted his development against LHP. The Reds could really use a mind that knows how to optimize the talent they have, while developing/adding more

    2017 Votto was robbed of the MVP in my opinion—Giancarlo Yankee won because of popularity and perception

  3. Scott C

    Great comparison. Winker may not ever have the counting stats that Votto has because of his slow early years, but he may very well be close to Votto as an overall hitter.

  4. Sliotar

    There have been several Hall of Fame comments up above … and I would add to them by stating MLB, baseball writers and the Hall of Fame process muddy up what should be, IMO, the central criteria:

    Was this player among the most dominating consistently during the time they played? If so, and they aren’t a thug … put them in the Hall of Fame.

    Looking through that prism … Votto is for sure a Hall of Famer, as hopefully deGrom will be someday.

    Both dominated/dominating in their primes, regardless of team support/team record.

  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I believe we should lock Winker and Mahle up long term. Also, I believe we should add a couple of more years to Gray.

  6. Rednat

    VERY GOOD ARTICLE ASHLEY. what I love about Jessie WInker is that he is trying to develop into a complete ballplayer. his defense has improved each year and now he is working on his speed.

    his baserunning has to improve. i think Pete Rose would be a good example for Winker to follow. always hustling, forcing the defense to make a throw, but did not make many bonehead mistakes on the bases.

    each year i become more and more of A Jessie Winker fan

  7. ClevelandRedsFan

    I remember when Votto came up, he talked about how he changed his approach to “stop making outs.” He sacrificed homeruns for contact. Winker has always been a contact first hitter. He is now developing power.

    IMO, it seems easier to find contact first hitters and help them unlock power at ages 26-28 than to get power hitters to cut down on strikeouts. Winker is the former and Votto is the latter. Reds have a good mix of both in the minors and with rookies.

    Contact first
    India
    Senzel
    Stephenson
    Callihan

    Power first
    Hinds
    Hendricks

    Perhaps there are a couple more Vottos or Winker.

    • RojoB

      I agree with your list of contact first vs power first players

  8. Marty

    Power means zilch if you’re not making contact. A swing and a miss is still not a home run in the rule books.