“Joey Votto was robbed of the Silver Slugger Award once again!” – that’s the line that I saw rather quickly on social media when the 2021 winners were announced. The award went to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman. Somehow, Joey Votto has never been awarded the nod as the top hitter as a first baseman.
With that said, there is probably an argument to be made that this year he didn’t actually deserve it, unlike several years in the past when he was clearly the best hitting first baseman in the National League.
I know what you’re thinking right now….. Joey Votto had a better OPS than Freddie Freeman. Votto had a better OPS+, 136 to 133, and his wRC+ was was on top, too, 140 to 135. The Reds first baseman had the edge in home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage, too. If those were the only stats we were looking at, there would be a very strong argument that Joey Votto deserved the nod over Freddie Freeman.
Where things begin to fall apart a little bit, though, is that while Joey Votto did indeed perform better in ballpark adjusted stats like OPS+ and wRC+ than Freddie Freeman – it was pretty close. Now, better is better, and Votto was indeed better.
But Freddie Freeman played in 159 games. Joey Votto played in 129 games. 30 extra games is a whole lot of value. That’s an entire month of additional value provided by Freeman that Votto didn’t have. It was no fault of Votto’s – the man got injured. But at the end of the day, those additional games, even at a slightly reduced value, probably more than make up the difference. Fangraphs offensive value agrees there, too, crediting Freeman with 34.4 runs and Votto at 27.8 runs. Both, however, trailed St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt here – though it was very close between he and Freeman.