Joey Votto is hitting .122/.278/.135 as we wake up on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022. To say it’s been a tough start to the season for the Cincinnati Reds first baseman would be an understatement. He’s been terrible, and that’s putting it as nicely as possible. His slugging percentage would be a bad batting average for a pitcher if they were still being forced to hit. Dan Szymborski wrote about Votto’s slow start for Fangraphs on Monday.

“While I’m hoping that it turns out that it was the bats, and there’s some classic Votto just waiting to break out, I’m pessimistic for a few other reasons,” Szymborski wrote before getting into that he’s been making worse decisions on what to swing at and swinging and missing at a lot of secondary offerings that he didn’t use to. There’s a lot more in the article that you should go read, including how other players his age who have gotten out to poor starts rebounded – or didn’t – the rest of the way. It’s not for the feint of heart.

But maybe Joey Votto isn’t that guy. Last night he tweeted out, in response to the article: Five months to go. Enjoy the show.

Joey Votto has never backed down from a challenge in baseball. He’s dealt with plenty over the course of his career, both on and off of the field. And to this point, he’s always been able to overcome. Who can forget the famous photo of Votto wearing a “Decline Phase” shirt during pre-game drills just before the 2019 season? Of course the reason that shirt exists is because unfortunately for all of us, Father Time is undefeated. Some can keep him away longer than others, but eventually he comes out on top.

As noted in the Szymborski piece – Joey Votto recently went back to his old style of bat. Votto spoke with C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic about it. Perhaps that played a bigger role in what took place in April than we currently know. Maybe the approach he’s taken needs to once again be adjusted. We’re all going to have to watch and find out together, but it seems that the Reds first baseman wants us to enjoy it. Let’s hope we can.

64 Responses

    • Melvin

      I will add that he may have decided to retire after this year just because he can no longer tolerate Big Bob & Son. If it’s not any fun for us then I can only imagine what it’s like going out there knowing there are 140 games left feeling pretty empty because of the circumstances.

  1. Klugo

    He’ll be fine. The Reds, not so much.
    And I mean, what does it matter?

  2. Daniel O

    When team management throws in the towel before the season even starts, what do you expect? Votto had an awesome career, but he’s only human considering the tremendous uphill battle this team faces this year.

  3. CFD3000

    He’ll figure it out. I do think he needs to get back to the “see ball, hit ball” approach instead of the more defensive “don’t make an out” approach he used to such success for so long. At 38 that just doesn’t work any more. But if he sits on his pitch he can still do plenty of damage. Last year is not that long ago. I’m confident he’ll be fine. Maybe more importantly he is confident. There’s more than 86% of a season left – I’m still excited to watch.

  4. GMan88

    The man makes over $20 million a year. While he may be frustrated knowing that he won’t win a ring or could go out with a whimper, don’t feel sorry for him. He can literally do anything he wants, professionally or otherwise. What network isn’t going to jump at the chance to bring him on? He just can’t play ball much longer. He has had an amazing run.

    • William

      Joey Votto is going to start knocking the daylights out of the ball soon. Rough start, but it is coming. SOON.

      • MK

        William, be aware if anyone offers you Kool-Aid in the next few days.
        I’ve always respected Mike Schmidt for knowing when to walk away.

        As a coach or manager the player you want consistent performance. you want to count on a .275 hitter to hit .275 in April and every month. Not .125 in April and .350 in August. Joey has been that kind of guy for the last 6 years. A terrible start and hot second half. This has helped the Reds dig a hole they can’t get out of every year.

        Before the Votto lovers go nuts please note I said helped. It hasn’t been all him but he helped,

  5. realist

    There is a big difference this year compared to last. Winker and Castellini in the batting order along with India and Stephenson. Wonder how he would do in Toronto’s lineup. Pitchers have no one to be afraid of without India and Stephenson out.

    • Gonzo Reds

      Feel the same. Just ordered a Blue Jays hat to wear in support of my new team. Hoping Joey Votto makes it back to Canada this year!

      • MK

        I don’t think he could start for Blue Jays. They aren’t going to pay $20 million for a bench player, not even 10 in Reds pay half

      • Jim Walker

        The total remaining sunken cost on Votto is in the $50M range as I calculate it.

        5 months left on 2022: $20.8M
        2023: $25M
        Buyout of 2024: $7M

        TOTAL: $52.7M $
        Per Cot’s Contracts, linked below. You probably have to scroll down to Votto but since he is the highest paid player that isn’t much scrolling.

        10 years/$225M (2014-23), plus 2024 club option
        signed extension with Cincinnati 4/3/12
        14:$12M, 15:$14M, 16:$20M, 17:$22M, 18-23:$25M annually, 24:$20M club option ($7M buyout)
        award bonuses, including $75,000 for All-Star selection
        full no-trade clause

        https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/national-league-central/cincinnati-reds/

  6. BobbyBuck

    Next year can’t get here soon enough for me, in regards to MLB Cincinnati baseball. IF Robinson Cano can be DFA’d…..why not Moustakas and Votto?

  7. Mark Moore

    He’ll hit, though the decline is inevitable as Doug pointed out. I haven’t seen the stats, but aren’t HR’s down a bit overall this year so far with the balls all being in a humidor until put into play?

    The late/short ST is somewhat to blame, but there are other factors. I can’t imagine the mental stuff these guys are going through when they see the franchise ownership making the stupid statements they have and the bonehead moves they’ve made.

    Back at it tonight. Let’s hope the Bernies help us start a little winning streak.

  8. AMDG

    Votto is a notoriously slow starter, but not THIS slow.

    Over the past 3 seasons (2019, 2020, 2021) Votto slashed thru his first 22 games: 0.217 / 0.322 / 0.383

    And in those 3 seasons for the remainder of the year, after the 22nd game, he slashed: 0.264 / 0.364 / 0.493

    So, he started out bad, and after that, was decent.

    But in 2022 Votto is slashing an abysmal 0.122 / 0.278 / 0.135
    And his K rate is much worse than it’s been in any previous season.

    If Votto has his typical uptick in performance after the first month, his slash line wouldn’t even improve enough to match the bad starts he had in 2019 thru 2021.

    Basically, he would need a monumental rest of the season just to get anywhere close to what we are hoping for. And with the high K’s, age, and horrendous showing thus far, expecting Votto to finish the year hitting even 0.220 is perhaps a bridge too far.

  9. old-school

    Votto turns 39 in September. I don’t understand the chorus of “hes not old and he will bounce back and be fine”. Maybe he does and I hope he does, but aging would overwhelmingly be the #1 explanation for his awful April. This isnt just a “slow start”. He’s hitting .130 with 1 xtra base hit and striking out over 30% of his at bats and popping up to the infield with regularity. Sure, the weather warms up and GABP welcomes hitters again this summer but Votto is not going to slash .300/.400/.500 and hit 35 home runs.

    Its time to be grooming the next first baseman.

    Looking at Votto’s 2002 draft class, most of the elite hitters from that class aged out awhile ago.

    Price Fielder
    Curtis Granderson
    Brian McCann
    Howie Kendrick
    Russell Martin
    Nick Swisher

    Jay Bruce quit last summer at 34 because he couldnt perform anymore.

    • LDS

      Votto is a Reds legend and everyone ignores the reality of age – a reality which I can personally attest SUCKS. But expecting a return to glory is wishful thinking. He, like Muhammad Ali, looks like he is unwilling to give up the spotlight (and the money). As for Castellanos and Winker’s departure being the problem? They usually hit before Votto in the order. And in years past, lousy supporting casts didn’t keep him from doing what he did best – get on base.

      • CallowayPost

        Personally, speaking of Nick C., he brought swag to this club that is has never had. Whenever we did have it, it looked like positive thinking that failed to materialize.

        With Nick and right…the two players nearest to him were Votto and India. Votto still bangs became a fact, and India…well…they meshed well. Add in Winker to this point, and the team no longer looked like it was faking it to make it, until the end of the season when the air went out of the tires.

        Whatever momentum they had coming into the season, the Castellini’s took care of.

        Pissed off fans are nothing new…but he embarrassed his players, and his coaches, right after drastically altering the everyday lineup by forcing the team to stagnate.

        “This too; Shall pass” is my go to mantram…but the fact remains, that “Grow or Die” is a fact of any part of life.

        The team isn’t growing, and is slapped together at this point. With Bob making the decisions like a businessman…let him do it somewhere else.

        I never want to see him shuffle his a** onto the field again where his owner’s jersey.

    • greenmtred

      I don’t know what’s wrong with Joey, and I hope that he fixes it. Generally, age makes athletic decline inevitable, but I can’t quite buy that this year is about that and only that: He was very good just last year, having reinvented himself, and this seems like too much of a drop off for one year, barring an injury we don’t know about. He’s a cerebral hitter and is very likely working on another reinvention of himself. He’ll never be the Votto of old, but what we’re seeing now isn’t him, either.

      • LDS

        He was good against RH’ers last year, LH’ers not so much. But I still blame much of the issue on his abandoning his natural tendencies in pursuit of homeruns. And this is systemic in baseball and doomed to fail horribly for some players.

      • greenmtred

        I agree generally, but his resurgence last year was, supposedly, due to changing his focus from getting on base to driving the ball–trying to hit home runs. Which he did. Not many hitters have Joey’s commitment to his craft or skill necessary to bring that off, though, and I certainly agree that the fixation on homers to the exclusion of everything else makes the game less interesting and watchable.

    • Rednat

      agreed. 30 seems to be the new 40 in mlb

    • Jim Walker

      @OS, Good picks on the K rate and infield popups. As recently as last year, we were often reminded that it was seasons upon seasons since Votto had been retired on an infield popup. And his current 2022 K rate of 32.2% is 75% GT his career K rate of 18.4. It is also 35% GT than his 2021 K rate (23.8%). Age will be served.

      Also I did not see noted here that this season all game balls are being sent through the humidor treatment. Along with the shift, might this also be a contributing factor?

  10. SultanofSwaff

    I wonder what his numbers would be now and over the last couple seasons if the shift were banned. There’s a handful of players who are disproportionately harmed and Votto is one of them. They’re being punished for being left handed in a way right handed hitters are not. There’s an essential issue of fairness and the rules haven’t caught up with analytics to level the playing field. More than anything, the shift makes the game less interesting—is that what we want from the sport? I almost wonder if this moment in history will be akin to the deadball era for left handed hitters.

    • Droslovinia

      Wasn’t the deadball era that time when hitters knew how to punch the ball into the opposite field?

  11. greenmtred

    I don’t know what’s wrong with Joey, and I hope that he fixes it. Generally, age makes athletic decline inevitable, but I can’t quite buy that this year is about that and only that: He was very good just last year, having reinvented himself, and this seems like too much of a drop off for one year, barring an injury we don’t know about. He’s a cerebral hitter and is very likely working on another reinvention of himself. He’ll never be the Votto of old, but what we’re seeing now isn’t him, either.

      • old-school

        Thats funny. Are you in Vermont and for first time visitors, what would you recommend as must see 3-4 destinations

      • TR

        Montpelier, Vermont. The smallest state capital in population and the only one without fast food places.

      • greenmtred

        I am in VT. Depends upon your interests, but Burlington, our biggest city (and you’ll understand why this is funny–the population is around 30 thousand) is pretty with a celebrated Church St. Market, and is on the shores of Lake Champlain. Montpelier, the capitol, is small and pretty, and the capitol itself is a gem tucked against the mountains. The only state capitol bldg. with its own google map. Otherwise, its the scenery, which is worthwhile mostly everywhere, but best off the main roads–up in the hills. The northeast corner of VT–called the “Kingdom” is particularly full of small roads and few people. Hope you make it here. You can probably tell that I love it. VT is home.

      • old-school

        Thx . Its on the list. Had people tell me the best place to live in the summer and early fall is Vermont.

      • greenmtred

        It’s great in the winter, too. Spring has its charms, but it can be brief, gray and muddy.

  12. Scott C

    I would like to bet on Votto but two things give me caution: 1) Old Man Time always wins. (Note Robinson Cano was just released by the mets) and 2) Votto has no one else hitting around him. I love Kyle Farmer but he is no protection. Who else do you have right now Pham? Drury? Garcia? Moustakas? I don’t think so. Even when Stephenson and India come back it is a pretty weak lineup. As someone pointed out, may have been Doug, we basically have an expansion team.

  13. redsfan4040

    I am a forever optimist when it comes to the Reds. I like to believe that they’ll click at any moment, so, I’ll continue to do the insane thing and believe that Joey will turn it on at any moment, as he’s done time and time again. Go Reds.

  14. Don

    When you are a 38 year old baseball player (he will be 39 before the season ends), history of past performance is clearly subservient to age. He might bounce back, but at some point father time is going to get the win and Votto is now in the bottom of the eight inning.

  15. Jim t

    Scott C, Couldn’t agree more with the comment, we have a expansion team. We need a complete change from ownership on down. If we are just going to fire Bell and his staff we will have accomplished very little. We need a new ownership to enact these changes. Our City deserves so much more then ownership is willing to provide. We are the home of Baseball!!! Ownership is disrespecting our city and it’s fans.

    • MK

      JimT Over the years I have not seen the Stadium filled on too many occasions with the great fans. I see a poorly playing Cubs yet the stands are full, a less than great Cardinals some years and the stands are full. Maybe ownership is counting on the great fans so they can afford to pay for a great team. In addition corporate financial partners are probably hard to acquire when the number of fans to see the advertising fill a third of the stadium. there is a lot to blame management for but there are some other factors as well.

  16. Jim Walker

    To borrow from the aging dowager countess in Downton Abbey (Maggie Smith’s character) telling her granddaughter mortality is beckoning her, Votto will be fine (as a hitter) until he isn’t. The question is whether this is it. Only time will tell; but, we’d be heads buried in the sand fools not to wonder if the time is now.

  17. Daytonnati

    Most of us do not get to do what we loved as kids for a living. I can imagine that letting it go would be the hardest decision one could make. The salaries that elite-level athletes make just adds to the difficulty. Joey’s idol, Ted Williams “knew”:

    “In his final season, 1960, as a 41-year-old, he hit . 316 with 29 home runs. Williams retired following the 1960 season, hitting a home run in his final at-bat on Sept. 28, 1960.”

  18. Doc

    The HOF is full of players who didn’t go out on top of their games. In the old days that decision was often made for them. In the days of guaranteed contracts, less so.

    • David

      Willie Mays finished his career with the New York Mets, in 1973. It was pretty bad.

      I think he was 41 at the time.

      Willie was a great player, but stayed a couple of years too long. He played a lot of 1st base for the Giants in 1971, with McCovey hurting a lot, but even then, his hitting was falling off.

  19. Eddie

    I feel bad for him but pointless of enjoying the show bc nothing to root for besides off days so losing ends for a day. Hope he hit power again like last year owners like Bob n son why fans even young generations don’t enjoy baseball bc teams don’t compete. Nick krill say no excuse for losing
    comment was a jk since he part of the issue as well

    • Rednat

      great article . i feel the reds may win 20-30 games this year. certainly not out of the question. the main question is , what would the league do about if they did?

    • Marklovepete

      Thanks for the link to the Spiders article.
      Fascinating.

  20. William

    Go Joey. Your comeback will be worth watching. Sorry you did not get more help from the owners. I know you have had a bad month. Reds fans like me still believe in you. Thirty home runs. Close to .400 or above on base percentage. Here it comes. I am believing against all odds for the greatest comeback in Reds history as well. I am talking about the Reds winning. Hey, I do not see it on paper, either. It is pure hope. Need it to live. Go Reds!!!

  21. Votto4life

    I don’t care if Votto doesn’t get another hit this season. The man is is one of the greatest hitter to ever put on a Red’s uniform.

    Knock’em dead Joey. I am looking forward to the show!

  22. LDS

    3-19, yet another day with no action from the front office. I think we’re approaching the point where we just need to accept that losing 100+ games is the likely outcome IF NOT THE GOAL. Castellini thumbing his nose at the fans. It costs him very little.

    • Jim Walker

      There is still probably a lot of pending waiver action across with the roster pare down to 26. I believe the period is 3 working days. Plus, with guys DFAed, sometimes it is several days before they are officially put on waivers.

      • Votto4life

        The Reds also is near the back of the line based on how they finished last season. They don’t move up on the waiver claim list until 20 games have been played. So even if they could pick up someone useful, they likely won’t get the chance.

      • Votto4life

        Sorry I meant they don’t move up until 30 games have been played

    • David

      I think the golden boy, Phil Castellini, already did that.

      We know what they think of the fans. He told us. He meant it.

    • LDS

      Could still fire some folks. Anything to demonstrate that they give a rat’s rear end

  23. Mark A Verticchio

    Votto not playing tonight, if you look at the line up the Reds have one person in it hitting over .250 and that is Stephenson who hasn’t played in two weeks. I don’t see how this team can win many games, I look for a Brewer sweep and the Reds to go home 3 and 22. I admit I am not a Bell fan and, even though he has been dealt a poor hand, I think it is time for him to go. It won’t help but somebody has to take the fall for this embarrassment.

  24. centerfield

    I predict a Reds win tonight. Then we’ll be back to losing. I just think with Votto sitting, Mahle pitching on the road and a couple of new faces in the lineup, everything lines up for a W.

    • Maloney63

      Then again, these are the Reds….

  25. Bet on Red

    Votto to Covid IL. A benching with dignity.

  26. VaRedsFan

    The difference between this year and last year….Early last year he was scalding the ball all over the park, just not getting the results. This year it’s strikeouts, popups and weak ground outs to 2B.

    I told you guys last year that it was the best he looked since 2017, and he eventually went on to prove that. This year I’m not so confident.

    It baffles me why he changes his approach after successful seasons.
    He did it in 2018-2019 after finishing 2nd in MVP voting. He wanted to try the deep crouch, check swing, choked up, inside out swing.
    Now this year he breaks out this new bat.

    It’s like he tries new things, just to see if he can, instead of sticking with what worked.

    • jon

      I agree his biggest problem is between the ears.

  27. Jim t

    Don’t disagree MK but ownership has to be a bit more active in its pursuit of a quality product. While putting together this team it was more then obvious winning was not a factor.