Joey Votto was fantastic this year. There's been lots of talk (particularly from the Brennamen) criticizing his passive approach at the plate this year, suggesting he wasn't earning the paycheck he's been given. I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of us on this blog feel otherwise.
Someone (respectfulred, I believe - but I'm too lazy to look it up and confirm) pointed out that the drop in production (to merely "superhuman" from "video game character") came not from his decision to stop making outs, but from a decline in slugging. I was reading a Jeff Sullivan article on fangraphs today that showed Adrian Gonzalez's spray chart, and it got me to wondering what Votto's looks like. I think it shows why Votto's slugging declined.
Here's the 2012 spray chart:
We know Votto hits the ball to the opposite field with authority, but in 2013, he basically abandoned right field (and the right-center gap entirely). I find this kind of jarring. I don't know if this is an unintended consequence of being more selective and swinging later to get better looks at pitches, if it is the intentional result of looking for pitches on the outer part of the plate, or if there is some other reason behind it. I know Votto is very succesful hitting the ball to the opposite field, but abandoning your pull side altogether seems like it would make him easier to defend against. If he keeps this strategy, I wonder if we'll see opposing RFs playing in a few steps in the future to try to steal a few of those singles that fall in front of them.
I'm looking forward to seeing how Votto does next year. I'll be thrilled if he remains patient and continues to put up a .420 OBP. If he starts spraying the ball all over the field again and slugs .550 too, I'll be even happier. If he can do both, he'll be back in the discussion for MVP again. Let's hope for that.