Updating the Top 100 - Joey Votto

A rare positive moment from the team's best hitter. - Joe Robbins

A national treasure; a local scapegoat.

14. Joey Votto

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
2007-2013 1B 21 9 6
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 2010 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
95% 5% 0%
Awards/Honors as a Red Leading the League On the Reds Leaderboard
Most Valuable Player – 2010
Hank Aaron Award – 2010
All Star – 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Gold Glove - 2011
OPS+ – 2010
OPS – 2010
On Base Percentage – 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Slugging Percentage – 2010
Doubles - 2011
Walks - 2011, 2012, 2013

-1st in career OPS+
-1st in career on base percentage
-2nd in career slugging percentage
-4th in career batting average
-15th in career home runs

In the profile box above, there are slots for "career rank", "peak", and "prime". The way that I've chosen to define these have been that "peak" equals the top three seasons from a player, irrespective of timing or pattern, while the "prime" ranking refers to a player's best output over a consecutive 5-year range. The idea being that longevity and brilliance are important to constructing a winning franchise, but consistency surely matters also.

Whether these definitions and the underlying calculations are right, wrong, or indifferent, Joey Votto now owns the 6th best such 5-year window in team history, falling behind only Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, and Heinie Groh. Four of those guys you know as Baseball Royalty; in the case of Groh, picture a dead-ball era version of Votto (i.e., less power) who also capably manned third base.

Moreover, Votto's five-year streak, while impressive in its own right, includes a season in which he missed 25-30 games due to depression (note: that feels like a long time ago, no?), as well as a 50 game stretch due to a knee injury. In other words, Votto left a good chunk of value on the table and still places highly. By this time next year, provided Votto has a healthy campaign, he's liable to have the 3rd best 5-year stretch in team history, although we're heading down a trail I don't want to cover. Let's get this thing back on track...

The point is this: given the length of time the Reds have been existence, a reasonable expectation of a Votto-esque 5-year period we have just witnessed might be once per generation. Right? 120 years or so divided by six such careers that have met or exceeded this level equals every 20 years, on average. When three of them overlap with each other, as in Morgan/Rose/Bench, you get the Big Red Machine.

When one of these streaks occurs in the 21st century, you get thinking-out-loud observations on whether or not the best player on the team has the right approach at the plate.

Let's take another crack at looking at this. Since 1900, the Reds have had six seasons where a player has posted an OPS+ of 170 or greater. Votto owns two of them (the others: Seymour, Robinson, Morgan, and Mitchell).

When Joey Votto slips a bit from this extra-altitudinal peak, you are subjected to bona fide experts suggesting that maybe Votto should do things a bit different.

None of which is to say that Joey Votto's 2013 season was perfect. Surely not. Votto set a career high in errors and posted a sub-500 slugging percentage for the first time in his career.

By the way, Votto led the team in slugging percentage in 2013. Incidentally, the following sentence appeared in print in Cincinnati's daily newspaper, late in the season: "Either you look at Votto's low power numbers and cringe, or you look at Votto's on-base percentage and applaud."

And there you go.

Votto has played with the Reds since 2007, hitting .314/.419/.541 (155 OPS+) over his career. His first hit in 2014 will be #1,000 as a major leaguer. He's nearly perfectly balanced in his run production (529 scored, 530 driven in), and has 227 career doubles and 157 homers. He has the highest career OPS+ in team history; can you believe we're stuck with this fucker for ten more years?

Votto climbs from #20 to #14 on the all-time list, and moves up one spot on the list of greatest first basemen in team history to #2.

The Top 15 First Basemen in Reds history

1 Tony Perez
2 Joey Votto*
3 Ted Kluszewski
4 Frank McCormick
5 Dan Driessen
6 Jake Beckley
7 Sean Casey
8 Lee May
9 Jake Daubert
10 Dick Hoblitzel
11 Hal Morris
12 Rube Bressler
13 Gordy Coleman
14 Deron Johnson
15 Hal Chase

*active

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