Baseball is a great game for many reasons, including the legitimate debates over baseball's various nuances. Very little about this game is black-and-white. There's almost always some gray area. Almost always some gray area. Some arguments are nothing short of infuriatingly ignorant... Which brings us to the latest Paul Daugherty "The Morning Line" entry. "Doc" is all worked up over this podcast in which Buster Olney and Jayson Stark give glowing praise to the offensive prowess of Joey Votto. As Olney (accurately) points out, "a hitter's goal is to get on base." Presumably still upset that the Reds didn't trade Votto for Joe Blanton, Daugherty take exception with Olney's argument.
Let's address "Doc's" criticism point-by-point.
[Olney and Stark] both decided that it’s terrific for your No. 3 hitter to get on base a lot. It is, but not at the expense of RBI. It’s a good example of baseball experts overthinking a fairly simple issue.
- Where to begin... Maybe Daugherty is under-thinking the issue, but that wouldn't be a surprise. Is "Doc" suggesting that it would be bad for a No. 3 hitter to draw a walk in every plate appearance? After all, those walks would surely come "at the expense of RBI."
Here are the #s: In 14 games, Votto has 3 RBI. In 66 plate appearances, he has 1 homer, 1 double and 1 triple. This is roughly 1/12th of the season. A little more, actually. Multiply those numbers by 12... Votto has 12 homers, 36 BI. Oh, yes, he also has 252 walks, as the ESPN guys gleefully pointed out.
Do you really want your best, most important hitter with those numbers at the conclusion of the Big 162?
- YES! That would be historically great! Votto's OBP is currently at .530. Since 1900, only three players have posted an OBP greater than .530 over an entire season (while qualifying for the batting title): Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Ted Williams - also known as the three greatest hitters in baseball history. As for the 252 walks... 252 walks! Prior to 2001, Babe Ruth held the single-season record with 170 walks in a season. Barry Bonds holds the current record at 232 walks in 2004. Only 5 plays in the history of the game have walked more than 150 times in a season. And while we're using the "on pace" argument... Votto is currently on track for a WAR of 10.8, which would be the 3rd best single-season for a position player since 2000, and one of the top 25 seasons of all time. Votto is on pace to reach base safely well over 400 times this year, which would break (by a wide margin) Ruth's MLB record of 379 times on base in a season.
So... do I "really want" the Reds "most important hitter with those numbers at the conclusion" of the season? Yes Paul, I do.
Metrics make for good conversation, even though I have no idea how anyone can determine Wins Above Replacement. But sometimes, the elementary stats for uneducated fans such as myself are just as telling. No team with title aspirations can have a 3-hole hitter doing what Votto is doing now.
- While Doc get's some points for acknowledging his status as an uneducated fan, this quote helps to demonstrate his ignorance. Elementary stats are, by definition, NOT as telling as advanced metrics. The reason advanced metrics exist is because "elementary stats" were not telling the whole story of player production. This would be like saying, "while microscopes are good for conversation, this magnifying glass is just as useful for studying cell biology."
If he were being paid $17 mil to get on base and score runs, fine. He’s not.
- Pure gold, Doc. Bravo! Votto's not paid to get on base and score runs? Oh really? I was under the impression that Votto was paid to be a productive player. He's paid a large salary, in hopes that he can continue to be one of baseball's best hitters. That is exactly what he's doing this year, even if he's not doing it exactly how Doc wants him to. Doc acts as if players can only be productive by doing very specific things. If Aroldis Chapman failed to strikeout another hitter this season, but managed to retired hitters more frequently while not allowing runs, would Doc object? ("He's not paid to induce ground-balls!"). If Shin-Soo Choo's OBP were to drop below .300, but he managed to hit 70 HRs this season, would Doc take issue? ("He's not paid to hit home runs!") For Doc, there's only one way to skin a cat. Joey Votto isn't "doing his job," unless he's driving in a lot of runs. And what does Doc suggest Votto do, swing at bad pitches? Obviously, if Votto is drawing walks at an historic rate, most of the pitches he sees are not in the strike zone. Would Doc prefer Votto swing at those pitches and make outs? After all, he's not paid to get on base...