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Updating the Top 100: Joey Votto

If you're of a certain age, he's the best you've ever seen.

When Joey saved Mother's Day
When Joey saved Mother's Day
Joe Robbins

20. Joey Votto

Played as Red Primary Position Career Rank Peak Rank Prime Rank
2007-2012 1B 29 12 9
Percent Breakdown of Value Best Season Best player on Reds
Hit Field Pitch 2010 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
94% 6% 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
Gold Glove - 2011
OPS+ – 2010
OPS – 2010
On Base Percentage – 2010, 2011, 2012
Slugging Percentage – 2010
Doubles - 2011
Walks - 2011, 2012

-1st in career OPS+
-1st in career on base percentage
-2nd in career slugging percentage
-4th in career batting average
-18th in career home runs

These various rankings are really just a shorthand avenue to write about the players. In other words, the rankings don’t mean much of anything, especially with respect to if Joey Votto should really be the #18 best Red or the #28 all-time franchise player. Someone else would use a different set of criteria or formulae, and would land at a different slot, and you’d all go on your way.

To the extent that they exist, which happens to be little more than on my hard drive, they do give me some interest in individual exploits during the year. For instance, I want the team to do well, which is a function of individual accomplishment, which will eventually show up on these write-ups. But when there’re certain players who have the chance to do something special, I want to see it. Joey Votto is the specialist guy we got, and his knee injury not only potentially cost the Reds additional postseason success, it also may have derailed any opportunity Votto has at one day becoming the greatest Red of all-time.

I’m putting the cart way in front of the horse here, I know, and there are roughly 27 seasons remaining on Votto’s contract which have yet to play out, but the point is that: a) Votto’s pretty damn good; b) he was having a very special season; and c) the kind of superlative career numbers it would take to rank in the top three (i.e., beat out Rose/Bench/Morgan) mean that these kind of sidebars need to be avoided.

To wit, here is Joey Votto’s stat line as of June 29, the day he injured his knee on a slide:

.354/.476/.639, 33 2B, 14 HR, 50 R, 47 RBI

And here’s his line at an equivalent point in 2010, his MVP season:

.305/.411/.552, 12 2B, 16 HR, 47 R, 50 RBI

Now, part of the story is that Votto really turned up the heat in the 2nd half of 2010. But the other is that this generation’s best player was having his best season to date, and we will never know what it could have been, nor what effects it will have in the future.

He’ll probably still be really, really good. But in some ways, missing out on that kind of performance is even more disappointing than the NLDS fumble. Even worse, we now have a data point which suggests that Joey Votto is indeed a mortal human, which totally screws up the projection model.

By the by, first base has been a relatively weak position for the Reds over the years, at least in terms of superstar quality players. Tony Perez was a great player, but had most of his truly excellent seasons at the hot corner. Big Klu had a nice peak, but wasn’t as sustained as Votto’s last few seasons. If you want to go around town referring to Vottomatic as the greatest first baseman in team history, regardless of what the chart below says, you won’t get much resistance from me.

Joey Votto has played in 728 games over six seasons with the Reds, nearly all of them at first base. He has compiled a stat line of .316/.415/.553 (155 OPS+), with 197 doubles, 133 homers, and 457 RBI.

As a result of yet another outstanding season, Votto rises from #27 to #20 on the all-time list, also jumping one spot on the list of franchise first basemen.

The Top 15 First Basemen in Reds history

1 Tony Perez
2 Ted Kluszewski
3 Joey Votto*
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