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Updating the Top 100: Joey Votto

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In which this generation's best Red gains entry into a new level of the pantheon

Taking a casual trot through St. Louis
Taking a casual trot through St. Louis
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

JOEY VOTTO -€” 8

Played as Red

Primary Position

Career Rank

Peak Rank

Prime Rank

2007-2016

1B

9

6

6

Percent Breakdown of Value

Best Season

Best player on Reds

Hit

Field

Pitch

2015

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016

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, 2016

OPS -€” 2010

On Base Percentage -€” 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016

Slugging Percentage -€” 2010

Doubles -€” 2011

Walks -€” 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015

- 1st in career OPS+
- 1st in career on base percentage
- 2nd in career slugging pct                               - 5th in career batting average
- 8th in career HR

On the whole, the gains made by the analytical community in the world of baseball have been a net positive.  That talk show hosts supplement discussion of saves and RBI with WAR is rather astounding, I suppose.  The sports world has a better sense today of who the best players in the game are than at any time in baseball history.  That's a good thing.

But it doesn't mean that there aren't flaws in the brave new world.

Joey Votto played in 158 games in 2015 and 2016, coming to bat 18 more times in 2015.  Relative to the league, his numbers were better in 2015, but not by so much that you couldn't call the two years neighbors: 174 OPS+ in 2015, 160 in 2016.   He was a smart but infrequent baserunner in both years.  His fielding percentage was virtually the same in both years and he underperformed the league average range factor at first base by roughly the same margin in both years.

Joey Votto's bWAR was 3.6 wins lower in 2016 than in 2015.  Hell, his bWAR in 2016 was lower than in 2009, when he hit worse than in 2016 and missed a month due to depression.

I'll admit that I don't get it.

Does any of this matter?  I guess in the grand metaphysical scheme, probably not, but we are talking about a player with Hall of Fame talent, but potentially Hall of Very Good playing time, which means that 15-20 years from now, baseball fans across the country will be scouring Votto's record to convince themselves that he does or does not merit a vote towards election.  And the record, based on the most commonly accepted wonderstat of the day, will tell our future selves that Votto had a down year (for him) in 2016.

That bafflement aside, have you ever seen another player with such consistently superior numbers who made you wonder what he could do if he just put it all together for a full season?  Rather famously, Votto had a not-so-good first half driven by a straight-up- bad April.  His OPS, which ended the year within whispering distance of 1000, was in the 700's as late as June 26.  From that point on, he only hit .394/.486/.659.

By the way, Brandon Belt had a higher bWAR than Votto this year.

Whatever.  Votto wasn't going to win the MVP this year with or without math and the Reds were just another last place team with a transcendent player.   I want to be there in Cooperstown to see him inducted though.

Votto has cracked the franchise top ten based on his season (for those who don't have it memorized: Rose, Bench, Morgan, Larkin, Robinson, Perez, Roush, Votto, Groh, Pinson).  Every player ranked above him, save for one mythically flawed character, is in the Hall.

Votto has played in 1,268 games for the Reds, hitting .313/.425/.536 (157 OPS+).  He has 1,407 hits, 221 home runs, and 862 walks.  His #8 rank is three slots higher than a year ago and he remains #2 on the list of franchise first basemen.

Top 15 1st Basemen in Reds history

1

Tony Perez

2

Joey Votto

3

Ted Kluszewski

4

Frank McCormick

5

Dan Driessen

6

Jack 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