As of the Wednesday night, the Cincinnati Reds had two April games remaining on their schedule, a pair of weekend contests on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That means there are just a two contests before we reach a convenient end-point, one which breaks down into a chunk often cited and easily comparable with those from the careers of baseball players throughout the game's rich history.
Joey Votto will enter Wednesday's game against the Mets with a .221/.311/.312 line in his 86 PA this month. As things currently sit, that stands to be not only the worst single month of triple-slash production in his career, but it stands to be so by quite a large margin. If you throw out the meager .481 OPS he posted in July of 2014 (since he played in only 4 games before being shut down for the season with his quad injury), the lowest single month mark he'd ever had came all the way back in July of 2008 when he hit .261/.337/.352 (.689) in 98 rather forgettable PAs.
In fact, that rough July of 2008 marks the only time Votto has ever had a single month OPS in the .600s. He's only had seven months in his illustrious career in which his single month OPS even sat in the .700s, and two of those came during his injury-riddled 2014 season.
So, barring an outburst of power and patience in his final 8-10 PAs of this April, you've been witnessing the absolute worst month in the career of an absolutely fantastic player.
The good news you can take from this, though, is that he's had those 8 calendar months of sub .800 OPS production and still managed to rebound to be the offensive freak we know and love. It was just last May that Votto hit a measly .253/.349/.358 (.707) with only two dingers, and that came just before the most amazing second half of a season he's ever produced. He looked challenged, confused, and overpowered just up to the point until he didn't, at which point he returned to being the single greatest offensive force in all of baseball not named Bryce Harper.
The bad news, however, is that he's obviously never struggled this badly at such an advanced age, since time travel isn't one of the Five Tools scouts identify in players. At age 32, there's no doubt he's not physically the same player that won the 2010 National League MVP, which means there's a new adjustment he's having to make almost every time he steps into the batter's box.
It's been tough to watch, and there's no way to get around that. Joey himself surely wishes he'd hopped off to a more robust start, but the game of baseball simply isn't that easy. However, he's less than 10 months removed from busting heads to the tune of .362/.535/.617 over the final 73 games of the 2015 season, and skills that produce those kinds of numbers don't just evaporate overnight. His current .241 BABIP sits a full .114 points lower than his career mark, and that's something that should begin to normalize at some point soon - especially when you factor in that he's hitting the ball hard more often than ever before while simultaneously making soft contact less often than ever in his career.
Has Joey Votto been fine this year? No. Will he be? Absolutely, and hopefully his recent 7 for 19 stretch is more indicative of what is on the horizon. So crumple up his April box score, flush it down the Molina, but come back to it in a decade and scratch your head at how a player that good struggled so oddly for during such a perfectly arbitrary set of endpoints.
And while you're at it, hope for one of those 1.200 OPS months in May.