Each day we go without baseball gets us one day further removed from watching Joey Votto ply his trade in one of the most inimitable fashions possible. The Cincinnati Reds 1B has long been a baseball anomaly, one whose combination of method and performance has led to levels of production nearly unmatched across the sport’s landscape.
Nobody gets on base like Joey Votto. Nobody walks like Joey Votto. Nobody chokes up, checks swings, or controls the zone like Joey Votto. And even though that has become his calling card of sorts lately, for the longest time few, if any, put up .300/.400/.500 lines, to boot. While a master of the strike zone, Votto has also socked a prolific amount of dingers and doubles in his years, too.
Because he has been so good at what he does for so incredibly long, he’s got a paper trail of fun stats that define his excellence. In lieu of getting to swoon at anything new he puts up with baseball temporarily on-hold, we’re going to celebrate some of the more incredible things he’s done in his career instead.
Votto, of course, is a lefty at the plate. Lefties, historically, don’t hit lefty pitchers with a ton of proficiency, at least not as well as righties do. There’s a reason that platoons in this game have long been a calling card of roster construction, after all. And while the mid to late 30’s edition of Joey we’ve watched the last two seasons has increasingly fallen into that pattern, peak Joey was one of the very few lefties in the game who utterly destroyed that stereotype.
In fact, from 2010 through the end of the 2017 season, Votto posted an absurdly good 149 wRC+ and .398 wOBA against LHP. Those numbers are among the elite of the elite regardless of handedness, as the wRC+ ranked 13th and the wOBA tied for 11th best among the 146 qualified MLB hitters over that time. The top of the list is something of a who’s who of the modern game, with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Trout in the top five, but you’ll quickly notice that each of those five hit right-handed.
In fact, if you stare at the entire front page of the list, you’ll notice that every single player on the leaderboard vs. LHP hit them as a righty (either because that’s just what they do, or because they’re a switch-hitter). Every single one of them except Votto, of course.
Even if you dip down into the second page at FanGraphs, you’ll only find the small-sample of 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger’s rookie season on there as well as the brilliant early-career of Corey Seager as lefties who cracked the top 50 in wRC+.
It’s simply one more aspect of Votto’s brilliance, his ability to buck trends and be good at parts of the offensive game that almost zero of his peers could match. And I only chose to highlight how brilliant he was as a lefty against lefties during that 8 year stretch because it’s slightly less apparent to many than was his predictable success against right-handed pitchers in that time - and that was considerable. Focusing just on how well he did in the most complicated of scenarios somewhat underscores that of the 139 qualified hitters against RHP from 2010-2017, Votto’s .425 wOBA was the single best in all MLB.
A simply remarkable stretch from the master of baseball gamesmanship.
As a side note, it would have been impossible to sort and present this tidbit of Votto’s brilliance without the help of FanGraphs and their comprehensive database. Much like many of us, their business model depends on the game of baseball existing in some form or fashion, and the sport’s hiatus is hitting them quite hard. If you aren’t a FanGraphs member, please consider becoming one, as it will help them continue to procure their fantastic cache of stats while also supporting one of the single best writing staffs in the baseball universe.