Comparing any player’s age 35-38 seasons to what they accomplished at a younger age is a fool’s exercise. It’s akin to saying ‘that guy doesn’t run nearly as well when he wears his scuba flippers,’ or wondering ‘why can’t he dunk with Danny DeVito sitting on his shoulders drinking a chianti?’
Getting older is kinda cool sometimes, but not normally for your baseball stats. Things hurt, things creak, things tweak and reek and wreak. Getting older as a hitter is like spilling blood in the ocean, too, with pitchers swarming like sharks once they begin to find any weakness in said hitter’s swing.
Such was the case with Joey Votto, for a time. Folks who have joined us here at Red Reporter along the ride that has been the last dozen years are well aware of the trials and tribulations of Votto’s epic career - the MVP days, the devouring of his knee by Pablo Sandoval, the hobbled 2013-2014 seasons where many wrote him off as his contract extension kicked, and the Return of the King 2015-2017 seasons where he was the single most dominant offensive force in the baseball world. All those rolled right into a 2018 season that, for the first time, saw a seemingly healthy Votto look...different.
While I very much hesitate to say he ever looked done, he looked confused. Defeated, at times, given how seldom he’d ever been unable to meet an opponent’s challenge. As a result, he was crushing meatballs at a much less prolific rate than ever before, searching endlessly for answers while reverting often to an approach of doing anything, and everything he could to simply find a way to first base.
The 2021 season eschewed that epoch in a hurry. The finale of the shortened 2020 campaign did, really, as a complete overhaul of his approach, swing, and in-the-box priorities launched him right back to the top of the don’t pitch to this guy leaderboards, albeit in a way he’d also not risen before. To be frank, the now 38 year old was simply knocking the shit out of baseballs, and it was a marvel to behold.
This celebration of Votto won’t then focus on what his stats during his 2018-2021 seasons looked like relative to his MVP years. A fool’s errand, I said. Instead, we’ll simply put into context just how kick-ass Joseph Daniel was while he was doing what I just described as ‘confused,’ ‘defeated,’ and ‘unable to meet an opponent’s challenge,’ since a good portion of Reds fans who read that previous paragraph I wrote were nodding their heads in approval while reading it.
From the start of the 2018 season through the end of the 2021 season, Joey hit a combined .265/.380/.458. That was good for a .361 wOBA, a mark that was better than the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Michael Brantley (all .359), Manny machado (.358), Kyle Schwarber (.358), Jose Abreu (.353), Eugenio Suarez (.353), Cody Bellinger (.348), Carlos Correa (.345), Francisco Lindor (.345), Marcus Semien (.345), and literally hundreds of other well compensated baseball players.
If you’re going to nitpick by stating that all he did was walk in that timeframe, let’s dive into that .458 slugging percentage. That was better than the likes of Michael Conforto (.455), for instance, who’s about to land a deafening contract this winter to be a middle of the order bat for someone. It’s also better than the likes of DJ LeMahieu, Chris Taylor, Max Kepler, Yoan Moncada, Willson Contreras, and hundreds of other well compensated baseball players, too.
FanGraphs, thank god, is full of this stuff. It’s practically made for Joey Votto. Please, dear god, go there and spend time finding ways to critique Joey Votto, and get back to me when you find something other than him being slower than a 14.4k modem downloading the entire Labor Day ‘77 Grateful Dead show from Englishtown, NJ off Napster. Until then, just bask in knowing you’ve been around to exist in the same baseball realm as this all-time great.