The above picture is of Joey Votto, which you know. It came immediately after the double play that ended yesterday’s comeback victory over the Chicago Cubs, one that gave the Reds a series sweep and sank Chicago to its 9th consecutive loss.
Like the Reds as a whole, Votto is rolling of late. Cincinnati has won 4 in a row and wrapped a 7-4 homestand, and Votto played a huge part in most all of it. He hit .325/.357/.625 on the stand, belting a trio of doubles and a trio of homers in the process. That’s become emblematic of the production he’s put up overall since returning from his monthlong stint on the IL with a busted thumb, too, as he’s hit .295/.374/.534 in the 25 games (99 PA) in that time.
The small-sample stats above are glorious, to be sure, and a pretty clear example that Votto can still completely bang when he’s on his A-game. That said, there’s another sample that’s of much more particular interest to me - the one that dates back to the end of the 2020 season that encompasses the entirety of his work since his benching and swing change. That, in theory, might well be of more pertinence in the long run, since that’s the kind of hitter Joey’s trying to be these days.
227 MLB hitters have logged at least 250 PA since August 29th of last season, the date of Votto’s return to the Reds lineup after a 3-game benching and swing adjustment. Votto’s ISO in that time of .244 ranks 26th in that group, just ahead of the likes of Bryce Harper (.242) and Jesse Winker (.239). That mark is the highest by any Reds hitter in that time.
His 130 wRC+ in that time sits tied for 40th with Mookie Betts, just behind Nick Castellanos (133) and just ahead of JD Martinez (128), Pete Alonso (127), and Kris Bryant (127).
The 19 homers he’s bonked in that span has him tied for 37th with Aaron Judge, among a few others, and is just one behind the number swatted by a big who’s who group at 20 including Castellanos, Harper, Manny Machado, Trea Turner, and others - and now I’m remembering yesterday’s 400 foot flyout to the deepest part of GABP that would’ve had him tied with that group, not to mention that this is a counting-stat category and Votto missed that entire month.
In all, he’s hit .258/.353/.502 in 334 PA since returning with that swing change, and while that’s a line that doesn’t look at all like the Votto of his prime, that’s a formidable force in the heart of any lineup in today’s game. The fact is, the game has changed both on the mound and with shifting since Votto’s peak, and that forced him to change his game to find means to success, too. So far, he’s been able to find it again in new ways, and while pitching across the league will surely try to adjust again to Votto figuring it all out at the plate, that bodes well for both he and the Reds for the near future.
Over at The Enquirer, Bobby Nightengale caught up with Votto to discuss what motivates him now that he’s an elder of the game, and Votto dropped some pretty elite names from recent memory that he’s trying to emulate at the tail-end of his career. If Joey can finish things anything close to the way David Ortiz did, my god how fantastic that would be. I say that not only because Ortiz led all of baseball in doubles, SLG, and OPS in his final, age-40 season, but because Ortiz also had a Votto-like ‘slump’ in his mid 30s before figuring it all out again, too.
On the minor league side of things, Jose Barrero has been mostly tearing the cover off the ball all year on the farm, earning a promotion up to AAA Louisville just last week after hitting .300/.367/.481 in 180 PA for AA Chattanooga to start the year. That was good enough to earn him a roster spot for the upcoming MLB Futures Game as an injury replacement, as Baseball America’s JJ Cooper relayed earlier today.
Barrero will join Nick Lodolo as Reds representatives there, even though Lodolo hasn’t pitched for AA Chattanooga in over a month. He ran into persistent blister issues, and it appears the Reds brass has chosen to give him an extended period off to help solve those problems, and his inclusion on the Futures Game roster is hopefully a good indication that he’s about to make his full return. Rather, him not being bumped for an injury replacement the way that others have in the last two days is a good indication of that.
It’s officially July, and for good teams around the league that usually means it’s time to begin scouring the market for acquisitions for the stretch run. For the frugal Reds, however, that likely won’t be the case, and it’s more likely that they’ll fall back on the predictable we’ve got some guys about to get healthy again and that’s going to give us a huge boost line instead. Over at Reds.com, Mark Sheldon relayed yesterday that each of Lucas Sims, Tejay Antone, and Michael Lorenzen are likely due back right at the end of July - or, right at the trade deadline - and considering they’re all already on the Reds payroll, I’m expecting that entire series of returns and statements to be the bulk of the Reds work this month. (Let it be known that’s still a good thing to have them all back, but a stubborn and cheap way to try to win anything.)
That reminds me - Reds shortstop production has been either the second worst or third worst among all teams in the game this year, depending on which metric catches your focus. It would be very, very Reds-y to both not make an acquisition there at the deadline and not give Barrero another shot to be the jolt needed at the position this year, either.
Finally, the Reds are 43-40 after 83 games played. They sit 7.0 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central standings and 5.5 games behind the San Diego Padres for the second and final NL Wild Card spot. Even good teams need help this time of year. That’s why the damn trade deadline exists. The Reds are a good team, but they’re going to need some help to be better than their peers and make the playoffs, especially since those two teams ahead of them (as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who sit in the other Wild Card spot) are absolutely, positively going to make more additions at the deadline, too. I wonder if Bob Castellini reads Red Reposters...
Stats and leaderboards sourced from FanGraphs.com.