Forgotten in the Queen City is one of baseball’s best-kept secrets. It’s safe to say Joey Votto doesn’t get the name recognition he deserves, despite winning the 2010 NL MVP. If he walked into a bar outside of Cincinnati, I’m not sure five people would recognize him. This isn’t a surprise to those who care about him. In fact, most of his diehard fans would probably like to keep it this way.
Votto’s personality can be brash and standoffish, and he’s never been afraid to give it right back to the fans and he gets most of his notoriety for stunts with the crowd.
However, lost in that media narrative is one of baseball’s best pure hitters. A gifted first baseman who is hidden in the obscurity that is the present day Cincinnati Reds.
Gone are the glory days of Dusty Baker and those enjoyable teams that dominated the NL Central for a stretch of about five years. The present day Reds, led by Bryan Price, are a shell of that former contender. They have ghosts like Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco from those glory days who have hung around, collecting paychecks with their best days behind them. Votto is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. He’s a hitter who is ageing like a fine wine and a player who is worth more to the game than he is being allowed to give.
Talking about the statistical excellence of Votto at the plate never gets old. Votto, at the ripe age of 34, is having a fantastic year by any measure. In a day and age where hitters approaching their mid-thirties diminish quickly – I’m looking at you Miguel Cabrera – Votto has instead taken his approach and performance to another level in 2017.
For example’s sake, have a look at the current MLB leaderboard by wRC+. Votto’s 166 mark is nestled right between two names you’re very familiar with: Justin Turner and Bryce Harper. He’s just marginally behind AL-MVP Favorite Jose Altuve’s MLB-best 169. Baseball hitters thrive in their 20’s when their vision is best and their hands are at their quickest. The 30 names on that show up on the front page of FanGraphs in wRC+ consist of a group that is largely made up of the best 20-somethings the game has to offer. In fact, of all those players, only Seattle’s Nelson Cruz (37, 144 wRC+) is older than Votto, and only a handful are even over age 30. He even pulled this stunt last night against the Cubs slow pitch softball shift.
Votto’s age 31, 32, and now age 33 seasons have been unfathomable, especially given the injuries he had to overcome in the seasons prior to get where he is today. The wRC+ he’s posted during that stretch is second only to Mike Trout (178 wRC+ in his age 23-25 seasons) in all of baseball, in which time he’s hit an astounding .318/.446/.561 in 1,886 PAs.
For historical context Votto’s age, 31-33 seasons have been remarkable stacked against any name since 1871. His 166 wRC+ is only bested by the likes of some Hall of Famers I’m sure you’re familiar with: Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams and Willie Mays. Votto sits at 17th on that list, and the only truly modern day names we may recognize are a trio of notorious rule benders named Bonds, Sosa and McGwire.
Votto is putting up some astounding numbers and doing so in a way that makes us think he is actually improving at age 34. He’s striking out less, getting on base at a ridiculous pace, and he’s leading the league in wOBA. He is somehow a hidden gem and unless the Reds, who have him under contract through 2024, decide to move him in the coming years, he will be a name not many in baseball will ever give the proper due credit. Here’s to you Joey Votto, you probably deserve the NL MVP award, although I wouldn't count on even being considered.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?