The Reds‘ long-time first baseman has for whatever reason (his contract, his low-ish RBI totals for the tastes of some in the Cincy area) been a polarizing figure when it comes to arguments over his value. Something that cannot be argued is Votto’s acumen as an all-around professional hitter. We’ve seen few as polished as him as a batsmith in decades.
A few weeks ago, who I believe have the most to lose from a canceled 2020 season in terms of their Hall of Fame candidacies. Since we’re still waiting around for baseball to happen, let’s take a closer look at some of these guys. We’ll start with Joey Votto.
- Among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Votto is third in batting average behind Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve. He’s 135th all-time.
- Among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Votto is first in on-base percentage. He’s 17th all-time.
- Among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Votto is 10th in slugging percentage. He’s 64th all-time.
- The 150 OPS+ is second among active players behind Mike Trout and 32nd all-time.
- He’s fifth in position-player WAR among active players behind Albert Pujols, Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano.
When we look at the Hall of Fame, WAR and JAWS are helpful guides. Votto is 14th among first baseman in JAWS, slightly below the average Hall of Fame first baseman. He’s one spot behind Willie McCovey and sits ahead of Eddie Murray, Hank Greenberg, George Sisler, Billy Terry, Harmon Killebrew and former Red Tony Perez.
Votto sits with 944 RBI. Among post-integration Hall of Fame first basemen, the lowest RBI total is 1,365 (Cepeda again). The 1,009 runs and 404 doubles aren’t likely to look eye-popping to the crowd that considers the counting stats dear, either. Before 2019, Votto never had an OPS+ below 125. Even if there was some bounce-back coming, Votto only had 15 homers and 47 RBI last season.
You want black ink? Votto led the league in doubles once, walks five times, on-base percentage seven times, slugging once, OPS twice, OPS+ once and WAR once. He won the 2010 MVP, finished second once, third once and sixth twice. He was the unquestioned best player on three playoff teams.
I am saying that Votto needs to add as many home runs and RBI as he possibly can before he retires to solidify his case.
Votto might very well already be in the Hall of Fame, but there is a case against him. 2017: .320/.454/.578/167
The SportsLine model for 120 games in 2020 has Votto with 13 homers and 51 RBI. That gets him to 298 homers and 995 RBI. I think we’re gonna get fewer games than that, though, and his rate stats are likely to be dragged down as he ages.
That’s where the 2020 shutdown factors in a big way.
My hunch is Votto ends up in the Hall of Fame as the voting body continues to adapt a new school approach. If he doesn’t, however, his counting stats are going to be the ultimate culprit, and the 2020 shutdown will have an impact on those.
Votto plays first base. Fair or not, there’s an expectation that the position demands big-time power numbers. Note the slugging percentage. Votto has hit 35+ homers twice and 25+ homers three more times. That’s good. The career tally is just 284, however. Among post-integration Hall of Fame first basemen, the lowest home run total is 379 (Orlando Cepeda).
The career slash line is just gorgeous, clocking in at .307/.421/.519, good for an OPS+ of 150. Here are some more smooth numbers: The longer we go without baseball, the less likely it is Votto can add enough homers or RBI to satisfy swaths of old-school Hall of Fame hard-liners. It’s also worth noting that while Votto still gets on base at a good clip, he’s stopped slugging. That means he’s likely to be more in a table-setting capacity in the batting order than the three- or four-hole, where he’d have more RBI chances.
Votto is 36 and clearly in his decline. Look at his trends the last three years in AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS+.