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Joey Votto and the generation gap

May 24, 2013, 7:55 PM EDT

Joey Votto

Two articles were posted recently in stark contract to one another. The first is a very insightful piece by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, detailing Reds first baseman Joey Votto‘s approach to hitting. The second was a not-so-insightful piece by Paul Daugherty of the Enquire, taking a swipe at Votto because he doesn’t have many runs batted in.

As Crasnick writes, Votto doesn’t concern himself with RBI’s:

Now along comes Votto, who pays zero attention to conventional stats like runs scored and RBIs and focuses strictly on having the most productive at-bats possible in his quest to make life hell on pitchers. Votto doesn’t step in the box looking to draw walks, but he does adhere to a standard that many new-school bloggers and statistical types hold dear.

Whatever Votto is doing, it is working, despite having the fourth-most RBI on the team, behind Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier. Votto’s 1.030 OPS is by far the best on the team and the only other Reds hitter who comes close is Shin Soo Choo at .984. RBI machine Phillips registers at .795.

Daugherty, though, isn’t willing to look past those RBI’s.

If you’re going to laud the ability of Choo and Votto to score runs and get on base, why no love for BP’s ability to drive them in? Votto’s had as many chances to drive in Choo as Phillips has. More, in fact, given that he hits ahead of Phillips. Doesnt BP’s RBI prowess make Votto and Choo look good, same as their ability to get aboard makes BP’s RBI total look impressive?

Riddle me that, Statman.

And this, really, is the generational gap. Last year, the debate was had between traditionalists and Saberists with Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, respectively, as proxies. Not much progress has been made. Now we get to have the battle again, this time with Phillips and Votto as proxies.

We laud Votto for getting on base because it’s something he controls. (I don’t know any Saber types that are crediting his scoring runs.) One does not control the rate at which hitters in front of oneself reach base or the aggressiveness and efficiency of base runners, two large factors that influence RBI totals, arguably more than the hitter’s own skill level.

The Reds’ 1-4 in the lineup has mostly been Choo (.449 OBP), Zack Cozart (.247), Votto (.484), and Phillips. Votto has the unfortunate job of hitting after Cozart, who reaches base rarely but has enough power (.408 SLG) to drive in Choo, a swift runner in his own right (21 steals last year). Phillips has the privilege of batting after Votto, who has reached base nearly one out of every two times he has stepped to the plate. Because pitchers are so careful around Votto, and his plate discipline is impeccable, he has drawn an absurd 41 walks in 221 PA, meaning that runners on base when Votto bats typically don’t score. Thus, Phillips comes to the plate with both Votto on base and the runners that were on for Votto. Votto couldn’t be helping pad Phillips’ RBI total more.

This isn’t rocket science. Reaching this conclusion simply requires a willingness to go the extra mile to look up this information and to not be tethered to old ways of thinking. It’s a no-brainer who has been better between Votto and Phillips, and it’s a shame that this is even a debate in the year 2013.

  1. bsbiz - May 24, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    I would say Daugherty is a clown, but I don’t want to insult that fine profession.

  2. raysfan1 - May 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    The only problem with no-brainers is that those with no brain will still argue against the obvious with the tenacity of a badger.

    • raysfan1 - May 24, 2013 at 9:50 PM

      Looks like a badger down-thumbed me!

      • zzalapski - May 24, 2013 at 9:59 PM

        We don’t need no stinking badgers.

      • raysfan1 - May 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM

        Kudos. Wish I’d thought of that first!

  3. scoutsaysweitersisabust - May 24, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    In the continuing episodes of Morons with a Microphone, we learn that “having the most productive at-bats possible” and “to make life hell on pitchers” are bad things and swinging from the heels in an attempt to drive every non-strike out of the ballpark are good things. I don’t understand how people continue to fail to comprehend that RBI’s are a measure of how often others ahead of you are able to get on base, and have little value in the measurement of personal value.

  4. tjwilliams - May 24, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    It looks like there is a bit of an aberration with the RBI totals right now, though. Votto’s walk rate is actually down from last year, but he’s only driving in 12% of baserunners, compared to 18% for his career and 16% last year. Even if you take out the runners who were on when he walked, he still is only driving in 15% of runners. It’s probably just a little bit of bad luck. He’s only scored 5 of the 15 runners on 3B, though another 5 of those times he was intentionally walked (and another he just walked). With such small sample sizes, though, this probably just a run of bad luck.

    Phillips’s BRS% is also high compared to his career average (20% versus 16%). If both players were hitting their career average there, Phillips’s RBI lead would be 34-31 instead of 40-22.

  5. dondada10 - May 24, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    My favorite team recently played the Reds.

    You can’t throw Votto a strike. If you do, he hits it on a rope. Every time.

    There’s traditional stats, there’s sabrmetrics, and then there’s the eye test. Eye test says Votto is a beast.

  6. Kevin Gillman - May 24, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    I am kind of in the middle here. I have always said there is always the human element to everything. Stats can tell me a guy will do one thing, but many times we have seen that to not be true, because the pitcher throws it in a different spot, and what not. But having said that, as much as Phillips always thinks this, the Reds are Votto’s team, not BP.

  7. jm91rs - May 24, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Doc wrote that article to be a contrarian. It’s what he does, and he’s awful.

  8. rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    I’m assumg Mr. Daughtery has written many articles talking about how shitty Mickey Mantle was at drinking in runs. I mean, a 40 home run guy who only managed 4 100 RBI seasons in his career!?!?!!! I mean, maybe if Mickey hadn’t selfishly been drawing all those walks in 1957, he would have knocked in more than 94 runs and the gone to the series instead of…well…they did go the series. But you get my point!

    Seriously though, how is it fucking possible in this day and age for people to still not understand this. Joey Votto doesn’t help his team by swinging outside of the zone and making an out. I will take a guy hitting .358/.484/.545 with 70 RBI over a guy hitting .300/.350/.450 with 120 RBI. Sure, he’s not knocking in as many, but he sure as hell is in a position to score a *hell* of a lot more. How it’s possible to be critical of a guy who gets on base nearly half of his plate appearances is beyond me.

    So Mr. Daughtery, I’ll take a team of Mickey “4 100 RBI Seasons” Mantle and you can a team of Joe “10 100 RBI Seasons” Carter. Who do you think wil win?

    • rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 11:21 PM

      I’m assumg Mr. Daughtery has written many articles talking about how shitty Mickey Mantle was at drinking in runs

      A’hem. *Driving* in runs. There’s a Freudian slip if I’ve ever penised one.

    • ezthinking - May 25, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      Maybe had something to do with winning the Triple Crown in 1956 and driving in 130 runs that he didn’t see many pitches in ’57 and Yogi and Moose loosing 50 to 100 points in slugging that caused those walks.

      Maybe his 121 runs is impressive if not for his 132 runs the season before. Picked up 50 points in on base, lost 11 runs. Maybe his 52 HR in he did hit 18 more home runs in ’56 than ’57, but he did walk 34 more times. The Yankees did win one more game in ’57 than ’56. Unfortunately, the Yankees won the World Series in ’56 and not ’57. He drew more walks, and they lost. “But you get my point!” I certainly do.

      “Seriously though, how is it fucking possible in this day and age for people to still not understand this.”

      Exactly. Watch the fucking game. The stats are a record of what happened. Life is what happens and what you miss when you’re looking at stats.

      • rufuscornpone - May 25, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        Life is what happens and what you miss when you’re looking at stats.

        …and here’s to hoping you are never in a position to influence anything of any importance ever. Stats are how you can gauge the large parts of life you will never see.

  9. moogro - May 24, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    Bob Gainey: Offense creates defense.

  10. Old Gator - May 24, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    Nobody does stoopid like a spawrtsrighter.

    • mazblast - May 25, 2013 at 1:14 AM

      Sportswrongers are up there, but I think movie stars, “reality” TV people, other “celebrities”, “progressive” politicians, and “family values” squawkers are in the running for that crown.

      As for Daugherty–He’s as funny as a mime and should be as vocal as one, too.

  11. thomas844 - May 25, 2013 at 1:00 AM

    In my opinion, only Miguel Cabrera is a better hitter than Votto.

  12. brums21 - May 25, 2013 at 2:05 AM

    Daugherty is an absolute clown.

  13. coachbeck - May 25, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Paul Daughtery advocates for the Bengals to sign Tim Tebow.

    That’s all you need to know about that blowhard.

  14. rofeo - May 25, 2013 at 6:08 AM

    As a Reds fan I don’t care what anybody says about who is better between Phillips and Votto. I’m just really glad there’s a reason for anyone to have the debate.

    My 2 cents: Votto is unquestionably the better hitter. Beyond that, Phillips unquestionably has top-top tier defense and saves runs while Votto is a bit of a negative defensively. The hardest comparison is who is the best clutch hitter. I give that to Phillips based on his in-your-face attitude.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      Joey Votto is most certainly NOT a “bit of a negative defensively.”
      He turned himself into a fine defensive 1st Baseman in fact. Dude can flat out glove it.
      And he brings consistency at the plate every AB. Year in…year out…that isn’t something #4 can say. So in IMHO…Votto is the leader in every category (with the exception of running his mouth). If we are talking about the “running your mouth” award…Phillips is the team leader.

  15. brewcrewfan54 - May 25, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    While RBI as a stat has been diminished as far as judging a players worth the thought that it means nothing now is wrong to in my opinion.

  16. grumpyoleman - May 25, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Every batting stat is dependent on the pitch you get, where you hit in the lineup and several other factors. Lets discount them all and give everyone a trophy.

  17. yousuxxors - May 25, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    wow are people really that math retarded nowadays?

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