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Joey Votto is still answering questions about his production in 2013

Oct 26, 2013, 6:30 PM EST

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Joey Votto‘s lack of RBI was a talking point throughout the season, especially among those in the Cincinnati media. They lamented his lack of RBI, suggesting that rather than going up to the plate looking to drive in runs, Votto was being passive by instead aiming to draw walks. Despite hitting third in the Reds’ lineup, Votto finished the season with 73 RBI and a league-leading 135 walks and a .435 on-base percentage.

Throughout the season, Votto was asked to respond to the criticism and he always responded to it the same, defending his approach and suggesting that the focus on RBI was unfounded. He said pitchers tended to pitch around him and rather than expand the strike zone, he was content letting them toss ball four and letting Brandon Phillips — who finished with a career-high 103 RBI — take a shot.

Votto appeared on Cincinnati’s ESPN 1530 with Lance McAlister, discussing various topics, including his controversial 2013 season. Votto’s tune hasn’t changed. He still thinks he had a fine season and even likened it to his 2012 season when he finished with a 1.041 OPS. Some choice quotes from the interview:

“A lot of complaints this year were about my lack of RBIs. I know that, in an ideal world, there would have been a 100 in the RBI category, but that’s just one number. A player should not be judged based on one particular number.”

[…]

“My first goal is to drive the runner in so I can get on base. Get a hit and hand the bat to the next guy so we can continue to score runs. […] I’m really, really greedy, so I want to get a hit. And if that hit doesn’t come […] then it ends up being a walk.”

It is an enlightening interview and worth a full listen-through. You can’t argue with Votto’s understanding of the game. Given his responses during the season, I thought he was too conciliatory to the critics (and to be clear, McAlister was not one of them). He talked about the criticism motivating him and making him better, the kind of statement he might make if he were running for office. During the season, Votto told David Laurila of FanGraphs that he would prefer to lead the league in OPS and WAR. That is the correct answer to the “people have complained about your lack of RBI” prompt.

  1. sjtorpitt - Oct 26, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    Not happy with a .435 OBP? Smh, Cincinnati.

  2. sfm073 - Oct 26, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    I’m not blaming Votto, but you don’t pay a guy that kind of money to stand at first base. Something needs to be done to put him in a situation to drive in more runs.

    • paperlions - Oct 26, 2013 at 6:56 PM

      You pay the guy to help a team score runs. And the best way a hitter can contribute to scoring runs is by not making outs. Period. Every time you get on base, you win your team another AB. Each team only gets 27 given to them, you have to earn the rest, and more AB = more runs.

      There isn’t a single category that correlates more strongly with a team’s runs scored than a teams OBP. Teams ALWAYS pitch around the best hitter in a lineup, but they’ll do it a lot more with a guy like Phillips hitting behind him rather than having the 2nd best hitter on the team in that spot. Phillips was a below average hitter this year, even Todd Frazier would have been an upgrade over Phillips in that spot.

      If you want Votto to have more pitches to hit, the first thing they need to do is put their 2nd best hitter behind Votto. Since that guy (Choo) is leaving via FA, that pretty much leaves Bruce….but don’t be surprised if the fact that both guys are left handed results in a poorer choice batting behind Votto.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 26, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      Right on! Make more outs Joey!

  3. bfunk1978 - Oct 26, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    Maybe they should get someone who can hit in the fourth slot. He was on base like 250 times and Choo a similar number yet Philips had “only” 103 RBI. Someone with a better bat could drive those two in and the Reds would have scored a lot more. Or else Votto gets pitches to hit and drives in a bunch.

    My question is, do they want him to swing at pitches he can’t drive and make lots of outs instead?

    • albertmn - Oct 26, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      Agreed that Phillips was far more an issue than Votto.

      Player A .261/.310/.396 24 doubles, 18 HR in 666 PA
      Player B .244/.312/.414 33 doubles, 18 HR in 623 PA

      Player A was Phillips, and because he did manage to barely drive in over 100 runs, some still think he had a great season. Player B? Brian Dozier with the Twins, who has also turned himself into a pretty good defensive second baseman (though not yet to Phillips level there). Do you think anyone is clamoring to trade for Dozier, even with his more reasonable salary? Then why do people think the Reds can easily move Phillips?

      • bfunk1978 - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:53 AM

        Absolutely right – they are totally stuck with Philips.

  4. andreweac - Oct 26, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    In the immortal words of Mickey Hatcher “walks are a false stat.”

  5. sfm073 - Oct 26, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    I agree with everything you said, but the reds are wasting their money with Votto standing at first base. They need to do a better job with putting him in position to drive in runs.

  6. Stiller43 - Oct 26, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    With his spectacular OBP and choo leaving, why not just have him bat leadoff a call it a day?

  7. stoutfiles - Oct 26, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Not this again. Look at Zack Cozart’s OBP. Who was Votto supposed to hit in?

  8. zurnvs - Oct 26, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Phillips isn’t a number 4 hitter, it went there because they have no else do do it. Ludwick was in that spot but got hurt, but he isn’t the answer either. Gets 4 that makes pitchers pitch to Votto and put Phillips back in the 2 spot. Jockerty do ur job.

  9. sportsfan18 - Oct 26, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Well Votta is an unbelievable hitter.

    It isn’t like he ONLY was walking.

    He finished 6th in the National League for most hits. He had 177 hits, 1 hit away from being 5th in the league for most hits.

    So he was swinging the bat just fine…

    As far as power was concerned, even though it was his worst slugging percentage in his career, he STILL finished tied for 10th in the National League with Carlos Beltran in slugging.

    So his WORST season so far in his career slugging wise still left him with the 10th highest slugging percentage in the league.

    Based on his hits and slugging, he was doing just fine swinging away while at the plate…

    I’m a lifelong Cubs fan and we’ll take him if you don’t want him… geez…

  10. Francisco (FC) - Oct 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    You know Cinci, you’re right. You need someone to swing away, not someone who shrugs and goes to first all the time. We at Philly have a guy who knows everything about swinging a bat no matter what pitch they throw at him. Let’s trade 1B. Straight Up!

  11. vtm012367 - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    Although statistically Votto had an OK year, there seemed to be something missing, especially during the last half of the season. Pitchers were not avoiding him and instead going right after him. He struck out a lot and hit into more double plays than you would expect from such a”student of hitting.”

  12. stex52 - Oct 28, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Votto had a slash line of .305/.435/.491. His OPS+ was “only” 154. If Cincy is through with him I can think of about 25 teams that could adjust to his production quite readily. If they need more RBI’s, they need more men on base when he bats. Because his homer production was close to career average.

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