Skip to content

Joey Votto: don’t change a thing

Nov 13, 2013, 5:03 PM EDT

Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Cincinnati Reds - Game Five Getty Images

Fun story here about Joey Votto and the continuing disdain some people in and around Cincinnati seem to have for his patient approach at the plate. My favorite quote in there was actually a question Dennis Janson says he asked when Bryan Price was introduced as Reds manager:

I asked Walt Jocketty if Price is up to the task of disabusing Joey of the notion that a base on balls is as beneficial as a run scoring sacrifice fly.

Jocketty, according to the story, replied that yes, Price was up to the task but that everyone in the organization would chip in to rid Joey Votto of this patience virus and get him hacking away for sacrifice flies like a good run producer should. Well, I’m encapsulating.

This general theme is a pretty old one — this idea that sluggers who walk a lot are somehow not helping the team as much as they should. They said it about Ted Williams and Duke Snider too.

From The Boys of Summer on Snider and sportswriter Bill Roeder:

“Watching Duke Snider turned Bill Roeder sardonic. The Duke could run and throw and leap. His swing was classic; enormous and fluid, a swing of violence that seemed a swing of ease. ‘But do you know when he’s happiest?’ Roeder complained. ‘When he walks. Watch how he throws the bat away. He’s glad.’ Roeder would have liked to have Snider’s skills, he conceded. If he had, he believed he would have used them with more ferocity. Snider was living Roeder’s dream and so abusing it.”

Isn’t that at the heart of it all? A walk, by definition, means that a pitcher threw four pitchers that an umpire deemed out of the strike zone and, as such, not much good for hitting. Almost no one hits .300 or slugs .500 when connecting with pitches out of the strike zone. No one – no exceptions, not even the famous bad ball hitters like Yogi and Clemente — makes consistently good contact on pitches outside the strike zone year after year. A hitter makes his bones on pitches inside that box.

So, why would you ask someone to swing at pitches outside the strike zone? Why would a hitter be considered SELFISH for not swinging at bad pitches when, in fact, it’s almost certainly the other way around? I think it’s the Bill Roeder thing. We have this impulse inside us — a good impulse much of the time — that success comes from trying harder, being more aggressive, going out and getting it, giving 110%. A walk seems a passive act. This is especially true when there are runners in scoring position. Dammit Joey, you’re an RBI man not a walker. If only I had Joey Votto’s talent, I’d drive in more than 73 runs in a season.

But it’s a lie. Joey Votto’s “talent” is not being wasted when he takes bad pitches. That IS HIS talent. That was Ted Williams talent. That was Stan Musial’s talent. That was Mike Schmidt’s talent and Barry Bonds’ talent and Babe Ruth’s talent — they all had this extraordinary ability to know what pitches they could hit and what pitches they could not. It might be the rarest gift in baseball.

Yes, if Votto was a different hitter — a free-swinger with low batting averages and OBPs like his teammates Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce — he probably could have driven in 100 runs in 2013 like they did.* And … he would be at least one-third less valuable as an offensive player.

*Maybe. Maybe not. Bruce and Phillips came to the plate with many more runners on base. Bruce and Phillips were actually 1-2 in the National League in runners on base. Bruce came up with 500 runners on base, Phillips with 492. Votto came up with 441 — more than 50 less. You know the difference? Joey Votto got on base in front of Bruce and Phillips.

But let’s get to the point here: Does Joey Votto really take too many walks when he should be hitting sacrifice flies? This is actually pretty easy to look up.

In 2013, Votto came up 53 times with a runner on third and less than two outs. He was intentionally walked 11 of those times, so there’s not a lot he could do about those. In his other 42 times, he hit six sac flies and he walked seven times. That doesn’t really seem like a trend. Well, he only got seven hits in 29 at-bats for a .241 average, so maybe there’s something to that …

… no, I’m just joshing with you. Having a little small-sample size fun. There’s nothing to it.

2012: Came up 23 times in sac fly situations. Was intentionally walked four. Hit two sac flies and walked three times. Hit .571 the rest of the time.

2011: Came up 42 times. Was intentionally walked five. Of the remaining 37, he hit six sac flies, walked four times, and hit .393 the rest of the time.

Career: Came up 210 times. Intentionally walked 25 so that leaves 185 at-bats with a runner on third and less than two outs. In those 185 plate appearances, he hit 20 sac flies, walked 27 times unintentionally, hit .365 and slugged .584. The guy’s a bleeping beast in sac fly situations, which is why pitchers consciously try to pitch around him. If Walt Jocketty and Bryan Price and the rest of the Reds spend even one minute disabusing Joey Votto of the notion that a base on balls is as beneficial as a sac fly — and trying to change him as a hitter — they should be forced by the Baseball Gods to trade him to my favorite team and pick up Josh Hamilton and his gargantuan contract in his place. Hamilton, you will note, is a sac fly machine.

Latest Posts
  1. Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds celebrate the conclusion of the World Series

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:25 AM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez Getty Images

    History’s Greatest Monsters were happy for different reasons last night.

  2. Inside the Giants’ clubhouse …

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:15 AM EDT

    1bochy getty Getty Images

    The champagne and beer is flowing in the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium following the Giants’ Game 7 win …

  3. Alex Gordon would have been a dead duck had he tried to score

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:11 AM EDT

    Gordon 1

    A breakdown of Alex Gordon’s two-out hit in the bottom of the ninth.

  4. Video: Pablo Sandoval catches final out in foul territory, Giants win 2014 World Series

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 PM EDT

    giants world series getty Getty Images

    Here’s the final out of Wednesday night’s Game 7 that secured the Giants’ eighth World Series title …

  5. Madison Bumgarner named World Series MVP … obviously

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    1bumgarner getty Getty Images

    Madison Bumgarner threw five scoreless innings to close out Game 7 on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium and allowed just one run in 21 total frames during the 2014 World Series

  6. Game 7 live blog: The Giants are World Series Champions!

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Madison Bumgarner Getty Images

    Madison Bumgarner gets the win. And becomes a legend.

  7. Pablo Sandoval sets new postseason hits record

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    pablo sandoval getty giants Getty Images

    Giants ace Madison Bumgarner broke Curt Schilling’s postseason innings record in the bottom of the fifth inning. And now Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News shares this nugget …

  8. Madison Bumgarner breaks postseason innings record

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:19 PM EDT

    madison bumgarner getty Getty Images

    Giants ace Madison Bumgarner entered Game 7 of the World Series in the bottom of the fifth inning. He allowed a single to the first batter but got out of that threat and set a new MLB record in the process …

  9. Photo: Joe Panik’s impressive dive and flip

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT

    joe panik getty AP

    Here’s a cool photo from the Associated Press of the well-executed flip from Giants second baseman Joe Panik that started a huge doubleplay in the bottom of the third inning of World Series Game 7 …

  10. Salvador Perez drilled by pitch, but stays in Game 7

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:06 PM EDT

    salvador perez royals getty Getty Images

    Royals catcher Salvador Perez was plunked in the left leg — just above his knee — in the bottom of the second inning by Giants starter Tim Hudson and took a long time to make it back to his feet and then down to first base. But he’s back out there behind the plate for the top of the third inning.

  11. More fun signs at Kauffman Stadium

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

    Camera

    This one is about pregnant women.

  12. Colin Kaepernick: “I’m saying the Giants are coming out”

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    kaepernick giants

    San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick talked Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday afternoon …

  13. There’s nothing better than a Game 7? Well, maybe there is.

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 6.16.31 PM Getty Images

    No matter how much excitement unfolds or how much history is made tonight, tomorrow there will be no baseball.

  14. Braves expected to make qualifying offer to Ervin Santana

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT

    ervin santana getty Getty Images

    Santana turned down a qualifying offer (worth one year, $14.1 million) last offseason from the Royals and then couldn’t find a multi-year contract to his liking on the open market, so he may consider accepting the thing this time around.

  15. Video: Last night’s pre-game moment of silence for Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:23 PM EDT

    taveras tribute

    In case you missed this touching tribute before Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night …

  16. Report: Cubs hire Joe Maddon as manager

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Getty Images

    Maddon leaves Tampa Bay for Chicago.

  17. Madison Bumgarner is probably good for 50 pitches tonight

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT

    Madison Bumgarner AP

    Ned Yost says: “Bumgarner is a great starting pitcher. We’ll see what kind of reliever he is.”

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. M. Bumgarner (3973)
  2. O. Taveras (3055)
  3. J. Maddon (3021)
  4. T. Lincecum (2723)
  5. M. Morse (2116)
  1. P. Sandoval (2101)
  2. H. Pence (2076)
  3. Y. Cespedes (2042)
  4. M. Moustakas (1902)
  5. E. Hosmer (1860)