Nov 13, 2013, 5:03 PM EDT
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.
Apr 21, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Not that there was any doubt about Albert Pujols reaching 500 career homers by the end of the season, but his strong start for the Angels with a league-leading six bombs puts him just two long balls shy of the magic number.
Apr 21, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Three weeks into the season and Cleveland manager Terry Francona has already called his first team meeting.
Apr 21, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Emotions are sure to run high at Fenway later this morning.
Apr 21, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT
Lighten-up, baseball. It’s a fun game. Let’s let people actually have fun out there.
Apr 21, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
That’s patently ridiculous, of course. But that’s the kind of nonsense you get when you start attacking guys for their alleged lack of hustle.
Apr 21, 2014, 6:39 AM EDT
The Unwritten Rules strike again. Plus, I wish you all a happy Spring Thanksgiving.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT
J.J. Hardy thought extension talks with the Orioles would have already been underway, but the club has been silent on the matter.
Apr 20, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Ryan Howard is one of the more unlikely candidates to hit for the cycle, but he was one friendly scorer away from the achievement on Sunday against the Rockies.
Apr 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
You’ll be seeing this play at the end of the season when the season’s wackiest plays are reviewed.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT
Oh, nothing, just Dexter Fowler being coached by arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history.
Apr 20, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT
Ryan Braun likes hitting in the state of Pennsylvania.
Apr 20, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT
Jeff Francoeur is known for his arm, but who knew he’d be useful as a pitcher?
Apr 20, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
The Red Sox and Orioles teamed up for a touching tribute at Fenway Park on Sunday.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
40-year-old Bobby Abreu is expected to join the Mets on Monday.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Chipper Jones is not a fan of Carlos Gomez.
Apr 20, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a 51-pitch, three-inning simulated game on Sunday in Los Angeles and could soon be cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT
The Cardinals have decided on a fill-in for starting pitcher Joe Kelly, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained left hamstring that he suffered Wednesday while trying to beat out a groundball. It’ll be 26-year-old lefty Tyler Lyons.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:07 PM EDT
A pretty vicious brawl just went down at PNC Park after Carlos Gomez of the Brewers went into home run celebration mode after slugging a Gerrit Cole pitch to the top of the center field wall …
Apr 20, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
As first relayed by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have claimed outfielder Sam Fuld off waivers from the A’s. Fuld was designated for assignment by Oakland last Saturday.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Cubs top shortstop prospect Javier Baez is back in the lineup Sunday afternoon at Triple-A Iowa after missing a little over a week with soreness in his left ankle. He’ll serve as Iowa’s DH initially.
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- Boswell: “Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player” 31
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 71
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- Benches clear in Pittsburgh after the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez bat flips a third-inning triple 172
- Benches clear in Pittsburgh after the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez bat flips a third-inning triple (178)
- “They Don’t Know Henry” (167)
- Doug Glanville’s story about being racially profiled at his own home (127)
- There is still a racial divide in baseball (112)