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. The Orioles announce their ALDS roster: welcome to the playoffs Ubaldo Jimenez

    Oct 2, 2014, 11:08 AM EDT

    orioles logo

    And Delmon Young gets to see his friends from Detroit once again.

  2. Tim Hudson questions whether the Nationals have the balls to stick with the Giants

    Oct 2, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    tim hudson getty Getty Images

    I’m assuming they do. The Rawlings people supply each team with cases and cases of them. Or am I missing something here?

  3. Miguel Cabrera eschews his playoff share, saying “I just want the ring”

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    miguel cabrera getty Getty Images

    It’s easy to be selfless when you have a $289 million contract, but this is still cool.

  4. A nice older woman apparently got lost in the Giants dugout last night

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:28 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.25.27 AM

    Or: Great Moments in Small Stadiums With Nice Club Areas Behind Home Plate

  5. Deep thoughts about champagne celebrations after a Wild Card win

    Oct 2, 2014, 8:38 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 8.16.51 AM Getty Images

    Party if you want to party. But why do ballplayers still party like this? Why don’t they do something different?

  6. Playoff Reset: Both AL Division Series Get Underway

    Oct 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Buck Showalter AP

    Max Scherzer vs. Chris Tillman in the early evening, Jason Vargas vs. Jered Weaver for the nightcap.

  7. Video: Pablo Sandoval’s over-the-railing catch

    Oct 2, 2014, 12:18 AM EDT

    sandoval getty Getty Images

    The game was pretty much wrapped up at this point for the Giants, but watch Pablo Sandoval go over the Pirates’ dugout railing to make a catch in foul territory in Wednesday night’s NL Wild Card Game …

  8. Russell Martin’s free agency looms large as Pirates face offseason

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:54 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

    After Wednesday’s 8-0 loss, it’s time for the Pirates to start thinking about next year.

  9. Madison Bumgarner delivers a shutout as Giants roll past Pirates in NL Wild Card Game

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    madison bumgarner getty Getty Images

    Madison Bumgarner dominated over nine shutout innings and Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam as San Francisco cruised to an easy 8-0 victory over the host Pirates on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

  10. Hyun-Jin Ryu throws three-inning simulated game

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    hyun-jin ryu getty Getty Images

    The Dodgers’ workout Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles was closed off to the media, so we’ll have to trust the club’s own reporting on injured left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu …

  11. Brandon Crawford hits grand slam, Giants lead Pirates in National League Wild Card Game

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    crawford getty Getty Images

    The Giants are out to a 4-0 lead in the National League Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park courtesy of a fourth-inning grand slam by shortstop Brandon Crawford.

  12. Jose Fernandez throws for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    jose fernandez getty Getty Images

    Marlins ace Jose Fernandez picked up a baseball on Wednesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on May 16.

  13. Travis d’Arnaud undergoes surgery for bone spur in elbow

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT

    travis d'arnaud getty Getty Images

    The procedure went as planned and d’Arnaud is expected to be fully recovered by the start of spring training next February.

  14. A’s option for Nick Punto vests at $2.75 million

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:19 PM EDT

    Nick Punto AP

    Punto hit just .207 with two homers and a .589 OPS in 73 games.

  15. Kevin Gausman in Orioles’ bullpen for ALDS vs. Tigers

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT

    kevin gausman getty Getty Images

    Gausman was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft and registered a promising 3.57 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 88/38 K/BB ratio across 113 1/3 innings during the regular season, but the O’s will roll with their more-experienced arms versus Detroit.

  16. Royals to start Yordano Ventura in Game 2 of ALDS

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT

    yordano ventura getty Getty Images

    Jason Vargas, who spent last season in the Angels’ rotation before signing with the Royals as a free agent, will start Game 1 for Kansas City.

  17. Angels announce ALDS rotation: Jered Weaver in Game 1, Matt Shoemaker for Game 2

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:19 PM EDT

    angels logo

    The Angels have announced their rotation for the ALDS against the Royals.

  18. Cardinals leave A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Motte off NLDS roster

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    A.J. Pierzynski Getty Getty Images

    Tony Cruz gets the nod as Yadier Molina’s backup.

  19. Derek Jeter is afraid of cats. Likes Baskin Robbins. And other important stuff about him.

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT

    Derek Jeter AP AP

    Welp, there’s two reasons he’ll never accept an invitation to my house.

Featured video

Pitching vs. history in NL wild card game
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Jeter (3028)
  2. R. Martin (2422)
  3. A. Rodriguez (2107)
  4. J. Hamilton (2051)
  5. D. Gordon (2005)
  1. J. Altuve (1977)
  2. C. Kershaw (1954)
  3. M. Shoemaker (1854)
  4. E. Volquez (1822)
  5. Y. Cespedes (1715)