With what might be the starting rotation for 2012 out of the way (I stress…might), let’s look at the Bill James projections and numbers for the starting position players. Of course, most would “suggest” to start with first baseman Joey Votto.
When it comes to looking at the projections and digging into Votto’s stats, some things jump out at you, be it positive or negative (gasp!). Yes, believe it or not, there are a couple of those negatives, but hey, nobody’s perfect…
Stats and projections
1. Plate discipline
There are so many ways to quantify and qualify this. You could look at Votto’s consistent increase in his SO/BB ratio. In 2008, Votto’s first season as a starter, that ration was 0.58. In 2009, he increased that to 0.66. His MVP year of 2010 saw another modest gain to 0.73. Last season, yet another increase to 0.85.
For those that want to deviate from this, you could look at Votto’s swing percentages. Again, starting in ’08, Votto has never swung at more than 47.4% of all the pitches he sees. That 47.4% came in that ’08 season. Since then, the most is 47.0% was the MVP year of 2010. He’s being selective, right?
Sure, Reds fans will accept 100+ strikeouts especially when you factor in the 100+ free passes he’s likely to receive.
2. How he hits
We once again can look to many numbers and percentages to derive certain aspects of Votto’s game. Instead of me explaining this, I’ll step aside and let Mike Axisa from Rotographs (among one of the sites Axisa authors posts) to explain this a bit.
Votto, who just turned 28, has increased his walk rate in each of his four full seasons, simply by swinging less. His Swing% has gradually dropped from 48.4% in 2008 to 43.1% in 2011, and not coincidentally he’s also seen fewer pitches in the zone, down from 49.2% in 2008 to 41.0% in 2011. Votto’s power production against righties also dropped off a bit this past summer, to a still excellent .216 ISO after a .262 ISO from 2009-2010. The power numbers did improve as the season progressed just because he started hitting the ball in the air more, so it’s not a long-term concern.
To further illustrate Axisa’s point, let’s look at Votto’s 2010 and 2011 seasons along with a couple of other noteworthy percentages. For 2010, Votto’s LD%, GB% and FB% were 20.0%, 45.2% and 34.8% respectively. In 2011, those were 27.5%, 39.1% and 33.4%. More line drives will mean less home runs (as reflected in his HR/FB% as well), but he’s still putting the bat on the ball…and producing.
All those line drives did equate to something: Votto led the National League in doubles last season (40).
He just doesn’t do it. It’s not in the Votto DNA. He’s only done this “deed” 10 times since breaking in with the Reds. The more surprising facts are that two of those came in 2007 and five in 2008. That’s three over the past three seasons including a goose egg for 2010.
A quick thing here. All of these points made intertwine…a lot. Taking all of these points and adding them together shows a greater awareness while Votto is at the plate. His pitch recognition, quickness of his swing (he does let the ball travel deep in the zone) and hand-eye coordination have progressed more than most of us may have thought.
1. Seeing less strikes
This is a bit quirky though…and I noticed something that really took me aback. Here’s a peek at the number and percentage of strikes seen since 2008.
2008: 1,313 (60.3%)
2009: 1,293 (58.1%)
2010: 1,533 (60.2%)
2011: 1,663 (57.6%)
A couple of ways to approach this. The quirk was 2010 when Votto saw over 60%, but there was a reason…Scott Rolen. The reverse was true for 2011 as in there was no established guy hitting behind Votto. Teams were more willing to pitch to the likes of Jay Bruce. Can’t say I blame them because you chancesd of getting Bruce out really were greater than retiring Votto.
In other words, get a guy who has the fear factor of making you pay and the strikes will come Votto’s way. Think of it as the old Albert Pujols-Matt Holliday conundrum. At times, you could not win for losing. Teams would walk Pujols and Holliday would deliver. Reds fans have viewed that movie too many times.
This is almost beyond nitpicking, I know. We all know Votto does not carry the speed of Drew Stubbs or even Brandon Phillips, but his success rate does make you partially raise an eyebrow. Last season, his success rate was 57% (8-for 14). In 2010, it was 76% on 16-for-21. Again, picky-picky. If Votto can reach double-digits in steals and, at the same time, improve his success rate, he will once again be…Votto.
I can’t think of organization that wouldn’t want the likes of Votto on their roster. That’s why we constantly see and hear about Votto after the 2013 season. Until then, kick back and enjoy as I think 2012 will be as solid as the last two years.
The James projections show the slightest of increase in power, but a downturn in run production. I can see that as viable unless the Reds find that one key missing ingredient: a legit #4 hitter.
Yes, I know people will talk about the leadoff spot being important, too…