As of July 15th, the Reds were winning 56.8% of their games (including six in a row), scoring 4.2 runs per game, and leading the National League Central division. During this time, Joey Votto was undeniably their best player, slashing a fairly absurd .342/.465/.604.
Then, for funsies, the Reds decided to go ahead a perform a couple knee surgeries on their MVP and take their chances without him. So what happened? They promptly started winning 67.5% of their games and scoring 4.8 runs per contest. Clearly, not what anyone thought was going to happen.
But a funny thing happened after Votto went down – everyone else got hot. Todd Frazier became the Toddfather (and the favorite for Rookie of the Year). Ryan Ludwick thought it was 2008 again. Brandon Phillips became a bona fide #3 hitter. Jay Bruce went on a Jay Bruce-like tear. Even Scott Rolen joined the party by staying healthy!
It was tempting to believe that this is how the Reds would hit for the rest of our lives. But we baseball fans know better. Today’s streak can be tomorrow’s slump. At first you don’t want to acknowledge it – like waking up from a dream with Kate Upton and trying to convince yourself you’re still asleep. But eventually the evidence starts mounting, and pretty soon… WHAM-O! Oh God, where’s Votto.
Check out some fascinating slash lines (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS):
Reds who aren’t Votto, before July 16 - .239/.296/.396/.692 …not good
Reds who aren’t Votto, next 40 games - .274/.332/.456/.788 …hey, that’ll work!
Reds who aren’t Votto, since August 26 - .245/.291/.395/.686 …oops, bad again
When you lead your division by 8.5 games, a lot of things have to have gone right. One of those things for the Reds is the way everyone conveniently started hitting in Votto’s absense. It’s why this team has one of the best records in baseball, and why our MVP was able to take his time getting back.
The Votto-less magic appears to have run out, for now. Luckily, as of Wednesday, the Reds are no longer Votto-less. And, barring catastrophe, they can spend most of this month doing whatever it takes to prepare for the next. It would be nice, however, if somehow it all came together by the time October rolls around.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @aaronjlehr