Seemingly out of nowhere, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto bursted onto the scene. No pitcher could get him out. No manager could game plan for him. He was a stubbornly patient hitter who got better the more strikes he had against him. If you made a mistake, he would crush the ball. If you thought you made a good pitch, well, he would usually crush that, too.
He was an all-around hitter. Most of his hits landed in left field (opposite field) and he hit doubles as well as he hit home runs. It’s as if he was the text book definition of a number 3 hitter in the line-up. His efforts landed him the NL MVP in 2010 and he became the face of the #Reds franchise.
The next year, however, he suffered an injury. While rehabbing, Cincinnati had no trouble picking up the slack, winning games in his absence. Once he returned, the ultra-patient first baseman somehow became even more patient. The slugger seemed to be less concerned with hitting home runs, and more concerned with simply getting on base.
Should Joey Votto be moved from 3rd in the line-up?
Nobody is suggesting that Joey Votto’s power is suddenly gone. We all know home runs are still in his future. But with the injury, Votto seemed to change his batting approach. He’s always had a healthy balance of power and patience but post-injury Votto has embraced the on-base part of his offense more.
With Joey hitting third in the line-up over fourth, the difference is not as noticeable. It’s not as if he went from “nothing but home runs” to “nothing but walks.” But for someone who could slug with the best of them, his concern with reaching 1st base is astonishing. Votto is no longer focused on pounding the ball off the outfield wall.
If a ball is outside of the zone, Votto will watch it every time, even if he can hit it. His philosophy is simple: “If it’s not a strike, it’s a ball. And if I get 4 balls, I will reach base.”
You can tell in his numbers that his philosophy has changed. Votto had 37 home runs in 2010 and 24 in 2013. His walks difference speaks volumes. In 2010, he had 91. Last year? 135. His RBI numbers also speak to the change: 113 in 2010 while only 73 last season. His slugging percentage was at its lowest, going from .600 in 2010 to .491 during the last campaign.
For fans of the team, there was initial concern with the lack of power from Votto’s bat after returning from injury. There’s still a bit of wondering. But I don’t think it comes from his lack of power. It comes from his approach. Votto has the mind-set of a lead-off hitter and not one of a power hitter.
I’m not saying this should be alarming going forward. But maybe Bryan Price needs to re-evaluate Votto’s place in the batting order. The pre-injury Votto fit perfectly in the 3-hole. But now? Maybe the older and wiser Joey Votto sees the value in a man on base over a ball hit in the left field bleachers. And maybe Price will see the value in Votto as a 2 hitter over a 3 hitter.