Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto Changing His Batting Approach

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.

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Topics: Cincinnati Reds

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  • RobinGood

    You should really read “The book” to get an understanding of why all the points you’ve made are of no importance. Lineup spots should in no way influence how you hit except for maybe the leadoff spot, but that’s more because of psychological reasons. The notion that a number 3 hitter is the best hitter on the team is outdated and completely futile if you consider that some teams even play their best hitter on the number 4 spot. For a number of reasons the best hitter on a team should hit 2nd. I really feel the need to educate you on this subject, but instead of me, fangraphs and other sites should be your teacher (see in the bottom)

    Additionally, Votto himself stated that his 2012 season pre-injury was the best he felt in his career and nobody complained about ridiculous statistics such as RBI back then. If Votto would be able to hit 5 more dingers for a decrease of .10 points of OBP, he stated he would do it. It is however not as easy as one might imagine and hitting outside pitches that you describe as hittable is a paradox in itself. There is no such thing as a sure-fire pitch out of the zone.

    Please do not take it personal, but there is evidence against everything you’ve mentioned in your article. I will therefore happily provide you some links that should help you understand baseball better.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/constructing-lineups/
    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/17/795946/optimizing-your-lineup-by

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/joey-votto-on-hitting/
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/joey-votto-run-producer/

  • Tyler West

    Thanks for reading and commenting. An article in sports illustrated that argued Joey Votto batting 3rd in the line-up was a bad idea inspired this article. I suppose the author of that article should read those links too. ;)

    • RobinGood

      So the SI article stated that batting Votto 3rd is a bad idea? Then the article is right. Care to send me a link?

  • Bill Hedges

    Not trying to change the subject (i.e. from hitting to pitching to perhaps catching/calling the game); but, I absolutely love Robin’s line “There is no such thing as a sure-fire pitch out of the zone.” Wish I’d said it first but then I would have probably over-used it everytime a Reds reliever came in during the 7th/8th inning:) I’d be interested in Joey’s take on “pitching to contact.”

  • Tyler West

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1207736/index.htm

    While their argument goes in a different direction, they still argue for Votto batting 2nd. Obviously my argument isn’t the same as theirs, for the sake of wanting to have an original thought.

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