Reds in 2013: Joey Votto

Here’s something to hang your hat on: Joey Votto will once again be Joey Votto in 2013…somewhat.

He missed almost two months due to a torn meniscus and another procedure to remove floating cartilage in the his knee. Votto himself stated he would not be the same until next season when he had the opportunity to fully recover. That looked like the case once he returned from the DL. We didn’t see the power, but I’ve never considered Votto a straight power guy. He can drive the ball with the best of them.

We should be blessed to see the “old” Votto in 2013.

Here’s what the Reds first baseman has done over his first six years as a Red.

You see vividly see how Votto has been at the plate. Pretty darn fantastic, huh? In his MVP year of 2010, he led the NL in SLG and led all of baseball in OBP and OPS. These days, those numbers can mean a lot. Not like he rested on his laurels either. He has led the NL in OBP for the past three seasons.

But what about 2013? On Fangraphs, the Bill James projection numbers have been integrated into their site and can this shows the following for Votto in 2013.

Looking at these projections against his lifetime stats, it seems James believes Votto will show a slight regression. That may or may not be related to the knee. Could also be somewhat related to the uncertainty of the two guys hitting in front of him. One might fall into a trap in thinking that opposing teams will prefer to pitch around him. That might not be so much the case either.

Last season, Votto saw a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone (45.3%) since his 2008 season (47.8%), his rookie year. Didn’t take long for opposing scouting departments to pick up on the kind of hitter Votto is.

Look at the walks. Only 11 more in playing in 45 more games? James sees Votto’s 2013 walk rate of 15.5% coming more toward his career average of 14.0%. The same holds true for strikeouts. Votto’s strikeout rate last season was 17.9%. Was the same in 2011 as well. His career average is 18.3%, but James sees that going to the same level as his 2012 season when it was 19.3%. James states a SO% of 19.2% for Votto.

That said, in 2012, Votto recorded his first season where he drew more walks (94) than he did whiffs (85). He also led all of baseball with 18 intentional walks. May not holdover to 2013 in looking at the projections.

This will reduce Votto’s OBP. No one will question that Votto’s 2012 OBP of .474 was insane. Prior to 2012, his career average OBP was .405. Even with the missed time, you can see from the first table that he ended 2012 with a career OBP of .415.

Some positive spins that are not in the projections…

Votto recorded his highest LD% in 2012 (30.2%). In doing so, we see that his FB% and GB% were the lowest of any full season (32.0% and 37.8%, respectively). Those are trends that have carried over from 2010 until 2012: raising his LD% while lowering his FB% and GB%. That is why I do not view Votto as a “power hitter”.

Last season, once Votto hit “the zone”, he was pretty much unstoppable. Took him the better part of April to do so, but when he finally got locked in, the rest of baseball was practically at his mercy. You could add in the fact that Votto gets so into this mode, he simply will not pop-up. Over the past three seasons, Votto has only hit 2, count ’em, 2, infield fly balls. Only 11 over his career and 5 of those came in his rookie season. When he makes contact, there is a purpose.

In taking the projections and using two separate versions (2.0 and 1.1) of a Simple WAR Calculator developed by Lewis Pollis of Wahoo’s on First, FanSided’s site for the Cleveland Indians. Lewis has great info on the differences in the versions and how each can be utilized. It will take you some time to read all the info, but it is well worth the read.

Sep 12, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Votto singles during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

With Version 2.0, Votto’s 2013 projected WAR comes to 5.2. In using version 1.1, it is higher, 5.8.

Referencing Fangraphs once again, Votto’s WAR has regressed each year since 2010. With the James projections, that regression is still in play, but not as much as from 2010 to 2011 and 2011 to 2012. Granted, I don’t think there would have been the regression from 2011 to 2012 if Votto plays the entire season. If there had been, it would have been minimal.

Votto was on his way to potentially another MVP season.