Don’t Change, Joey Votto

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First of all, let me preface what I’m going to say with this: I grew up listening to Marty Brennaman call Reds games on the radio. I was that 13-year-old kid who listened to Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall in bed while trying not to let my parents know I was still awake. Marty has given me chills with some of his best calls of dramatic Reds games. His ability to paint a vivid picture when doing radio play-by-play is why he’s in the Hall of Fame and why I still listen to him today.

But lately, Brennaman’s opinion of first baseman Joey Votto has become rather ridiculous. He firmly believes Votto should not lead the league in OBP, but rather hit 35-40 home runs and drive in 100 runs in a season.

Brennaman wants Votto to be more of a power hitter and a run producer. The problem is Votto’s never been a power hitter, outside of his MVP season in 2010 when he hit 37 home runs. 2010 has to be considered an outlier season. Votto has never eclipsed the 30-homer mark in any other season. Even in the minor leagues, the most home runs he hit in a season was 23. However, his OBP in the minors was consistently around or above .400, proving that he’s always been more of a run manufacturer.

In a recent USA Today article, Pete Rose defended the Reds first baseman, saying, “Joey Votto is just a good, pure hitter. Why should he swing at balls out of the strike zone? Joe Morgan never did. Mike Schmidt didn’t swing at balls out of the zone. Ted Williams didn’t either.”

MLB’s all-time hits leader also made this statement: “If Joey Votto was on the Big Red Machine, nobody would say anything. Joey Votto gets on base, and as long as you score 100 runs or drive in 100, you’re doing your job.”

If anyone is an expert on hitting and the right plate approach, it’s Pete Rose. He had five seasons with an OBP above .400. Joe Morgan had an OBP at or above .400 in nine different seasons. He led the league in four of those nine seasons, including his two MVP years. Mike Schmidt had a career OBP of .380. Ted Williams’ career OBP was an astounding .482. All four of these players are in or should be in the Hall of Fame.

It’s a rather simple formula. Getting on base equals success. Players make less outs when they get on base and keep the inning alive for the next batter. Why it’s so hard for some fans to grasp that concept is mind-blowing to me.

I don’t expect the Reds to lead the National League in OBP in 2015. But if Votto doesn’t get on base, then who on the current team is going to get on base consistently? The Reds were near the bottom of the league in OBP and nearly every other offensive category last season without a healthy Votto. And as a result, they finished ten games under .500. He is a key part to the Reds’ offensive success, even when he’s drawing walks and giving RBI opportunities to Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips.

Votto’s always had the same approach at the plate throughout his entire career. You can’t ask a player to be something he’s not. Votto’s a guy who will get on base via a single, a double or a walk, but also hit 20-25 home runs a year. That’s what you’re going to get from a healthy Joey Votto. If he even has as close to a season that he had in the first part of 2012 and in 2013, the Reds will contend for the playoffs. They might not win the Central, but they will be in the playoff hunt in August and September. Isn’t that what the fans want?