Cincinnati Reds: Where Will Joey Votto Finish in MVP Race?


Right before the All-Star break in July, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto had been mired in a bit of a slump, prompting broadcaster Marty Brennaman to say that the former MVP was no longer an elite player. The longtime radio voice of the Reds said it was not criticism, but “a statement of fact.”

Most sensible fans knew the comment was silly at the time, but Votto has truly made Brennaman eat his words with his tremendous second-half play. Votto has not only made Brennaman’s comments seem foolish, he’s vaulted himself toward the top of the National League MVP race.

Since the start of the second half, the 32-year-old leads baseball in numerous offensive categories: runs (45), batting average (.382), on-base percentage (.561), walks (70), wRC+ (230) and fWAR (4.6).

Overall,  Votto is sixth in average (.315), second in OBP (.459) and fourth in SLG% (.555). His fWAR (7.0) and wRC+ (174) trail only Washington Nationals outfielder and MVP front-runner Bryce Harper.

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While Harper is the runaway favorite for the award, there are a number of other candidates who will get serious consideration aside from Votto. Clayton Kershaw, last year’s NL MVP, and Zack Greinke have been the two most dominant pitchers in baseball atop the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation. Arizona Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt is right there with Votto when you talk about the best first basemen in the game. 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen has led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the third-best record in baseball.

So, where will Votto finish? It’s hard to tell. If history is any indication, he’ll be hurt in the voting because he plays on a terrible team. It’s unfair, as his perceived value to the Reds shouldn’t be diminished by the fact that his teammates have performed poorly, but that’s just the way the voting has traditionally gone.

If Votto’s second-half surge had propelled his team to a playoff run, it may be a different story. But the Reds are the owners of the fourth-worst record in baseball, and many will discount Votto just for that, saying a real MVP would help guide his team to the playoffs. In the game of baseball, it’s almost impossible for one individual to do that on his own, yet some voters still hold that sentiment.

The vote will ultimately come down to how heavily the voters weigh the candidates’ team performance. Will players like Kershaw, Greinke and McCutchen leap ahead of Goldschmidt and Votto because their teams make the postseason? Or will they look at each player’s individual performance and base their vote on that? If it’s the former, Votto may have difficulty cracking the top five. If it’s the latter, Votto could be in the top three.

Prediction: Votto will finish in fourth, behind Harper, Greinke and Kershaw. Votto’s numbers are better than those of Goldschmidt and McCutchen, so he should finish ahead of both. It’s harder to compare hitters to pitchers, so it’s tough to say with any certainty where Greinke and Kershaw will end up. But pitchers have gotten more respect in MVP voting the last several years, so Kershaw and Greinke carrying the Dodgers pitching staff and leading their team to the playoffs won’t go ignored.

Next: Joey Votto's numbers put him in elite company