Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Joey Votto

Fully recovered from a left quadriceps injury that limited him to 62 games in 2014, first baseman Joey Votto was the undisputed MVP of the Cincinnati Reds in the 2015 season.

Coming into the year, there was some concern about whether Votto would be able to return to form, but he quickly laid those worries to rest, hitting .317/.423/.646 with seven home runs in the first month.

More from Joey Votto

He slumped in May, however, as his .707 on-base plus slugging was his worst of any month on the season. Votto “found his wallet” and rebounded with a decent month of June (by Votto standards), including a three-homer game on June 9 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Votto finished the first half with a slash line of .277/.392/.484 and 32 extra-base hits (15 home runs), but it wasn’t enough to make the All-Star game in Cincinnati in a crowded field of NL first basemen.

Around that time, long-time Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman said on-air that Votto was not one of the elite players in the game any longer.

Brennaman’s comments proved to be foolish, as Votto had an historically good second half. He accounted for 5.1 of his 7.4 fWAR after the All-Star break, hitting an unbelievable .362/.535/.617 with 18 doubles and 15 home runs, vaulting himself into the conversation for the NL’s most valuable player. Perhaps the most incredible part of Votto’s second half was the amount of walks he drew, reaching via base on balls 86 times in 73 games and showing the world that he still has the best plate discipline of any player in baseball.

At one point, Votto reached base in 48 consecutive games, tying Pete Rose‘s club record and setting the mark for the longest streak in baseball on the season. He ended the campaign with 143 walks, the 27th-best total in the game’s history, breaking his own team record. His .459 on-base percentage trailed only Joe Morgan (.466 in 1975) for the best in the 146-year existence of the franchise.

When the results for the postseason awards are announced, Votto will likely be found somewhere in the top five or six in the NL MVP voting and, with all due respect to New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey, should be the runaway winner for Comeback Player of the Year.

Here’s a look at Votto’s end-of-season stats and how they stack up with his NL counterparts:

In a season that was a complete mess from beginning to end, Votto was one of the few bright spots for the Reds. He played in 158 games and proved that he’s still one of the best hitters in the sport when he’s healthy. The Reds could very well be bad again in 2016, but Votto will be one of the reasons that fans keep coming to the park. He’s truly a once-in-a-generation talent.

Grade: A+

Next: Finding the positives in a miserable Reds season