Cincinnati Reds: Grading Joey Votto’s disappointing 2019 season

CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 20: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 20: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Even Joey Votto called his 2019 performance awful. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman faced a difficult season, but what grade does Votto deserve?

Joey Votto, in an interview with C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, used the terms “awful”, “liability”, “poor” and “the worst season of my career” to describe his performance this past season. As much as a certain section of the fan base wants to criticize Votto for his struggles over the past two years, no one is more critical of the Cincinnati Reds first baseman than himself.

Due to his massive salary, Joey Votto is the object of criticism when the Reds don’t play up to the lofty standards of the fans. To be honest, I can see why some fans would be frustrated. I mean, he was making $25M last season and put up a slash line of just .261/.357/.411 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs. The 2019 season was the first in which Votto did not have an OPS+ above 100.

Votto was an average major league player last season by almost every metric. With an OPS+ of 98 and a 1.6 WAR, some could even argue he was a below-average player. Votto played in 142 games – the fewest since his injury-plagued season in 2014. A back injury landed Votto on the injured list for about two weeks this past season.

D. . 1B. Cincinnati Reds. JOEY VOTTO

Even last season, which was a down year by Votto’s standards, he led the National League in on-base percentage. This season, Votto wasn’t even tops on the Reds in terms of OBP. Eugenio Suárez beat Joey out in that category by just one point. Votto’s .357 OBP was the worst of his career.

Now, a lot of fans want to point out Votto’s lack of RBIs in 2019. That stat doesn’t concern me too much due to his spot in the batting order. Spending the majority of time in the No. 2, with little to no leadoff hitter to speak of, Votto wasn’t going to get many chances to drive in runs. That being said, his 47 RBIs were the lowest since 2014 when he only played 62 games.

Looking on the positive side of the things, Votto’s game did see some improvement as the season went along. Over the final two months of the season, Votto had an .815 OPS, 5 home runs and 14 RBIs. He also had 11 doubles. During the previous 100 games, Votto’s OPS was .749 and though he had 10 more homers and 10 more doubles, he did so in an additional 250 plate appearances.

Votto also played very good defense in 2019. Though he hasn’t won a Gold Glove since 2011, Votto is a steady presence at first base, and that’s one aspect of his game that I believe is often overlooked. Votto had 7 defensive runs saved, which is second most among National League first basemen. He also ranks 4th in assists.

Joey Votto is under contract with the Cincinnati Reds for at least four more years and is owed $100M during that timeframe. The 36-year-old is not getting any younger and those longing to see the days of Votto slugging .550 and hitting 30-plus home runs are gone. However, that does not mean that Votto is washed up or cannot contribute.

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Joey has a full no-trade clause and has made it known many times that he plans to end his career as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. What the 2020 season holds for Votto is anyone’s guess, but I can guarantee you that he’ll be working like mad to improve upon the worst season of his career.