In speaking with the media yesterday, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto spoke of his approach to hitting heading into the 2021 season. With an emphasis on power, Votto needs to be bumped down in the lineup in order to make an impact.
Last season, we saw David Bell bench Votto for several games in a row after the former MVP got off to a horrendous start. Before Bell removed Votto from the starting lineup near the end of August last season, he was hitting just .191/.321/.326. Over the final 29 games of the season, Votto slashed .258/.385/.557 with eight home runs and 14 RBIs.
Joey Votto cannot be dangerous atop the Reds lineup.
The approach that the six-time All-Star has taken the past few seasons have not resulted in Joey Votto-like production from the 37-year-old. Over the past three season, Votto has hit just .265/.382/.420 with 38 homers and 136 RBIs. Yesterday, Votto spoke about his approach to hitting after last year’s benching. Here’s a quote via MLB.com:
"“The adjustments I made last year after the benching were very, very natural. I’ve always hit the ball like that, stood up taller. I’m back to kind of a more comfortable place in terms of hitting. It’s going to come with some more swings and misses and more strikeouts, but as long as I’m productive and as long as I’m dangerous at the plate, it will pay itself off.”"
The adjustments that Votto speaks of will require one thing of the Reds first baseman; he can no longer hit in the No. 2 spot. If Votto is going to move forward with the idea of being a power-hitter, then he needs to flip spots with either Jesse Winker or Nick Castellanos in the team’s batting order.
Votto has maintained his position as the No. 2 or No. 3 hitter in the Cincinnati Reds batting order for some time now. But, as Father Time catches up with him and he focuses more on power, the team needs to find someone who can get on base ahead of him.
Joey Votto can longer be the centerpiece of the Reds lineup.
While Eugenio Suárez is arguably the most dangerous hitter in the Reds lineup, Joey Votto is still the face of the franchise. However, moving into the twilight of his career, Votto needs to be amenable to allowing the other players on his team to take his spot in the lineup.
That doesn’t mean that Votto can’t be affective. But, if the combination of Shogo Akiyama and Nick Senzel will rotate duties as the team’s leadoff hitter, either Nick Castellanos or Jesse Winker need to be taking swings in the No. 2 hole.
That means Votto needs to find a new home and one that suits his new hitting approach. That would likely find the Cincinnati first baseman hitting either fifth or sixth in the Reds lineup. David Bell could slot Votto behind Suárez and in front of Mike Moustakas as the No. 5 hitter, or behind Moustakas and in front of Kyle Farmer in the No. 6 hole.
Moving Joey Votto down in the lineup will take the pressure off.
Joey Votto is a punching bag for a section of fans throughout Reds Country, and I honestly cannot wrap my head around it. Votto is a team-first player who’s put in the work and stuck with it in Cincinnati even through those long, hard years (2014-2019) during the team’s rebuild.
I understand the frustration of fans who see that Votto’s salary no longer matches his production. However, let’s not forget that during his MVP season of 2010, Votto only took home $525,000. Also, Votto should have taken home a second MVP trophy in 2017, a year which he led the league in walks, on-base percentage, and OPS.
It’s not as if Joey Votto cannot handle the pressure of being the team’s best player, but he no longer carries that label. It’s time for the 14-year veteran to find a comfortable spot further down the Cincinnati Reds batting order. It’s time for Joey Votto to stop chasing perfection and focus more on power.