Cincinnati Reds: Standing tall, Joey Votto will bounce back in 2021

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) hits a double off the wall in the sixth inning.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) hits a double off the wall in the sixth inning.

Let’s get this out of the way early. The chances of Joey Votto returning to his 2017 level greatness, where he fell two voting points shy of capturing his second National League MVP, are slim to none.  However, there’s reason to believe even at his age-37 season, Votto can still be productive and a significant force within the Cincinnati Reds lineup.

To say Votto has his detractors among a small but loud group in Reds Country is being kind. The handful within this bunch seemed to take bizarre pleasure when he was benched by manager David Bell last August. What those same detractors refuse to acknowledge is there is still some magic within Joseph Daniel Votto.

Joey Votto was the Reds best player after his benching last season.

Once Votto returned to the lineup on August 29th following his three-game sabbatical, the six-time All-Star was easily the team’s best offensive player and was instrumental in leading the club to their first postseason appearance since the 2013 season.

Over the final 29 games of the season or nearly half of the abbreviated 60-game schedule, Votto’s eight home runs equaled Eugenio Suárez’s team-lead. However, the resurgence in power was just the harbinger of an excellent final month.

Additionally, the greatest first baseman in Reds history led the team in runs scored, slugging percentage, and tied Shogo Akiyama for top honors in fWAR. Next, his Off (Offensive Runs Above Average) mark of 6.2, according to FanGraphs, was the second-highest total in the NL Central over the final 29 games, only eclipsed by Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Needless to say, this hardly appears to be a player at the end of his career. Those who wish to see Votto moved down in the order would be an incredible disservice to the Reds lineup. Votto is still well above the league average in reaching base.

His .354 OBP in 2020 easily outdistances the .325 NL average rate. Also, Votto’s .800 OPS dwarves the NL league average .746 mark. For the Cincinnati Reds offense to be successful, David Bell must have Votto near the top of the lineup.

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There may not be any MVP-type campaigns left in Joey Votto, but his demise has been greatly exaggerated. Let’s appreciate his greatness while we still can because there’s a segment of the Cincinnati faithful who are about to learn a hard lesson very soon. You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.