Reds: Joey Votto’s rounding into form during the month of July

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 20: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a home run in the third inning. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 20: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a home run in the third inning. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Joey Votto has notoriously been a slow starter. In fact, one look at his career numbers shows that Votto’s .894 OPS during the months of March and April is the worst of his career. However, the former MVP usually picks things up after the All-Star break, and 2021 is shaping up to be another strong finish for the Cincinnati Reds‘ first baseman.

This has been Votto’s best season since 2018. The Reds slugger is slashing .262/.352/.468 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. Votto has found a home in the middle of the batting order, seceding the No. 3 hole in the lineup to All-Star outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Votto has been on a tear since returning from the IL after breaking his thumb on May 5th. Votto returned to the lineup on June 8th and has hit .290/.396/.504 with seven long balls and 25 runs batted in.

Joey Votto’s plate discipline has returned during the month of July.

Now, let’s not act as though Joey Votto ever forgot where the strike zone is, but one thing the six-time All-Star wanted to focus on this season was hitting the ball hard. He’s certainly done that. According to Baseball Savant, Votto is in the top 10% in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, xwOBA, and xSLG.

All of that basically means that Votto’s desire to wallop the ball has become a reality. It also lends itself to more swings and misses, and therefore, more strikeouts. Votto’s strikeout-rate is sitting at 23.5%, his highest ever according to FanGraphs.

With more strikeouts comes fewer walks, and Votto’s 11.8% walk-rate is the lowest of his career since 2008. Votto’s career with the Reds has been marked by plate discipline and a keen sense of the strike zone. For his career, Votto has a 15.9% walk-rate and an 18.0% strikeout-rate.

Once the calendar flipped to July, we’ve seen a more Votto-esque approach at the plate from the Cincinnati first baseman. While Votto’s strikeout-rate (24.3%) is still higher than normal, his walk-rate (17.1%) is more in-line with what the fanbase is used to seeing.

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If Joey Votto can continue to smack the cover off the ball while also maintaining his patient approach at the dish, we could see vintage Votto in the next couple months. The Cincinnati Reds will need that type of performance from Votto in order to make a run at the NL Central crown. His team currently trails the Milwaukee Brewers by 6.5 games in the standings.