After reaching base five times in his first game in August Tuesday night and showing how that can be a catalyst for the offense, Joey Votto is once again viewed as one of the top hitters in the league.
That was not always the case, however, this season.
In early June, when looking at the stat line for Votto, one couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong and if the high priced team cornerstone was already on the decline.
In the first month-plus of the season, Votto posted just a .229 batting average. Then in May, he came back by hitting an even-Mendoza line number.
However, when going deeper than just batting average, it was evident that Votto still had huge value to the team. He still posted a .327 OBP in the first month-plus and a .333 in May.
In May, Votto struck out 34 times in 95 at bats, way over his 23-percent career strikeout average. The slugger was struggling and he was pressing.
However, when the law of averages finally caught up and that contact started falling in, Votto hit .319 in June and .413 in July.
In addition, Votto’s on base percentage was .419 for the season through the end of July. This was good enough to rank him fourth in Major League Baseball and his 77 walks rank him second.
Tuesday night’s performance also pushed Votto to the National League lead in OBP. He is also up to sixth in the League in OPS at .925.
Votto also ranks sixth in the National League in runs created and fourth in adjusted OPS+. The list could go on as long as we want. However, in a season that was looked at as a down season, Votto still ranks in the top five in multiple offensive categories. He is also at 1.9 in WAR through the end of July.
Traditionally, Votto does improve in batting average and OBP each month as the season goes along into July, so this should not come as a huge shock that he got hotter as the season progressed. The only shock was how slow of a start that he got off to in the primary sexy box score statistics.
Tuesday night’s game is just a small sample size, but it shows the important role that Votto plays in the offense. He sets the table for more runs that the statistics show that he creates at the plate.
Sure, Votto has the ability to create runs with his 18 home runs, 18 doubles and 53 RBI, but also getting on base at a high rate with more sluggers behind him in a hitter’s park does nothing but create even more runs.
Votto is an unorthodox slugger in his approach at the plate to get on base and choke up at times when needed to reduce power. He also takes a lot of flack with this approach when things aren’t going as well with the scoreboard stats. But unorthodox makes him even more valuable to the team once the turnaround in the rebuild hits.
The Reds are building around the philosophy that Votto is correct in his approach. With trades that show value in OBP, the organization realizes how important getting on base is.
They have a model to create a hitter that just gets it done. This is whether the stats reflect that or not.