Joey Votto Is Really Good

Earlier this week I wrote about Yu Darvish being rather unbelievable, and today I’m bringing you the equally earth shattering news that Joey Votto is a good hitter … a really good hitter. At least, this seems to be the irrefutable thesis of Handsome Tom Verducci’s latest piece for Sports Illustrated.

Among the statistical evidence of Votto’s greatness (best in the league in wOBA, wRAA, wRC, and OBP since 2010), Verducci adds these two facts:

  1. He has pulled only a single batted ball foul into the stands in his career; and
  2. He has hit only three infield pop ups over the last four seasons.

That’s phenomenal, but Votto does hit a majority of his fly balls the opposite way, and so it might not be as remarkable as it sounds at first.

Here’s his spray chart since the beginning of the 2011 season:

What’s more remarkable is the low number of infield pop ups, which lends credence to Verducci’s praise for Votto’s swing.

Votto’s balance is so great and his stroke so fast that his contact zone — the airspace where his barrel meets the baseball — is deeper that just about every other hitter. The deeper the ball, the more time a hitter has to decode its spin, speed and location.

We get the best idea of what Verducci is talking about when we see where Votto hits the ball with two strikes against him. While most players shorten their swing, the Reds first baseman is still able to knock the ball all over the park. Therefore, it shouldn’t be all that surprising to see that Votto’s OPS when he’s down two strikes this season is approximately 80 points better than average hitter’s starting a fresh plate appearance.

To see his placement, here’s Votto’s spray chart since such ball placement data was available when the count is two balls and two strikes:

Other than fewer samples, it doesn’t look a whole lot different than his overall spray chart since 2011.

To see it in action, compare Votto’s first pitch swing on an A.J. Burnett pitch in the first inning of last night’s game against Pittsbugh:

To Votto hitting a single against Juan Cruz with a two balls and two strikes count in the ninth inning of the same game:

While Votto appears to sit back on the slider in the second clip a bit longer, the mechanics of his swing are almost identical, from the front foot to the weight shift to the bat drop.

Put simply, Votto is the best hitter in baseball. We can see it visually, graphically and statistically.

Something that may have been slightly glossed over from the second paragraph is that Votto has the best OBP in baseball since 2010. That’s not an abstract sabermetric number. That means that Votto has managed to avoid getting out while at the plate at a better rate than anyone else. And that to me, is a hitter’s sole duty. The fact that he accomplishes that while also offering some of the higher power numbers as well speaks to his tremendous swing and incredible talent for hitting baseballs.

So, Joey Votto is really good. Yet another astounding discovery from the Getting Blanked team.