The Cincinnati Reds are in first place in the National League Central Division. In second place are the Pittsburgh Pirates. For all of the talk about Andrew McCutchen being the only source of offense on an otherwise inept team at the plate for the Pirates, the Reds have a similar situation with their first baseman Joey Votto.

If you were to replace Votto’s offensive production with a league average player’s, Cincinnati would go from having an average team offense to the third worst in baseball. Put simply, his slash line of .342/.465/.604, with 14 home runs and a weighted on base average of .445 has been a saviour to the Reds season thus far. However, if Cincinnati wishes to remain relevant in their division, that’s going to have to change.

Last night, the Reds announced that Votto will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, keeping him out of action for three to four weeks. Todd Frazier, the team’s second best offensive producer so far this season will get regular playing time at first base in Votto’s absence, while the decaying corpse of Scott Rolen will be sent out every day to stumble around third base like a zombie.

Votto initially suffered the knee injury at the end of June when he slid awkwardly into third base in a game against the San Francisco Giants. The play looked rather innocuous, and so it was no surprise that he avoided the Disabled List. However, the timing of yesterday’s announcement caught many off guard, because he could have gone under the knife a week earlier and missed fewer games thanks to the extended All-Star break.

I mentioned Votto’s numbers above, and they’re quite impressive, but two other statistics go beyond impressive and could be labelled as other worldly. Before going down to injury, Votto had hit 36 doubles. If he were to have continued such an outlandish doubles hitting pace it would have given him 67 on the year, which just so happens to be the most ever hit in a season. Way back in 1931, Earl Webb of the Boston Red Sox accumulated 67 thanks in large part I’m sure to the two bag friendly confines of Fenway Park.

The other stand out number for Votto, which is somewhat related to his doubles total, is his line drive rate. Over 30% of the balls he makes contact with are driven in a line drive fashion. As Eno Sarris pointed out last week in his Roto Relevant Research column (a must read for fantasy baseball players):

The slash line on a ground ball this season is .234/.234/.254. The slash line on a fly ball this season is .231/.226/.625. The slash line on a line drive this season is .727/.723/.981. So, obviously, you just want to go and get any player that is hitting frozen ropes all over the park.

So, if you’re a pitcher, how exactly do you deal with a batter who can drive the ball from almost anywhere in the zone? Here is a location chart from Brooks Baseball showing Votto’s line drive rate per pitch location:

While Votto’s absence will make life difficult for the Cincinnati Reds, National League pitchers will without a doubt enjoy a month long reprieve from such torture.

And The Rest

If Jose Bautista requires time on the Disabled List after injuring his wrist last night, the team will call up prospect Anthony Gose ahead of the more experienced Travis Snider and Eric Thames. [DJF]

Justin Upton? More like Justin Downton. Mark Simon takes a look at what ails the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder. [ESPN Sweet Spot]

Walkoff Woodward writes an open letter to Jim Leyland on his use of Jose Valverde as the team’s closer. [Detroit Free Press]

Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay returns to the mound tonight. [Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia]

Theo Epstein’s stalker from his days in Boston was arrested outside of his home near Chicago. [Chicago Tribune]

Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann understands an innings limit for Stephen Strasburg will be difficult. [Federal Baseball]

This video has been making the rounds. See if you can figure out how Philadelphia Phillies prospect Jiwan James makes this catch. [YouTube]

The Boston Red Sox may have won last night’s game, but a possible achilles injury for David Ortiz would be a terrible loss. [Over The Monster]

Of course the Los Angeles Dodgers would be interested in Jimmy Rollins. It just makes too much sense. [CBS Sports]

The Philadelphia Phillies are offering Cole Hamels a $120 million extension. [CBS Sports]

The Boston Red Sox have kindly and publicly asked Bill James to stop discussing his feelings on Joe Paterno. [Boston Globe]

Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere shocks himself. [Old Time Family Baseball]

After a week off, the Getting Blanked Show is back with some conversation on misbehaving managers, a Ben Sheets blast from the past, and, um, Ichiro! [Getting Blanked]