The Prince Becoming King: A Joey Votto Story

Rare is it that you find in this day and age a player whose process is so sound that there is no deviation from his core principles. In that spirit we find Joey Votto, full name Joseph Daniel Votto the 5 time Allstar First Baseman of the Cincinnati Reds. Votto is always among the leaders year in and year out when it comes to OBP or On Base Percentage. On Base Percentage (OBP) is a somewhat simple statistic it measures the frequency of times a player reaches base. It is calculated by taking the amount of times on base and dividing by the number of plate appearances. The formula can look a little complex OBP= (Hits + BB + HBP)/ (At Bat + BB + HBP + SF). However it is broken down into taking the batters Hits + the amount of times they reached on Base on Balls or more colloquially known as the walk, and factoring in the amount of times the batter was hit by a pitch. Then you take that number and divide it by the times the batter was up at bat, their walks, hit by pitches and the amount of sacrifice flies (Fly ball out that scores a runner) they hit also. Ideally the slash line is .300/.400/.500 that you want to achieve as a batter. That’s the mathematical formula that generates a lot of controversy in debates about Votto.

Votto has sound process he believes that getting on base is the most important tool in the tool box of a ball player. This sounds logical does it not ? Where does the debate come from ? Some analyst would have you to believe that Votto merely reaching base does not help his team win game, they may even present you with some numbers to prove that. Just look at the Reds Win-Loss record in the last four seasons, not a winning record in the bunch. Since 2014 the Cincinnati Reds have gone 276-372 for a winning percentage of .426, less than stellar right ? But baseball is not a one man sport, a man among children can not dominate like Lebron James in the NBA. Baseball is a team game, sometimes calling upon all 25 men on the roster on a given night. However, when we look at the contributions of Joey Votto he provide stability to an otherwise unstable lineup.

Through his 11 year career Joey Votto has amassed an On Base Percentage of .428. Now let’s break down what’s good, what’s bad in the OBP category. In baseball analysis you will hear the term “Slash Line”, now what the Slash Line is a commonly used term to describe three key averaging statistics in baseball. First is the Batting Average, a stat that has fallen out of favorite amongst major analytical circles. Second in the slashing trio is the On Base Percentage and thirdly is Slugging Percentage (super basic definition it helps determine power). So OBP is something that has been used to help validate a players skill at reaching base. So how does this apply to Votto you ask ??? In career OBP Votto is 11th all time. Only 10 men stand ahead of Votto in the ability to get on base. Of the 10 men ahead of Votto 8 played before 1940. So in the last 77 years only 2 men have shown a greater ability to reach base. Those two men the great Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.

Brian Kenny an analyst on the MLB Network often bring up Joey Votto and has dubbed him “The Prince of Process” I venture to take it one step further and say that Votto is becoming the King of Process. When watching Joey Votto at the plate he rarely ever swings at a pitch outside of the strike zone as evidenced by his 15.8% oSwing Percentage in 2017 (according to FanGraphs). The oSwing percentage is the amount of times a batter chases or swings at a ball outside of the strike zone, the average percentage in oSwing is 30%. So as a batter if you’re not chasing bad or “pitcher’s pitches” then you are staying in your zone. That percentage is quantified as zSwing or swinging at pitches in the zone. Votto in 2017 had a zSwing percentage of 71.4% the average zSwing for the league again according to FanGraphs is 65%. Votto is precise in his approach. Votto has a purpose at the plate. While many others are now turning to launch angle and looking to swing with all their might, Votto is looking to get on base. Now do not mistake Votto’s approach for a lack of ability in being able to achieve the ho-hum statistics of yester-year, Votto can hit homeruns.

In the year of the “Launch Angle” where everyone was looking to drive the ball out of the ballpark Votto participated hitting 36 homeruns and drove in 100 Runs Batted In (RBI). Those stats would have been what most would have looked at to determine a successful year in past decades. However, as a baseball society we have become more analytical and it has served us well, being able to look deeper and to try to determine whether what the season we just witnessed was a precursor of things to come or merely a mirage. Votto’s sustained brilliance in the advanced metrics have proven that Votto is a true superstar in the greatest game in the world. Nothing is more impressive in the world of sports than when a batter perfectly squares up a baseball and the crack of the bat echos through the heart and the mind. Watching Joey Votto at the dish is a work of art, seeing his ability to shun a ball so close to the strike zone that we watching at home all swing, yet Votto doesn’t even flinch is as impressive as the Mona Lisa. Since 2010 when Votto won the NL MVP his OBP is an astounding .438. Now let’s stop at take a moment to reflect on the fact that Joey Votto’s OBP since 2010 is .438……Now when we compare to the league average across the majors in the same time frame of 2010 the league’s OBP is .320. Yes Joey Votto’s OBP is .118 points better than the league average. Votto also lead the National League in OBP at season’s end 6 of those 8 years. The Prince of Process by adding a more aggressive approach from 2017 on launch angle and attacking the first pitch in “HIS” zone is becoming the King of Process. So as much fun and excitement as homeruns provide. Watching the mastery of Joey Votto working an at bat to a base on balls can  bring about a sense of amazement in the process of the King.

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