Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Justice: Suggestions to change Votto’s approach unwarranted

As Joseph Joubert Roberge once said…“Justice is baseball truth in action”.

Still, because Votto had just the 73 RBIs, some have argued—and Reds executives have been asked about it several times—he should expand his strike zone with runners in scoring position. It’s not like he’s failing in these situations. That .477 OBP with runners in scoring position speaks volumes. Only four NL hitters got on base more frequently in these situations.

The thinking goes that if Votto swings at more pitches out of the strike zone—in other words, if he gets away from one of the things that makes him so good—he’ll get more RBIs. This advice is about as wrong-headed as it gets. Votto has 3,790 plate appearances in his seven big league seasons. He has done things one way virtually the entire time. This is who he is. He should not be changing now. He’s plenty valuable to the Reds NOT making outs.

If he starts swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, he’ll hurt the Reds. Rather than going up, his RBI total might go down, although this (again) is a function of time and place.

He’d certainly be on base less, see fewer pitchers, etc. There’s lineup chemistry to consider. If Votto becomes a wild swinger, what message does that send to Brandon Phillips and/or Jay Bruce behind him? He’s telling them he doesn’t trust them, that he believes it’s on him to deliver.

It’s not on him. It’s on all of them. Hitters feed off one another. Bruce and Phillips would be the first to say that hitting behind Votto has been good for them, has given them more opportunities.

It’s natural to look for ways to improve the Reds after another quick exit from the postseason. Changing Votto would be the wrong thing to do. He’s a joy to watch and is a role model in an assortment of ways. In short, the Reds are lucky to have him, just the way he is.

Repoz Posted: December 31, 2013 at 09:39 AM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: reds, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 31, 2013 at 10:18 AM (#4627017)
Didn't Richard Justice used to be a FJM whipping boy years ago? Even if most of us take the contents of this column for granted, it's refreshingly... intelligent.
   2. ckash Posted: December 31, 2013 at 12:48 PM (#4627133)
Signing a guy to a 10 year contract based on the numbers he put up using his approach and then deciding that approach needs changing just because his RBIs fell off is a sure sign of a stupid organization.

How the hell will the Reds and the Cinci media react when Votto goes .315/.450/.525 with only 60 RBI in 2014 because Hamilton and Frazier are hitting in the 2 spots in front of him?
   3. base ball chick Posted: December 31, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4627184)
richard justice has always been a good solid baseball man. wasn't him ever talking about how whatshisname was a bad GM for LA because he had acne.

he has worked hard to understand and use the modern stats, which he does. he even had an on the air conversation with MGL, who believe it or not, was civil, where they talked about MGL's stats and approach. unlike other radio maroons, justice did a lot of listening and didn't sneer/spit/say childish idiocy.

if he was a target of michael schnurr, who is down there with pearlman in the very definition of asssswipe, that serves to show that FJM was nothing but a print version of a high school bully who thinks he's the class clown but is really just sorry

i DO disagree with his position on barry lamar and jack morris - everyone makes mistakes
   4. base ball chick Posted: December 31, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4627187)
oh yeah

the cincinnati broadcasters (who are so bad they make buck/mccarver look good) have not get gotten the fact that RBIs have to do with having runnerse on base when you come up. so they will complain. and if he gets hits, they complain that they are not always game winning hits, but hits that come at the wrong time (see alex rodriguez - that stuff started when he as with the rangers)
   5. Lars6788 Posted: December 31, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4627236)
With the full disclaimer that I guess he's fine with the way he is according to 99.9 percent of BBTF posters, is it possible that Votto's hitting approach is too nuanced and he is literally is too picky about the pitches he chooses to swing at?

It's like 'come on buddy, your job is to hit the baseball,' not be a table setter - not to see as many pitches, but to do something with them.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 31, 2013 at 02:41 PM (#4627247)
With the full disclaimer that I guess he's fine with the way he is according to 99.9 percent of BBTF posters, is it possible that Votto's hitting approach is too nuanced and he is literally is too picky about the pitches he chooses to swing at?

It's like 'come on buddy, your job is to hit the baseball,' not be a table setter - not to see as many pitches, but to do something with them.


I think it's possible. His Z-Swing % (swing rate at pitches in the strike zone) was in the 69% range from 2007-2010. In 2011-13 it's down to ~60%.
   7. Best Regards, President of Comfort Posted: December 31, 2013 at 02:56 PM (#4627259)
If he's taking pitches that he could drive, sure, he's being picky. If he's taking pitches that are on the edge of the strike zone where solid contact is unlikely, then no.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 31, 2013 at 03:03 PM (#4627265)
If he's taking pitches that he could drive, sure, he's being picky. If he's taking pitches that are on the edge of the strike zone where solid contact is unlikely, then no.

Well, his in zone % is basically constant his whole career (45-46%), so pitchers aren't throwing him fewer strikes.

Either the pitchers have gotten much better at throwing him "edge" strikes (seems unlikely to me) or Votto is taking pitches he used to swing at.
   9. The Good Face Posted: December 31, 2013 at 04:50 PM (#4627328)
Well, his in zone % is basically constant his whole career (45-46%), so pitchers aren't throwing him fewer strikes.

Either the pitchers have gotten much better at throwing him "edge" strikes (seems unlikely to me) or Votto is taking pitches he used to swing at.


If it's just a one year sample, is it really meaningful? And isn't is possible that it's reflecting adjustments made by a selective 30 year old hitter in tightening up his personal swing zone as his plate coverage diminishes just a little bit?

Anyway, players who have spent 5+ years producing at an All Star level typically are what they are; media navelgazing about how they could be so much better if they just made a few small adjustments to their game or whatever are nothing but wishcasting. We've seen it with all sorts of players over the years; "Imagine how good Ichiro could be if he decided to use his batting practice power in games!" or "Robbie Cano is leaving 20 points of batting average on the table every year because he doesn't hustle!" or "Ted Williams would have been much better off if he'd have just gone the other way against the shift." The trouble is, there's never any evidence that the player in question is either a) capable of making the requested changes/adjustments or b) that those adjustments would result in an overall performance improvement.

The Cincinnati broadcasters/media apparently wish they had Vlad Guerrero, but they're "stuck" with something more like peak Will Clark.
   10. Nasty Nate Posted: December 31, 2013 at 04:55 PM (#4627331)
It's like 'come on buddy, your job is to hit the baseball,' not be a table setter - not to see as many pitches, but to do something with them.


If so, maybe they're asking him to do the wrong job.
   11. depletion Posted: December 31, 2013 at 05:29 PM (#4627353)
New manager encourages Kiss to wear grey suits and ties, play acoustic guitars.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 31, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4627382)
If it's just a one year sample, is it really meaningful? And isn't is possible that it's reflecting adjustments made by a selective 30 year old hitter in tightening up his personal swing zone as his plate coverage diminishes just a little bit?

It's not. It's a 3 year pattern. Votto's Z-swing % was >68% every season from until 2010, and has been <63% every year since.

Anyway, players who have spent 5+ years producing at an All Star level typically are what they are; media navelgazing about how they could be so much better if they just made a few small adjustments to their game or whatever are nothing but wishcasting. We've seen it with all sorts of players over the years; "Imagine how good Ichiro could be if he decided to use his batting practice power in games!" or "Robbie Cano is leaving 20 points of batting average on the table every year because he doesn't hustle!" or "Ted Williams would have been much better off if he'd have just gone the other way against the shift." The trouble is, there's never any evidence that the player in question is either a) capable of making the requested changes/adjustments or b) that those adjustments would result in an overall performance improvement.

Right, but the point is Votto was already an All-Star with a different approach, and then changed.

In 2009-10 Votto produced with a 12-13% BB-rate, and a ~.260 ISO. In 2012-13 he produced with a 19-20% BB-rate and a ~.215 ISO.
   13. tshipman Posted: December 31, 2013 at 06:42 PM (#4627403)
Right, but the point is Votto was already an All-Star with a different approach, and then changed.

In 2009-10 Votto produced with a 12-13% BB-rate, and a ~.260 ISO. In 2012-13 he produced with a 19-20% BB-rate and a ~.215 ISO.


I agree with you that Votto's made a decision to change, but I think part of it might have been due to injury. He got hurt in 2012, and basically couldn't drive the ball with power in the last half of the year. First half of 2012 he had a .639 SLG and he dropped to .497 after the ASB. Pre-injury, he had the same power in 2012 as in 2010, but added 40 points of OBP.

I don't know that Votto is capable of hitting for that kind of power anymore. I think he adapted in part due to his body changing on him.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 31, 2013 at 07:03 PM (#4627412)
I don't know that Votto is capable of hitting for that kind of power anymore. I think he adapted in part due to his body changing on him.

Very possible.
   15. depletion Posted: December 31, 2013 at 07:45 PM (#4627434)
"Imagine how good Ichiro could be if he decided to use his batting practice power in games!" or "Robbie Cano is leaving 20 points of batting average on the table every year because he doesn't hustle!" or "Ted Williams would have been much better off if he'd have just gone the other way against the shift."

Joining the KKK would really increase Hillary Clinton's support among racists.
   16. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 31, 2013 at 08:13 PM (#4627442)
If in fact the supposition that Votto takes too many pitches to be an ideal RBI man, it's on the Reds to recognize this and bat him #2 in the order, not to demand he change the skillset that makes him an absurdly valuable player.

If Votto doesn't have elite power anymore and isn't going to get it back, well... now he's basically Wade Boggs. This man has led the league in OBP four years in a row. He probably should be hitting in front of the other good hitters on the team, not behind them.
   17. Christopher Linden Posted: December 31, 2013 at 08:35 PM (#4627449)
This got me thinking, because I have Votto in my table-game keeper league.

Joey Votto MLB rank in ISO, among first basemen with 350 or more PAs ...

Age 24 - 2008: 16th of 35
Age 25 - 2009: 12th of 34
Age 26 - 2010: 1st of 31
Age 27 - 2011: 9th of 34
Age 28 - 2012: 7th of 33
Age 29 - 2013: 14th of 32

HR/FB ...

2008: 18.5%
2009: 17.5%
2010: 25.0%
2011: 18.2%
2012: 15.1%
2013: 18.3%

I don't think it's fair to lump his 2010 with his '08-'09. 2010 is obviously a fluke; he has never been an elite power hitter outside of that one year, and the rate at which fly balls clear the fence has otherwise been very stable throughout his career. The "problem", in terms of his reduced power, is fewer balls in the air and more on the ground, plus more line drives. Votto's fly-ball rate in 2013 was the lowest of his career and has been down every year since '09. His 1.50 GB/FB was a career high (1.44 in '08, the other year his ISO rank was comparable to 2013) and 27 points above his career of 1.23. That's interesting in light of the much lower Z-Swing marks. If he's honing the take-and-rake approach, why aren't more of his swings crush jobs? The steady HR/FB suggests if the pitcher gets one in his wheelhouse he can still launch it as well as he ever could, but given the higher GB/FBs he's seeing fewer pitches he can lift.

I wonder if pitchers, knowing that he's taking more and more pitches for strikes and recognizing that he's less likely to take them deep unless they make a mistake, get more aggressive pounding him with low strikes, and if his BB/PA starts to erode. His power numbers in '14 are going to be very interesting to watch.

Happy Base Ball


   18. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 31, 2013 at 08:51 PM (#4627454)
Yeah, the power decrease over the past 1.5 years is definitely related to the injury. He was hitting .342./.465/.604 when he hurt his knee in July 2012. When he came back, he continued to hit for average but famously had no HRs in that final month. It was chalked up as coming back a little quick from the injury in the heat of the playoff run, which I can totally buy.

But the injury isn't the only factor. Votto has discussed how he's made his swing more level over the past couple seasons, and how he's become even more selective at the plate. He understands that the enhanced OBP comes at the expense of a few HRs. His walk rate went from 14-15% in 2010-11 to about 19% in the past two seasons. For the first half of 2012 he combined the increased patience while retaining his power - mostly by hitting a sh!tton of doules. That might not ever happen again.

What is a little surprising is how his Ks have remained the same despite the new approach and more level swing. He's been at 18-19% every year since the MVP season, even though his rate of contact is slightly better now. He's also seeing less strikes now (60% in 2010; 55% in 2012-13). But he is getting more called strikes now then he used to.

Signing a guy to a 10 year contract based on the numbers he put up using his approach and then deciding that approach needs changing just because his RBIs fell off is a sure sign of a stupid organization.

It's the broadcasters and one of the writers who are clamoring for a change in Votto's approach, not the org. Dusty made one comment early this year about all of the walks. That won't be an issue anymore.
   19. Christopher Linden Posted: December 31, 2013 at 09:07 PM (#4627459)
Did Votto retool his swing in response to the 2012 injury or before? His LD% increased massively in 2011, not '12 or '13, and his infield-pop rate last year was slightly above his career average (and well above his 2010).

What's the latest work on the relationship between ISO and BB/PA? What's the risk that Votto's walk rate declines if his reach-the-seats ability, by the standards of his position, no longer warrants nibbling?

Happy Base Ball

   20. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: January 01, 2014 at 12:00 AM (#4627517)
If in fact the supposition that Votto takes too many pitches to be an ideal RBI man, it's on the Reds to recognize this and bat him #2 in the order, not to demand he change the skillset that makes him an absurdly valuable player.


Yes. Start with the fact that you have a great hitter, then figure out how to maximize his value.
   21. Red Menace Posted: January 02, 2014 at 02:20 AM (#4628018)
It's the broadcasters and one of the writers who are clamoring for a change in Votto's approach, not the org. Dusty made one comment early this year about all of the walks. That won't be an issue anymore.


This. I constantly see digs at the Reds organization (such as post 2) by people who don't recognize that Thom Brennaman, Paul Doc and 700 WLW callers don't run the Reds.
   22. Traderdave Posted: January 02, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4628116)
The Brennamans sure THINK they run the org...
   23. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 02, 2014 at 11:31 AM (#4628132)
I can't believe I'm saying this with New York and Boston still around, but Cincinnati has the most toxic local baseball media in the world. No way in #### I'd sign a contract with that team, for that reason.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Adam S
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOrioles launch D.C. invasion with billboard near Nationals Park
(13 - 1:47am, Apr 18)
Last: Belfry Bob

NewsblogOT: The NHL is finally back thread, part 2
(137 - 1:28am, Apr 18)
Last: puck

NewsblogDesign Room: Top 10 Logos in MLB History.
(14 - 1:17am, Apr 18)
Last: Steve Treder

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for April 17, 2014
(131 - 1:09am, Apr 18)
Last: Davo Dozier (Mastroianni)

NewsblogChris Resop - The Most Interesting Reliever in the World
(18 - 12:41am, Apr 18)
Last: The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott)

NewsblogEscape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers
(6 - 11:58pm, Apr 17)
Last: SoSHially Unacceptable

NewsblogDaniel Bryan's 'YES!' chant has spread to the Pirates' dugout
(70 - 11:41pm, Apr 17)
Last: STEAGLES is all out of bubblegum

NewsblogOT: NBA Monthly Thread - April 2014
(305 - 11:37pm, Apr 17)
Last: NJ in DC

NewsblogGeorge Brett, Inspiration for the Song “Royals”, Meets Lorde
(27 - 10:50pm, Apr 17)
Last: Greg K

NewsblogMLB: Offense's performance vs. Brewers favors Matheny's interpretation of stats
(6 - 10:14pm, Apr 17)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogRobothal: What a relief! A’s could use bullpen differently than other teams
(4 - 9:50pm, Apr 17)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogMinuteman News Center: Giandurco: This means WAR
(68 - 9:08pm, Apr 17)
Last: zenbitz

NewsblogGleeman: Mets minor league team is hosting “Seinfeld night”
(138 - 8:59pm, Apr 17)
Last: Moe Greene

NewsblogOTP April 2014: BurstNET Sued for Not Making Equipment Lease Payments
(1584 - 7:52pm, Apr 17)
Last: Publius Publicola

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-17-2014
(15 - 7:43pm, Apr 17)
Last: Eric J can SABER all he wants to

Demarini, Easton and TPX Baseball Bats

 

 

 

 

Page rendered in 0.4764 seconds
52 querie(s) executed