It's time to celebrate what a wild, wonderful, woozy season Joey Votto is having
With Canadian blood running through him, the most perfectly sculpted eyebrows in baseball and a batting eye more patient than a mother with quintuplet toddlers, you could be forgiven for not realizing that Joey Votto ever went away.
But after struggling through injuries in 2014, playing in only 62 games and posting a career low .799 OPS (thanks to, once again, an amazing .390 OBP), Votto is back at it again this year.
After starting the year well, Votto went through a bit of a slump. Still, heading into July, he was hitting .284/.398/.498 with 14 HRs. Not bad numbers by any means, but not the kind of thing that inspires epic poems gushed out in your honor.
But since the beginning of July, Votto is an unstoppable human being. The first baseman is hitting .353/.529/.633 with 14 HRs, looking every bit like the hitter who won the MVP in 2010. In fact -- he may be even better than that season: His 178 OPS+ is a career high, and he ranks second in wOBA and wRC+ and fourth in fWAR. If you don't want to look up all those acronyms (those are weighted metrics that take into account his friendly home ballpark), know that it means he's doing very, very, very well.
How's he doing it? Why is he so good? And how does he get those perfectly sculpted eyebrows to look just that sharp?
While we may never have the answer to life's deepest questions like that, let's look back at his marvelous season.
All stats as of Sept. 20
His is the Eye of Sauron
Sorry to pitchers (and Lord of the Rings fans), but the real all-seeing eye belongs to Votto. Here's a man who has somehow been gifted with the greatest ability to see the minute differences between ball and strike, rarely reaching outside the strike zone to offer at a pitch he doesn't like.
After all, while Votto is second in the Majors in pitches per plate appearance with 4.30 (third behind only Mike Trout and Curtis Granderson) he also swings at fewer balls out of the strike zone than anyone else. His 19.4 percent swing rate at pitches outside of the zone is the lowest in the Majors, just beating out the highly selective Carlos Santana.
This means there are lots of at-bats where he shows off his precise batting eye, such as this one back in May. Sure, there were only three balls instead of the traditional four on this particular example, but considering how good his eye is, the umpire probably wondered what was the point of fighting the inevitable:
Opposite-field dingers are his forte
Of course, when he does swing the bat, he finds plenty of success -- even though he does it in his own way. After all, in baseball's vast history, it's been known that power hitters tend to pull their home runs. Sure, there are big, strong, players with the ability to lumber balls out over the opposite field, but look to their spray chart and their pull side is full of dingers.
Not so for Votto.
While the first baseman has been using the opposite field the least in his career, spraying balls there only 26 percent of the time, 11 of his 28 home runs have been to left field, with only eight going to the pull side.
They're not cheap, scraping-the-top-of-the-wall shots, either.
98 percent weakness-free!
Of course, it's hard to pitch to Votto when he can pretty much destroy whatever you throw to him. According to Fangraphs' weighted pitch values, the first baseman is the fifth-best Major Leaguer when facing fastballs -- which he tends to hit like this:
Or, against changeups, where he ranks seventh-best:
Or, perhaps you'd rather try and get a curveball past him. COME ON, ARE YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION HERE?! He's the fifth-best in the Majors when batting against curveballs.
When he makes contact, it's going to be a hit
Of course, when he's not creating his own force-field around the plate or blasting the ball over the fence (his 28 HRs are his most in a season since 2011), he still finds a way of getting on base -- even when he makes contact,.
With a gorgeous, level swing that is seemingly designed for spraying line drives, Votto has a career .356 BABIP, the 5th-highest all-time for players with at least 3,000 plate appearances.
And while high BABIPs are usually the result of hitting the ball hard and having a killer set of wheels (and just a little bit of luck), speed is maybe the one thing Votto doesn't do well -- reaching double-digits in steals only once. Before this year, at least.
That's right. At the age of 32, Votto has added speed back into his game, swiping 11 bags on the season. It also means he's wearing new, tighter pants:
Of course, when he hits the ball like this, what's the point in having speed? No need to leg this one out.
While his BABIP may not remain so astronomically high for the rest of his playing days, power and patience are traditionally considered traits that age best. Meaning that it's quite likely that Joey Votto will still be drawing walks when the next Age of Aquarius begins.