Votto reaches new heights in MVP-worthy year

Reds first baseman led Majors in OBP and walks while hitting 36 homers

November 15th, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto arguably had the finest season of his 10-year career in 2017. But was it the most valuable performance in the entire National League?

What is known is that Votto -- along with Miami right fielder and Arizona first baseman -- finished in the top three for the NL Most Valuable Player Award vote. The winner will be revealed at 6 p.m. ET Thursday on MLB Network.

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"These are two guys that I have a great deal of respect for, and there are several guys that weren't amongst the finalists that I have a great deal of respect for, so just being in that conversation is meaningful to me," said Votto, who was the 2010 NL MVP Award winner.

Even beyond the finalists, there are several deserving winners in 2017, and the vote from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America could have a diverse split. While Stanton led the Majors in three high-profile categories with 59 home runs, a .631 slugging percentage and 132 RBIs, and Goldschmidt was the only one of the three finalists to help his team reach the postseason, Votto put together an overall resume of overall numbers that topped both players.

Votto, 34, batted .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBIs, 106 runs scored, 134 walks and a 1.032 OPS. He reached base 321 times and logged 7.5 wins above replacement. He led the Majors in on-base percentage, walks and times on base, and led the NL in OPS. His Major League-leading walks-to-strikeouts ratio was 1.61.

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Stanton slashed .281/.376/.631 while Goldschmidt was at .297/.404/.563. The D-backs' first baseman equaled Votto in homers while posting 120 RBIs. Managers and coaches voted Goldschmidt as the NL Silver Slugger Award and NL Gold Glove Award winner for first base.

In advanced statistics like weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which calculates runs created and adjusts for ballpark factors, Votto is tops in the NL at 165 while Stanton is second at 156. Goldschmidt was tied for seventh at 142. In weighted on-base average (wOBA), a version of on-base percentage that accounts for how a player reached base, Votto is also tops at .428, while Stanton is third (.410) and Goldschmidt sits fifth (.400).

In one of the achievements that Votto was most proud of, he started all 162 games of the season. Stanton played in 159 games while Goldschmidt was at 155.

"I will say, playing every day adds a degree of difficulty and playing for a non-contending team adds another degree of difficulty," Votto said. "Playing those extra innings … can be a bit of a challenge. Obviously, not ducking any starting pitching can be a bit of a challenge for bullpens or pitching staffs in general. Playing, ideally, every moment of every inning. I'm not going to toot my own horn -- I enjoy playing every day. I like attempting to get better and I don't feel like you can get better without playing. However, they are challenges and at times they can hinder top-end performance."

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It doesn't help Votto's cause that the Reds lost 94 games and never contended. The Marlins finished with 85 losses, but flirted with a playoff chase in the second half before fading down the stretch. Goldschmidt helped lead Arizona to the NL Wild Card with 93 wins, after the club lost 93 times in 2016.

There were only 12 games in 2017 in which Votto did not reach base. He had three streaks where he reached safely in 32, 29 and 27 consecutive games. In August, he equaled the NL record reaching safely at least twice in 20-straight games, one shy of Ted Williams' 1948 modern Major League record.

This season, Votto was the only player in the Major Leagues to hit at least 26 homers and record 100 RBIs while hitting at least .300/.400/.500. And besides Babe Ruth and Williams, he is the only player in Major League history to produce at least 179 hits, 36 homers, 134 walks and 83 or fewer strikeouts in a single season.

All three finalists also played superbly on defense. While Goldschmidt was the lone Gold Glove winner of the group, both Votto and Stanton were finalists at their positions.

The BBWAA cast its votes after the regular season. All that's left is whether Votto was viewed as having done enough to get another MVP crown.