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A first for Votto in 6,829th plate appearance

@AndrewSimonMLB
April 17, 2019

Joey Votto has done a lot of things in his distinguished 13-year career in the Majors, but the six-time All-Star first baseman did something Wednesday that was a first for him. He popped up to the first baseman. This rare event came in the eighth inning of the Reds' 3-2

Joey Votto has done a lot of things in his distinguished 13-year career in the Majors, but the six-time All-Star first baseman did something Wednesday that was a first for him.

He popped up to the first baseman.

This rare event came in the eighth inning of the Reds' 3-2 loss at Dodger Stadium, where Votto went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts out of the leadoff spot. With a runner at first and two outs, Votto was fooled by a Pedro Baez changeup and lifted the ball into foul territory down the first-base line, where Cody Bellinger settled under it for the catch.

Any Votto pop fly is rare. They have accounted for only 2 percent of his 4,456 career batted balls, and 1.3 percent of his 6,829 plate appearances. That makes Votto one of active big leaguers least likely to hit a popup.

Lowest rate of career PA ending with popup
Active players (minimum 1,000 PA)
1) Christian Yelich (MIL): 1.2%
2-T) Joey Votto (CIN): 1.3%
2-T) Howie Kendrick (WSH): 1.3%
4) Alex Avila (ARI): 1.4%
5) Domingo Santana (SEA): 1.5%

Votto did tie a career high by popping up in 2.2 percent of his plate appearances in 2018, but that rate has ranged as low as 0.4 percent in his career. That was in 2013, when just three of his 726 trips to the plate resulted in pop fly.

His lack of popups is all the more impressive when considering the fact that Votto is no ground-ball hitter. Of the 281 players who put at least 200 balls in play last season, he had the eighth-highest rate of fly balls and line drives (61 percent).

Wednesday was Votto’s 1,592nd game in the Majors, and this was just his 89th batted ball classified as a popup. None of the previous 88 went to the first baseman.

No other active player with at least 50 total popups has avoided hitting any of them to first base.

However, it is worth noting that left-handed batters tend to hit most of their popups to the left side of the field (the same holds true of right-handed hitters with third base).

In 2018, just 7 percent of lefty popups were pulled to first base, and some other notable players have been close to Votto in that department. The recently retired Joe Mauer hit none of his 104 popups to first, and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has sent only two of his 177 there (1.1 percent).

But with Votto finally popping to first in his 6,829th career plate appearance, there is nobody there to take his place. The new top player on the list, veteran catcher Alex Avila, has less than half as many career plate appearances as Votto, and no other player is even close to that.

Most career PA without a popup to 1B
Active players
1) Alex Avila (ARI): 3,285
2) Jace Peterson (BAL): 1,524
3) Adam Frazier (PIT): 1,038
4) Chris Herrmann (OAK): 898
5) Nick Williams (PHI): 806

Votto's misfire Wednesday stands out as a rare blip in a career marked in part by an absence of easy outs. It will be some time before anyone else matches him when it comes to this particular quirk.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.