Monday, May 28, 2012

Joey Votto is a line drive machine

Joey Votto is the best hitter in the game today. You can have some good arguments about that judgment call. You might go for Josh Hamilton. You might think it Adrian Gonzalez or perhaps Matt Kemp. You might even want to consider Paul Konerko. But the choice here is Joey Votto. Not only has he batted over .300 for three straight years, but he has also had an on-base percentage of over .410 the past three years and his lowest slugging percentage in those years has been .531 (last year).

This season, Votto is doing the same thing. His triple slash line so far: .325/.466/.606. If he wasn't a first baseman, he would easily be leading the league in fWAR. Instead, he is third behind Josh Hamilton and David Wright, both having great seasons. He is just ahead of the amazingly hot Konerko. The thing that makes Votto stand out is the line drives. He is a line drive machine.

Votto led all of baseball last season with a line drive percentage of 27.5. Twenty percent is considered excellent in that category. But this year, he has topped even himself. So far this season, Joey Votto has put 123 balls in play. Of those 123 balls in play, 43 of them have been line drives. That is a line drive percentage of 35 percent. 35 percent! He has more line drives than ground balls. That's unthinkable. He has more line drives than strikeouts. He walks a lot. And yet, he has more line drives than walks.

Since batted balls have been tracked, of all regularly playing hitters, Only Todd Helton and Mark Loretta have a higher career line drive percentage than Joey Votto. Yeah, Loretta is a surprise. But he had some very good years for the Padres when no one was looking. But Votto could surpass both of them at the rate he has been going the last couple of seasons. 

This statistic is important because line drives lead to the highest BABIP of all hit trajectories. And Votto is no different. His OPS on his line drives is 1.651. And honestly, that is a bit unlucky. For most batters, a line drive will lead to a hit around 70 percent of the time. Votto is only hitting .651 on line drives. The league stats would be given to you, but seems to be having a bit of an issue this morning. But let's put it this way: Votto hits line drives 35 percent of the time, and when he does, he is going to be on base, 65 percent of the time. Yes, that is going to do some damage.

You can have a decent argument on who the best hitter in the game is right now. But for this observer, if this was a sandlot and we had to pick teams, Joey Votto would always be picked first. He is a line drive machine.

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