Monday, November 22, 2010

Can Joey Votto Repeat His 2010 Success?

While the baseball world awaits the biggest question of the day concerning Joey Votto (the MVP vote), another question lingers just behind it: Can Votto stay this good? A player like Albert Pujols doesn't offer such a question as he has proven his consistency over the last ten years. But this is Votto's first big year. Don't get the Fan wrong, he had nice numbers building up to this big year, but this was his first big year. Can he get even better? Is this the best he will be? What do the numbers say?

The numbers don't show anything but Wow! Did Votto fade as last season went along? No, on the contrary, he excelled every month he played and was better in the second half after a spectacular first half. Was he better at home than on the road? Nope. He was actually better on the road, posting a .951 OPS at home and a 1.093 on the road. Does he have a weakness against a particular skill set of a pitcher? Nope. His OPS against power pitchers was 1.007, 1.057 against medium velocity pitchers and 1.008 against finesse pitchers.

Does Votto fare worse against left-handers? Well, yes, somewhat. But his OPS against lefties was still .863 and you can live with that far better than what say Ryan Howard did against lefties. About the only way you can get Votto out consistently is to get him either 0-2, 1-2 or 2-2 in the count. But that's pretty much the same story for every hitter in baseball.

But everywhere else you look at Joey Votto's statistics for 2010, you see gold. He batted .354 in high leverage situations. He batted .369 with runners in scoring position. His OPS was great no matter whether there were no outs in the inning (.966), one out (.994) or two outs (an amazing 1.094). He hit over .300 no matter how many times he had faced a starter in the game.

About the only wrinkle in an otherwise rosy picture is his 2010 BABIP which came in at a remarkable .371. But for some superstars, that's more the norm than the exception. If you consider that Votto's career BABIP is .353, you can't use the .371 and say that Votto is going to come back more to the mean. He's beaten the mean consistently and there is no reason to believe he won't keep doing it.

Pujols has maintained his excellence despite some years where he did not have a whole lot of protection behind him in the line up. Votto won't seem to have that problem. With the emergence of Jay Bruce, Jonny Gomes and Drew Stubbs, Votto should get plenty of fear behind him even if Scott Rolen regresses. The only questions the future holds is whether the Reds will be able to afford Votto in the years ahead considering their attendance issues.

Joey Votto's OPS+ rose 97 points from 2008 to 2009. It raised another 43 points from 2009 to 2010. Votto can get better which is a scary thought. He's already risen from great to the sublime. If he improves any further, it will raise again from the sublime to the ridiculous.

**UPDATE**  Question answered: Votto is the MVP.

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