Joey Votto is one of the greatest hitters in the game today. He’s a former NL MVP winner, the OBP leader in five of the last seven seasons, and has a career batting average of .313, an on base percentage of .425, and a slugging percentage of .536. He’s viewed by many to be the poster boy for consistency. However, what many may not recognize is that while Votto ended 2016 with season totals that look similar to many other of his excellent seasons, the way Votto arrived at these totals is surprising.
2016 was a tale of two seasons for Joey Votto. Through the first half of the season (363 plate appearances), he struck out 88 times, walked 61 times, and generated an OPS of .831 with a batting average of .252. His OPS+ during this time was a solid but unremarkable 126. Had his second half mirrored his first, fans likely would have considered 2016 a relatively successful campaign for Votto although some of the underlying numbers may have raised some eyebrows (especially the walks to strikeouts). However, Votto’s second half of 2016 was unlike anything any other player in major league baseball was able to accomplish. In 314 plate appearances, Votto performed like a man possessed. He hit for a .408 average, generated a .490 on base percentage, and slugged .668. This yielded a 1.158 OPS and 214 OPS+. Additionally, he walked 47 times and struck out only 32 times.
I am not a fan of picking over small statistical samples in search of something to highlight but I don’t think using half a season is cutting the pie too small. The numbers Votto put up in the second half of last season are legit. Are you thinking to yourself, “I am sure if you took a half season of production from some of the other greats in the game, you would find someone that rivals Votto’s second half.”? Well, let’s take a look and see how Votto’s second half compares to some of the other half seasons from 2016’s biggest stars.
1. Mike Trout – 2016 AL MVP:
1st half: .322 batting average, .425 OBP, .991 OPS, 167 OPS+.
2nd half: .305 batting average, .461 OBP, .988 OPS, 171 OPS+.
2. Kris Bryant – 2016 NL MVP:
1st half: .286 batting average, .384 OBP, .982 OPS, 157 OPS+.
2nd half: .299 batting average, .385 OBP, .911 OPS, 147 OPS+.
3. Mookie Betts:
1st half: .304 batting average, .344 OBP, .869 OPS, 132 OPS+.
2nd half: .338 batting average, .388 OBP, .935 OPS, 153 OPS+.
4. Jose Altuve:
1st half: .341 batting average, .413 OBP, .954 OPS, 157 OPS+.
2nd half: .333 batting average, .375 OBP, .894 OPS, 142 OPS+.
5. Manny Machado:
1st half: .318 batting average, .375 OBP, .944 OPS, 152 OPS+.
2nd half: .266 batting average, .306 OBP, .798 OPS, 114 OPS+.
6. Josh Donaldson:
1st half: .304 batting average, .418 OBP, 1.017 OPS, 172 OPS+.
2nd half: .257 batting average, .384 OBP, .866 OPS, 136 OPS+.
7. Paul Goldschmidt:
1st half: .297 batting average, .417 OBP, .930 OPS, 152 OPS+.
2nd half: .297 batting average, .402 OBP, .861 OPS, 136 OPS+.
8. Freddie Freeman:
1st half: .286 batting average, .373 OBP, .891 OPS, 139 OPS+.
2nd half: .323 batting average, .433 OBP, 1.067 OPS, 188 OPS+.
Votto’s second half of 2016 was like no other in baseball and should have garnered much more attention. Playing for a rebuilding Reds’ team that was no longer in contention probably had a lot to do with the lack of exposure Votto’s performance received but a .400 batting average and 214 OPS+ should resister with the baseball world (even if that performance happens on the moon for a team that is 70 games out of first place). Plus, consider the supporting cast he was afforded and his production looks even more impressive. Joey Votto has had the unfortunate luck of playing for a team that has not seriously contended for a playoff spot for the past few years. The national media may have overlooked him but don’t make the same mistake. Otherwise you might miss a historically great hitter being extraordinarily productive.