JABO: Joey Votto’s Unfortunately Historic Season
With September here, it’s easy to forget about what’s going on with teams toward the bottom of the standings. The rosters have expanded, prospects are getting looks for the teams who are out of contention, and most articles are about playoff races and potential postseason happenings. There’s one issue with overlooking the cellar-dwellers, however: Joey Votto — who is on one of those dwellers — is having a historically great year, and that merits attention.
2015 could easily be the year that forgot about Votto. The Cincinnati Reds are in last place, the NL MVP conversation has been dominated by Bryce Harper since the first month of the season (for good reason), and a number of chronically unsuccessful franchises are looking like they’re headed to the playoffs. This late stage of the season provides a great opportunity to gauge the strength of the storylines during the past few months of baseball, and 2015 has been anything but a disappointment; quite the opposite, in fact.
That makes Votto’s 2015 strangely interesting. In a season that includes the Cubs and Mets succeeding, possibly the best rookie class ever, and a Bryce Harper mega-breakout, Votto is quietly having one of the best offensive seasons for a last place team since 1969, when the divisional era began.
Let’s investigate. First, it’s important to put Votto’s season in context. I’ve pulled the 25-best offensive seasons by wRC+ (a metric that captures a player’s overall offensive output compared to league average) since the year 2000; Votto’s 2015 season currently ranks 19th overall. Take a look:
A few other things stand out about this list, namely just how good Harper’s 2015 campaign has been to date: to be included with Bonds as the only player since 2000 with a wRC+ of at least 200 is incredibly impressive. However, we know Harper has been otherworldly this season, so we should start whittling down this list to put Votto in our chosen frame. Votto’s season is special by any measure; it’s a top-20 offensive season in the past 15 years. But let’s do this: we’ll remove players that made the playoffs with their team during the year in question. When we do that, we shave off ten players.
Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.
This article really does a disservice to Votto (and yes, I’m submitting that that’s actually possible).
While his season overall has been quite good, his second half stats have been otherwordly. I would have liked to see a discussion of what he’s doing differently, whether it’s sustainable, and even just the company he shares in the two-month leaderboard rankings. The guy is walking almost twice as much as he’s striking out, and when he’s doing neither he’s absolutely crushing the ball.
That’s a good point. He was a 138 wRC+ in the first half and that’s probably why he was ignored. He’s crushing everything now though.
243 WRC+ in the second half: .397/.575/.718