As Reds' Joey Votto nears 2,000 hits, is he headed to the Corridor of Fame?

Freddie Freeman has given baseball followers some memorable mic’d-up moments prior to now few years, so right here’s a request: Mic up Freeman each time Atlanta and Cincinnati meet.

We may all use extra conversations between Freeman and Joey Votto.

“If you get to first and speak to him about hitting, for me it’s like speaking with Chipper Jones,” Freeman instructed Sporting Information final week. “Chipper will say, ‘Simply toe-tap this and the whole lot works.’ And I’m like, ‘Effectively, Chipper, not everyone seems to be Chipper Jones.’ Not everyone seems to be Joey Votto. How he views hitting and talks about hitting and thinks about hitting, it’s very exhausting to get on that stage, as a result of I really feel like he’s mentally above everyone else in that scenario and it’s exhausting to grasp what he’s pondering.”

MORE COOPERSTOWN CASES: Jacob deGrom | Freddie Freeman

Votto’s profession has been fascinating. He suits precisely zero conventional baseball molds. 

He’s been referred to as each an underrated star and an overrated star — generally throughout the identical season! There’s nothing baseball individuals — followers included — love greater than discovering comps: Participant X is like Participant Y, or Participant X has items of Participant Y’s recreation blended with the most effective elements of Participant Z’s recreation. 

However Votto? Good luck with that. He’s simply Joseph Daniel Votto. He’s his personal individual, and we’re fortunate to have the ability to watch him compete in his personal manner. 

“If you generally is a feared hitter for 15 years, which is what he’s happening, that’s all you possibly can ask for,” Freeman mentioned. “You realize the opposite workforce is game-planning round you. As a hitter, you realize once you stroll into that field, the whole lot is about you, and that’s the way it has been for Joey Votto his whole profession. When different groups are simply making an attempt to get round you, you’re the most effective within the recreation.”

Votto turns 38 on Sept. 10 and is beneath contract for 2 extra seasons, at $25 million per 12 months with a $20 million membership possibility for 2024 ($7 million buyout). After disappointing energy totals in 2018-19 — a median of 14 homers and 57 RBIs in a median of 144 video games these two seasons — Votto has skilled a little bit of an influence/profession revival in 2021. 

He won’t be performing fairly at Peak Votto ranges, however he’s proven the misplaced energy stroke was a dip and never the brand new regular, and he’s completely been a catalyst in Cincinnati’s push towards a possible playoff spot in 2021. For the season, Votto has a .924 OPS with 23 homers and 68 RBIs in 83 video games. He has 318 profession homers and is a handful of hits away from 2,000 in his profession. 

Is he Cooperstown certain? Let’s look. 

The Cooperstown case

We’ll begin the place most each Corridor of Fame dialog begins, with the JAWS leaderboards web page on Baseball-Reference. The three main numbers are WAR, then WAR7 (the most effective seven seasons, by WAR, for a participant’s profession, not essentially consecutive) and JAWS (a score created by Jay Jaffe that helps examine gamers over totally different a long time). So, amongst gamers who had been primarily first basemen, the typical bWAR/WAR7/JAWS line is 66.9/42.7/54.8

Votto is at 62.5/46.9/54.7. That’s fairly shut. He’s a tick beneath in a single class, a tick above in one other and lifeless on with the third. And bear in mind, these are the typical numbers for Corridor of Fame first basemen, not the numbers for the “worst” Corridor of Fame first baseman. Willie McCovey was a special kind of hitter than Votto, however his ultimate line is strikingly related: 64.5/44.9/54.7. McCovey, who completed with 521 homers, was elected in his first 12 months on the poll, with 81.4 p.c in 1986. 

Votto, throughout his peak years, was an on-base machine. He’s led the NL within the class seven instances, and that doesn’t embrace the 12 months he completed second to Bryce Harper within the class (.460 to .459). In actual fact, right here’s your entire listing of first basemen (with at the very least 40 p.c of profession video games at first) who’ve at the very least 300 homers and an on-base proportion of .415 or higher:

Lou Gehrig 493 HR .447 OBP
Jimmie Foxx 534 HR .428 OBP
Frank Thomas 521 HR .419 OBP
Joey Votto 318 HR .417 OBP

Yep, solely 4 first basemen in baseball historical past have hit these two benchmarks. That’s fairly rattling good firm. 

Right here’s one other choose membership, utilizing the identical 40 p.c qualification: First basemen who’ve reached the three/4/5 plateau, that means they’ve a profession common of .300 or larger, a profession on-base proportion of .400 or larger and a profession slugging proportion of .500 or larger:

Lou Gehrig .340/.447/.632
Jimmie Foxx .325/428/.609
Frank Thomas .301/.419/.555
Joey Votto .303/.417/.519
Todd Helton .316/.414/.539

Yep. Solely Helton, who’s presently on the BBWAA poll, joins the group. 

The Cooperstown hesitation

The superior metrics love Votto. The extra conventional counting stats, not a lot. It makes for a sophisticated Cooperstown case. He’s by no means actually been often known as a very elite slugger — that run of homers in seven consecutive video games this summer time however — regardless of enjoying his whole profession at a place sometimes related to sluggers and run-producers. He received’t win many factors among the many extra traditionalist voters. 

Instance No. 1: Votto has 1,034 RBIs in his profession. Amongst gamers who performed at the very least 40 p.c of their profession video games at first base, that ranks simply 62nd in MLB historical past. Not nice. He’s behind guys like Mark Grace (1,146), Wally Joyner (1,106), Kent Hrbek (1,086) and Jeff Conine (1,077). Good gamers, undoubtedly, however none lasted greater than a 12 months on the BBWAA poll, and solely Grace even got here near a second look. 

Instance No. 2: Votto has 318 house runs. He’s larger on this leaderboard, inserting thirty seventh. Nonetheless, that’s behind non-Cooperstown gamers such because the Fielders (Cecil and Prince had 319 every, which is a darn spooky stat), Mo Vaughn (328) and Tino Martinez (339). 

Instance No. 3: Votto will quickly attain 2,000 profession hits (he’s at 1,992), and many individuals appear to suppose that’s what strikes him from possible to lock. I am undecided that’s the case. Let’s take a look at the listing of first basemen (once more, with the 40 p.c qualification) who’ve at the very least 300 homers, 1,000 RBIs and 1,900 hits:

You realize what? We’re not providing you with each title on that listing, as a result of it’s 27 names lengthy. 

And, positive, there are many Corridor of Famers on that listing, but in addition Derrek Lee, Lee Could and Tino Martinez. Votto’s at 318 homers, 1,992 hits and 1,034 RBIs, however Adrian Gonzalez completed with 317, 2,050 and 1,202. He performed his ultimate recreation in 2018, which suggests he’ll be on the poll for the category of 2024. And he completely had a stellar profession, however he’s not precisely being talked about in the identical breath with fellow 2024 poll newbies Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer and Chase Utley. 

Votto is manner above Gonzalez in WAR and JAWS — 62.5 and 54.7 for Votto, to 43.5 and 39.1 for Gonzalez — and that’s a separator, however in making an attempt to current a balanced take a look at Votto’s resume, the truth that he compares to Gonzalez in three fairly important classes isn’t some extent in his favor. 

The 2 counting stats are going to present a couple of voter pause. 

Comparable Corridor of Famer

Advised you, discovering comps for Votto isn’t straightforward. 

Gehrig, Foxx and Thomas are the one three Corridor of Fame first baseman with a greater on-base proportion than Votto, however they had been extra conventional home-run hitting sluggers. There are two first basemen within the Corridor with related house run and on-base numbers: Hank Greenberg (331, .408) and Johnny Mize (359, .397), however each gamers missed three-plus years to army service throughout World Struggle II. That’s not the identical factor, clearly. 

McCovey, as we talked about, has related WAR/JAWS stats, however he wasn’t the identical kind of hitter on the plate. Dan Brouthers had a .415 profession on-base proportion, however he performed from 1879 to 1904, and that’s not a superb comp, both. 

So, mainly, there’s not a superb Corridor of Fame comp, which is fairly attention-grabbing by itself. 

Comparable non-Corridor of Famer

Lance Berkman. The longtime Astro and short-time Yankee, Cardinal and Ranger break up his profession (although not evenly) between the outfield (964 profession begins) and first base (726 profession begins), so he’s totally different from Votto in that manner. However on the plate, he was a really related hitter. He may pop the ball over the fence repeatedly, however he knew take a stroll and hit the ball the place it was pitched. And his profession, as you’ll see, matches mainly the place Votto is true now, although Votto isn’t completed; Berkman performed his ultimate recreation at 37 years, 219 days previous and Votto is presently 37 years, 335 days previous. 

Votto’s had 9 seasons with an on-base proportion of .400 or higher, Berkman had eight (plus one other at .399). Each had eight seasons of an OPS+ of 140 or higher (Votto’s at 132 this 12 months, so he may get to 9). Berkman had 11 seasons of 20-plus homers, and Votto’s had 9. Each had six seasons ending within the prime seven of the MVP voting; Votto received one, whereas Berkman’s finest end was third (twice).

Let’s take a look at a few of their numbers.

Votto 1,854 G .303/.417/.519 318 HR 1,034 RBI 80 SB 426 2B 148 OPS+ 62.5 bWAR
Berkman 1,879 G .294/.406/.537 366 HR 1,234 RBI 86 SB 422 2B 144 OPS+ 52.0 bWAR

Fairly related, proper? Berkman obtained solely 5 votes in his lone 12 months on the BBWAA poll, equal to 1.2 p.c of the vote. Gamers must obtain at the very least 5 p.c to remain on the poll for an additional 12 months. Berkman’s lone 12 months was crowded, little doubt. 4 gamers — first-timers Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay, plus Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez — obtained the mandatory 75 p.c, and 6 different gamers obtained at the very least 39.8 p.c. That’s 10 guys at 39.8 p.c (Fred McGriff, in his ultimate 12 months of eligibility) or larger, and voters are solely allowed to vote for 10 gamers. So it’s fairly unbelievable that 10 different gamers slotted in someplace between Berkman and McGriff. That, of us, is a crowded poll.

Now, if voters had been free from restrictions and allowed to vote for the gamers they thought had been Cooperstown-worthy and never just a few mixture of 10, would Berkman have caught round at the very least one other 12 months? Yeah, it appears possible that 16 voters would have deemed the switch-hitter worthy in the event that they weren’t restricted to 10 votes. 


If Votto had performed sooner or later earlier than the Nineteen Eighties, I’m undecided Cooperstown would have been in his future. There weren’t statistics to correctly respect his talent units, and counting numbers had been what mattered. Take a look at Gil Hodges and his 370 homers exterior the Corridor.

However it’s a special period, and he’s checked out as a future Corridor of Famer within the recreation.

“I believe so,” Freeman mentioned. “He’s a 3/4/5 man, and that’s extraordinarily exhausting to do. Most guys can’t even wrap their minds round it, particularly in in the present day’s recreation, once you’re going through three totally different pitchers a recreation. He’s bought a pair extra years, clearly, however the physique of labor is spectacular.”

So, sure. Votto will get in. It won’t be on the primary poll — perhaps by the point he’s eligible, the 10-vote rule might be a factor of the previous — however ultimately, he’ll be part of Larry Walker and Ferguson Jenkins as natives of Canada in Cooperstown. 

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