Five years ago, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto was one of the most complete hitters that baseball has ever seen. En route to his 2010 NL MVP award, Votto hit 37 home runs and slashed at a stout .324/.424/.600 clip. Since then, his OBP has slipped, but his SLG tumbled all the way to .409 in 2014. Now the Reds and Votto seem to be conceding that his power is abandoning him, as he is slotted as the team’s number-two hitter as Opening Day looms on Monday.
More from Cincinnati Reds
- Johnny Cueto Trade: Reds Winners?
- Reds Recap: Win to Start the 2nd Half
- Does MLB Enslave Pete Rose?
- ICYMI: MLB All Star Weekend
- Reds Recap: Brewers’ Fireworks
By moving him up from his customary slot in the three hole, the Reds are essentially telling Votto to get on base at any cost so that he’ll be in line to score at advance should Marlon Byrd, Jay Bruce, or any of the other hitters behind him make solid contact. That feeds into his natural tendencies of taking as many balls as possible and drawing mounds of walks.
The second slot in the lineup is not generally expected to generate a ton of power, so the Reds are at least telling Votto that it’s OK if he can’t hit for much power these days.
Of course, that strategy could backfire, as pitchers are less likely to pitch around a batter who is not a major threat to go deep, particularly if his batting average is dropping, as well. Unfortunately, that applies to Votto, who saw his BA drop to an anemic .255 in 2014. There is little doubt that a large part of that decline was due to his balky quad, but there also no guarantee that his leg will be completely healthy in 2015, either.
Whatever the case, the Reds and Votto seem happy to head into the season with Joey-lite, which is tough to swallow for a $20-million player. Here’s hoping that Votto can use his early respite finish healing up and get some of his power stroke back, but we probably shouldn’t count on that.