Much has been made of the fact in Redsland that Joey Votto doesn’t seem to have the power that he used to. Most fans point to the fateful collision with Pablo Sandoval back on June 29, 2012, and the numbers seem to bear that out.
So, I decided to go to baseballheatmaps.com and go back through all those years, and find out the average distance of all fly balls hit by Votto during these years. One would think, hey, power production is down, so the average fly ball distance must be shorter, right?
(data from baseballheatmaps.com)
Okay, what the hell? That doesn’t make sense! Other than the 2010 MVP season, which appears to be one of those “career year” type of seasons, and the admittedly small sample size 2007 September call-up, everything is fairly consistent across the board. Well, you say, “he must have just hit fewer fly balls the past couple of years, right?” No, not really. His career fly ball rate is 33.4%, and he’s pretty much been within a percent or two of that every season, except for a slight dip in 2013. 2014 was actually right on target with the career number.
Let’s look at the spray charts, shall we? (Click for full size)
As we can see, back in 2010 his fly ball tendencies were mostly to left-center, with the longest ones to right-center. Makes perfect sense.
Let’s look at 2012:
Pretty much more of the same, but maybe slightly more of a slant towards opposite-field hitting. You may remember that even though his home run power was a little down from the 2010 season, that is the season he was on pace to challenge Earl Webb’s long-standing doubles record until he was injured, and was likely going to have a great chance at the MVP again as he was worth nearly 6 WAR in only 111 games. I’m not going to paste the 2013 chart but it was vastly similar to the 2012 chart.
Let’s look at 2014:
This is a little odd. It seems that he stopped going to left center almost completely, and everything was either to dead center or down the left field line. Was he trying to make a concerted effort to pull the ball more so the Paul Daughertys and Marty Brennamans of the world would stop criticizing him (good luck with that with either one of those guys) and the bat speed was down a bit, making the ball go to center instead of right? Or was it just random variance? I tend to believe that it’s variance until I have evidence otherwise, especially since that’s a pretty small sample since he only had 272 plate appearances.
So, where do we go from here? Steamer projects Votto for a line of .280/.409/.473 in 2015 with an ISO of .192. Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projection system projects .279/.417/.469 with an ISO of .190. Both fairly close. (Thanks for the help on that, Dan!) Those aren’t horrible lines at all, but Reds fans would sure enjoy a return to the .950 OPS MVP candidate Joey Votto. Those average fly ball distance numbers continue to give me hope that there’s still some 2010-2012 magic left in that bat.
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