No, Joey Votto, You Don't Need to Retire
Yo, Joey Votto, man, I understand your frustrations. Nobody wants to hit poorly for an entire month like the numbers say you did in April. I get it.
But retirement? Nah, fam. You should be far from it.
Votto made waves over the weekend by telling C. Trent Rosencrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer that he'd "rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level." This comes after Votto posted a .224/.320/.306 slash the first month of the season, raising questions about whether or not he still had the juice he did last year.
Believe me: he's still got that juice. In fact, he might be even better than he was in 2015.
Let's play a game of blind resume, as numberFire's Brandon Gdula will occasionally do to point out flaws in our perception of a situation and how it may differ from reality.
The table below shows some advanced metrics for two sluggers to compare them head to head. We'll try to zero in on some of the more quickly-stabilizing stats so as to reduce the influence of a small sample size that we'd see after just one month of action. Which player would you rather have?
|Player||Hard-Hit Rate||Soft-Hit Rate||Swinging-Strike Rate||Contact Rate|
Based on this, you'd assume Player A would be one of the game's elite power hitters with slightly higher strikeout numbers than Player B. Both are absolutely acceptable, but Player A seems to have a slight edge due to his silly power potential.
As a shock -- I'm sure -- to legitimately not a single person reading this, both of these players are Votto. What may be a shock, though, is that Player A is Votto this year, the one who is allegedly flirting with retirement. Player B is Votto in 2015 when he launched 29 bombs and had a .314/.459/.541 slash for the entire season. How about that?
Votto currently sits seventh in the league in hard-hit rate among qualified batters, and he has the best soft-hit rate in the entire league. Dude is mashing the ball almost as well as anyone in the game, but the results haven't quite followed yet. That doesn't sound like a reason to retire, if you ask me.
One potential explanation for Votto's struggles is an increase in his ground-ball rate. He's striking it well, but he's putting it on the ground more often with his ground-ball rate increasing to 49.3% from 42.2% last year. When he's also pulling the ball 44.9% of the time, that means he's going to be hitting into shifts with great regularity, something you can partially see on his spray charts, via FanGraphs.
The other thing you can see there is that Votto's fly balls aren't falling in for hits as often as they did last year. That's absolutely the case, with Votto's batting average on balls in play dipping to .063 on fly balls this year from .200 last year and a good chunk below the league-wide mark of .131. Basically, either defenses are placing themselves perfectly, or Votto done ticked off Lady Luck. I'm leaning more toward the latter.
There is a quick cure for bad luck, though, and Votto showed that Monday night.
It's hard to catch a massive dong that flies 425 feet to dead center. All he needs to do is hit those tanks every time, and all will be well. Genius strategy.
The other potential adjustment Votto may need to make is swinging more often. Pitchers have put the ball in the strike zone 49.5% of the time against him this year, up from 42.4% in 2015, exploiting his ever-low swing rate. That has contributed to the reduction in his walk rate and the increased strikeout rate, and it may necessitate a slight change in approach from the slugger. This shouldn't be something drastic as Votto is one of the best in the game at getting on base, but it certainly is an adjustment pitchers have made when facing him this season.
Outside of that, there are a bunch of similarities between Votto this year and the Votto who finished third in MVP voting last year. He's making better contact than he did then, and his peripheral plate-discipline stats aren't drastically different. If he can adjust to counter the changes pitchers and defenses have made against him, then that rebound he's hoping for may come even quicker.
So, no, Joey, retirement isn't the answer. The struggles have been immense so far, but they don't appear to have staying power with how well you're striking the ball. Once luck stabilizes and you make a few slight adjustments, you should be well on your way toward earning that $20 million salary yet again.