ESPN - It also included a lot of Joey Votto -- if not in body, at least in spirit. The Cincinnati
Reds first baseman kept popping up in the dialogue, in part because he's known as one of the most analytically minded hitters in the game, but also because we're still asking this: Does Joey Votto take too many walks?
If you're not familiar with the background, Votto has often been criticized by his hometown broadcasters for not being enough of an RBI guy, that there are times he should be expanding his strike zone to drive in runs rather than working a walk and getting on base. Votto hit .314 and led the National League with 143 walks in 2015 -- the fourth time in five seasons he has led the league -- but drove in "just" 80 runs. What gives?
This has been a story for a few years now. FanGraphs broke it down two seasons ago after Votto's 2013 season in an interesting article that focused on the value of a walk. Their point was that a walk is more valuable with no outs and nobody on base than it is with two outs and a runner in scoring position. They then looked to see when Votto was taking his walks. People who argue he should walk less want him to be swinging away with runners in scoring position. However FanGraphs found that he was not walking more during these times and did not hit more poorly in important run scoring situations.
The obsession with Votto as a power hitting run producer probably comes from his monster 2010 MVP season, when he set career highs with 37 home runs with 113 RBI and 91 walks. In 2015 Votto hit 29 home runs with 80 RBI and 143 walks. Now some of those walks from 2015 can be attributed to an extra 50 plate appearances but even factoring that in it's true that Votto walked at a much higher rate last season. The problem then with saying Votto walks too much now is to assume 2010 was the norm for him. By taking a closer look at his career stats that MVP season begins to appear as an outlier. 2010 is the only year he has hit 30 homers. He has had 100 RBI just one other time, with 103 in 2011. Votto is not a run producing slugger many expect or want him to be. He is an elite on base guy who happens to have a bit of power.
So do the Reds wish Votto drove in more runs? I'm sure they do. Just like the Red Sox probably wish Xander Bogaerts would hit more homers and the Athletics wish Sonny Gray would strike out more batters. But to assume that Votto could just willingly sacrifice some of his walks to drive in more runs is ridiculous. Although he has led the league in walks the past four years he has been healthy Joey Votto does not walk too much. He is baseball's best bet to get on base each and every time he comes up and after two disappointing seasons the Reds need to do a better job of surrounding their star player with ones hat can complement Votto's strengths.