The discussion for who will earn enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall Of Fame usually doesn’t come our way until the offseason, but Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto is undeniably establishing a career that could justify a spot in Cooperstown.
To make things clear, this discussion isn’t brought up more often because those who drive away modern statistics won’t buy into Votto’s high-on base frequency and throw them in with those who are immortalized for their epic playing careers. It’s a never ending battle between “stat-people” who believe that a player like Votto truly increases his team’s odds of winning versus the old-school writers, coaches and announcers who will allow him to fly under-the-radar or even brushed to the side.
Nonetheless, everything about the 33-year-old, to date, screams that he’s worthy.
For starters, he’s easily been the greatest Red of his era and the argument of “all-time” certainly exists. Since making his major league debut in 2007, he has led the organization in wins above replacement (WAR) in eight seasons. In franchise history, his OPS of .961 ranks first — ahead of legends like Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson and Pete Rose.
Per FanGraphs, his wRC+, or weighted runs created plus, also ranks first in Reds history and 13th in baseball history. All other players in the Top-15, with the exception of Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Mark McGwire have been inducted into the Hall Of Fame.
For clarification on that statistic, wRC+ quantifies a player’s total offensive value and measures it by runs while comparing it to league average after controlling for park effects. It’s truly the ultimate metric for determining offensive value as it measures a hitter’s value using cumulative statistics that provides the hitter credit for their total production. It takes base hits, walks, sacrifice flies, strikeouts and more into account and uses a ballpark factor to create perhaps the most accurate analysis of a player’s offensive value. Again, Votto finds himself toward the top of that list throughout the history of the game.
He is also a four-time All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, won the National League MVP award in 2010 and has led major league baseball in OBP five times throughout his 11-year career. Heading into 2017, where he is currently slashing .291/.399/.582 with an OPS of .981, his OBP and OPS, in addition to his wRC+, all ranked inside the Top-15 in baseball history, according to FanGraphs.
Among first baseman in baseball history, only Lou Gehrig (.447), Dan Brouthers (.430) and Jimmie Foxx (.428) have reached base at a higher rate than Votto (.425) has. All three players ahead of him are Hall Of Famers and two of the three that trail him on that very same list (Ferris Frain, Frank Thomas and Stan Musial) have plaques dedicated in honor of their playing careers.
The best part about Votto’s case is that he’s under contract until 2023 and has a team option for 2024. He has a ton of time to make a final push and cement himself as more than a player who produces like a Hall Of Famer despite playing in just nine postseason games.