To say that it has been a miserable start to the 2019 season for Joey Votto would be an understatement. Over his first 33 games he was hitting .226 with 3 HR and 6 RBI, and at 35-years old the questions as to whether or not he’s “done” are starting to brew.
Prior to the season we had questions about his power, which tied into a risk in his average, as we said:
The power fell off a cliff, with 12 HR in 145 games, and at his age you have to start to wonder if this is permanent (his HR/FB went from 19.7% to 9.5%). There were signs in 2017, including a 13.8% HR/FB in July and 7.1% in September (14.5% in the second half) and with the lack of doubles it’s fair to assume that he’s not going to be your prototypical source of power. That helped lead to his average falling, despite continuing to hit the ball hard (41.0% Hard%) and making consistent contact (16.2% strikeout rate), and while no one is going to complain about a .284 mark it doesn’t offset the relative lack of power.
His 8.6% HR/FB in 2019 isn’t far off from last year’s mark and is easy to believe. The real question is if he can rediscover his average, even without the power. The underlying metrics appear promising, at least somewhat:
- BABIP – .295
- Hard% – 37.0%
- Oppo% – 27.2%
- O-Swing% – 19.8%
We would expect an improvement in his BABIP, but that may not be enough. While his SwStr% of 8.2% is still an impressive number, and doesn’t back up his 25.2% strikeout rate, it is elevated for him (he hasn’t been above 7.7% since 2011) and he’s been struggling with his Whiff% against all types of pitches (an 8.87% against Hard pitches would be his highest since 2010).
Is it possible that his bat has slowed, at least a little bit? Perhaps, and that would obviously have a significant impact.
How about him swinging for the fences a little bit, with a 43.2% fly ball rate (compared to 33.5% for his career). Again it’s not an atrocious mark, but given his relative lack of speed it would help to cap the upside of his BABIP and therefore his average.
It may be too early to write Votto off completely, but without the power and with him looking to be more of a .260ish hitter is there really a lot to hang our hats on? We were down on him prior to the season and his early season “production” doesn’t alter the outlook. Unfortunately it’s hard to envision getting much value in return, but if you can get out from under him and extract a little bit of value don’t hesitate to do so.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball