Friday, February 8, 2013

What kind of season can we expect out of Joey Votto?


The 2012 season didn't go quite as planned for Joey Votto. The Canadian slugger missed a significant portion of the season due to a knee injury sustained right before the All-Star break and never did fully recover once coming back to the lineup in September. The original prognosis was 3-4 weeks, but Reds fans are aware that the rehab time was much longer than that, nearly two months. Nonetheless, Votto still had a great season by any standards.

In 111 games, Votto posted career highs in batting average (.337), on-base percentage (.474), OPS (1.041), and doubles (44). He earned his third straight trip to the Midsummer Classic and was in great position to break the all-time single season doubles record before being derailed by injury. He still showed great patience and pitch selectivity once he returned to the Reds lineup, but his power clearly wasn't there as evidenced by the fact that he hit no homers in the last two months of the season. Naturally, this has raised concerns about his productivity moving forward.

Personally, I don't think Votto's production will be hindered at all in 2013 after having the entire offseason (four months) to rest from the wear-and-tear of a season. Barring another injury, I fully expect the former National League MVP to tally ridiculous numbers and make a strong case for another MVP nod. Apparently, others feel the same way.

According to fan-submitted projections from FanGraphs.com, Votto is expected to post the highest WAR total (8.0) of any Major League player in '13. Yes, even higher than Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, Los Angeles' Mike Trout, or any other premier offensive hitter.

Here is a look at those projected numbers Votto is expected to boast:

AVG: .323
OBP: .444
SLG: .568
HR: 26
RBI: 126
RS: 119
2B: 48
BB: 113
OPS: 1.012

*Stats based off 148 games played and approximately 653 plate appearances

In fairness, fan projections tend to be a little lofty in comparison to other projection models. For example, take a look at the projected 2013 stats for Votto according to ZiPS, which is a computer-based projections system, created by Dan Szymborski.

AVG: .300
OBP: .420
SLG: .542
HR: 26
RBI: 87
RS: 80
2B: 35
WAR: 5.6

*Stats based on 579 plate appearances

Now, compare those prior two projections to this one from ESPN:

AVG: .320
OBP: .441
SLG: .561
HR: 28
RBI: 98
RS: 95
BB: 117
OPS: 1.001

*Stats based on 673 plate appearances

As you can see, the numbers range from all over the place. I for one believe Votto will perform more on par with the ESPN projections. ZiPS represents a very conservative approach while FanGraphs is seemingly too generous. ESPN marks a middle ground that I see as being more realistic.

Bottom line: It's virtually impossible to predict in the preseason how well or how poorly a given player will perform during the year. But it's a safe bet to assume Votto will carry his proverbial weight.

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