Like me, you may have already decided that Red’s first baseman, Joey Votto, is banned from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Before this season, however, Votto’s Cooperstown status was apparently more questionable than Reds fans might have thought. His stats are impressive, but compared to the average Hall of Fame first baseman, they’re on the lower end of the bar.
In a total of 15 seasons, Votto has made six all-star appearances, one MVP award and one near MVP award. Votto’s career slash line is currently .303 / .417 / .519 and his career OPS is .936. He was in the top 10 for on-base percentage and OPS in nine different seasons and in the top 10 for batting average and slugging percentage in eight different seasons. This means he was in the top 10 players in four different categories for more than half of his entire career.
Votto has already reached the 300 home run and 1,000 RBI milestones this season. Now he’s chasing 2000 hits, of which he currently has 1,986. Three hundred home runs, 1000 RBI and 2000 hits are by no means a given for Cooperstown, but those numbers combined with Votto’s impressive numbers on the base should help his case tremendously if he eventually lands on the ballot.
More and more writers are voting with advanced stats in mind, not just the basic batting average, home run and RBI stats. These include OPS, OBP, and WAR. It both helps and harms Votto’s case.
Votto’s career WAR is currently 62.5. It’s a little low compared to the average career WAR of 66.9 for 21 first-time Hall of Fame players. But it is not ruled out that Votto could hit that mark with the number of years he has left to play, barring injuries. While his career WAR is low, Votto is one of the best when it comes to getting down to earth. He has over 1,200 career paths. He is also one of six players to have led the National League seven times. Four of these players are in the Hall of Fame. The fifth is Barry Bonds to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
If we judge Votto’s work by just the basic stats, he’s on par with other Hall of Fame players. Most players only got one or two benchmarks (300 HR, 1000 RBI, 2000 hits) and not all three; However, of the milestones they have reached, they have far exceeded that milestone. For example, Ty Cobb has only hit 117 home runs in his career, but he has had 4,189 hits and 1,944 RBI.
A newer player would be Barry Larkin. Larkin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, hitting only 198 home runs and 960 runs in a career, but he had 2,340 hits. Tim Raines, who entered the vote in his last election year in 2017, has only made 170 home runs in his career and missed just under 1,000 RBI. However, it had over 2,500 hits and was a stolen base machine at 808. Raines also went over 1,300 times, much like Votto. Not all ingested players are great in every area of baseball. Even if a player is stronger in one area than another, if they did really well, they are likely to be in the Hall of Fame. Votto may not have an area where he’s definitely stronger, but his numbers on the base make up for it.
The shortened season last year definitely hurt Votto. He hasn’t had a full 162 game season to add to his stats, but after a slow start in April, he more than made up for it. With his impressive season in which he hit some milestones and the fact that he should play for at least three more years, it is becoming more and more likely that one day he will give a speech at Cooperstown. Votto is a future Hall of Famer simply because of the longevity of his career (he played his 1,800th career game in First Base on Wednesday) and the combination of his record discipline and his ability to hit baseball.
Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com and Fangraphs.com.