Joey Votto doesn’t lead any key statistical category in the National League. But, he should absolutely be awarded the NL MVP. That logic may appear, on the surface at least, to be counterintuitive. But, Votto’s impact on his team – and the league as a whole – has been different than his primary MVP competition, Colorado Rockies’ outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols. Votto has brought an edginess back to Cincinnati that the Queen City hasn’t seen since the days of the Big Red Machine.
Okay, so Votto isn’t throwing at opposing players or anything crazy like that (“that” meaning Rob Dibble, of course). But, he is also not letting his disdain for intra-division teams and players off the hook during the All-Star break either. While most players named to the All-Star game generally enjoy the atmosphere and the opportunity to participate when named to the team for the first time, Votto pulls no punches.
Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Marlon Byrd played a major role in winning the All-Star game for the National League this season. In fact, that win could really benefit the Cincinnati Reds, should the team make it far enough into October to be in a position to host the World Series. Said Votto, “I don’t like the Cubs. And I’m not going to pat anybody with a Cubs uniform on the back. But because he made that really cool play, it turned out to be a really cool experience. I’m really glad we got the win today.”
Edge. The Reds regressed in recent seasons, becoming the league’s patsies and an afterthought team in the NL Central rivaled only by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds lacked attitude. Votto’s intensity is a huge boost to the team, as evidenced by the team’s division leading record and the third best record in the NL.
The nice thing about Joey Votto is that he has improved at channeling his attitude and relentless tenacity into borderline brilliant performance on the baseball diamond. He has put together a statistically impressive season in 2010 with an NL best .422 on base percentage and an NL best 1.011 OPS. Votto is also third in home runs with 33, second in RBI with 102, third in walks with 83. The list goes on, but the point is that he’s put together an outstanding season that stats just reinforce.
For the particularly geeky among you loyal readers, check out the Runs Created stat. Votto leads this category by six runs. Runs Created is a new stat that measures how many of the team’s runs a player is responsible for. When deciphering an ever-growing list of statistics it is crucial to wade through the clutter and find the bits of information that are most revelatory. It is hard to imagine a more worthwhile stat that Runs Created when determining how valuable a player is to a team, and a league.
Let’s not forget that Votto is also performing incredibly well on what is suddenly one of the best National League teams, and one of the best overall teams in baseball. The Reds are 82-62 and lead the NL Central by six and half games at this writing. It seems unlikely that the Reds will collapse down the stretch, and Votto’s steady performance is a big reason that statement comes across as fact instead of guesswork.
As the old saying goes… no guts, no glory. Votto – with his attitude and play – has brought the guts back to Cincinnati. His ability to help deliver glory will be determined at a later time. But his performance is noteworthy in all of MLB this season, and it is definitely the most valuable in the entire National League.