This is a strange post. It has nothing to do with the Mets directly or indirectly, but it does go to the heart of what we talk about a lot regarding the Mets’ hitting approach.
Let me start by sharing something Reds GM Walt Jocketty said regarding perennial MVP Joey Votto, who he believes walks too much.
Dennis Janson of WCPO Cincinnati asked Jocketty if the new Reds manager is up to the task of “disabusing” Votto of the notion that a base on balls is as beneficial as a run scoring sacrifice fly.
The Reds general manager gave him an emphatic “Yes” and also added “That is something many more of us in the organization will also try to convey.”
Wow… That’s insane…
David Schoenfeld of ESPN took issue with Jocketty’s assertion and dug up this nugget on the 2013 Walks Leader:
As for Votto being too passive at the plate, that’s utter nonsense. FanGraphs tracks a stat called Z-Swing% — the percentage of pitches in the strike zone that a batter swings at. Votto swung at 67.0 percent of such pitches in 2013, which ranked 55th out of 140 qualified hitters.
In other words, Votto ranked in the top 40 percent of aggressiveness, at least in terms of swinging at strikes. What Votto doesn’t do, of course, is swing at balls. He swung at just 20 percent of pitches outside the strike zone — the lowest percentage of those 140 hitters, just ahead of Marco Scutaro’s 20.1 percent.
What happened when Votto swung at a pitch outside the strike zone? According to date from ESPN Stats & Info, he hit .136 — 16-for-118, with no home runs and three doubles. Votto isn’t good when he swing at balls.
I would think that Votto isn’t exclusive in this regard. I took a look at our own David Wright and found that he actually swings a little more than Votto at pitches in the strike zone and had a Z-Swing % of 69.5 in 2013. He connected on those swings 89.7 percent of the time. One of the best marks in the league.
Wright was able to get ahead in the count at a high rate as well which led to some remarkable numbers.
When Wright was ahead in the count he batted .321 with a .510 OBP and a – hold your hats – .617 slugging percentage. When Wright fell behind, those same numbers sank to an appalling .238/.256/.392 slash.
Wright has always maintained a solid walk rate with the Mets and this season he was on pace for his best season ever before he got hurt, surpassing even his tremendous 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Richard Fitch of Red Leg Nation sums this up quite nicely adding:
The argument that any player should be willing to expand the strike zone is a frightening one that plays straight into the hands of today’s overpowering pitchers, more and more of whom can throw a pitch that has “ball outside” written all over it as it heads to the plate, only to move the last few feet and find the corner — the backdoor cutter — a pitch increasingly used in the game today. After seeing a couple of those, all but the best hitters with a rock solid plate approach will soon be swinging at pitches half a foot off the plate.
He also shared a two-year old conversation between Votto and the Tigers’ Prince Fielder:
Coming off his MVP season, Votto was frustrated with the lack of home runs he was hitting in 2011 and expressed that frustration to Prince Fielder. Fielder’s reply?
“Don’t worry about it. Homers aren’t hit. Homers are thrown to you.”
Said Votto, “That changed the way I thought about hitting.”
I don’t see why anyone should even attempt to change, fix or alter the hitting approach of an elite-level player like Joey Votto. The mere suggestion of it is preposterous and I hope someone talks some sense into Jocketty before he messes around with one of the best players in the game.
If there was ever a supreme example of If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, this one is it.