Who is your favorite hitter right now? And why?
I’m on record for listing Joey Votto as my favorite hitter in the game right now. I really like his swing, I really like watching him work through at bats, and I enjoy his quirky views.
In July 4th MLB.com article, Votto acknowledged that he’s made adjustments this year. He is having a great season. He is hitting over .300, is on pace for a career high in home runs, leads the league in walks. Here are an interesting quote from the article:
“I think it was a good thing going through the previous two years of struggles, especially last year. I think it challenged me to make changes to my game. I think you can see some of the changes, just if you look at some of the crude numbers. Hopefully, the changes can become sustainable.”
Fun fact: Votto, Justin Turner and Anthony Rendon are the only hitters over .300 with more walks than strikeouts.
While the article digs into StatCast numbers, the biggest number shifts I see are in his trajectory numbers. Votto’s is hitting fly balls at an 8% higher rate compared to his career average. He’s hit 120 fly balls through 403 plate appearances in 2017. In the past two years, he’s hit just over 130 fly balls in near 700 PAs.
So far in 2017, 23 of his 26 home runs have been fly balls with 3 line drive homers. In 2016, he had 19 FB homers and 10 LD homers. In 2015, 17 FB and 12 LD. You have to be a monster to hit a ton of line drive home runs. It is just harder. An increase of 8% may not seem like much, but over 700 plate appearances that will be an extra 50+ fly balls.
I want to point out that Votto’s HR rate on fly balls hasn’t changed much. In the last 3 years, his HR/FB rate has been 21.6%, 22.0% and 21.7%. He’s basically just playing the odds on how to be more productive.
There are more number that jump too. He’s pulling the ball 7-8% more this year compared to the last two years. And his plate discipline is at a career best. He’s only swinging at 17.8% of pitches out of the zone. For perspective, the league average is 29.7%.
So we have a 3-headed monster here. Votto is being very selective, getting more balls to pull and hitting more fly balls.
As for the swing, let’s see what we find.
There are two things I see. First, he is sitting lower in his stance. The angles of his legs just look different. Think “thighs more pararell to the ground.” Second, his hands appear lower. In all the swings, he has a “wiggle/settle” move.
- In 2013, he starts around ear high.
- In 2015, he starts near the top of his head.
- In 2017, he starts shoulder high.
So in summary… Votto is lower in his stance with lower hands. He’s being more selective, pulling the ball more and hitting more fly balls. At 33, he’s having a season as good as his MVP season in 2010. I’m sure there’s at least one thing you can pull from this to implement with your swing as soon as tomorrow!