A sports debate I had this week got me thinking.
A friend of mine who I have been playing fantasy baseball with for at least 10 years, brought up Joey Votto in one of our conversation threads. He thinks Votto is a Hall of Famer. Someone else in the conversation disagreed.
As a Cincinnati Reds fan since Ken Griffey Jr. came to town, Votto has become one of my all-time favorite players. I think he’s a Hall of Famer. But I understand my ultimate bias runs deep.
The friend who thinks Votto is a Hall of Famer is a lifelong Cardinals fan. The one who disagreed is a lifelong Cubs fan.
I decided to do some research, put my bias on the back burner and look strictly at the numbers and past trends.
The Reds most recent Hall of Famer to play first base is Tony Perez. Perez played 22 years and Votto has a better career WAR after 14 full years than Perez did in his career.
Perez currently has more home runs, hits and RBIs but Votto’s OBP, batting average and career OPS are all superior.
If Votto plays six more seasons, he can eclipse Perez in all of the power numbers. If he does, there’s no reason to think he won’t make the HOF at some point.
Votto played in similar eras as Frank Thomas and Jim Thome, who are both in the Hall of Fame.
Thomas is a superior player to Votto right now. Thomas played 19 years and is better in almost every major category. I don’t think Votto can catch him in the hierarchy, but Thome is another story.
Thome hit 612 homers. That’s HOF good. Votto’s career .303 batting average and career .932 OPS also is good enough to be a HOF.
Thome played 22 years in the league. I don’t think Votto catches him in the power numbers even with 8 more average seasons. But I think reaching him in WAR (Thome’s career WAR is 73.1) and even career OPS (.956) is possible.
Thome finished with 2,328 hits and Votto is only around 400 away from that. If he plays five more years and averages 100 hits per year, he’ll cruise past him there.
In Votto’s 14 full seasons in the MLB, which counts last year’s 60-game season, he’s had an OPS of more than .900 eight times and eclipsed a 1.000 OPS four times.
Votto has one MVP and one Gold Glove. He’s a six-time all-star. He’s also only one of five Reds to ever have 1,000 career RBIs and he’s hit 306 homers so far.
One of the knocks on Votto is that he’s trending downward in his career. His 2018 and 2019 were not good. He finished with 27 total homers and 114 total RBIs.
However, in 54 games in 2020, Votto his 11 homers and so far in 52 games in 2021, he’s got 11 homers and 37 RBIs. And Cub fans found out this past weekend that he may have a little bit left in the tank after all.
During his era, the only first basemen who is for sure better is Albert Pujols, who is a bonafide first-ballot HOF.
Miguel Cabrera is someone who is very comparable. He’s approaching his 20th season in the league and Votto is only 7.7 behind him in career WAR and has a better career OBP and OPS.
The issue with Votto for most is that he just doesn’t have the power numbers of others at his position. That’s a fair point. But most of those other guys also aren’t career .300 hitters and didn’t lead the league in walks a large chunk of the time.
Some other active first basemen playing long enough in the league to warrant a Hall of Fame discussion include Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo has played 11 years and his career WAR is only 36.7 and his career OPS is .853.
Freeman is worse than I expected after looking him up. He’s been great the past few years, but in 12 seasons, Freeman’s WAR is 39.4 and his career OPS is .889.
Goldschmidt has played in the league for 11 years. His career WAR is 46.2 and his career OPS is .904.
With more years in the Show, Votto has better numbers than all of those guys.
I don’t know if he ends up getting in. I can admit it probably will be close and he may not get in on the first ballot. But his numbers, to me, are Hall of Fame worthy. And he should be in the conversation.
Are there any other players you would like me to dig deeper on and give my opinion? Maybe I can make this a semi regular thing. And it doesn’t have to be just baseball.
Contact Troy Hyde at firstname.lastname@example.org