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Marty Brennaman slags Saberists, Joey Votto’s lack of RBI

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It’s not just the walks that make Saberists praise Joey Votto, though. Entering tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks, Votto was hitting .330 with a .441 on-base percentage and .525 slugging percentage. He is one of only five players in baseball to have a .300/.400/.500 or better slash line, along with Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Yadier Molina, and Troy Tulowitzki, all  of them with legitimate early cases for their respective league MVP award. Votto has done the .300/.400/.500 thing in each of the last four seasons. If he does it again in 2013, he would be one of only 35 players in baseball history to have at least five such seasons. Other players to have accomplished the feat five times include Shoeless Joe Jackson, Frank Robinson, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Lance Berkman, and Miguel Cabrera.

Votto’s RBI total (37) is often compared, disparagingly, to teammate Brandon Phillips (58). According to FanGraphs, Phillips has hit at exactly the league average with a 100 wRC+ (weighted runs created), a stat that weights each offensive event according to its contribution to run scoring, then adjusts for league and park effects. Votto, comparatively, has a 165 wRC+, meaning he has been about 65 percent more productive than an average hitter. Phillips has more RBI than Votto not because he is a better hitter, but because he has simply had more opportunities, in part because Votto gets on base so often ahead of him.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Phillips has come to bat with 239 runners on base, the third-largest total in baseball. Votto has come to bat with 207 runners. It would be higher if Dusty Baker didn’t insist on batting Zack Cozart (.280 OBP) directly in front of him so often. Phillips also walks ten percent less than Votto does (16% to 6%). While Phillips puts the ball in play more often, allowing him to drive in more runners, this also causes him to hit into more outs. Indeed, Phillips has made the sixth-most outs in the National League with 223 in 311 plate appearances (71.7%). Votto has made 198 outs in 340 plate appearances (58.2%).

Look, you don’t have to care about Sabermetrics to recognize that Votto is one of his generation’s best hitters. Sabermetrics certainly help paint him in the light he deserves to be seen in, but all you really need is his slash line. It is criminal to not appreciate Votto’s 2013 as MVP-worthy and his career as being on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.

Yordano Ventura killed in an auto accident

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 2:  Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals jokes with teammates as he walks off the field after the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on June 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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UPDATE, 12:07 p.m. EDT: The Royals have confirmed reports of Yordano Ventura’s death with an official statement. No further details pertaining to the accident have been divulged.

Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.

Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.

Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.

Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.