Joey Votto wants to lead the league in OPS and WAR

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At FanGraphs, David Laurila polled a handful (12, to be specific) of Major Leaguers about with which offensive statistic they would like to lead the league. It’s quite fascinating, particularly that the most popular answer was not batting average, runs, or RBI, but OPS. Had you randomly polled 12 players five years ago, I would imagine nine or ten would have given you batting average or RBI. We’ve come a long way.

Reds first baseman had the best answer, landing on OPS, but saying that it would have been WAR if the question didn’t stipulate an offense-only stat.

“There’s no better thing you can do in baseball than hit home runs, so I’d like to lead in that. That said, I don’t know if there’s a correlation between home runs and general offensive dominance. I don’t know if there is one number that does that.

“I’ve always felt like the top guys in OPS are usually the best hitters in the league. I’m probably biased, because I led the league in it, but I think it’s a big stat. So I guess my answer is OPS, if you’re talking purely offensive stats. If you’re talking overall, I’ll say WAR.”

Votto did indeed lead the league in OPS in 2010, when he won the National League Most Valuable Player award. He has never led in WAR, though he came close in 2010, when his 6.8 FanGraphs WAR was just a hair behind the 7.0 of then-Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

Votto has been a bit of a lightning rod in the traditional stats vs. Sabermetrics debate, garnering criticism for not having many RBI (just 61) despite hitting over .300 with a .435 on-base percentage. Teammate Brandon Phillips, comparatively, has 95 RBI but trails Votto in almost all Sabermetric categories.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”