Joey Votto is still answering questions about his production in 2013

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Joey Votto’s lack of RBI was a talking point throughout the season, especially among those in the Cincinnati media. They lamented his lack of RBI, suggesting that rather than going up to the plate looking to drive in runs, Votto was being passive by instead aiming to draw walks. Despite hitting third in the Reds’ lineup, Votto finished the season with 73 RBI and a league-leading 135 walks and a .435 on-base percentage.

Throughout the season, Votto was asked to respond to the criticism and he always responded to it the same, defending his approach and suggesting that the focus on RBI was unfounded. He said pitchers tended to pitch around him and rather than expand the strike zone, he was content letting them toss ball four and letting Brandon Phillips — who finished with a career-high 103 RBI — take a shot.

Votto appeared on Cincinnati’s ESPN 1530 with Lance McAlister, discussing various topics, including his controversial 2013 season. Votto’s tune hasn’t changed. He still thinks he had a fine season and even likened it to his 2012 season when he finished with a 1.041 OPS. Some choice quotes from the interview:

“A lot of complaints this year were about my lack of RBIs. I know that, in an ideal world, there would have been a 100 in the RBI category, but that’s just one number. A player should not be judged based on one particular number.”

[…]

“My first goal is to drive the runner in so I can get on base. Get a hit and hand the bat to the next guy so we can continue to score runs. […] I’m really, really greedy, so I want to get a hit. And if that hit doesn’t come […] then it ends up being a walk.”

It is an enlightening interview and worth a full listen-through. You can’t argue with Votto’s understanding of the game. Given his responses during the season, I thought he was too conciliatory to the critics (and to be clear, McAlister was not one of them). He talked about the criticism motivating him and making him better, the kind of statement he might make if he were running for office. During the season, Votto told David Laurila of FanGraphs that he would prefer to lead the league in OPS and WAR. That is the correct answer to the “people have complained about your lack of RBI” prompt.

Jose Bautista is starting at third base for the first time in over four years

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Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista is getting a rare start at third base today. How rare is it? Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae notes that he last started at third base on April 14, 2013 against the Royals.

Bautista has played some third base already this year. On April 27 against the Cardinals, Bautista pinch-hit for third baseman Chris Coghlan and stayed in the game at the position. Last Saturday, Bautista moved from right field to third base as part of a handful of defensive switches. Overall, he’s played four defensive innings at the hot corner this season.

The Blue Jays have had to get creative at third base while Josh Donaldson has dealt with a calf injury. Darwin Barney and Chris Coghlan have drawn most of the starts at third base, but catcher Russell Martin started there on Sunday and tonight we’ll see Bautista there.

Braves’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a hit to last 54 batters, setting franchise record

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The Braves announced on Tuesday, citing Elias Sports, that the bullpen set a franchise record, preventing the last 54 batters faced from getting a hit.

The last reliever to allow a hit was Josh Collmenter to the first batter he faced against the Blue Jays last Thursday. Since then, the bullpen has logged 15 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings with a 10/4 K/BB ratio. Here are the logs since Collmenter gave up that hit.

Date Opp. Pitcher BF IP H R ER BB SO
May 18 vs. TOR Josh Collmenter 7 2.0 0 0 0 1 1
May 18 vs. TOR Ian Krol 4 1.0 0 0 0 1 1
May 19 vs. WAS Jason Motte 2 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
May 19 vs. WAS Jose Ramirez 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 19 vs. WAS Arodys Vizcaino 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
May 19 vs. WAS Jim Johnson 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 20 vs. WAS Ian Krol 2 0.2 0 0 0 0 1
May 20 vs. WAS Jason Motte 4 1.0 0 0 0 1 0
May 20 vs. WAS Jose Ramirez 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 1
May 20 vs. WAS Arodys Vizcaino 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 20 vs. WAS Jim Johnson 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 21 vs. WAS Luke Jackson 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 1
May 22 vs. PIT Jason Motte 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
May 22 vs. PIT Jose Ramirez 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 22 vs. PIT Arodys Vizcaino 4 1.0 0 0 0 1 1
May 22 vs. PIT Jim Johnson 4 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 54 15.1 0 0 0 4 10

Despite the hot streak lately, the Braves’ bullpen still ranks in the middle of the pack in ERA at 4.07. Its 21.3 percent strikeout rate ranks 18th out of 30 teams and its 8.6 percent walk rate is ninth.