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.