Joey Votto actually has to defend himself? This is where we are?

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Every time I think that the bulk of baseball fans and commentators has moved on from the dark ages of batting average and RBI meaning everything and into at least the Renaissance period that was the early-“Moneyball Days,” something odd happens to make me realize that, nope, not as many people have moved on as I thought.

This year it’s Joey Votto and the treatment he has received from the media and some fans. And actually, “media” is too broad a term. The treatment has mostly been from Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who has taken it upon himself to cut down Votto for his alleged inability to drive in runs. Daugherty has paired this with pumping up Brandon Phillips as the Reds’ MVP due to his high RBI totals (despite his worst offensive season in a while) and by waging war against “stat geeks” making simplistic and overly-broad arguments. Worth noting that the geeks and those arguments are almost certainly an invention of Daugherty’s imagination, as he attributes to them the most straw-like of straw man tendencies.  It’s been a hoot, actually.

Obviously most of us don’t need to entertain these arguments seriously. Daugherty either knows or is too dense to know that RBI is a function of opportunity and that Phillips has had way more opportunities to drive in runs than Votto. Mostly because Votto is always on base.  Daugherty either knows or is too dense to know that Votto has had an astoundingly good season despite his low RBI totals. We certainly need not engage in a point-by-point rebuttal to Daugherty because he’s either, as I said, too dense for it to be worthwhile or because, in reality, he’s just trying to throw bombs and grandstand to get attention.

Sadly, though, Joey Votto has been reduced to having to defend himself in print. He does so in Hal McCoy’s column at Fox Sports Ohio where he says, really guys, he’s a good player:

“Pitchers can be kind of picky when they face me,” Votto said. “I strike out a lot (106) walk a lot and that leads to a lot of balls not put into play. But I’m hitting for a high average (.316) …  I’m in the top five in batting average om the top five in slugging. I just have to be more efficient with it because I get less opportunities, but that’s OK. All I want to do is do what I can.”
You’re doing just fine, Joey. Ignore the ignoramuses. Make as few outs as you can and drive the ball when you have a ball you can drive. That’s your job. That’s the job of every hitter in baseball. If someone is saying differently — if someone is saying that there’s a better measure of a hitter than out-avoidance — they’re failing to understand the game.

The Nats want Trea Turner to attempt 75-80 stolen bases this year

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When it comes to cliche spring training stories, we talk a lot about “Best Shape of His Life.” Sometimes we talk about the “[Pitcher] has been working on a changeup” or “[Hitter] has made an adjustment to his swing” stories too. Then there’s the “we’re really going to focus on fundamentals” quotes managers love to give in February and March. They’re evergreens. 

Another one in that category is the “we’re going to run more” or “we plan to be aggressive on the base paths this year.” You hear that from at least one or two managers every spring. I imagine because, like the fundamentals one, it deals with something over which they have at least some moderate control. It’s a good quote.

We’re hearing it from Nats training camp this year with respect to one particularly speedy player in Trea Turner. From Mark Zuckerman at MASN:

Davey Martinez called Trea Turner into his office this week and told the speedy shortstop he wants him to attempt more stolen bases this season. How many? Let’s just say even the ultra-aggressive Turner was taken aback.

“Yeah, he gave me a number,” Turner said. “And I was like: ‘Wow, all right.’”

Martinez later revealed to assembled reporters that he thinks if Turner “attempts 75-80, we’ll be in great shape.”

Turner led the National League with 43 stolen bases on 52 attempts in 2018. The year before he attempted 54, which was his career high. Only only four players have attempted 80 or more stolen bases in the past ten years, so yes, 75-80 would be quite the escalation.

Which is not to say it’s silly. On a very basic level, yeah, if he is stealing bases more often, even without changing his basic approach, the Nats WILL be in great shape because it’ll likely mean that he’s on base more, and that’s good. If it’s merely a matter of him being more aggressive in the same number of times on base, well, let me know, but I’m not holding my breath.

I guess it’s nice to have goals, though.