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.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).