Seeing MLB players report to Spring Training each year signals a few different things. Whether your favorite team is viewed as a championship contender or not, it’s a time to feel optimistic because the slate is clean and the possibilities are endless.
After all, did anyone expect the Minnesota Twins to go from being a 103-loss team in 2016 to the playoffs in 2017? No, probably not, but that’s baseball.
One of the other prevalent themes throughout Spring Training is the “best shape of my life” thing. We hear a number of players say something to that effect just about every spring, and it’s become something to chuckle about because it’s such a common phrase to hear muttered in big league clubhouses.
But for Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto? He’s doing things the only way he knows how — to the beat of his own drum.
Props to him for keeping it real. We need more people like Votto in this world.
It doesn’t matter if he wasn’t kidding and still hasn’t been able to shake off that extra holiday weight just yet — the dude just rakes on a daily basis no matter what.
Even in his age-33 season, Votto’s offensive performance was just as good as it has been in recent years, but with a few more accolades attached to it. The veteran first baseman slashed a very healthy .320/.454/.578 through 707 plate appearances, which also included his most home runs (36) since an MVP season in 2010, along with his first year of both 100-plus RBI (100) and 100-plus runs scored (106) since 2011.
Votto’s 6.6 fWAR finished amongst the top-10 qualified hitters last year, while his 165 wRC+ was bested by only Aaron Judge and Mike Trout. Not bad company. He also went to his first All-Star game since 2013 and placed second in National League MVP voting behind Giancarlo Stanton, which was his third consecutive top-10 finish.
While he’s always been known for his incredible plate discipline, what he did in 2017 was perhaps his best work yet. His 19.0% walk rate was the third-highest single-season mark of his career, but the 11.7% strikeout he posted was easily a new career high, with his 5.7% swinging-strike rate following suit.
Votto may need a little time this spring to get into game shape and be ready for the long daily grind that is an MLB regular season, but he’s more than ready to keep us laughing with how he answers questions from the media.
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About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.