Joey Votto has been both criticized and praised for his eye, a tool that resulted in his leading the National League in bases on balls as well as on base percentage. Some fans praise the fact that Votto made fewer outs than anyone else; others lament the fact that his excessive patience left him with just 73 runs batted in.
New information would seem to support those who are critical of Votto’s patience. Although no one had as high an OBP, nearly two dozen players had a better batting eye than Votto.
“When it comes to deciphering balls from strikes, no one tops Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, who hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBI,” stated The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Salfino. “He only took about one strike a game, but he took nearly five times as many balls per plate appearance as strikes.”
Based on that statistic, Freeman is by far the hitter with the best eye. In 2013, he took 4.99 balls per strike in his 629 plate appearances. Los Angeles outfielder Josh Hamilton had the second best eye, taking 3.8 balls per strike. Other All-Stars among the best ten were Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday and David Ortiz.
Votto, who had twice as many walks as Freeman, ranked a distant twentieth on the list. The Reds first baseman took just 2.8 balls per strike, an indication that he let too many good pitches go by.
To put Votto’s excessive patience in context, one need only look at the player who finished just behind him on the list. Robinson Cano took 2.6 balls per strike, which is somewhat surprising considering his reputation as a free swinger.
“Cano has always been a free swinger whose OBP is dependent on getting hits,” stated www.csnbayarea.com shortly after Cano signed a long-term, multi-million dollar contract over the winter.
His free-swinging reputation was affirmed by another source.
“Cano sometimes is still saddled with a reputation as a free swinger” stated Newsday.com.
That free-swinging label has never been associated with Votto, primarily because of his high walk totals. Nevertheless, Cano is taking just as many balls per strike as Votto.
The only difference is that Cano is hitting more of the good pitches instead of letting them pass by, as evidenced by his far superior power numbers to those of Votto.
The Wall Street Journal, 3/24/14