The full NL MVP voting results included a number of Reds players (down the ballot), starting with Jay Bruce who came in at #10, followed by Aroldis Chapman (12th), Brandon Phillips (13th), Joey Votto(14th), and Johnny Cueto (30th). This brings up the question of who was the Reds most valuable player this season. Among hitters, I think it’s Joey Votto, and I don’t think it’s close.
Now, there are a lot of arguments for why it shouldn’t be Votto. Joey missed a lot of time with his leg injury, and even after he came back, he clearly wasn’t at full strength in terms of power. Even so, Votto’s first three months were so impressive, I think the not-actually-existing honor of being the best Reds position player this year still belongs to him. This year, Votto (again) excelled at both offense and defense. According to fangraphs, Votto was worth 46 runs just with his bat. That’s well over twice what the second guy has, and that does account for Joey’s limited playing time (of course, Ludwick, who comes in with 21 runs, also suffers from his lowered playing time early in the season). If you like WAR (and we now know that the AL MVP voters don’t), Joey still edges out the next best guy by almost 2 whole wins.
There is a certain feeling though, that the Reds went on their hottest streak when Joey was out, so he couldn’t have been that valuable. I think a lot of people feel that the hitters that stepped up during Votto’s absence were more important to the team, including by turns Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick among others. But let me show you something.
This takes a bit of explanation – but I divided the season into 16 chronological segments (with a half segment at the end). The number of games in each segment varies between 9 and 11, because I based it on 2 Cueto starts each (because I intend to apply this to pitchers in a later segment). I then added up the wRAA (weighted Runs Above Average: basically how many runs your bat produced) for each batter for each segment. Here’s how it looks:
Now, these segments are arbitrary, so it’s not that useful to make detailed arguments based on these numbers,but the overall picture is clear. While you can see that a variety of different players improved during different parts of Votto’s absence (and Ludwick and Frazier are certainly the most consistent of them), what’s way more obvious is the way Votto carried the team in the month and a half before his injury.
Look at that black line! For four segments (~40 games), Votto is producing about as many runs as the rest of the lineup put together. If you want to look at one man who is carrying the team over a period of time, it is obviously Joey who kept the Reds in the race in the first half. In late June, the Reds were approximately 7-8 games over .500, and led the NL Central by one game. Without Joey, we’re not there.
P.S. I’ve included the definition of the segments and the numbers version of the graph, with the most valuable hitter for the segment after the cut.