This hurts a bit more after the frustrating series split with the Cincinnati Reds last week, but, alas: Joey Votto is Kris Bryant’s favorite player.
Okay, that wasn’t actually all that bad.
After all, Votto, now 33, has had an eleven-year career, wherein he’s been an MVP, a five-time All-Star, and a Gold Glove winner, as well as garnering MVP votes in seven out of 10 seasons so far (top ten votes 5 of those seven). That’s one hell of a career, and, hey, it’s not over yet.
As the Cubs head to Cincinnati for another series, Votto is hitting .315/.447/.595 (165 wRC+) for the Reds, with 32 home runs already (in the middle of August). Among qualifiers, Votto is the third most valuable offensive player in baseball, behind only Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge. And, apparently, the Cubs’ own MVP has taken notice.
“He’s the best player ever,” Bryant said, via the Chicago Tribune. “He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him and picking his brain. He’s a special player.” These comments came after Bryant learned that Votto had complimented his own approach at the plate, and suggested that Bryant’s approach at the plate looked a lot better than he had earlier in his career.
And hey, Votto’s right. Bryant’s out of zone swing rate this season is solidly lower than it was from 2015-2016 and he’s making much more contact in the zone too – like, a lot more (87.2% v. 78.5%). Beyond that, Bryant’s also recorded far fewer first-pitch strikes (57.2% in 2017, 60.3% previously) and has a much lower whiff rate (9.7% in 2017, 14.7% previously).
It’s hard to imagine it, and yet it’s literally always true: Bryant is getting better.
And before you get all that’s just a bunch of peripherals, Michael; you should note that Bryant has improved his walk rate up to 14.1% in 2017 (11.3% in 2015-2016) and has lowered his strikeout rate AGAIN to just 19.0% in 2017 (26.2% in the two years before this season). And all of this is going on while his production has remained at elite levels (142 wRC+). He’s not sacrificing anything at the plate, and he’s becoming an increasingly tough out who’s much less reliant on “luck” to succeed.
That’s the difference between elite right now and a Hall of Fame career.
But while Bryant is the one studying and doing all the work, he’ll continue to tell you that Votto is the one who wrote the book on being a hitter, despite what some people may think.
“He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches,” Bryant said, via CSN Chicago. “But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”
If you remember back a few years, Anthony Rizzo said a lot of similar things about Joey Votto, and worked with him in the offseason just before he broke out with the Cubs in a really big way.
So, think what you like about Votto and his bad boy antics …
Joey Votto: Baseball's favorite villain.
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) January 13, 2017
… but he’s set an example for and has (perhaps, essentially) directly aided two of the best players in Chicago Cubs history reach their potential. So, I guess, thanks.