Sarris: Joey Votto on the aging process

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on September 22, 2015:

“I don’t care about hitting home runs, I don’t care about any of that sort of stuff,” Joey Votto told me when I mentioned the stat. “I care about improving all of the facets of my game that can be repeatable and that age well.” And really, as great as his season has been this year, no quote better sums up the strides he’s made.

One things we know that ages terribly is contact on pitches outside of the zone (O-Contact%). It drops off the table quickly after 29.

Watch that dark green line dive. Votto once told me he wanted to have a swing percentage like Joe Mauer, which is saying something, since only two regulars in the past five years have swung less than Mauer. Mauer’s career swing rate is 37.9%, and Votto’s this year is 37.5%. “That’s good,” was Votto’s response to the update on his swing rate. “I’m doing what I want.”

The only problem with just not swinging is that it takes fear to get walks. Pitchers upped their fastball usage last year with him hurt, and Votto heard from everyone that he should be “attacked” in the zone. So getting his swing right enough to drive the ball was probably step one.

Votto evaluates his swing on feel and results, like most hitters, but the way he talks about it might not sound like most hitters. “I want things to feel a certain way in my body when I hit, and I want to see the ball go a certain way off my bat,” he says.

That direction is important to him. “I want it coming off in a true line,” Votto says, but he also wants to “spray the ball all over the field so that [he’s] more difficult to defend.” Early in the season, even as he was raking, he didn’t like some of the results. “I have to be unpredictable in the infield and outfield,” the first baseman said. “A lot of my outs early on in the season were ground-ball outs to the right side, and that was a big part of my problem.”

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Originally published: September 22, 2015. Last Updated: September 22, 2015.