Sawchik: Dictating the action with Joey Votto

From Travis Sawchik at FanGraphs on May 31, 2017:

Baseball is an unusual team sport in that the defense possess the ball. Pitchers have the advantage of dictating the action, the location, and type of pitch. But the idea articulated by [Joey] Votto in the epigraph above is fascinating, this idea of “funneling,” of batters influencing pitchers. It led me to Votto’s locker in the corner of the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field last week.

A willing and introspective Votto is a great resource if you’re interested in discussing the art of hitting. I suppose it’s akin to having access to this generation’s Ted Williams. I was curious to learn more about this idea of dictating action from the batter’s box, imposing will from there, to learn more about Votto’s renowned selective aggressiveness. Votto leads baseball in the ratio of swings on pitches in zone compared to swings out of the zone as Ben Lindbergh noted recently. But I was particularly curious to speak with Votto because it seems like several of the game’s best young hitters are following elements of Votto’s approach. With the data-density charts that have become available in recent years, we can now see what maturation, what selective aggressiveness, looks like.

Miguel Sano has become a fearsome hitter because he’s more selective. It appears as though he’s looking in a smaller area to do damage this year. While Bryce Harper declined to discuss his approach, he also appears to be having great success by zeroing in. And there was, of course, the great April surprise that was Eric Thames, who credits his success in part to taking advantage of idle hours in South Korea where he learned to be selectively aggressive, or perhaps and even more refined version of that philosophy that Votto dubbed “funneling.”

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Originally published: May 31, 2017. Last Updated: May 31, 2017.