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Big League Stew

Of course: Joey Votto draws five walks in five trips to the plate

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Take your base, Votto.

Only 33 times since 1916 has someone drawn five walks in five plate appearances in one game, and it figures that Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds became the most recent player to manage the feat. Votto walked five times (once intentionally) and forced in a run in the Reds 3-2 victory against the New York Mets on Monday night. Votto's effort helped the Reds clinch a playoff spot.

Votto leads the National League in bases on balls, just as he led it in 2012 and 2011. His 132 walks ties Joe Morgan's single-season team record, and Votto still has five games to accumulate more. Votto actually is the third player this season to draw five walks in a game, but the other two — Cliff Pennington and Tony Campana of the Diamondbacks, who did it Aug. 24 — required 10 plate appearances over 18 innings to do it.

Another person on the list of players with five walks in five trips: Votto's manager, Dusty Baker, with the Dodgers in 1980.

The major league record for walks in a game is six, done three times that we know of, and the only person to walk six times in six plate appearances is Jimmie Foxx in 1938. Perhaps, another day, Votto will get another chance to walk with him.

Votto's selective approach has been the subject of some debate: Is he not aggressive enough? Even one of his own announcers, Reds cheerleader Franchester "Marty" Brennaman, has said so, in Sports Illustrated:

"Votto will take a 3-0 pitch an inch off the outside corner, when he could do with it what he did (Wednesday),'' when he drilled said pitch into the lower deck at Citi Field, for his seventh homer. "I believe in expanding your strike zone when you have guys on base.''

Oh DO you, Marty? Well, it's certainly OK sometimes to swing at pitches that probably won't be called strikes. Pitches out of the zone can turn into singles, doubles and home runs, as Brennaman says. Still, despite his selectivity, Votto is fifth in the league in hits. He's got 24 homers and 30 doubles. His RBIs are down — but that has more to do with teammates and luck.

Take note of this nugget, pointed out by Baseball-Reference.com:

No, you MUST SWING THE BAT with the bases loaded. Hey, when's the last time anyone criticized Miguel Cabrera's approach? Has it ever happened?

Votto's .499 slugging percentage isn't as high as he's capable; Votto led the league with a slugging .600 in 2010. But does it make sense that swinging at more bad pitches will have a positive effect on his slugging percentage? It seems to me that it would lead to more bad habits than it would home runs. Votto could be better at driving the ball when he does get a strike. He will be. In the meantime, appreciating Votto for how good he already is seems like a sound approach.

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