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Early Struggles for Cincinnati Reds Hitter Extraordinaire Votto Not New

The Face of Major League Baseball is Bound to Live Up to Billing

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY| Even before the start of spring training, the onset of the 2013 regular season started to take the shape of something special for Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto when he gained some national face time with his selection as the Face of MLB by the viewers of MLB Network's Hot Stove, trouncing the likes of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp in fan vote by two-to-one margins.

Spring training itself looked like the expectation level for Votto foretold of another monster year with his face time at the plate, as Votto teed off like he had during spring training of his NL MVP year of 2010.

It looked like a formality that the hitting spree would carry over into the start of the regular season.

Not so, at least so far.

Granted, Votto sports a freakish on-base percentage over .500 this year so far courtesy of walks, but his struggles are evident in his body language at the plate and the awkward swings he's been taking lately -- flatfooted wrist whacks at balls he tries to spoil, check swings on strikes that it seems like he should smoke into the opposite field gap and full cuts that too often just don't look close to contact.

Votto has just three extra-base hits and four RBIs so far this year in his customary spot in the three hole. His .275ish batting average isn't so bad, but this is not just your average three-hole hitter. This is Joey Votto -- whose monthly consistency at the plate is uncanny.

However, Votto's .316 career batting average in the first month of the season belies some of the struggles that Votto has had early in the past. His 2010 season that ended with 37 HRs, 113 RBIs and a .324 average started on par with what he's experiencing now: .275 batting average and a depressed slugging percentage. Votto didn't have the astronomical OBP in the first month of the 2010 season, but he did hit four long balls and knock in 12 runs (both of which were lows for the months of the 2010 season.)

Votto has to start hitting more and walking less if he can be expected to even reach those monthly lows in power for 2010, but with another five games left on the current homestand against the pitching-challenged, cellar-dwelling Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs, Votto still has a chance to start to turn around his month at the plate and end it with the kind of bang Reds Country expects from their soft voiced slugger who carries such a loud stick.

Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.

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