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Why Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds Is the Elite Player of the National League

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COMMENTARY | Since Joey Votto began his first full season in 2008, he has proved year after year that he is among the elite hitters in the National League.

With the departures of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to the American League, Votto is now statistically the most elite player in the NL since his rookie season.

Batting Average

Votto has the highest batting average (.317) among active NL hitters with more than 2,000 plate appearances since 2008. Only Pujols has a higher batting average in the NL during the same time at .323. Votto has hit over .300 every year except for his rookie season (.297 in 2008). His best season for average was 2012 in which he hit .337 but missed 51 games. Votto's consistency as a high average hitter puts him in a class by himself.

On-Base Percentage

No active NL hitter with more than 2,000 plate appearances has an on-base percentage over .400 since 2008, except for Votto, whose OBP is .420. Only Pujols had a higher OBP (.421) during that time. Votto is currently producing his highest full-season OBP (.438), which is even higher than his MVP season of 2010 (.424). Votto draws his share of walks but is on pace for just his second season with more than 100 walks.

Slugging Percentage

Only Carlos Gonzalez has a higher slugging percentage (.553) than Votto (.547) among active NL players with more than 2,000 plate appearances since 2008. Pujols tops the overall list at .611 with the suspended Ryan Braun second at .554. Votto has hit more doubles than any other NL hitter since 2008 (213) and ranks fifth among active NL players in home runs with 146 and eighth overall, including players now in the American League.

OPS

All of the numbers lead to one stat that separates the truly elite hitter from the rest of the pack -- on-base+slugging percentage. Among active NL hitters with 2,000 plate appearances, no one is even close to Votto, who has registered a .967 OPS.

The closest active player behind Votto is Gonzalez at .920. As good as Votto has been since 2008, he is still a distant second overall in the NL between 2008 and 2013 to Pujols, whose OPS was 1.032. Votto has replaced Pujols as the most dominating force at the plate in the NL and should continue to produce at a prime peak comparable to that Pujols over the next five years.

Contract

Elite numbers at the plate deserve elite contract numbers, and Votto is certainly in a class by himself in terms of his contract. The 12-year contract (including the 10-year extension signed in 2012) gave Votto the longest guaranteed contract in MLB history. The $251.5 million total contract is the most received by any player in history other then Alex Rodriguez. The contract length and money involved most definitely position Votto as the cornerstone of the Reds' franchise but as long his numbers remain elite, no one in Reds Country will complain -- except for maybe Brandon Phillips.

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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