The most amazing thing about Joey Votto the Hitter is that he is still somehow impervious to hitting infield pop-ups.
We wrote about the Cincinnati slugger's invincibility when he went through the entire 2010 season without hitting a single infield pop-up (as defined by Fangraphs) for an out.
Two years later, Votto has added only one such blemish to his name — it occurred in 2011 — and has started out 2012 as one of only eight players* yet to do the deed.
But while it seems like it's only a matter of time until the other seven fall off the list, no matter how big the names are, Votto could again go 0-for-the-season. That's how good the left-handed hitter is at driving the ball (he currently leads the majors with a 35.7 percent line drive rate) or at taking the pitches he's given and taking them opposite field.
Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated recently caught up with the 2010 NL MVP to talk about his talents and, in doing so, turned out the second most amazing thing about Votto the Hitter.
Not only has Votto only pulled one foul ball into the stands during his 2,821 big-league plate appearances, but he can still remember the moment he put that baseball into the seats.
From Sports Illustrated:
"Sure, I remember it," Votto said. "It was my rookie year (in 2007). It wasn't that deep — and maybe 20, 30 feet foul. I haven't hit a long home run foul in my whole career."
I was stunned when Votto told me that. We were talking about pull hitting last Friday because I was intrigued that he had not hit a home run to rightfield all year. (Lo and behold, he smacked a Wandy Rodriguez breaking ball into the rightfield seats about two hours later.)
That's pretty mesmerizing stuff. Votto's recall reminds me of the professional golfers that can break down their rounds shot-by-shot, years after they completed them. And if he can still identify a particular moment of failure or disappointment five years later — even if it was relatively tiny and mostly consequence-free — you can really start to understand why he's so great at this whole hitting thing. If you still have your doubts, Getting Blanked has the spray charts and animated GIFs to prove it.
*Derek Jeter, Ryan Braun, Buster Posey, Chris Johnson, Howie Kendrick, Jose Altuve and Placido Polanco are the other seven who have yet to hit a fly ball in the infield in 2012. Kendrick has posted a 1.7 percent IFBB rate since 2010 while Jeter rates at 1.9 percent. Though both numbers are awesome, they trail Votto's 0.3 number over the same time frame.
Big BLS H/N: Reddit