Fay: Joey Votto's numbers say he's as worthy of MVP as anyone

Posted at 12:00 PM, Oct 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 20:27:47-05

CINCINNATI - Let's start with the argument against Joey Votto winning the National League Most Valuable Player award:

  • He played on really bad team.
  • Miami's Giancarlo Stanton finished with a slightly better WAR (Wins Above Replacement) -- 7.6 to 7.5.

Now let's make the argument for Votto winning the NL MVP:

  • He led the NL in on-base percentage (.454).
  • He led the NL in on-base plus slugging (1.032).
  • He led the NL in games played (perfect 162).
  • He led the NL in walks (134).
  • He led the NL in intentional walks (20).
  • He led the Major Leagues in times reaching base at 321, breaking his Reds team record of 319 set in 2015.
  • He led the majors in walk-to-strikeout ratio at 1.61. No one was close -- Justin Turner of the Dodgers was next at 1.05.
  • He became one of only three players ever to have at least 179 hits, 36 home runs, 134 walks and 83 or fewer strikeouts. The other two: Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Look it up, kids, those guys were pretty good.

We could go on and get into the alphabet soup of sabermetric acronyms RE24 (Base-out Runs Added), WPA/LI (Situational Wins Added), REW (Base-out Wins Added) because he led the league in the those categories as well.

So the argument for is very compelling.

That being said, I don't see any way Votto wins. I think he'll finish second at best, more likely third behind Stadton and Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt when the winner is announced Thursday night (6 p.m. ET, @mlbnetwork)

The MVP is determined by folks like me, members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Two from each NL city vote. I voted for MVP every other year for 10 or 12 years. I voted for Rookie of the Year this year. All these awards -- MVP, Cy Young, ROY, Manager of the Year -- are voted on before the postseason begins.

The MVP vote usually goes to writers who travel. You vote for 10 players. I'd spent a couple of hours punching the numbers. Some years are easy. The Cubs' Kris Bryant was an obvious pick last year. What you do down the ballot really affects the outcome if the vote is close.

My guess is Stanton will win this year and it won't be close. His counting numbers are better than anyone's. He scored 123 runs, drove in 132 and hit 59 home runs. Fifty-nine jumps out at you.

But Votto was clearly a better hitter than him this year, and Stanton isn't known as a great defender. Neither is Votto, but his defense was better this year and he ran the bases better. That helped his WAR.

Voters are clearly leaning more on advanced statistics now, but some old-school guys look at home runs and RBI first. The success of the team always plays a factor as well. Miami was 10 games better than the Reds.

I'd probably vote for Votto first. I always gave the guys I covered the vote if it was close.

I was the only one to vote for Johnny Cueto first for Cy Young in 2012. R.A. Dickey won, and Cueto finished third. I voted Dickey second. My contention was Cueto had as good a year given that he was pitching his home games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Dickey pitched his home games at Citi Field, probably the best pitchers' park at the time.

I got ripped for that vote. I'm still convinced I voted the right way: Cueto's home/road ERA splits were 2.79/2.77. Dickey's were 2.59/2.90. Cueto's WAR was 5.9 to 5.8.

If voters go that deep into the stats, Votto's got a chance.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at