Yesterday, I took to Twitter and asked one simple questions:
Is Joey Votto currently the best hitter in baseball?
Well, I didn't get many responses to the question. Maybe it was due to my meager following on the social media magnate, or maybe it was simply due to most people's inability to argue the point. Of the responses I received, I saw the names Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Melky Cabrera, and Billy Butler thrown out there.
Certainly, both Trumbo and Trout have been outstanding for the Angels thus far, with Trout producing a batting line of .344/7 HR/30 RBI/47 Runs/21 Stolen Bases and Trumbo kicking the tires with a line of .313/18 HR/50 RBI/35 Runs. Trout has the inside track on the Rookie of the Year award and many could argue that Trumbo could have won it last year.
Melky has been on fire in San Francisco, making the Royals regret trading him for Jonathan Sanchez by batting .351 and leading all of baseball with 106 (!) hits through 73 games in 2012. He's been close to the sole source of offense for the Giants and a key to their reentry into the NL West race.
Butler is sort of another story. I love the uptick in power from Country Breakfast, and I wish that Royals fans were giving the hometown hero more of a push for the All-Star game in Kansas City this year, but even so his .296/15 HR/46 RBI is more adequate than top of the heap. Hell, he's even surpassed as a DH by David Ortiz in Boston.
So that brings me back to Votto. Here are his stat lines and rankings:
Batting Average - .353 - 3rd in MLB
On-Base Percentage - .478 - 1st in MLB
Slugging Percentage - .643 - 2nd in MLB
Doubles - 32 - 1st in MLB
Home Runs - 14 - 22nd in MLB
RBI - 47 - 18th in MLB
Walks - 60 - 1st in MLB
The only holes in my argument for Votto are the home run and RBI totals, where his numbers seem pedestrian compared with the league leaders, especially the dinger total considering he plays in Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. However, his doubles are at such a rate that sooner than later, more of those will start flying over the wall than hitting it.
In regards to the meager RBI total, consider these stats. Of his 320 plate appearances in 2012, Votto has come to the plate just 81 times with runners in scoring position and only 145 times did he even have another runner on base. He has 9 home runs and 42 RBI with runners on base. If the Reds could put someone on in front of him, He'd likely be a lot higher in the rankings. Oh, and Votto is hitting .429 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.
Needless to say, Votto makes the argument for himself. He'll figure prominently in the National League MVP discussion when the season ends and he is more than justifying the large investment the Reds made to keep him there long-term.