Point: Joey Votto

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I’d love to see Joey Votto in a Jays uniform.

However, realistically, notwithstanding the insane compensation that Cincinnati would likely ask in return for Joey Votto (face it, it’s Cincinnati), let’s not forget what his contract looks like – he’s locked-up through 2023 (age 40) with a team option for 2024 – which may be way too much to pay relative to the value he’d be providing in return on the back-nine of his career. Using estimated league values for one win (assuming that win cost increases linearly), the following table shows how many wins above replacement Joey Votto would need to produce in order to provide value equivalent to what he’s being paid:

Table 1

Year Age Est. League $/WAR (millions) Salary ($millions) Break-even WAR
2017 34 7.75 22.00 2.84
2018 35 8.50 25.00 2.94
2019 36 9.50 25.00 2.63
2020 37 10.50 25.00 2.38
2021 38 11.50 25.00 2.17
2022 39 12.50 25.00 2.00
2023 40 13.50 25.00 1.85
2024 41 14.50 25.00 1.72

This is Joey Votto we’re talking about, so these numbers certainly look attainable.

However, if league win cost increases at a slower rate (albeit still linearly), we get the following result:

Table 2

Year Age Est. League $/WAR (millions) Salary ($millions) Break-even WAR
2017 34 7.75 22.00 2.84
2018 35 8.00 25.00 3.13
2019 36 8.25 25.00 3.03
2020 37 8.75 25.00 2.86
2021 38 9.25 25.00 2.70
2022 39 9.75 25.00 2.56
2023 40 10.25 25.00 2.44
2024 41 10.75 25.00 2.33

Ok, a bit more daunting, especially towards the tail-end of his contract.

But this is Joey Votto, right? He’s a well-above-average hitter. So good, in fact, that since 2009, he’s averaged almost exactly one full win more than the mean of the top quartile of positive-WAR batters at each age, per Fangraphs. Explained another way:

  1. Take all batters since 2008 (when Votto played his first full season) and break them into age-seasons (age 25, age 26… age 41, etc.)
  2. For each age group, remove those batters who produced negative and zero WAR;
  3. Take the top 25% of the remaining positive-WAR batters in each age group (top-quartile);
  4. Take the mean WAR of that top 25%;
  5. Joey Votto averaged one WAR more than that mean.

If we exclude his outlier (read: bad) 2014 season in which he fell below the mean of top-quartile batters, he’s averaged 1.5 WAR higher than the mean of top-quartile batters since 2009 (just over one standard deviation higher).

So what does this mean for the future? Let’s project his future performance with the assumption that he continues to be Good Joey Votto and produces one standard deviation more WAR than the mean of top-quartile batters at each age:

Table 3

Age Mean fWAR StDev fWAR Max fWAR Votto fWAR Z Projected Z Projected WAR
2008 25 3.7 1.4 7.7 3.6 -0.06
2009 26 3.8 1.3 8.4 4.6 0.47
2010 27 4.3 1.6 9.4 6.9 1.06
2011 28 4.3 1.4 8.7 6.4 1.06
2012 29 4.6 1.6 8.7 5.7 0.47
2013 30 4.4 1.3 8.2 6.0 0.88
2014 31 3.9 1.2 7.5 1.0 -1.96
2015 32 3.7 1.2 7.7 7.5 2.83
2016 33 3.6 1.3 6.5 5.0 0.90
2017 34 3.5 1.1 5.8 1.10 4.77
2018 35 4.0 1.0 6.6 1.10 5.11
2019 36 3.5 1.4 7.1 1.10 5.05
2020 37 3.1 1.1 6.1 1.10 4.30
2021 38 2.4 0.2 2.6 1.10 2.63
2022 39 2.5 0.4 3.0 1.10 3.02
2023 40 3.1 1.2 4.4 1.10 4.33
2024 41 0.2 0.1 0.3 1.10 0.28
  • “StDev” represents the standard deviation
  • “Max” represents the highest value in that age group between 2008 and 2016
  • “Z” is calculated as [(Votto fWAR – Mean fWAR)/(StDeV fWAR)^2] and represents the number of standard deviations from the mean
  • “Projected Z” is the average of Good Votto years (2009-2016, excluding the 2014 outlier season)
  • “Projected WAR” is calculated as: [Projected Z * StDev fWAR + Mean fWAR]; it is assumed that Votto will produce at this level consistently relative to the mean of the age group
  • Aging factor in Table 3 is reflected in the Mean fWAR column – to elaborate on this, I believe that the mean WAR of each age group fairly represents production at each age, especially for this group of top-quartile hitters
  • Sample sizes decreased in the higher age groups (39, 40 and 41), which likely skewed the means slightly upward and similarly affected the projections for those ages

Going back to our more conservative estimate of League Win Value, Good Votto projects to add value in spite of his seemingly cumbersome contract:

Table 4

Break-even WAR Projected WAR Difference Value Added ($ mill)
2.84 4.77 1.93 14.96
3.13 5.11 1.99 15.89
3.03 5.05 2.02 16.67
2.86 4.30 1.45 12.65
2.70 2.63 -0.07 (0.65)
2.56 3.02 0.46 4.46
2.44 4.33 1.89 19.40
2.33 0.28 -2.05 (21.99)*
TOTAL 83.38

*Team option year – option would not likely be exercised and this negative value is excluded from the total.

Obviously, the value generated relies heavily on the consistency of Votto’s play. Good Votto would need to show up every year, at least through age 40, and that is not guaranteed. But from a salary/value perspective, Good Votto is worth the money. PLUS he looks great in a Jays uniform.

So what would it take, player-wise?

 

Side note:

  1. Admittedly, when I first started writing this, I didn’t think JV would be worth that enormous contract. I was wrong. I’m rooting for you, man.
  2. YES I KNOW HE’S A LEFT-HANDED BATTER BUT I’M NOT THAT GOOD AT PHOTOSHOP.

 

Adam

Adam likes baseball and uses Instagram mainly for the Joe Biden memes.