|Votto More Valuable than Pujols||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on May 04, 2011
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto beat St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols for the 2010 NL MVP in a tight race. Though the two had similar numbers, Votto was the centerpiece of a team that emerged as the NL Central division champions.
Pujols has been in a class of his own over the last decade, while Votto is still establishing himself as a premier player. In terms of statistics, some of these other first basemen may have Votto beat, but when looking at contributions to the team, Votto surpasses all these players.
The Reds and Cardinals have developed a rivalry the last few seasons, as the Reds began to improve their play. Votto has been a major player in Cincinnati's success.
While both are All-Star caliber players, who is better right now? Put another way: Would a team rather build a franchise around Pujols or Votto?
Looking at the numbers, it's tough to make a genuine comparison. Votto's first full season was in 2008, and by that time, Pujols already had seven years under his belt. To even compare the last three seasons of the two players would be unfair, since Votto is still in the beginning stages of his career.
However, looking at trends in numbers, these players are quite identical.
Pujols has been a home run machine since his debut in 2001. He's averaged 42 home runs per 162 games and has a career slugging percentage of .622. He has power to all fields, which has allowed him accumulate such gaudy power numbers.
Votto's power is still developing. He hit a career-high 37 HR last year en route to his MVP award. Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark is a bandbox, so Votto's power numbers should continue improving.
Being an offensive weapon involves more than just hitting home runs, however. Both players excel in drawing walks, which has led to their .400+ career on-base percentages. This year, Votto had walked at an astronomical rate -- 23 through his first 25 games.
While Votto's defense may not be as widely recognized as that of Pujols, he certainly plays an above average first base. Unlike some of the other infield positions, first base doesn't require as much range or a great throwing arm. After dabbling in the outfield early in his career, Votto has done an adequate job at first base for the Reds. In fact, he only recorded five errors all of last season, which led to his .996 fielding percentage.
So returning to the earlier question, would a franchise rather start a team around Pujols or Votto?
As of now, the answer would have to be Votto. He is four years younger than Pujols and is on the verge of a blossoming career. He also would not command the annual salary of Pujols, at least at this stage in his career.
A monster contract is lurking for Pujols, and it could be the reason he has been "un-Pujols-like" out of the gate this season. He has the power and RBI numbers working for him, but his batting average and OBP numbers are much lower than normal. That may be signs he's pressing at the plate.
In contrast, the Reds locked up Votto to a three-year, $38 million extension this winter. This deal will keep Votto in a Reds uniform through his arbitration eligible years. Unlike Pujols, Votto can go out each day and play the game he loves without having to worry about a free-agent deal. This sense of relaxation has shown at the plate.
Pujols is still the best player in the game, but he can only be productive for so long. MLB is experiencing a youth movement, where players like Votto are becoming the household names.There's little doubt that Pujols will still be a top-notch player over the next decade. While Votto may never accumulate the career stats that Pujols has, baseball is a game of living in the present. Currently, Votto may still be a tad under Pujols in most aspects of the game, but the young Reds slugger may be the safer bet when comparing the two long-term.