Yankees/Reds preview – 4 things to know:

Today and tomorrow, we receive all that for which we clamored back in the 90’s: Inter-league play exactly the way the founding fathers of baseball drew it up – two mid-week summer games against Scooter Gennett and the 41-58, last place in the NL Central, Cincinnati Reds.

I just checked my Magic 8 Ball and it confirms that Yankee stadium is going to have tens of thousands of fans in attendance tonight and tomorrow disguised as empty seats.

That said, these are two important games for the Yankees who have Tampa coming in for a 4 game set beginning Thursday night.  Despite what Yankee manager Joe Girardi (“Joey Bullpen”) will tell you, these two games against Cincinnati count just as much as any two games this season.

Now, I’m going to take a leap and say you didn’t subscribe to the MLB package and set your TV reminders to tell you when the Reds are playing so you can catch every game.  With that, here are four things you need to know about the Reds:

(Really, it’s three quick notes and one important thing for you to know.  As I told you, I didn’t start this blog so we could be like all the tabloids who publish the same articles and previews every day.)

  1. If you looked at the Reds offense, you’d wonder how they’re 41-58.  They’re in the middle of the pack for the most part in runs, on base percentage, strikeout percentage, and walk percentage.

Additionally, they’re ranked first in defensive runs saved.  Add all that up and you’d think they’d be an average, maybe slightly above average team, right?

2. Then you look at their pitching…

They are dead last in the National League in fielding independent pitching, 2nd to last in walk percentage while being dead last in MLB in runs allowed per game.  They’re 9th in the NL in strikeout percentage and 13th in K/BB ratio.  So even with an average offense and very good defense, they’re 26th in MLB in run differential.

3. Shortstop Zack Cozart is having a great year.  Among all MLB position players, he’s 9th in OBP (.406), 11th in adjusted OPS, and 19th in slugging percentage – that’s for a shortstop.  Among shortstops, he’s 1st in OBP, 1st in SLG, 2nd in OPS+ and 5th in defensive WAR.  Along with Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, Cozart is in the discussion of who’s the best SS in MLB.  Frankly I’d lean towards Cozart if you made me choose…

4. Joey Votto is one of the very best MLB players of his generation, who is an all-time great and should be a first ballot Hall of Famer five years after his retirement.  Not sure why most people don’t see it that way…he plays in a small market?  Maybe.  People overrate RBI’s and underrate walks? Definitely.  I would have to talk to a lot of people to get a better feel for why most fans haven’t realized the extent of his decade long excellence.

But make no mistake:  With apologies to Mike Trout who’s only played five and a half seasons, since 2008, Joey Votto has been the best player in baseball.

During that time, he’s first in MLB in OBP, 3rd in OPS+, and 5th in both SLG and WAR.

That’s just over the last ten seasons.  Want to know how he compares historically to other greats?

Since integration, among all Major Leaguers with 5,000 plate appearances, Votto is 3rd in OBP (behind only Ted Williams and Barry Bonds) 5th in OPS+ (behind Williams, Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Mark McGwire) and 24th in SLG.

How does he compare to other great first basemen?  Since integration, among 31 players with 5,000 PA who played at least 90% of their games at first base…

…Votto is 1st in OBP, 2nd in OPS+, 3rd in SLG and 10th in dWAR.

When you speak of Joey Votto, you speak of one of the best first baseman of all time.

Sometimes when I write pieces like this I feel like I’m the player’s agent.  In some respects, I don’t I need to be, as Joey Votto is known to be a very good player among baseball fans*.  But he’s better than very good – he’s an all-time great, and you have the opportunity to watch him play against the Yankees tonight and tomorrow afternoon.  Be sure to check it out.

*Among baseball fans.  Among some of his teammates and former teammates, he’s taken criticism for drawing too many base on balls (as if that could be a thing…).  Brandon Phillips once famously said that he didn’t understand how the team was “going to score if guys were taking walks all the time”.

Brandon Philips has a job waiting for him with the YES network when he retires.

Thanks as usual to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for the stats.

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