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Worthy of our complaints?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Fantasy owners, and baseball fans in general, like to complain.

Player X strikes out too much, Pitcher Y can't get anyone out in a big spot, Player Z stinks with runners in scoring position; the frustrating scenarios are endless.

But can we really grumble about a player who is hitting .358 with a 1.029 OPS? Not reasonably.

However, I'm sure not all fantasy owners are satisfied with the production of Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

Votto has hit safely in 11 straight games and reached base safely in 45 of 47 games this season, but his power and run production are both way down.

Overall the Reds first baseman has seven homers and 22 RBI; those numbers extrapolate to 22 homers and 70 RBI per 700 plate appearances. The problem is, fantasy owners paid for a lot more than that by taking Votto at an average draft position (ADP) of 8.5 and at an average cost of $43.30 in Yahoo! leagues.

Votto rarely expands the zone. His chase rate is 21.8 percent, 14th lowest in baseball. It hasn't helped that in 58 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Votto has been walked intentionally nine times and 17 times overall. He is 15-for-39 (.385) with 15 RBI in those situations.

Opponents have been content with letting cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips bat with RISP rather than dealing with Votto, even though Phillips has been opportunistic in driving in 40 runs, tops in the NL.

There's still plenty to like when it comes to Votto. He has scored 38 runs, tops among first-base eligible players, and still is slugging .545 despite the lack of homers. He also leads the majors with 41 walks and a .484 OBP, and his 1.029 OPS ranks third.

But the first baseman is a different hitter now than when he belted 37 homers in 2010; he doesn't hit flyballs like a prototypical power hitter anymore. That's not to say his power is gone, just that he hits the ball squarely as often as any hitter in the big leagues rather than getting under it.

Votto's line-drive rate this season is 29.6 percent, which ranks fourth in baseball. He has hit an infield popup just 11 times in his entire career, and just twice since the start of the 2010 season.

His flyball rate this season is a career-low 26.1 percent, and he is putting a ball in play on 62.4 percent of his plate appearances. If both of those rates hold, Votto will be good for 114 flyballs per 700 plate appearances. Even with the 19.4 percent HR/FB rate that he currently has, that only equates to 22 homers.

I'm less worried about his RBI total. With on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo in the leadoff spot, Votto should continue to have plenty of opportunities to hit with men on base. And with Phillips continuing to provide adequate protection for Votto, pitchers should be less inclined to intentionally walk Votto and give Phillips another man to send home.

Even if he only hits 22 homers, it's very likely Votto will provide fantasy owners with a .340 average, 85-90 RBI, 115-120 runs and an OPS north of 1.000 over 700 plate appearances.

That doesn't seem like something to complain about.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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