Ryan and Joey – just how good are they?

Joey Votto and Ryan Braun were born two months apart and both started their careers in 2007. Since then they’ve been nothing short of spectacular, so much so that both are now in the top 30 since 1901 in career efficiency (min. 3000 PA) producing WAR batting runs.

Thought they were good, but maybe not that good? You’re probably not alone. After the jump, I’ll look at bit closer at this pair and their lock-step career journeys.

For starters, here are their careers in a box. First, Votto.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ WAR oWAR Awards
2007 23 CIN 24 89 84 11 27 7 0 4 17 5 15 .321 .360 .548 .907 127 0.0 0.3
2008 24 CIN 151 589 526 69 156 32 3 24 84 59 102 .297 .368 .506 .874 125 3.1 2.5 RoY-2
2009 25 CIN 131 544 469 82 151 38 1 25 84 70 106 .322 .414 .567 .981 156 4.6 4.8 MVP-22
2010 26 CIN 150 648 547 106 177 36 2 37 113 91 125 .324 .424 .600 1.024 171 6.7 6.4 AS,MVP-1
2011 27 CIN 161 719 599 101 185 40 3 29 103 110 129 .309 .416 .531 .947 155 6.2 5.7 AS,MVP-6,GG
2012 28 CIN 111 475 374 59 126 44 0 14 56 94 85 .337 .474 .567 1.041 174 5.6 4.5 AS,MVP-14
6 Yrs 728 3064 2599 428 822 197 9 133 457 429 562 .316 .415 .553 .968 155 26.2 24.2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2013. 

Now, Braun.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ WAR oWAR Awards
2007 23 MIL 113 492 451 91 146 26 6 34 97 29 112 .324 .370 .634 1.004 154 1.8 5.0 MVP-24,RoY-1
2008 24 MIL 151 663 611 92 174 39 7 37 106 42 129 .285 .335 .553 .888 130 4.3 3.7 AS,MVP-3,SS
2009 25 MIL 158 708 635 113 203 39 6 32 114 57 121 .320 .386 .551 .937 146 5.9 6.3 AS,MVP-11,SS
2010 26 MIL 157 685 619 101 188 45 1 25 103 56 105 .304 .365 .501 .866 131 5.5 4.5 AS,MVP-15,SS
2011 27 MIL 150 629 563 109 187 38 6 33 111 58 93 .332 .397 .597 .994 166 7.7 7.3 AS,MVP-1,SS
2012 28 MIL 154 677 598 108 191 36 3 41 112 63 128 .319 .391 .595 .987 159 6.8 6.0 AS,MVP-2,SS
6 Yrs 883 3854 3477 614 1089 223 29 202 643 305 688 .313 .374 .568 .943 147 32.0 32.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2013.

Pretty dazzling stuff. Votto has four of his first 6 seasons with 30 doubles and an OPS+ of 150 or better, only the 7th player since 1901 to do so.

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Albert Pujols 6 2001 2006 21-26 Ind. Seasons
2 Ted Williams 6 1939 1947 20-28 Ind. Seasons
3 Johnny Mize 6 1936 1941 23-28 Ind. Seasons
4 Chuck Klein 5 1929 1933 24-28 Ind. Seasons
5 Joey Votto 4 2009 2012 25-28 Ind. Seasons
6 Frank Thomas 4 1991 1994 23-26 Ind. Seasons
7 Stan Musial 4 1942 1946 21-25 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/24/2013.

For Braun, it’s 5 out of 6 seasons with 30+ homers and 95+ RBI, only the 6th player ever to do that.

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Albert Pujols 6 2001 2006 21-26 Ind. Seasons
2 Ryan Braun 5 2007 2012 23-28 Ind. Seasons
3 Mark Teixeira 5 2004 2008 24-28 Ind. Seasons
4 Ralph Kiner 5 1947 1951 24-28 Ind. Seasons
5 Ted Williams 5 1939 1947 20-28 Ind. Seasons
6 Joe DiMaggio 5 1937 1941 22-26 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/24/2013.

Votto’s 197 doubles are tied for second most in the first 6 years of a career (max. 3200 PAs). Braun’s 223 doubles are tied for 10th (max. 4000 PAs). Braun’s 202 HR are tied for 6th most in the first 6 seasons, and his RBI are 14th.

As I said off the top, both are now in the top 30 since 1901 in WAR batting runs per PA efficiency for a career (min. 3000 PA). Here are those players.

Rk Player Rbat PA per Rbat OPS+ PA From To Age G R H 2B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Babe Ruth 1338 7.9 206 10620 1914 1935 19-40 2503 2174 2873 506 714 2213 2062 .342 .474 .690 1.164
2 Barry Bonds 1128 11.2 182 12606 1986 2007 21-42 2986 2227 2935 601 762 1996 2558 .298 .444 .607 1.051
3 Ted Williams 1070 9.1 190 9788 1939 1960 20-41 2292 1798 2654 525 521 1839 2021 .344 .482 .634 1.116
4 Ty Cobb 994  13.2 168 13078 1905 1928 18-41 3034 2246 4189 724 117 1938 1249 .366 .433 .512 .945
5 Lou Gehrig 969  10.0 179 9663 1923 1939 20-36 2164 1888 2721 534 493 1995 1508 .340 .447 .632 1.080
6 Stan Musial 885 14.4 159 12717 1941 1963 20-42 3026 1949 3630 725 475 1951 1599 .331 .417 .559 .976
7 Hank Aaron 876 15.9 155 13941 1954 1976 20-42 3298 2174 3771 624 755 2297 1402 .305 .374 .555 .928
8 Rogers Hornsby 859 11.0 175 9481 1915 1937 19-41 2259 1579 2930 541 301 1584 1038 .358 .434 .577 1.010
9 Tris Speaker 819  14.6 157 11991 1907 1928 19-40 2790 1882 3514 792 117 1529 1381 .345 .428 .500 .928
10 Willie Mays 808 15.5 156 12496 1951 1973 20-42 2992 2062 3283 523 660 1903 1464 .302 .384 .557 .941
11 Mickey Mantle 800 12.4 172 9907 1951 1968 19-36 2401 1676 2415 344 536 1509 1733 .298 .421 .557 .977
12 Mel Ott 776  14.6 155 11348 1926 1947 17-38 2730 1859 2876 488 511 1860 1708 .304 .414 .533 .947
13 Jimmie Foxx 760  12.7 163 9676 1925 1945 17-37 2317 1751 2646 458 534 1922 1452 .325 .428 .609 1.038
14 Frank Robinson 727 16.2 154 11742 1956 1976 20-40 2808 1829 2943 528 586 1812 1420 .294 .389 .537 .926
15 Frank Thomas 692 14.6 156 10075 1990 2008 22-40 2322 1494 2468 495 521 1704 1667 .301 .419 .555 .974
16 Manny Ramirez 653 15.0 154 9774 1993 2011 21-39 2302 1544 2574 547 555 1831 1329 .312 .411 .585 .996
17 Albert Pujols 652 12.4 168 8103 2001 2012 21-32 1859 1376 2246 505 475 1434 1027 .325 .414 .608 1.022
18 Jeff Bagwell 590 16.0 149 9431 1991 2005 23-37 2150 1517 2314 488 449 1529 1401 .297 .408 .540 .948
19 Harry Heilmann 548  16.4 148 8960 1914 1932 19-37 2147 1291 2660 542 183 1539 856 .342 .410 .520 .930
20 Mark McGwire 547 14.0 163 7660 1986 2001 22-37 1874 1167 1626 252 583 1414 1317 .263 .394 .588 .982
21 Edgar Martinez 532 16.3 147 8674 1987 2004 24-41 2055 1219 2247 514 309 1261 1283 .312 .418 .515 .933
22 Joe DiMaggio 530  14.5 155 7673 1936 1951 21-36 1736 1390 2214 389 361 1537 790 .325 .398 .579 .977
23 Johnny Mize 505  14.6 158 7370 1936 1953 23-40 1883 1118 2011 367 359 1337 856 .312 .397 .562 .959
24 Shoeless Joe Jackson 437  13.0 169 5692 1908 1920 20-32 1332 873 1772 307 54 785 519 .356 .423 .517 .940
25 Hank Greenberg 434  14.0 158 6097 1930 1947 19-36 1394 1051 1628 379 331 1276 852 .313 .412 .605 1.017
26 Miguel Cabrera 396 16.3 151 6474 2003 2012 20-29 1512 961 1802 386 321 1123 709 .318 .395 .561 .956
27 Charlie Keller 287  16.0 152 4604 1939 1952 22-35 1170 725 1085 166 189 760 784 .286 .410 .518 .928
28 Ryan Braun 234 16.5 147 3854 2007 2012 23-28 883 614 1089 223 202 643 305 .313 .374 .568 .943
29 Lefty O’Doul 220 16.6 143 3658 1919 1934 22-37 970 624 1140 175 113 542 333 .349 .413 .532 .945
30 Joey Votto 207 14.8 155 3064 2007 2012 23-28 728 428 822 197 133 457 429 .316 .415 .553 .968
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/27/2013.

The above list is sorted by Rbat. The PA per Rbat had to be manually calculated after running the P-I query so the query result could not be sorted on this field. This list was generated by selecting players with an Rbat score exceeding 6% of their PAs.

Braun and Votto still have a long way to go in their careers (incl. their decline phase) so they may not be on this list when they’re done. But, FWIW, Votto’s PA per Rbat currently ranks 19th and Braun is 29th. Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, the only other active players on the list, stand 7th and 27th, respectively. Manny is 20th. Ruth, Williams and Gehrig are 1, 2 and 3, the only players producing a WAR batting run or more for every 10 PAs

If you’re wondering if two players have started their careers in such similar fashion at exactly the same time, the answer is yes. But, it’s been a while. Here are players since 1901 with 200 or more Rbat and an OPS+ from 145 to 160, during the first 6 seasons of their careers.

Rk Player Year Rbat OPS+ PA From To Age G R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Ryan Braun 2012 234 147 3854 2007 2012 23-28 883 614 1089 223 29 202 643 305 .313 .374 .568 .943
2 Joey Votto 2012 207 155 3064 2007 2012 23-28 728 428 822 197 9 133 457 429 .316 .415 .553 .968
3 Jeff Bagwell 1996 251 158 3693 1991 1996 23-28 846 545 950 206 18 144 589 500 .307 .406 .525 .931
4 Wade Boggs 1987 247 149 3910 1982 1987 24-29 872 582 1178 218 23 56 411 522 .354 .439 .484 .923
5 Frank Robinson 1961 220 146 3790 1956 1961 20-25 888 618 994 177 34 202 573 392 .302 .384 .561 .946
6 Hank Aaron 1959 243 151 3866 1954 1959 20-25 886 612 1137 205 46 179 617 281 .323 .372 .559 .931
7 Eddie Mathews 1957 239 154 3807 1952 1957 20-25 880 606 902 147 33 222 586 561 .281 .388 .556 .943
8 Willie Mays 1957 220 157 3298 1951 1957 20-26 762 531 903 128 63 187 509 362 .311 .387 .593 .980
9 Charlie Keller 1945 217 157 3184 1939 1945 22-28 726 520 774 109 55 132 526 540 .295 .416 .529 .945
10 Joe DiMaggio 1941 297 160 3739 1936 1941 21-26 825 735 1163 214 69 198 816 336 .345 .408 .626 1.034
11 Arky Vaughan 1937 229 147 3712 1932 1937 20-25 849 572 1057 166 78 58 501 466 .334 .424 .491 .915
12 Chuck Klein 1933 289 160 3710 1928 1933 23-28 823 699 1209 246 50 191 727 297 .359 .412 .632 1.044
13 Babe Herman 1931 209 145 3559 1926 1931 23-28 851 534 1084 231 66 111 585 292 .340 .397 .559 .955
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/27/2013.

So, Mathews and Mays in 1957 is the only other time. What’s the biggest difference between them and Votto and Braun? It’s that column called Age. Those two extra years over Mays (and 3 over Mathews) are huge and almost certainly will limit the career counting numbers of Votto and Braun. Indeed, as both will turn 30 this year, they may well be at their peaks right now.

On the other hand, there are Bagwell and Boggs on this list, recent players who were as old or older and who still managed to compile two pretty stellar careers. So, we’ll just to have to enjoy watching to see how it turns out.


Comments

Ryan and Joey – just how good are they? — 24 Comments

  1. Both of these guys were born in ’83, same year as M. Cabrera, Mauer, Pedroia, H. Ramirez, Reyes, Greinke, Hamels, and Verlander. Possibly up to 5 HOFs in that group.

  2. The initial tables don’t highlight Braun’s baserunning (30+ steals, <10 CS last two years for example), which closes some of the gap caused by Votto's insane OBP. There's no way you can build a top 5 of NL position players without those 2, and it's reasonable to argue putting them 1-2 in some order. BBREF doesn't seem to like Braun's defense either but he's turned into a pretty good OF after a poor start there and an abysmal start at 3B as a rookie.

    • Quite right, brp. Baserunning and Braun’s season’s worth (and a bit) of PAs more than Votto are reflected in his considerably higher career WAR numbers.

    • If those traits continue though, they will even out career wise. OBP doesn’t age like baserunning. Votto is just such a hard out. As Braun inevitably slows down, the OBP will catch back up.

  3. Doug, the Lefty O’Doul links aren’t working.

    As for Braun and Votto, when I watch them, it “feels” like I’m watching HOFers.

  4. I’m wondering why Votto’s debut was relatively late — September of his age-23 season.

    At 22, he was the best hitter in the AA Southern League, right above Braun in OPS. That was 2006. The Reds were playing Scott Hatteberg at 1B; he hit OK for a 1B, but they had very little money invested in him. But they never gave Votto a look.

    Through 2006, Votto had about 600 minor-league games, and his ability was pretty clear. But they kept him at AAA until September 2007, while continuing to play the 37-year-old, moderately productive Hatteberg.

    His first MLB start, he went 3-3, HR, BB, and he hasn’t slowed since. I think they left some value on the table in ’07.

    And considering they’ve now committed a king’s ransom in gold, it’s hard to see the point in saving a year of arb eligibility, or whatever the rationale was.

    • Looking at Votto’s minor league record it appears as if the Reds were trying to turn him into an outfielder in 2007 as he played 40 games in LF and 2 games in RF for Louisville that year. I have a recollection (which may be completely wrong) that the Reds wanted to put Votto in the OF and move Dunn to 1B. Other than a few games when he was 18, 2007 is the only year in which Votto played the outfield (he played a few games in the majors as an outfielder as well).

      So that may be why they kept him in the minors, so that he could learn a new position.

      • Seems like this is the case for a lot of first basemen. Even Joey f-ing Votto who destroyed the minor leagues had resistance to the show due to being stuck at first base. Some of the career WAR adjustments by position should really keep this in mind already. First basemen as a whole come up late. Most teams have a guy in AAA right now with an average MLB bat (above replacement) that they’re not calling up for fielding reasons. AAA in particular, where guys are often on the 40 man roster, I wonder how many of the all time single season leaders in HR’s are first basemen. Most other positions, the guy is going to get a phone call before he’s racking up that many.

  5. What about some Braun steroid discussion? I mean, his 2012 numbers compared to his 2011 numbers, I ain’t seeing a medical difference at work there. I have long believed that what actually happened to Braun has not yet come to light. He has hinted at such with comments like “my teammates know what really happened and that’s enough”.

    I think it goes something like, dude gets herpies and gets a perscription for some topical steroids. Dude does not follow the correct notification procedures for taking a banned substance because he thought a doctor’s permission makes everything OK. Dude tells league about condition and Doctor only after Positive test comes out. League says too late, you didn’t tell us by our rules so no medical exemption. Guy gets off on technicality for drugs but really he should just have been lightly repremanded for not following the correct notification procedures. Dude has herpies, which is none of our business so is OK with “technicality” putting this all to rest… and topical steroids for treating herpes don’t give you HR power.

    • Whatever the particulars, the fact that Braun won his appeal quickly suggests to me that the explanation was innocent. If the technicality was less innocent, I suspect the appeal process would have been more drawn out.

  6. To Mosc’s point @13, and Doug’s at 14, it looks like we have new PED allegations against several players, including A-Rod, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzales, Melky. At this point, if MLB can’t find a way to deal with this issue, I may have to re-think my opposition to Bonds and Clemens. Let them all juice and we can just acknowledge that the numbers produced have the credibility of professional wrestling.

    • Professional wrestling?

      If you are so convinced taking steroids magically makes you a hall of famer please explain
      1) Why the entire league wide power increased from 92-93? Did all the players get together and decide to uniformly take steroids at the same rate and all increase HR% etc.

      2) Why do pitchers who get Tommy John Surgery get a pass? I mean what is the real issue with steroids? That players have some advantage over the old timers and their numbers cant be fairly compared, or they are doing things beyond natural human capabilities? But having a surgery to magically revitalize your dead elbow is not an unfair advantage over Sandy Koufax and is totally natural thing we have been doing since we lived in caves?

      • Topper, with all due respect, I didn’t say that steroids make you a Hall of Famer. Players take them because they think they improve performance, and that is indisputable.
        We’ve just come off a very detailed and well reasoned discussion about steroids in “1962” done far more eloquently than I can by other posters, on both sides of the aisle, so I defer to them.

  7. It’s amazing how much starting early in your career can make a huge difference in your counting stats. Look at two of the recent greats (Cabrera, Pujols) who started early and compare them to the relatively late-starting Braun and Votto. I’ll use data from start of career to age-28 season, which is where Ryan and Joey are right now:

    Cabrera – 1597 H / 277 HR / 984 RBI / 346 2B / 37.5 WAR
    APujols – 1531 H / 319 HR / 977 RBI / 342 2B / 62.1 WAR

    R Braun – 1089 H / 202 HR / 643 RBI / 223 2B / 32.0 WAR
    J Votto – 822 H / 133 HR / 457 RBI / 197 2B / 26.2 WAR

    I used doubles because these four players are all great doubles hitters. Pujols and Cabrera have the best chance to advance past 650-700 doubles, but they will have to keep putting up great numbers into their late thirties to make a serious run at Tris Speaker’s 792 career mark. For what its worth, Pujols has more doubles thru his age-32 season than anyone in history except Joe Medwick, while Cabrera is three years and 119 doubles behind Albert.

    Braun and Votto, as Doug mentioned, have great doubles-hitting rates, but it’s pretty unlikely they are going to place super high on the all-time list for doubles because of their late starts. Braun and Votto are both only 6 or 7 months younger than Cabrera but over 160 doubles behind Miggy.

    • It is remarkable how much difference one or two years makes.

      I remember a study Bill James did back in the 80s. He compared two groups of players who both had very similar stats to start their careers. Only difference between the groups was starting age. In his analysis the group starting at age 21 would produce 50% more career value (think area under the curve) than the age 22 starters.

      James himself admitted that, at first, he didn’t believe the result and assumed he must have made an error. But, it was no error. Earlier start means higher peak means longer decline phase before dropping below replacement value.

  8. Also Braun was hit by a pitch in the wrist in this game, mid 2009, by Tommy Hanson who was being a little baby because Braun took him deep twice in his career debut.

    Up to this game for his career Braun was at
    454 G, 2012 PA, 109 HR, 345 RBI .312/.369/.575

    he then sat out 3 games and continued on with < 100% wrist, and for the next 70 games put up a line of 302 PA, 10 HR, .235/.269/.400

    If you remove these games from Braun's career line he is at
    3552 PA, 3192 AB, 1022 H, 192 HR, 607 RBI, .320/.383/.583/.966

    Yes I know everyone plays with injuries but this period was much longer with production much lower his career norms. Braun has missed some time here and there but has never gone on the DL which Votto has done several times I think.

    • Yep. As to the Braun’s baserunning slowing down, perhaps, but Braun at 35 will probably be a better runner than Votto is now, and I truly think he’ll continue to get better in the OF until he does start to slow down. And while OBP doesn’t “age,” that also means Braun could definitely improve his OBP. If nothing else, not having Prince around has skyrocketed his IBBs (from < 5 every year to 15 last season).

      Can't go wrong with either player, of course.

      • Votto’s got better plate coverage, a better eye, better bat speed, etc. He is simply the hardest guy in baseball to get out and I don’t think there’s that close a second. Braun has a bigger swing, certainly faster by a wide margin, and plays a slightly more demanding position. Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably rather have Braun. That said, I don’t think we’re going to see a better OBP player than Votto unless somebody re-signs Barry.

  9. Ryan Braun is a PED user, he’s dead to me. Votto is the best hitter in baseball. I’m usually prejudice against non-Americans but stats don’t lie.

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