Hits and Gold Glove fielding is what got Votto his huge contract, not the walks. If getting walks was such a big deal, Adam Dunn would be wanted by every team in the league.
I really wish people could get away from the idea that RBI is the only stat that shows production. RBI is just a terrible stat to draw conclusions from.
My basic opinion is walks are good but hits are better. Judging by vottos average, more if his OBP was made up of walks in 2013 than previous years. His slugging was also down as well as his RBI total. Was this because of some kind of approach change or something else? I think a lot of teams flat out said we aren't going to let votto best us because the rest of the lineup behind him really wasn't that great outside of Bruce, who struggles with consistency himself. This caused votto to see less hittable pitches and to take a walk. A lot of time throughout the year it looked like Joey was barely misting pitches he usually crushes. He also seems to not want to hit a pitch that's not right where he wants it, causing him to take marginal pitches or even strikes that are hittable in the name of working the count. My conclusion on votto is that a slight adjustment of being a little more agressive early in the count could help, but the biggest improvement in vottos numbers could be had by putting better players around him so it is more detrimental to walk him and he'll see more pitches to hit.
Old school 1983 (10-27-2013)
Here I agree with Old School completely. The biggest problem with JV and walking is the hitters around him - specifically those following him. No one fears BP or Bruce. Bruce is a good hitter but he is not a feared hitter - he strikes out a lot and can be made foolish with the right pitch. I like Jay so don't take that as an indictment of him - it's just that pitchers don't fear having to face him given a choice Bruce or Votto. I think 99% of pitchers would elect to face Bruce. Same, even more amplified with BP. I have no problem at all with Joey's season for a couple reasons. 1 - every single great hitter had seasons where they were "down" a bit in some numbers like power or average. 2 - pitchers simply had no incentive to pitch to Votto 3 - power may have been some weakness lingering in his knee or even a perception on his part that there was some weakness there. I fully expect a resurgence in his power.
Note also in all the hand wringing over offense that virtually every Reds hitter had a year below career norms. That should right itself which should help.
Guys I expect to somewhat improve their numbers:
Cozart - my guess is he will be incrementally better, not huge but better
Mesoraco - he can't be worse can he? Hopefully he gets regular PT to find out
Votto - again he is so good already but power should rebound
Hanigan - I really expect a more normal .340 ish OBP sans power
Bruce - he was a bit down so I expect a bit higher OPS and few more homers
About the same or worse
Frazier - I just see a hot mess when he bats - don't expect him to do better or worse
Robinson - all he has going is patience and speed but he isn't much of a hitter
Hi-C - another hot mess, just so impatient - the poster boy for over aggressive. Until he learns lunging is not particularly a hitting skill...
Choo - he'll be good but it's not smart to claim a guy will better a career year. Look at his numbers though and he really wasn't that much above norms except in walks and hbp so no reason he couldn't duplicate his success. I just don't think he'll better it.
Didn't include BP because I really think he's gone. Probably 1 or 2 of the above will be too. My main point is that overall I expect the offense to be better just by the normal fluctuation of production. 2013 was pretty much down across the board for the team. 2014 should see some rebound just by statistical chance. Now, if you could replace a couple of the chancier guys with real upgrades (Rayburn over Hi-C for instance, Navarro over Hanigan as backup C, Bautista over Ludwick - just for instances) the offense could really take off. The trick is doing it without wrecking the pitching staff.
No - I am not from State Farm!
Exactly what Oldschool and Redleg Jake said. Votto needs to realize that him getting hits is going to be a lot more effective for this team than a walk. It's fine to wait for a good pitch, but he has to take the mentality that the guys behind him just aren't as good of a hitter as he is, and the chance they are going to knock in a run isn't as good as if he will. Some pitchers are happy when he takes a walk.
Ludwick going down opening day really was what changed this season all around. It forced Brandon into the 4 spot, which altered his approach, as well as Votto's. Then Heisey went down, and somehow, this team still won 90 games.
No - I am not from State Farm!