Ranking Joey Votto's Short History of Infield Pop-Ups
Joey Votto is in his 13th major league season. He has 6,829 plate appearances, 405 groundouts to second base, and 57 hit-by-pitches. He has 378 doubles and 19 triples. He has attempted two sacrifice bunts, both of them in a five-week span in 2015. He has exactly three games with three home runs and exactly 500 games with five plate appearances, and he has 192 flyouts to center and 55 home runs to center. There are only so many things that can happen when a man walks up to the plate; Votto has done, basically, all of them.
Or, at least, he has now. On Wednesday, Votto did something he’d never done before—he popped up to first base. The infield pop-up has been notably absent from his stat sheet, and until today, his scarce record in this department had not included anything to a first baseman. Now, at last, it finally does. To celebrate: Votto’s infield pop-ups from the last 10 seasons, ranked. Which we can do easily because there are only eight of them. Eight. In 10 seasons.
8. June 19, 2012, top of the first inning, Reds winning 1-0, runner on first with no outs, 1-1 count: pop-out to shortstop. Final score: Cleveland 3, Cincinnati 2 (10 innings). In a vacuum, this one is fine. The Reds were already ahead with no outs in the first inning—that’s basically playing with house money, what difference does it make if someone pops out? Probably nothing! Except for the fact that this became an extra-inning walk-off loss, where everything can and usually does feel like the difference, including a meaningless pop-out to the shortstop in the first. Congratulations to this pop-up: You have received the honor of last place.
7. July 5, 2014, bottom of the first inning, Reds losing 1-0, none on with two out, 1-0 count: pop-out to shortstop. Final score: Milwaukee 1, Cincinnati 0. Here’s another first-inning pop-up to the shortstop in a game ultimately lost by one run. This time, though, Cincinnati was already losing, and it was an inning-ending play… which might make this one seem a little worse than our eighth-place finisher. But, eh, the team was already losing, and its eventual loss wasn’t quite so dramatic. This one isn’t loaded with as much what could have been. It narrowly avoids the indignity of last place.
6. September 2, 2017, top of the first inning, Reds tied 0-0, runner on third with no outs, 0-0 count: pop-out to shortstop. Final score: Pittsburgh 5, Cincinnati 0. The first pitch Votto saw, man. First pitch!
5. April 17, 2015, top of the third inning, Reds tied 1-1, none on with none out, 3-1 count: pop-out to shortstop. Final score: St. Louis 6, Cincinnati 1. April 17, same as Wednesday. One day, we can all be treated to a glorious “This Day In History, April 17: Joey Votto accumulated 25% of his career infield pop-outs.” It might sound small, sure, but considering that the space is currently held down by This Day in History, April 17: The Bay of Pigs invasion takes place, and This Day in History, April 17: Victoria Beckham was born … Votto just might be an upgrade.
4. May 24, 2015, top of the sixth inning, Reds down 2-0, none on with one out, 2-0 count: pop-out to second base. Final score: Cleveland 5, Cincinnati 2. Votto’s first and, so far, only pop-out to second base. History!
3. August 25, 2013, bottom of the seventh inning, Reds losing 3-0, none on with none out, 1-0 count: pop-out to shortstop. Final score: Milwaukee 3, Cincinnati 1. Votto scored the Reds’ only run in this game, with his 20th dinger of the season. His prior at-bat featured a none-on-none-out pop-up? It’s fine.
2. September 20, 2011, bottom of the fourth inning, Reds winning 3-2, runners on second and third with two outs, 3-2 count: pop-out to third base. Final score: Cincinnati 6, Houston 4. This one should suck. Two men in scoring position! Two outs! Full count! And a pop-out? Eh. It gets a pass. This one is special: It’s the only game in which Votto popped up to the infield and Cincinnati still won.
1. April 17, 2019, top of the eighth inning, Reds losing 3-1, runner on first with two out, 3-1 count: pop-out to first base. Final score: Los Angeles 3, Cincinnati 2. It’s perhaps not quite accurate to call this the pop-out heard ‘round the world. It’s a pop-out that received its own MLB At-Bat push notification in April, though—with no razzle-dazzle defense, no game-ending significance—something so weird and so rare and so delightfully quirky that it simply had to be noted. They said it couldn’t be done, and yet—America and Canada alike gathered ‘round and bore witness. Joey Votto popped out to first base. Anything can happen.