By Bob Elliott
Joey Votto described his 2015 season as his best “from a personal standpoint.”
Even a better season than in 2010 when he won the National League MVP and helped his Cincinnati Reds make the playoffs.
Despite this season at the plate -- .314 average, 29 homers, 80 RBIs and a 1.000 OPS -- Votto finished third in the MVP race on Thursday.
Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was the unanimous NL winner garnering all 30 first-place votes to beat Paul Goldschmidt 420-234. Votto was third with 175 points, with one second-place votes, six third, six fourths and nine fifth-place votes.
“I was not surprised. I thought it was very deserving,” Votto told MLB.com shortly after the announcement. “I would have been surprised had it not been unanimous. It’s not my place to talk about the way writers vote, but with a year like that, it just felt like one of those fantastic years in the history of baseball.”
Finishing fourth was Chicago Cubs Anthony Rizzo (162), Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen (139), Cubs; Jake Arrieta (134) and Los Angeles Dodgers Zack Greinke (130).
For Votto, who played in only 62 games in 2014 due to injury and 158 this year, it was his the second-best finish in MVP voting for the 2010 winner. He finished sixth in 2011 and 2013.
It was the third best single season for a Canadian slugger, according to North Bay stats guru Neil Munro behind only Larry Walker’s 1997 season and Jason Bay’s 2005 season.
Votto, the former Etobicoke Ranger, had more walks (143) than strikeouts (135) this season. After the all-star break he batted .362, with 14 home runs,38 RBIs and a 1.152 OPS in 72 games. He reached base in 48 consecutive games, tying Pete Rose’s franchise record in 1978.
The only two hitters since the advent of the All-Star Game to hit .362, with an on-base mark of .535 or better and an OPS of 1.152 in half of a season were Ted Williams in 1941 and Barry Bonds in 2004.
“It’s tougher to hit now for sure,” Votto said. “I think there’s a gap in pitching talent and the way defense laid out. It’s more difficult, for one. Second of all, I’m older. I felt like I did more with less. I don’t drive the ball quite as far as I used to and couple of other things. Third of all, I played 158 games.
“Being able to play every day and then perform on a relatively consistent basis throughout the year, I felt like this year was my best year. It’s mostly because I played every day.”
Coach Bob Smythe’s star pupil led in reaching base (319) and walks (143), was second in on-base percentage (.459), and third in OPS (1.000).
Votto lost the on-base mark to Harper by a single point (.460-.459) after being 72 points behind at the break.
The Reds lost 98 times and finished last.
“It’s tough being a Pittsburgh, a Milwaukee, a Cincinnati, a Kansas City. It’s tough to evaluate whether or not you’re getting the attention you think is fair or unfair or if you think you’re being over- or underrated,” said Votto “I don’t do a lot of things that stand out. I’m not going to hit 50 homers. I’m not going to drive in 150 runs. I think my style of play, combined with our market, makes it a bit difficult. If we win 100 games, it’s the same story, I think.”