|Joey Votto's gotten on base in more than half of his plate appearances since his return from surgery. (Getty Images)|
CINCINNATI -- Anyone who has watched the first two games of the National League Division Series has heard the TBS crew talk about the so-called struggles of Joey Votto since his return from knee surgery. You no doubt know that he's not hit a home run since he's been back.
Despite his power struggles, Votto has been able to get on base in more than half of his plate appearances, including three hits and a walk in eight plate appearances in the first two games of the NLDS. That, teammate Jay Bruce noted, is still pretty valuable.
"I don't think Joey feels 100 percent, but he's a 'hit-getter.' If you were to ask me who do you think the next person would be to hit .400 in a season, I would have to say him. I'm not going to say he's going to go out there and do that, but Joey has the ability and the talent level that not a lot of people have because he sets such a precedent with his offensive game," Bruce said before Tuesday's game against the Giants. "One year he hit 37 home runs, 25, 26, 29. I would consider that setting a precedent for a guy that hits like he does, hits 40-some doubles. But even when he's not able to do that, he can take the other aspects of his game and make them the best in the league. He got on base at a .470-something percentage (in 2012) -- that's an alarming rate.
"He missed eight weeks and he walked almost 100 times. That's not something that a lot of people do, they play the full season and that's what they're best at. Joey's best asset is the ability to not make outs and doing that tends to help you score runs, and even when he's not driving the ball he's the best at getting on base.
"It's something special to see because, like I said, you take a huge component of his game and he can almost transform himself into a different player that's still the best. It's pretty exciting to have him on your team, you know? I tell you what, if you need somebody on base, he's the guy."
Votto's .474 on-base percentage led the majors and his 94 walks led the National League, despite playing in just 111 games. Although Votto didn't qualify for the on-base title outright, when you add 27 hitless at-bats to his rate to qualify him for the title, he still had a .448 on-base percentage, best in the National League. Second-best was Buster Posey at .408.
Reds manager Dusty Baker estimated Votto was at 95 percent heading into Game 3 of the NLDS and expects a breakout sometime soon.
"Would you rather have 95 percent of Joey Votto as long as he's not in pain or would you rather not have Joey Votto at all? He's a force -- even when he's not doing anything -- in the lineup," Baker said. "He makes a pitcher throw out of the stretch, with his on-base percentage. He's going to get key hits and he's going to hit the tough pitches, something that Joey Votto can do unlike anybody else. This guy can hit.
"You know sooner or later, every time he goes without hitting a home run, somebody is in trouble because you know a home run is right around the corner. We'll see, which I hope he gets a home run [Tuesday]."
Votto went 0-for-3 with a walk in Game 1 of the series and 3-for-4 with three singles in Game 2. His last home run came on June 24 against the Twins at Great American Ball Park. He then went 15 games without a home run before he went on the DL and 25 homerless regular-season games, but hit .316/.505/.421 with eight of his 44 doubles in that span. He finished the season with 14 home runs, down from 29 in 2011 and 37 in his MVP year of 2010.