The goal was to become more dangerous at the plate.
He had gotten away from it the past few years, which most people attributed to his advancing age. But he blamed a faulty approach -- or one no longer suitable for his advancing age.
"I lost some of my strengths that I first came to the league with -- hitting the ball, specifically, hitting the ball all over the field with power," Votto said. "I did that in exchange for command of the strike zone, putting the ball in play, being a tough at-bat. And it sapped my power."
He sold out for contact, basically, seeing the low strikeout rate he had in 2017 as the key to his near-MVP performance. Once he realized it was holding him back, being benched briefly for a period late in 2020, he decided to make some changes.
"I had to let that [strikeout rate] go and get back to what got me to the league," he said, noting that he went back to standing taller at the plate. "The adjustments I made last year after the benching were very, very natural."
And the results were immediate. Over his final 29 games last year, he had eight homers and a .941 OPS. His batting average was a modest .258 during that stretch, but it seemed like a worthy tradeoff.
"I'm back to kind of a more comfortable place in terms of hitting," he said. "It's going to come with some more swings and misses and more strikeouts, but as long as I'm productive and as long as I'm dangerous at the plate, it will pay itself off."
After a slow first couple weeks this year, perhaps due to a bout with COVID-19 in spring training, it indeed appears to be paying off.
Joey Votto 1B
CIN Cincinnati • #19 • Age: 38
Three homers and three doubles over the past week has put Votto's adjustments back under the microscope, and the craziest part is that his strikeout rate is actually the lowest it's been since his near-MVP 2017 season. Meanwhile, his quality of contact has been so high that Statcast says he deserves to have a .342 batting average and .708 slugging percentage as opposed to his actual .267 and .467 marks.
MIA Miami • #2 • Age: 24
More fun with expected stats: Statcast pegs Jazz Chisholm for a .737 slugging percentage as opposed to his actual .675 mark, which of course is stellar in its own right. It's a testament to how hard he's hit the ball and how well he's elevated it, but what's been most impressive is his plate discipline, both the excellent walk rate and not-so-terrible strikeout rate. I'm skeptical it'll continue, but you see the upside he has if it comes anywhere close.
Jed Lowrie DH
OAK Oakland • #8 • Age: 38
Jed Lowrie doesn't have Chisholm's upside but is shaping up to be a stable option again, particularly in points leagues thanks to his low strikeout rate and proclivity for extra-base hits. At 37, he's unlikely to sustain quite this pace, but he was a productive player when last healthy in 2018, batting .267 with 23 homers and an .801 OPS.
Yimi Garcia RP
TOR Toronto • #93 • Age: 31
Yimi Garcia just put together a near 40-point week in standard CBS Sports leagues, collecting two saves and two wins in games that were decided in extra innings. He has been near flawless in five appearances since entering into the closer role, having yet to allow an earned run since Opening Day, and there aren't any threats to his job security. Mainly, though, it's the conventional way Don Mattingly has used him that makes him such a rare find.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #8 • Age: 27
I'm commenting on Zach McKinstry mainly because he's the most-added player in CBS Sports leagues right now, and with the numbers he's put together to date, I understand targeting him as a short-term play. The Dodgers are getting some of their injured players back, though -- most recently, Mookie Betts and A.J. Pollock -- and since they're already pressed to find Chris Taylor at-bats, there may not be room for McKinstry in the long run.
Lou Trivino RP
OAK Oakland • #62 • Age: 30
Manager Bob Melvin hinted after Trevor Rosenthal first went down that the left-handed Jake Diekman would split save chances with the right-handed Lou Trivino, but all the momentum seems to be with Trivino right now. Not only did he record the team's first two saves but he also worked the ninth inning of a tie game Sunday, with Diekman working the seventh. In fact, Trivino's past five appearances have all come in the ninth while Diekman's past five have all come prior.
DET Detroit • #32 • Age: 29
Michael Fulmer lines up for two great matchups against the Pirates and Royals in Week 4 (April 19-25), so even if you're not ready to trust him in your lineup yet (quite understandably), he's in a position to price himself out of your reach if he indeed delivers on those matchups. The 2016 AL Rookie of the Year has been sidetracked by arm troubles in recent years but showed improved velocity in a bullpen stint that then carried over into his first start last week.
ARI Arizona • #55 • Age: 30
The Diamondbacks went nearly two weeks without a save chance, leaving us to guess who might replace Chris Devenski as the closer. All signs pointed to Stefan Crichton, who went 5 for 5 as their closer down the stretch last season and had worked exclusively in the ninth inning (just not in save situations) since Devenski was lost. Crichton finally got a chance to preserve a three-run lead Sunday, and while he's no shutdown reliever, he should have exclusivity going for him.