Votto: Busting out of slump 'takes time'

Votto: Busting out of slump 'takes time'

CINCINNATI -- First baseman Joey Votto has started the season in one of the more prolonged offensive slumps of his prolific career, but he isn't being passive about finding a way out of it.

Votto was on the field on Thursday afternoon doing early hitting, with lefty-throwing manager Bryan Price first flipping him balls in a drill and then pitching batting practice.

"Trying to tighten up my swing, make sure that I get it to a place that I can make it repeatable and I can help the team win and carry this winning record to, hopefully, a playoff berth and surprise people and [then go to the] World Series," Votto said afterward.

Through 16 games, including a 0-for-3 game as the Reds were no-hit by Jake Arrieta in a 16-0 loss to the Cubs, Votto is batting .172/.258/.241 with one homer, seven walks and 14 strikeouts. He is now in an 0-for-19 hitless streak, which broke his career-long skid of 0-for-16 in 2009. For the first time in his career, Votto has gone hitless in five consecutive games.

Inside those numbers is hitting data that is a departure for Votto.

Votto has been pulling the ball more this season -- 47.7 percent of the time, and 55 percent of the time into an infield shift, according to Fangraphs.com. He pulled the ball 37.1 percent last season, 35.8 percent in 2014 and 31.2 percent in 2013. Heat maps show that pitchers are throwing inside more often this season, compared with 2015.

"He's hit some balls hard on his pull side, but a lot of them have resulted in outs," hitting coach Don Long said. "But he knows in his mind that if he's at the right time and in the right position, those balls probably aren't pulled. And if they are, they're probably more right-center than they are one-hoppers to the second baseman."

According to this season's spray charts, Votto has driven the ball deep to right field once, despite all the pull hitting. He is also hitting more ground balls, 47.6 percent, up from 42.6 percent last season. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was .220, compared with .371 last season.

"That's not bad luck. That's me hitting the ball at people," said Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, who finished third in MVP voting last season. "I'm supposed to hit balls where nobody is. That's me working on my swing, trying to get to a certain destination, and I'm not there yet. But I'm working daily. Rome wasn't built in a day. My swing is a fine piece of machinery. Everybody wants to rush the Ferrari, but it comes out every four to six years. It takes time."

Long underscored that Votto is more process-oriented but has the right attitude, even when he's not hitting well. He's also willing to make adjustments depending on pitchers and situations.

"He's all about competing in the game, but when he's in here or out on the field doing early BP, it's all about getting to his best hitting position on time so he can pick the right pitches and make the move he wants to make," Long said. "All hitters kind of go through that from time to time. His thoughts are strong. He knows how to focus on the process and say, 'OK, that's what I have today. Now I'm going to go out and compete no matter who I'm facing' and then come back in the next day and continue working toward getting to his best and most consistent, with the understanding that when he gets there, all the results he's trying to get will ultimately take care of themselves."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.