Joey Votto's 2010 season included a National League MVP award and career bests in batting average, home runs, runs batted in and on-base percentage.
It doesn't get any better for the Cincinnati Reds' Toronto-born first baseman. Or can it?
"I think I can do better," Votto told the Cincinnati Enquirer this week as he prepares to open the regular season Friday afternoon against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.
A repeat of his .324 average, 37 homers, 113 RBIs and .424 on-base percentage is good enough for Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker.
MVP season —1 year later
A glance at the past 10 National League MVPs and their on-base plus slugging percentage - considered the gold standard of production value - in the year they won the award and the following season.
|2009||Albert Pujols||St. Louis||1.101 in '09, 1.011 in '10|
|2008||Albert Pujols||St. Louis||1.114 in '08, 1.101 in '09|
|2007||Jimmy Rollins||Philadelphia||.875 in '07, .786 in '08|
|2006||Ryan Howard||Philadelphia||1.084 in '06, .976 in '07|
|2005||Albert Pujols||St. Louis||1.039 in '05, 1.102 in '06|
|2004||Barry Bonds||San Francisco||1.422 in '04, 1.071 in '05|
|2003||Barry Bonds||San Francisco||1.278 in '03, 1.422 in '04|
|2002||Barry Bonds||San Francisco||1.381 in '02, 1.278 in '03|
|2001||Barry Bonds||San Francisco||1.379 in '01, 1.381 in '02|
|2000||Jeff Kent||San Francisco||1.021 in '00, .877 in '01|
"I think if he can repeat the year he had, obviously, that would be big. There's probably not much room for improvement there."
Consider the numbers.
Votto slugged .600 a year ago so his on-base plus slugging — the preferred method of measuring offence in the statistical era — is 1.024. Ted Kluszewski (1.049) and Frank Robinson (1.045) are the only Reds in history to surpass that mark.
Still, you won't find the hard-working Votto settling for the status quo.
"I think I can be more efficient," said the 27-year-old Votto, who earned 31 of 32 first-place votes and 443 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to best St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. "I'm certainly going to try not to waste any swings or throws or groundballs, or even time. In the past, I might have wasted time. Now, I'm trying to do everything perfectly."
Former Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker remembers as much when he served as Votto's hitting coach for Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
"He wants to get it right every time. He really spent a lot of time in the [batting] cage [at the 2009 World Baseball Classic]." Walker told CBCSports.ca last November. "He would just beat himself up and try to find out why things weren't working. Questions galore about how to do it right."
Justin Morneau, Walker and Votto are the lone Canadians to win a major league MVP award. Walker won in 1997 and Morneau in 2006.
"I'm going to make the previous MVPs proud," Votto said. "I got a really great call from Albert Pujols after I won the award. He said 'welcome to the brotherhood.' Once you're in, you've got to make the group proud. And I think I will."