The one active hitter (with the likely exception of Arraez) that multiple big-leaguers say could still do it is Joey Votto, a stalwart veteran on a Cincinnati Reds squad filled with talented youngsters.
“I can,” Votto said in a phone interview, “but I don’t do it as much.”
Back when the front-hip sinker was “a part of right-handed culture,” Votto, a left-handed batter, said he would purposefully foul off those pitches so he could cover the rest of the plate. No one attacks him that way anymore, so he’s shelved the party trick. He bets plenty could still do it — if they wanted, big-leaguers could “attempt to hit bases” during a game, he said — but the likely outcome would not be worth the effort. There might be one plate appearance a series, he thinks, when it would pay off.
If such a feisty, contact-oriented approach has ebbed, will it ever return? Some, like Ahmed and Flores, who have abandoned that style of hitting, think it will not.
“It doesn’t get you paid anywhere now,” Flores said.
But baseball has undergone significant change this year, with the introduction of the pitch clock and restrictions limiting how teams position their infielders. As a result, the game is faster, stolen bases are up and holes once covered by a shift sit open. For that reason, Votto predicts a return of the pesky, indefatigable contact hitter.
“There will be a demand for guys who can control the bat and bunt and get guys over in the not-too-distant future,” he said.