It’s amazing how a single player having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee can throw an entire division into flux. And yet, that is just what is about to happen after Reds superstar Joey Votto was placed on the 15-day DL (Votto is estimated to miss 3-4 weeks). The Reds first-baseman is an on-base machine (.465 OBP), while also placing in the league’s top-5 in average, slugging percentage, total bases, walks, runs created, doubles, extra base hits, win probability added, and wins above replacement for a team that surprisingly struggles offensively. Votto is on the shortlist of NL MVP candidates, combining his impressive offensive numbers while playing gold glove-caliber defense and leading the Reds to 1st place in the NL Central.
Votto’s injury impact extends beyond the Reds, whose otherwise mediocre lineup will struggle to score runs in Votto’s absence. The Cardinals will not admit so publicly, but Votto’s injury provides them with a golden opportunity. St. Louis is 4.5 games behind Cincinnati going into today’s rubber game against the Brewers, and Votto’s injury could hurt the Reds and help the Cards close the gap. Yes, St. Louis needs to worry about its own games and yes, Cincinnati still has an elite bullpen and Johnny Cueto, but when you’re struggling you will take any break thrown your way. St. Louis has a month without having to compete against arguably the NL’s best player, but will the Cardinals capitalize? The fate of their 2012 season may depend on it.