Votto has a chance to join an illustrious group

Reds haven't had player lead NL in homers since Foster

Votto has a chance to join an illustrious group

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are baseball's oldest professional baseball franchise, yet have had precious few players ever lead the National League in home runs. All-Star first baseman Joey Votto has a chance to add his name to a rarefied spot in the team history.

Votto entered the start of the second half with 26 homers, tied with Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. Only five different Cincinnati players have ever led the league in homers, the last being George Foster in 1978. Every other current NL team has had a player win outright or tie for the home run title since 1991.

"Since I've never done it before, I don't know if it matters to me or not," Votto told MLB.com on Friday afternoon. "But I don't think about it. I have never thought of myself as a home run hitter. I try to check all the boxes, and be able to do everything. It's something I take pride in and something that's a goal of mine."

Checking boxes across the offensive spectrum won't be a problem for Votto if he keeps up the present pace. He would also have one of the best offensive seasons in team history overall.

Votto, 33, entered Friday batting .315/.427/.631 with 68 RBIs and 62 walks while striking out 42 times. His career high in homers is 37, set in his 2010 NL MVP season, and he slugged 29 for all of 2016.

"Maybe I will continue this or maybe it's a first-half surge, I'm not really sure. It feels like I can keep it up," Votto said. "At the same time, you never know. My goal is to continue the style of hitting I had in the first half, being really discerning when it came to balls and strikes, trying to be really competitive and focused with two strikes, passing the at-bat to the guy behind me so we can continue to have big innings. I would really like to just play every day. Those are the things that stand out to me."

According to baseball-reference.com, these are the numbers of five different home run champs in Reds history:

Foster - 1978
.281/.360/.546, 40 homers, 70 walks, 138 strikeouts

Foster - 1977
.320/.407/.631, 52 homers, 61 walks, 107 strikeouts

Johnny Bench - 1972
.270/.379/.541, 40 homers, 100 walks, 84 strikeouts

Bench - 1970
.293/.345/.587, 45 homers, 54 walks, 102 strikeouts

Ted Kluszewski - 1954
.326/.407/.642, 49 homers, 78 walks, 35 strikeouts

Dead-ball-era players Fred Odwell (nine homers in 1905) and Sam Crawford (16 homers in 1901) form the rest of the group. Clearly, Votto's season as it currently stands resembles closest to what Kluszewski accomplished, but he could have a better overall year than any of the home run champs from the Reds.

According to Statcast™, Votto's 17 homers of 400 or more feet was tied for most in the Majors with Aaron Judge of the Yankees.

"I don't think I've ever attempted to hit a home run or put some sort of a loft on the ball any time this season," Votto said. "I think it's just me reacting to the style of pitching, avoiding ground balls, making sure I put the ball in play."

Worth noting

• Catcher Devin Mesoraco, currently on the 10-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain, took batting practice Friday with the team and will catch in the bullpen on Saturday.

"We'll see how he comes through that before we outline his trail to being activated," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.