Archive for August, 2017

Since the start of 2013, the WAR leaders are as follows: Mike Trout (42), Clayton Kershaw (33.8), Josh Donaldson (32.9), Chris Sale (28.5), Max Scherzer (28), and Paul Goldschmidt (27.9). Nobody else is within two wins of those six. Trout obviously laps the rest of the field, but I don’t need to talk about that anymore, at least not yet (we could have an interesting MVP discussion brewing in the AL). Anyway, Trout has two MVPs (both since 2013), Kershaw has three Cy Young awards and an MVP (two and the MVP since 2013), Donaldson has an MVP, Sale will likely win a Cy Young this year and has finished in the top-6 every year since 2012, and Scherzer has two Cy Young awards (both since 2013). What about Goldschmidt? He has no silverware and just two top-10 MVP finishes (runner-up both times). This despite ranking second in both runs scored and RBI, top-20 in both homers and steals, third in walk rate, sixth in average, third in OBP, fourth in SLG, and third in OPS in all of baseball since the start of 2013. And yet Goldschmidt has been putting up these numbers quietly and without much fanfare, at least outside of Arizona. I think there are a few reasons for this, some of which are non factors this year. First of all, the Diamondbacks haven’t been particularly good since 2013, with records ranging between 64-98 and 81-81. This year, they’re 65-52 with a +108 run differential. Second of all, Goldschmidt has never had a truly monster season, a la Bryce Harper in 2015. Since 2013, his OPS has never been below .899, but it’s also never been above 1.005 (in 2015, when he was overshadowed by Harper). He’s in the midst of his best overall season, with a 1.031 OPS and a career high .598 SLG%. Third of all, Goldschmidt has never had eye-opening homer numbers, especially for a first baseman. He’s never hit more than 36 homers and averaged just 28 over the past four seasons. This year, he’s already hit 28, with a clear chance to flirt with 40 for the first time in his career. Fourth of all, he’s faded down the stretch each season. Between 2013-16, his average wRC+ in the first half was 159.3 (59.3% better than the average hitter). In the second half, it was 137.3. It’s hard to stay excited for someone who ends each season with a relative whimper. This year, his OPS is above 1.100 since the break, and his numbers have improved across the board. Something has always gotten in the way of Goldschmidt’s MVP candidacy. Not this year. Even with a healthy Harper in the race, I think the award would have been Goldy’s to lose this season. After Harper’s cringe-worthy (but apparently not season-ending) knee injury, Goldschmidt should cruise to the MVP award, as long as voters keep ignoring another oft-forgotten stud first baseman — Joey Votto. Votto’s been even better offensively than Goldschmidt this year, but his candidacy is hurt among traditional voters by his team’s struggles and among younger voters by his lesser all-around profile (namely, the fact that he’s a clear negative on the base paths while Goldschmidt is a clear positive).

Because Goldschmidt got started relatively late (he made his debut about a month before his 24th birthday), it’s tough to envision him putting up good enough numbers to make a Hall of Fame push. But he is inarguably a special player, one who should be rewarded with an MVP. His 115 career stolen bases rank first among first basemen since his debut, and it isn’t close. In fact, Goldschmidt has the second-most steals among first basemen since the turn of the century, behind only Darin Erstad, who played in about 300 more games. The eye test and the stats disagree when it comes to Goldy’s defense, but because the defensive metrics we currently have are so limited, I’m more willing to side with the scouts and casual viewers than I would be about a player’s offensive value. It’s true that Goldschmidt plays at a relatively unimportant defensive position (where it’s hard for anyone to add value), but defense is another box he fills. I understand why Goldschmidt has never won an MVP award, but it’s very hard to question his accolades as an elite player. His home/road splits are rock solid (he’s actually been slightly better on the road), so it’s implausible to attribute his success to his friendly home park. He’s been caught stealing just 27 times (81% success rate), so he’s not just active on the base paths but also efficient. He strikes out a lot, but he also walks a lot, so his BB/K rate is actually pretty impressive. Pitchers clearly respect him, as he leads baseball with 86 intentional walks since the start of 2013 (David Ortiz is the only other guy with more than 64). It’s time for baseball fans to give Paul Goldschmidt his due, and it’s time for the MVP voters to do the same and award Goldy his first piece of silverware.

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