Since 2012, the question of who the best hitter in baseball is has elicited two answers (for the most part): Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Cabrera had just won the Triple Crown for the first time since 1967, while Trout was doing things on the baseball field that seemed impossible for someone as young as him. He was by far the better overall baseball player, but Cabrera retained the title as the league's best pure hitter. Both were incredibly dangerous at the plate, and for the past four seasons, we've been privileged enough to witness two of the greatest players to ever play the game; but with all due respect to these MVP winners, neither of them has ever had an offensive season like Paul Goldschmidt.
In an age of social media where countless video highlights are available at the touch of a button, it should be easy for fans across the country and the world to be able to get access to the best players in the game. Yet there doesn't seem to be much talk about the year Goldschmidt is having. He's on pace for one of the greatest seasons ever in the history of baseball, but because of the team he plays for, it's gone largely unreported. Below is a table that stacks Trout and Cabrera's most valuable season (by fWAR) against Goldschmidt's 2015 thus far.
While there are still 96 games left for the Diamondbacks to play, Goldschmidt is on pace to eclipse Cabrera and Trout in most of these offensive metrics. His ISO is far better than both of their 2013 values, as well as their entire careers. Cabrera has never managed an ISO higher than .294, and Trout is currently posting his best figure of .284. Both are fantastic, and should in no way be scoffed at, but Goldschmidt trumps each of them.
He's also set to put up better overall numbers in wOBA, wRC+, and will give Trout a run for best overall fWAR at season's end. When Goldschmidt played in 160 games back in 2013, he finished the season with 710 plate appearances. If we use that number as a projection point, that would put him on track to end the year with an fWAR of 10.14, which would be one of the best seasons ever for a first baseman.
|Paul Goldschmidt||.316||.480||206||10.14 (projected)|
Even if we expand the parameters to include every season in baseball's recorded history, Goldschmidt's season still stands out. If his production rates hold throughout the rest of the year, he'd own the 51st most valuable year, directly below Norm Cash's 1961 campaign, and slightly better than Alex Rodriguez' 2002 season in which he hit 57 home runs. Instead of using fWAR, if we sort by wRAA (Weighted Runs Above Average), Goldschmidt projects to finish with the 27th best recorded value of 92.02.
He's always been a great hitter, but in 2015 he's made slight improvements in several areas that have allowed him to reach new levels of production.
|GB%||FB%||Soft%||Pull%||Cent%||Avg. Distance (FB & HR)|
Goldschmidt cut his ground ball rate by 12.05 percent, and raised his fly ball rate by 16.76 percent. This can largely help explain the increase in his ISO, as we know that fly balls lead to greater power figures than ground balls do.
Additionally, Goldschmidt has added roughly five feet to the distance on his fly balls and home runs, and in 2015 is driving the ball further than he ever has in his career. He's also seemingly changed his approach at the plate.
Goldschmidt's opposite field percentage has remained relatively the same for the last four years (fluctuating between 28.3 and 30.1 percent) however, he's no longer pulling the ball as much as he used to. While the percentages can help tell the story numerically, it can be helpful to view the spray charts to be able to actually visualize the changes.
There's a much greater distribution of batted balls towards center field than Goldschmidt has ever had before, and in an age in which the shift is now commonplace, he's forced the defenders to play in their normal defensive alignment rather than take away part of the field.
Players like Cabrera and Trout are unquestioningly fun to watch, and undoubtedly deserve the accolades they've acheived over the years; but it's time we appreciate Goldschmidt. He's in the midst of what could eventually be one of the greatest season's in the history of baseball, but he isn't getting the credit and media attention that should go along with it.
Matt Goldman is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score and a Contributing Editor for MLB Daily Dish. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.