Maybe it's just me, and the East Coast bubble I'm encased in as a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees, but I feel like there still aren't enough baseball fans around this vast land of ours who appreciate just how good Diamondbacks' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is at hitting. He's consistent, finishing in the top 5 in every significant offensive category from 2013 - 2015. He's reliable, playing in at least 145 games every season he's been a full-time player—he played in only 109 in 2014 when his hand was broken by a pitch—and he plays in a hitter friendly home ballpark.
As FanGraphs says in his player profile: "Among hitters with a minimum of 1500 plate appearances, Goldschmidt has been the third-best player by weighted offensive production since the beginning of 2013." So why does it seem like Goldy is ignored by the masses? Well, he was never a highly touted Top 100 prospect. He wasn't the next coming of [insert the name of a really consistent power hitter here]. He was picked in the 8th round of the 2009 draft and was the 246th pick overall. And yet, entering the 2016 season, Goldschmidt is one of the top players in all of baseball.
Goldschmidt's 2015 numbers speak for themselves. A .321/.435/.570 line, a .418 wOBA, and a 164 wRC+ with 33 home runs and a .382 BABIP. Thanks to his performance, he finished second behind Bryce Harper for the National League M.V.P. award and made the NL All-Star team for the third season in a row. He finished fourth in batting average behind Miguel Cabrera, Dee Gordon, and Harper. He was in the Top 3 in baseball in on base plus slugging (1.005) between Harper, who led the league with a 1.109, and Joey Votto, who had a 1.000. He finished with 73 extra base hits, which was good for 10th in MLB, and he also stole 21 bases while getting caught stealing only five times last season.
What else about Goldschmidt makes him such a special hitter? He hardly ever pulls the ball. There were 20 first basemen who qualified for the batting title in 2015. Goldschmidt pulled the ball the least out of them all and hit it to center field the most.
Here's the top 10 of that list:
There were only four batters in all of baseball who pulled the ball less than Goldschmidt (DJ LeMahieu, Jean Segura, Nick Markakis, and Adam Eaton), and none of them is a power hitter.
Only six players hit the ball to center field more than Goldschmidt in 2015, and only Robinson Cano came within a dozen home runs of him. Nobody in baseball hits for power like Paul Goldschmidt while also living up the middle.
Here's his 2015 spray chart:
As you can see, there are balls that make it to the left side of the field, but the majority of his hits are toward the middle of the field. It's one thing to do this while not hitting for power, but Goldschmidt does hit for power.
If you look at the top 30 players in home runs last season, Goldschmidt finished in the middle of the pack with 33, but he pulled the ball and hit it to center the most. For some context, Chris Davis, who finished with 47 home runs last season, pulled the ball 56 percent of the time and hit it to center 26.5 percent of the time, while Goldschmidt pulled the ball 29.6 percent of the time and hit it to center 40.2 percent of the time. And for even more context, Alex Rodriguez, who also finished 2015 with 33 home runs like Goldy, pulled the ball 45.7 percent of the time and hit it to center 36.9 percent of the time. Brian Dozier of the Twins led the league by pulling the ball 60.2 percent of the time while hitting 28 home runs.
Back to Goldschmidt, 2016 looks to be more of the same from him. All of the projection systems (PECOTA, Steamer, and ZIPS) have him finishing in the .288-.291 BA range with home run totals ranging between 27 and 30. Steamer is giving him the highest numbers in all categories with a bulky .401 on base percentage and .530 slugging percentage. And barring any injuries, I'd say that Diamondbacks fans should expect another great year from their first baseman.
Thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant for the data and information.
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Stacey Gotsulias is a contributing writer of Beyond the Box Score. She also contributes to The Hardball Times and writes about the New York Yankees for It's About The Money. You can follow her on Twitter at @StaceGots.