When someone thinks of the skills that made golden era Ichiro great, what comes to mind? His incredible speed and contact abilities probably rise to the forefront, along with his consistent gold glove defense. During his prime, he'd appear annually near the top of league leader boards for batting average, runs scored, BABIP, and stolen bases.
Finding comparable players in more recent seasons is a popular exercise among the baseball writing community (just look at the front page of this site today). However, I think I've found one that not many people would predict.
|BA||BABIP||OBP||Runs Scored||Stolen Bases||UZR (position rank)|
'Player X's 2015 numbers are not unique to last season. In this player's four full Major League seasons, he's featured one of the ten highest batting averages among qualifying hitters, one of the ten highest runs scored totals, and a top five BABIP. He's already won two gold gloves, and from 2012 to 2015, has a stolen base total 40 percent higher than the second place player at his position. Over that time, his 10.5 base-running runs from FanGraphs is 3.4x higher than anyone else at the position.
Who is this undoubtedly speedy, slap-hitting dynamo? Paul Goldschmidt, of course.
Yes, the Arizona Diamondbacks slugger is not only one of the premier power bats in baseball, but also one of the most complete, well-rounded players in the game. He's obviously not as fast as Ichiro, nor does he have the defensive prowess that Ichiro had in the early 2000s (comps are never perfect!) but Goldy does possess the exciting qualities that made Ichiro fun to watch.
Relative to what is expected of him as a first baseman, his skillset is a lot borader than most. He does run a higher career BABIP than Ichiro (Goldschmidt's .355 versus Suzuki's .340), and a similarly high average (Goldschmidt's .299 versus Suzuki's .314). Despite being firmly entrenched at first base, Goldschmidt is not a liability in the field or on the basepaths; in fact, he is above average at both parts of the game
He's led full-time first basemen in stolen bases in each of the last four seasons (Todd Frazier is listed in 2014, but he played roughly a quarter of the season there). Over the same period, he's been one of the ten best fielders at the position, by UZR (minimum 3000 innings).
I haven't even mentioned Goldschmidt's prodigious power yet. Adding to all of the above skills that make him a first base version of Ichiro, he hits a ridiculous number of home runs and extra base hits. Over the last three seasons, he's produced a .247 ISO, one of the ten highest in the majors. Unlike a lot of sluggers, he doesn't sacrifice on-base abilities for those results. His 14.9 percent walk rate from 2013-2015 is the fifth-highest in the majors (if we're still running with this comparison, it's more than double Ichiro's career 5.9 percent walk rate).
Today is Ichiro Day, and this is really a Paul Goldschmidt appreciation piece - but much like Ichiro, he's likely one of the most complete players in the game and in many respects, brings the fun electricity to the field as Ichiro.
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Spencer Bingol is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpencerBingol.