Diamondbacks Report Card 2012: First Base

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Our offseason report card series begins. Unlike last year, where we judged every single player that had played enough games on the roster (which took forever), we will do a position by position breakdown of the 2012 Arizona Diamondbacks. We begin with First Base.

Diamondbacks First Basemen, by games started. All stats listed are with Diamondbacks during 2012 season (Source: baseball-reference.com)

Player Games Started at 1B .AVG HR .OBP .SLG .OPS bWAR
Paul Goldschmidt 136 .286 20 .359 .490 .850 3.1
Lyle Overbay 21 .292 2 .367 .448 .815 0.2
Mike Jacobs 3 ,211 0 .348 .263 .611 -0.2
Ryan Wheeler* 2 .239 1 .294 .339 .634 -0.1

*combined 3B and 1B hitting stats

2012 Expectations

After 2011, we were quite willing to welcome our new Paul Goldschmidt overlord, and that his first full season would be full of magic and goodness and Tim Lincecum pwnage. Lyle Overbay was to be the crusty veteran backup, spelling Goldy against right handed pitchers. This had the chance to turn into a sort of buddy cop movie.

LYLE: Gooollldschmidt! Get in here!

PAUL: Yeah, what is it?

LYLE: You're too reckless! You caused $50,000 dollars worth of property damage to Tim Lincecum's soul!

PAUL: Got the job done, didn't I?

LYLE: Gibby is barking up my ass all the time! Do it by the book!

PAUL: Yeah, whatever. I play by my own rules.

LYLE: I'm too old for this s---.

2012 Performance

Goldschmidt had a slowish start to the season, and Overbay got a lot of opportunities, especially against right handed hitters. It was confusing. More confusing than wailord gets when we talk about Duran Duran songs. This lead some to suggest that Overbay be the everyday guy and that maybe Goldy should be sent down or sat a bunch.

Those naïve fools, they don't know what they unleashed.

You may think that Paul Goldschmidt is a fairly good young baseball player and a human being like you or I, but he is an avatar, a living embodiment of an abstract concept. That concept? Smash.

Around June is when Goldy started to smash, and smash well. From then on he got the majority of starts, and had some late momentum that just came up short for an All-Star bid. I mean, sure, Bryan LaHair totally deserved to be the second member of a team on pace for 100 losses to be on the team, makes total sense, so you can't really complain about that.*

*Yes you can.

This made Overbay and his possibly SSS enhanced line expendible, and he was designated for assignment to make a roster space available following the acquisition of Chris Johnson from Houston.

Goldschmidt had 16 Home Runs off of Pitchers who he has not branded like cattle, and 4 off of Lincecum. He had very dramatic Righty/Lefty splits (.257/.326/.412 against RHP opposed to .343/.423/.645 against LHP), but interestingly enough, exactly half of his homers came against Lefties and the other half Righties, which seems to suggest he has the ability to knock it far no matter the handiness of the pitcher he is facing. All in all, it was a very solid year at the plate. B-R is down on Goldy's defense (-0.7 dWAR), but he put up a 3.5 UZR, and I would say he passed the Eye Test in the field for most of the season.

Towards the end of the season, Goldy had a minor back injury and was rested since the D'Backs were well out of it. Mike Jacobs, he of a recent PED suspension and more recent organization filler, came in and... uh... well... he seemed to walk at a decent rate. That was nice.

Looking Towards 2013

Barring any weird offseason accidents involving weasels and/or a four state crime spree, Goldschmidt will be the opening day First Baseman for 2013.

What is probably a little more interesting is who his backup will be. Ryan Wheeler is a possibility, as he played a decent amount of first base in the minors. He may also be part of the third base puzzle. The aforementioned Jacobs is also a candidate. He wasn't too impressive in his short time up last season, but it may be a cheap route for Kevin Towers to go. Chris Johnson has played some first as well when he was with the Astros, and could probably spell Goldy on occasion if need be.

It seems unlikely/impractical to trade for a backup here (though this is Kevin Towers), so could free agency be an option? According to The Sporting News:

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Giambi, Colorado Rockies
Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians
Eric Hinske, Atlanta Braves
Aubrey Huff, San Francisco Giants
Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians
Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
Carlos Lee, Miami Marlins
James Loney, Boston Red Sox
Xavier Nady, San Francisco Giants
Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers
Lyle Overbay, Atlanta Braves
Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays
Jim Thome, Baltimore Orioles
Ty Wigginton, Philadelphia Phillies

Hard to say who would be willing to be a backup, or if they would sign with the team. Nady, Overbay, and LaRoche have already had tours of duty with the D'Backs and may not be willing to come back, and LaRoche would definitely not want to be a backup.

What of the other names on the list? If the team was wanting to preserve some sort of Righty/Lefty synergy and also sign someone who was not TOTALLY dead on the field, then Kotchman and maaaaaybe Hinske would be possible choices to fit that category. The team may also want to look into signing James Loney, for the sole purpose of him not getting any at-bats against D'Backs pitching next year. I'm just spitballing here. Considering Kevin Towers and his love of the unexpected move, who knows?

Obviously, the expectation for Goldschmidt is for him to keep developing into an unstoppable killing machine. I think him hitting .286 was a pleasant surprise that was not expected. Whether he can replicate that in 2013 after pitchers have had a full year of scouting on him will be a key for him. Another thing to watch for is whether he can get his Home Run total in the 25-30 range or higher, which could have been possible this past season, but he went into a plus 100 at bat homer drought in the middle of August.

Judgement

Since this is a report card, I must give out grades. First Base was Paul Goldschmidt's domain, and for good reason. Despite the underwhelming season for the team as a whole, Goldschmidt fulfilled all of our expectations this season. He, obviously, needs to build on this in 2013, but for a guy in his first full season it was all we ever dreamed of.

Grade With Clefo Curve(TM): A

I'm going to sign off with the video of Goldy's fourth and final homer against Lincecum in 2012. After watching it, you may think "Man Schulte is just being his non-excited self", but a Goldy homer off of Timmy is a inevitability, a law of physics, if you will. It is a thing that is just going to happen. You would call it with the same amount of excitement you would call someone dropping pennies on the ground.

I also like to think that whenever Timmy gave up a homer to Goldy, that he went home/to the hotel that evening he just sat in his shower ala Tobias Fünke singing "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House into the night.

Jim: 127 OPS points up on last season and the highest by Arizona since 2005. I think it's safe to say Goldschmidt lived up to the hype, and looks set to give us the reliable first-baseman we've craved for a number of years. Apart from the obvious, I was impressed with his base-stealing: 18 SB is not only a franchise record for the position, it's a number not surpassed in the majors by a first-baseman since Derrek Lee swiped 21 in 2003 for the Marlins. While he was the engine-room, credit also Lyle Overbay who platooned nicely. That's perhaps my only area of concern, with Goldzilla's numbers largely powered by his destruction of left-handers (and Tim Lincecum). Against righties, his line was .257/.326/.412, a .739 OPS. Someone to take some of that off him may well be on the winter shopping list. B+

John: Dbacks have been trying to solve the 1B spot long-term for some time. Adam LaRoche filled the spot a couple of years ago pretty well but the team chose not to stick with him. Then they tried a variety of guys before finally promoting Goldschmidt and he completely fulfilled all expectations. He ranked only behind Votto and LaRoche in WAR and ahead of notables such as Allen Craig and Freddie Freeman. The only NL 1B I would trade Goldie for is Votto. His numbers weren't great against righties but throw away his awful April and expect a little improvement next year, and I don't really see the need to give him many days off. 1B is in great hands and I wouldn't waste a roster spot trying to assign at bats to that position. Grade: A

soco: If we're just considering Goldschmidt, then this gets an A or A-. He had a very good year, and might be the foundation at first the D-backs have been missing since, well, the team was founded. Even if we've had guys who have had a better year, it always seemed to be just one year. Tony Clark in 2005, Chad Tracy in 2005, Mark Grace in 2001. Goldschmidt still needs to show that he can do it every year, but I have hope since he's cost controlled and not a journeyman. Lyle Overbay was actually pretty decent as a backup, too, but the team dumped him at the end of August, which seemed a bit bizarre. Overall, though, the position was not one to worry about, and should be one to worry about for the foreseeable future (hopefully). B++

snakecharmer: We expected a lot from Goldschmidt this year, and he delivered. He proved his numbers in his freshman two-month campaign with the D'backs last year was not a fluke. No, he didn't hit 40 HRs like he did in AA, but then again I didn't expect him to. With all the other promising, great minor leaguers we've had recently, part of me was just hoping for him not to have a sophomore slump. He's "my guy" for the foreseeable future. Lyle was a decent backup. I can't see Wheeler holding that role next year, though. A-

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