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First-base: A Diamondbacks review/preview for 2015/16

If there was one spot on the diamond where we could have no complaints, it was first-base, where Paul Goldschmidt turned in his best season to date.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Where will Goldschmidt finish in NL MVP voting? And where should he finish?

Nate Rowan: It’s too bad his production dropped in the second half, because if he had continued his first half pace he’d have a pretty good case for 1st. Harper is going to win it, and nobody can argue that. For second, it’s a toss up between Votto and Goldy. I think Goldy takes second because he has better power numbers, but don’t be surprised if it’s Votto.

Makakilo: Harper, Votto, Goldy. Five things could make impressions that matter to the voters. 1) Defensively, Goldy will likely win a Gold Glove. 2) Offensively, Goldy made big positive impacts in 17 games this season with Win Probability Added (WPA) greater than 0.2. The only month with negative impacts was August (thee games with WPA less than -.2). 3) Goldy bounced back in September and October. 4) Winning makes everything look better - and the Diamondbacks did not make the post-season, and the Cubs did. 5) The National League MVP played first base in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010 - so the voters may have a fairness bias to even out the positions.

Steven: 2nd to Harper. He had a fighting chance at the MVP through the 1st half but saw his production slip in the second half while Harper continued to explode. Nothing wrong with a 2nd place finish to that baseball freak. I think a 2nd place finish is exactly where I would expect him to finish. He had an amazing season, it’s just someone had an even better one.

Jim. Second to Harper, I think. Weird season though, with none of the top four players by bWAR appearing on playoff teams. Given "helping your team to the post-season" is usually considered a factor (rightly or wrongly), that might give Jason Heyward and/or Anthony Rizzo a boost, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to crack the top three. Votto season’s was certainly comparable, but if the Diamondbacks were barely on the radar, the Reds appear to have been using some kind of alien cloaking technology. And Votto’s numbers are largely driven by an insane number of walks (128 unintentional, compared to Goldie’s 89), which just isn’t very sexy.

Piratedan7: He’ll finish 2nd, but it’ll be closer to 3rd then 1st. I wouldn’t be shocked to see guys like Arrieta or Cespedes pip him for 2nd because he’s not in a heavily covered media market and I still don’t believe that he’s earned the respect of the punditry that drive the narrative. It’s funny though, he appears to have the respect of the NL pitchers (just look at his walks) because I don’t believe he gets as many pitches to hit as Harper or McCutcheon do based on the ABs that I’ve seen and the amount of walks that he takes (and is forced to take).

I’ll be a bit of an outlier here and say because of his two month "slump" say that he should finish 5th this year, why? Because Votto has even less protection in the lineup and Arrenado deserves even more props because of his play at 3rd. Does this mean Goldy doesn’t rate, far from it, but we witnessed a lot of excellent years from players this year and imho, the best ones were from guys not playing on contenders and I gotta give the commenters something to rip us about in the comments.

James: I figure Goldy to finish between 2nd and 4th. Harper, Greinke, and Cutch will all get some consideration as well. I think, based mostly on how dominant Goldschmidt was so deep into the season, that he will probably come in second. Honestly, that feels about right. While I would love to sit here and say that Goldschmidt was the hands-down MVP of the NL this season once figuring in bat, glove, and base running, I would be playing the homer card to do so. The fact of the matter is, Bryce Harper had an insane season and rightfully (despite missing a number of games to injury) deserves the MVP this year.

What impressed you most about his play this year?

Nate: How can you just pick one aspect of his play? Everything he did was amazing. Since I do have to pick though, I’ll go with his plate discipline. He just did not swing at bad pitches. Goldy also had the most walks in a season in D-Backs history at 118, which is a walk in almost 75% of his games. That’s a very impressive number.

Makakilo: Goldy’s numbers have improved in the last four years. His numbers stayed about the same in 2014 when the team was in last place. Other than that, his numbers improved every year. And he is adding value in unexpected ways - his good-natured on-field repartee with players on other teams is a joy whether or not it helped the Diamondbacks win games.

Steven: The most impressive stat to me was see his pull% rate fall by 10% to 29.6%. That percentage is the 5th lowest in all of the MLB out of 141 amongst qualifying hitters. To put that in perspective, his batted ball profile more resembles a light-hitting middle infielder, not a middle of the order power threat.

Jim: The fear he struck into opponents. He set a franchise records for intentional walks, because teams would rather pitch to a guy who batted .312 with an OPS close to .900. [Admittedly, that long futile streak in such situation likely helped] Having been on the receiving end of such situations far too often, and thinking "Oh, no - not this guy again!", it was nice to see a Diamondback hitter who made opposing fandoms - particularly in San Francisco and Los Angeles - feel the same way.

Piratedan7: His professionalism. He doesn’t let a bad day at the plate effect his performance in the field. His focus is outstanding, how often do you see him make a mental mistake? He hits to all fields, with power. Rarely gives away an AB or shows that he’s outmatched. Just a complete ballplayer who has made himself into one of the top players in the National League.

James: I think the two things that stick out for me are Goldy's work ethic and his ability to bounce back. I have no doubt in my mind that the latter is tied to the forme. Goldschmidt shows up to play every day and goes about his business whether the team is winning or losing, whether he is being pitched to or around. If the other team is avoiding him, he beats them with glove work and base running. If they pitch to him, he sprays the ball to all fields with power. If they want to nibble, he'll be happy to test Votto for the NL walk crown.

To top it all off, he does it with humility. He's a professional. He knows just how good he is and where he stands in the bigger picture. He doesn't let it impact who he is on the field and he always seems to bring a level-headed attitude. Even in August, when he was "slumping" he was still being productive during the month. Then, after the narrative had developed that Goldschmidt had fallen off a cliff and tired at the end of the season, he decided to once again prove his doubters wrong and go on a tear to close the season.

His OPS dropped by over 130 points in the second half. Any cause for concern?

Nate: No. We’ve all seen enough of him to know that is not normal Goldy. He’ll come back strong like he was in the first half. Even if those second half numbers do become the norm, that’s still a triple slash of .298/.411/.520. Those stats are nothing to scoff at.

Makakilo: No. Mostly, he had a down month in August and bounced back. And even his down month wasn’t bad.

Steven: I know this is unsubstantiated but I think he was dealing with an injury in August that sapped him of his bat speed and made him susceptible. He responded with an OPS of 1.003 in September, so all things considered I think he’s fine.

Jim: @Yeah, that .931 OPS in the second half was just terrible, wasn’t it?@ I think it is fair to saw there was a drop-off, but the first half was over-achievement, helped by a BABIP of .399 that even Paul couldn’t sustain. I am a little concerned by the overall BABIP of .382, because no guy with over 2000 PAs in the majors since 1998 has even had a .360 BABIP. Even Goldie, with his good speed and very high rate of hard-hit balls, only has a career figure of .355.

Piratedan7: He’s human, but he could have been tired, new dad jitters, or just going through a slump. The fact that he rebounded in September kind of allayed those fears for me.

James: You know you are doing something right when people are concerned about .931 OPS being a drop off to be concerned with. With Goldschmidt posting an OPS better than the majority of baseball, despite being down, I'm not at all concerned. I am even less concerned with his performance in the second half given how strongly he closed the season in the final 13 games when he started going long again. I do think that, like so many others, he did show some signs of fatigue late in the season. That is just the nature of baseball though. As Jim pointed out above, the drop-off all the way down to .931 in the second half was more attributable to overperformance in the first half when Goldy was trying to do a Miggy/Bonds impression at the plate and that is just not him. At least, not yet.

Have we now seen the best of Goldschmidt? Or can he continue to improve in 2016?

Nate: It’s tough to imagine him getting much better. I’ll predict he puts up very similar numbers over the next few years.

Makakilo: Yes he is nearly at his best, and yet his numbers will improve. As the Diamondback offense, which is already great, gains consistency, he will have more opportunities for RBIs. When the Diamondbacks reach the post-season, opposing teams will fear his mighty bat.

Steven: The day I doubt whether Goldy can continue improving is the day I’ll stop being a Dbacks fan. Goldy is the perfect athlete and I can’t see a scenario where he is content with his production. Look for an increased focus on decreasing his strikeouts in 2016.

Piratedan7: I’m curious if there’s still more power yet to be tapped.

Jim: I’ve given up thinking we’ve seen Goldschmidt’s ceiling. Every year, he seems to cruise past all expectations, to the point where my projections for 2016 start with him solving world hunger and bringing peace to the Middle East. Dunno what he’ll do after accomplishing that by mid-April. More seriously, I’ll be perfectly happy with anything like this year, even a downturn to the mere 6-7 bWAR range, and I’d be fine.

James: I'm not sure we have seen Goldschmidt at his best yet. I do think that he is likely to come back down a bit slightly in terms of things like bWAR, but I think there is still some more refinement to his game to come along. I would not be surprised if his defense drops to average in the next few season, or if his base running becomes slightly less spectacular. I also wouldn't be surprised to see his performance at the plate actually improve some with even more walks and doubles coming his way as he becomes even more patient and focused up there.

He started 155 games at 1B this year. Do you want to see him rested more next year?

Nate: Why would you want to rest your star player more? I know that you want to keep him fresh, you don’t want to see him get hurt, but you need to play your stud. He should start at least 150 games every year.

Makakilo: At the majors, players have spent their whole life to earn playing time. Rest would be a punishment and reduce motivation. The best rest is after winning a well played game!

Steven: I wouldn’t mind him getting a couple more games off in the future. He’s our cornerstone and we should expect him to stay in Sedona Red for another decade. Why not make sure he’s healthy to last that long by giving him a couple more days off here and there?

Piratedan7: As a fan, I want to see him everyday. Also as a fan of the franchise, I want to see them protect their investment, unknown if an additional day or two off in May or June could have helped to keep August from happening.

Jim: Fortunately, 1B is a relatively low-impact position - not that you’d know it the way Goldschmidt dives around the place. That should help ensure he can last the full season, but it is a long-haul. I would not have minded seeing him rested a bit more at the end of this season, for some of the meaningless games down the stretch. We saw in 2014 how freakish "accidents" can happen, and it would suck for something severe to happen in that kind of contest.

James: I think 155 games feels just about right. I suppose, since I like round numbers, I wouldn't have been opposed to Goldschmidt getting 10 games off over the course of the season. With first base being possibly the least stressful of defensive positions, I'm not nearly as worried about his durability. If the team is concerned about him fatiguing though, they could also slide him to DH more often during interleague play to get him those "half-days".

What is the team’s contingency plan, in the nightmare scenario that Goldschmidt… y’know... [I daren’t even write it!]

Nate: That’s a scary thought. Once everyone got out of a state of shock, I guess you could go with Lamb at first. He played a few games there, and seemed competent.

Makakilo: Yasmany Tomas could play first. I’m certain it is less demanding than third base.

Steven: I’m pretty high on Daniel Palka as an outfielder, so I’m sure he’d do well at his college position at 1st. Still, that’s a disaster I don’t want to think about.

Piratedan7: I could see Jake Lamb and Yasmany Tomas at First with Drury filling in at 3rd when Lamb moves.

Jim: It wouldn’t be pretty, but we’d muddle through. Tomas might make sense, and would likely be better than at third. A little Lamb, maybe even some Castillo, depending on who we have backing him up there.

James: I think it depends on how long Goldy's absence is expected to be. If it was short(ish) term, then I could see some combination of Lamb, Tomas, and Castillo (or Salty if he is still around). On the other hand, if it were to be more of a long-term need, I would expect that the team would probably shift Lamb across the diamond and play Drury at third.

Here are the stats from our minor-league 1Bs. Any thoughts for the future?

Nate: Paul Goldschmidt is my only thought.

Makakilo: Paul Goldschmidt is my only thought.

Steven: Paul Goldschmidt is my only thought.

Piratedan7: Well you guys want an ace, do you think we could get an ace for him?

Jim: Being a minor league 1B in the Diamondbacks system has got to feel like being a minor-league shortstop in the Orioles’ farm system over the decade beginning 1985. You just know you have no chance of reaching the majors here. Cron and Byler have good numbers, but the latter’s 50-game suspension isn’t helping. Some day, Goldie will need replaced as a Diamondback, but the man who’ll do it may still be in junior high.

James: I think Jim already hit the nail on the head. One can just ask Danny Dorn what it is like to be in the wrong organization as a solid-hitting first baseman. First Dorn was in the TIgers' system, then just as he managed to get out from Cabrera's shadow, he found himself in Goldy's. If I had to pick one guy in the system that might be able to make a push for playing time at first, especially if Goldschmidt were to leave after 2019, it would probably be Cron, assuming he is still with the organization.Byler will miss half of 2016 due to suspension. I want to see a strong return plus a strong 2017 before I'll have much faith there again.

Is it too early to start thinking about a further extension for Goldie? If so, when should that discussion start?

Nate: I guess you could start thinking about one if you wanted to. I’d prefer to just enjoy him now while we have him.

Makakilo: It is too early. After the starting pitchers are league average or better, and after the second base position is solid, then it is time to start discussions. Being a world-class post-season team will make the negotiation easier because Goldy will very much want to stay for his career.

Steven: It’s never too early. I know Goldschmidt doesn’t care about that kind of thing, but it would send an incredible message throughout the MLB if they signed him to a long-term deal. With a team looking to reach the playoffs again, why not show future free-agents the loyalty we have to our own players. Look at the Suns, when you treat players as assets they become disgruntled. But that’s a topic for a different site.

Piratedan7: Is he the face of the franchise or not? Does he put butts in the seats? If the answer to the first two questions is yes… then please pay the man.

Jim. I am a little concerned we’ll end up in a Tulo/Cargo situation like the Rockies, locked into paying enormous sums to good players, on a team which has way too many holes. Since he’s under team control through 2019, there’s not exactly a rush, but he is the franchise, and the prospect of him ever walking as a free-agent - dear God, Goldie potentially as a Dodger? - gives me a very queasy feeling!

James: I think the Diamondbacks have too many other pressing concerns to be extending Goldschmidt again just yet. With him under control through 2019, the best time to approach him might be after the 2017 season wraps up. That is still two seasons from free agency. It also gives the team time to spend those extra dollars on improving the team playing around Goldschmidt in order to take advantage of this window of opportunity for putting together a playoff team. Also, while I am not one to bet against Goldschmidt or in any way hope for a decline, waiting until after the 2017 season has completed may actually give the Diamondbacks a much better idea as to what sort of player they will be getting moving forward.

Right now, they would have to be bidding on the "next Miguel Cabrera", and I am not at all convinced that Goldschmidt, good as he is, is quite in that category. Spend the money to find some pitching, maybe a short-term fix in the middle infield of one must, or possibly extend Pollock. Goldschmidt will still be here for a while. He can still be extended after two more season and it is unlikely to be all that more expensive if the team waits that long. Short of Goldschmidt winning the NL MVP in both 2016 and 2017, I think he's already approaching his critical earning threshold.