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Paul Goldschmidt’s 2017 season may be his best yet

After a disappointing 2016 season that saw Goldschmidt drop from the MVP caliber player he was 2013-2015, it looks like that he’s rediscovered that form in early stages of 2017.

The Diamondbacks have surprisingly found themselves in contention after about 60 games, even after a disappointing 11-game road trip that fell 1 game short of expectations. The reason behind that is their superstar is playing like a star. The engine that keeps the Diamondbacks going is Paul Goldschmidt, who is having arguably the best season of his career to date. After a disappointing 2016 season that saw him posting numbers you don’t normally expect, Goldy has rebounded in a big way in 2017 that has him back on the same level that made him a 2-time MVP runner up.

In 2016, Goldy put up a .297/.411/.489 mark with his first sub-.200 ISO of his career. While he recorded his first 30 SB season, the home runs dropped to 24 and a career low of 33 doubles. The drop off in power numbers plus Goldschmidt turning 29 in September 2016 certainly brought the topic of declining up to the forefront in the offseason, but he’s done as much as he can to stave off the decline. In 2017, he’s hitting .306/.429/.569 in 254 PA and is on pace for a 30-homer, 30-steal, and 7 WAR season. With the Diamondbacks success attached with his bounceback year, Goldy is certainly on the list for potential National League MVP candidates.

When a player goes from a 5 WAR to on pace for 7-8 WAR, something must have changed and in the positive direction. For Goldy, he’s on pace for a career low in strikeouts by a wide margin while maintaining his walk rate from the past two seasons. He’s still disciplined and takes pitches out of the strike zone, forcing pitchers to throw the ball over the heart of the plate. While Goldy’s swinging strike rate and Zone Contact rates are trending negatively, the cases where he does make contact have trended positively. He’s reduced his ground ball rate 2% while increasing his average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives by over 3.5 MPH. The percentage of air contact of 95+ MPH has increased by 11.7% and that’s resulted in a 34 point increase in wOBA from .382 to .416. The .416 wOBA translates to a 155 wRC+, right around his numbers from 2013-2015.

There are certainly reasons to believe there is more left in his game. Goldschmidt has massive home/road splits and it’s not very good on the road where he’s hitting .233/.368/.417 on the road on a .257 BABIP while hitting .377/.488/.717 at home on a .416 BABIP. I expect those two numbers to regress towards his career .350 BABIP. Also Goldschmidt has a bad L/R platoon split, but I blame the fact the lineup has zero threats behind him against LHP more so than anything. Tomas and Drury were supposed to be those threats, but they’ve been beyond terrible against LHP this year. As those two major platoon splits even out, we should see very good numbers across the board.

Overall, Goldschmidt has seen an improvement in batted ball outcomes with his exit velocity on air contact and percentage of air contact increasing dramatically in 2017. That’s resulted in a jump in extra base hit power and home runs for Goldy. He’s back to the 2013-2015 version of himself that’s mashing the ball all over the ballpark and an absolute nightmare for pitchers to match up against. For the Diamondbacks to have any hopes of making the playoffs, they’ll need their franchise player to continue to play at his current level.