At this point, the sheer consistency of Paul Goldschmidt is staggering. I mean, in 2014, he missed two months of the season and was still the team MVP. He has been an All-Star for five consecutive years. Outside of that 2014, he has received league MVP nods every season too, finishing in the top three for the third time this season. Over the past five seasons he has put up 31.0 bWAR. For comparison, of the 14 full-time first-basemen currently in the Hall of Fame, the median bWAR over the same five years in their career is 28.0. So if he keeps this up, it’s conceivable he becomes the second player to go into Cooperstown as a Diamondback.
This year, his performance is all the more impressive, considering that he played the final month of the season with a balky elbow. He temporarily left the team at the beginning of September, returning to Phoenix to get an MRI. This showed no structural damage, just inflammation, and he received a cortisone shot to control that - but there seems little doubt that it had an impact on him down the stretch. Goldschmidt said, “It was just a little sore. That’s all I can say. It’s been sore. It’s been weird. I’ve never felt that. But it’s not too bad. I’ve been able to play with it.” However, the stats do tell a bit of a different story.
According to Torey Lovullo, the discomfort first showed up at the beginning of the homestand on August 25. It certainly didn’t seem to affect our first-baseman that week, Goldschmidt going 9-for-21 with four home-runs and a 1.595 OPS. But as the calendar page turned to September, it seemed to take Paul’s elbow with it, and the results were dramatic. From Sep 1 on, he batted only .171. His line overall was .171/.250/.305, a .555 OPS that was the lowest in his entire career. It came at the worst possible time in terms of the NL MVP race. But Paul then swatted a three-run homer in the first inning of the wild-card game at Chase (above), setting the tone for that wild ride.
It should not take away with the amazing season he had to that point, either. Through the end of August, his season numbers were staggering: .319/.428/.607, an OPS of 1.035. Only Goldschmidt and Luis Gonzalez have ever had seasons within a hundred OPS points of that figure as Diamondbacks. The late, elbow-related slump means Goldschmidt ended the year with an OPS of “only” .966: that was still the third highest by any qualifying hitter in franchise history, behind his own 1.005 from two seasons earlier, and Gonzalez in 2001 (1.117). Let’s just recite a few more numbers from Goldschmidt’s 2017 campaign:
- 45 multi-hit games
- 28 go-ahead hits
- 21 multi-walk games
- +74.5% - his win probability for the game in Chicago on Aug 3, where he hit three homers (below). If not for a certain J.D. Martinez upstaging later in the year, it might have been our single-game performance of the year.
- 18 stolen-bases. Only one other player at the position had more than 10 (Wil Myers of the Padres. Since the start of 2015 he has now stolen seventy-one bags. Myers (53) is next, and no-one else at the position has more than thirty.
“There’s no part of his game that you’re like, ‘Well, if he did this better, he’d be a superstar.’. He does everything well, like no one I’ve ever really seen.”
— Daniel Descalso
There is a cloud on the horizon, in the shape of Goldschmidt’s contract, which will be up at the end of next year. The team has some tough decisions to make, as to whether they should re-sign him, possibly paying over the odds as he goes down the far side of the aging curve, let the man who has been the face of the franchise for the past five years walk as a free-agent, or possibly even trade him for an undeniable haul of prospects. There is likely no right decision that will please everyone. But I intend to appreciate every Goldschmidt at-bat in 2018, sipping them like a fine wine, and enjoying the best position player who has yet pulled on the D-backs uniform.