- 2018 rating: 8.70
- 2017 rating: 9.46
- 2018 salary: $11.1 Million
- 2018 performance: 158 games, .297/.389/.533, OPS+ 139, 5.4 bWAR, 4.2fWAR
- 2019 status: Gone, but never forgotten
In the early parts of the 2011 season, there was a growing movement on the Snakepit. The starting first baseman was a guy by the name of Juan Miranda, and the general consensus was that wasn’t acceptable. I had just joined the site officially at the start of the season, but I had lurked through the ‘10 season. I quickly learned that the correct choice wasn’t to continue starting Juan Miranda. The correct choice was to call up a prospect named Paul Goldschmidt.
As far as the baseball community was concerned, we were in the minority. Most national analysts weren’t very high on Goldschmidt. He never appeared on a top 100 prospect list, and national prospect people doubted him every step of the way. John Sickles never gave him better than a B+ in his prospect rating book, and cited his ceiling as being a “.250-260 batting average with good power.” Others (in)famously said he had low bat speed and poor defense, and he probably wouldn’t make it in the big leagues.
He proved them all wrong.
A roller coaster best describes Goldy’s season this year. He went 9-for-47 to from Opening Day through April 13th. The walks were still there, as always, and they pushed his OBP to a respectable .356. However, it was concerning to all of us that the strike outs were high. Like really high. Sixteen of them, and it wasn't just that he was striking out, it was that he looked lost doing it. There were concerns. Injuries were suggested. Others quietly began suggesting that Father Time had caught up to him and we should have traded him in the off-season like some suggested.
Then the calander turned to April 14th, and he had his first three hit game of the season. For the next couple weeks, he started to look more like his usual self. The strike outs stayed high, but it didn’t really seem to matter. By the end of the month, he had gotten his batting average up to .279, and the OBP was up almost to .400. Things were starting to look back up.
As you may recall, 2011 was a pretty special season for a lot of reasons. After the dismal season that was 2010, the Diamondbacks roared back and won the NL West. The Hollywood story would be that the oft-doubted prospect picked the team up and dragged them kicking and screaming to the postseason, but that wasn’t really what happened. He came up, played part time, and much like had been suggested, hit about .250 with some power. Other than taking one of the best pitchers in baseball deep in his second game, it was pretty normal stuff for an unheralded first base prospect.
It wasn’t really until 2011 NLDS that his star was born. The Brewers chose to intentionally walk Miguel Montero to load the bases in Game 3 of the series, bringing a young rookie who was tearing up the postseason to the plate. Goldy cracked the 1-2 pitch into the right field stands and Chase Field erupted. A star was born.
When the calendar turned to May, it left Goldschmidt behind in April. It was a horrendous month for him, and as well all know, the rest of the team took the month off with him. Goldy was the standout, though, for all the wrong reasons. The batting average, which had become respectable, took a nose dive, finally bottoming out at .198. The power was gone as well. Between April 17th and May 22nd, the day his batting average hit .198, he hit exactly two home runs. He had a whopping 28 strike outs between May 1st and 22nd.
Goldschmidt is the kind of player you can’t ever write off, though. Hard work and perseverance is what helped him develop from a middling prospect to a superstar, and it’s what keeps him there. He made a very significant adjustement to his batting stance, and it paid off. It was a long arduous climb, but over time, he eventually got his batting average up to .300, even if it didn’t finish the season there. The home runs returned, and while the strike outs were higher than they had ever been, they weren’t over 200 like it was looking they’d be for a while. He wasn’t the MVP, but he was at least thought of in the conversation, finishing sixth at the end of the season.
The question with stars like Goldschmidt, and really players in general, is how do you value them? Do you use pure numbers like WAR and OPS+, or whatever flavor of the week sabermetrics is using this week? Do you judge them based off post season appearances or awards they accumulate? Maybe they should be judged based off their community interactions, or perhaps the fans they put in the seats.
No matter what metric used, Goldschmidt is the best position player to ever play his home games in Chase Field. You can bring up Gonzo, but for me Goldy gets the edge for on simple reason, that being he was here on day one. We drafted him, we watched him work his way through the minors, and then we watched him play his first seven seasons. It creates a certain intangible value that isn’t reflected in his performance on the field or the surplus value he provides with his current contract.
In many ways, for some of us, Paul Goldschmidt was baseball in Arizona for the better part of the last decade. Yes, we all root for the name on the front, but in our minds, at least for a portion of us, the name on the front may as well have been Paul Goldschmidt’s Arizona Diamondbacks. The seven seasons Goldschmidt played in Arizona were largely forgettable from a team standpoint, but the memorable moments that were there centered by and large around him. He was a star the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Chase Field before.
Most players, the season reviews end on game 162, but Goldschmidt was talked about just as much in the offseason as he was during it. It was clear from almost the moment the World Series ended that calling Mike Hazen and uttering the words “What’s the price for Goldschmidt?” wouldn’t immediately get you hung up on like it would have in off-seasons past. As the weeks went by, it became clear that other teams weren’t calling about Goldschmidt. Mike Hazen was the one calling, and he was going to find the answer he was looking for.
I suppose that’s why when the news broke, it wasn’t surprising. Shocking yes, but not surprising. The return was underwhelming, but given that intangible value a player like Goldschmidt has, there is no way it couldn’t be. And, as it had to be, fans picked sides and debated their many differing opinions on the trade. Really, there’s no way to judge it now, maybe even for years.
We’ll never get that statue of #44 in front of New Chase Field when that inevitably gets built within the next decade. That could have happened, but for a variety of reasons, it never will. The player that we all hoped, to some degree, would wear Sedona Red for his entire career still wears red. It’s just the wrong shade, and he wears it in the Midwest now.
Maybe it’s for the best. Three different management regimes had a generation player to build around, and all three consistently failed. Maybe a blank canvass is what this team needs to start fresh and actually build a championship team. Five draft picks (and counting) in the first two rounds is a good start, along with what talent we do have in the minor league system. We still have those memories too. Jim asked my fellow writers to share some of theirs last week. Those will have to tide us over until our next home grown superstar emerges. Until then...
Paul Goldschmidt is no longer a Diamondback. That’s going to take some getting used to.