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Preview, #113: 8/4 vs. Giants

Manny who?

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Andrew McCutchen - RF David Peralta - LF
Buster Posey - 1B Eduardo Escobar - 3B
Evan Longoria - 3B Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
Nick Hundley - C Steven Souza - RF
Austin Slater - LF Ketel Marte - 2B
Chase d'Arnaud - 2B Nick Ahmed - SS
Gorkys Hernandez - CF Jon Jay - CF
Alen Hanson - SS John Ryan Murphy - C
Derek Holland - LHP Robbie Ray - LHP

It wouldn’t have been much of a stretch to predict Paul Goldschmidt as leading the D-backs in RBI with 49 games left in the season. But you would have got very, VERY long odds against the man in second-place being... Nick Ahmed? Yet that’s the case: his four runs driven in last night, gives him 57 on the season, which sits only three behind Goldschmidt. For comparison, Ahmed’s best TWO complete seasons (2016-16) saw him combine for just 54 RBI in 224 games. He has already surpassed that in 104 this year. It’s the power surge which is particularly impressive: with 16 home-runs, he has a good shot at matching his entire output prior to this season, from his 2014 debut (20 HR in 302 games).

Let’s play the old Player A/B game. Here are two players since the start of July this year:
Player A: 26 G, 103 PA, .323/369/.656 = 1.025 OPS, 6 HR, 24 RBI
Player B: 31 G, 134 PA, .298/.403/.526 = .929 OPS, 6 HR, 13 RBI
As difficulty goes, this one is probably easier than most. A would, of course, be Ahmed. B is Dodgers “superstar” Manny Machado. Add in Nick’s superior defense at a premium position, and there’s no doubt that he has been more valuable than Machado over the last five weeks. Indeed, the gap over the entire season is smaller than you might think (largely because of Machado’s terrible defense at SS). In his 96 games for the Orioles, when he was playing short, Manny was worth 2.7 bWAR. That is exactly the same value Nick has given the D-backs over his 104 games at the same position.

Ahmed has been considerably cheaper, earning less than one-tenth of what Machado is getting paid ($1.275m, compared to $16m). With Ketel Marte inked to a long-term and affordable contract, one wonders whether Ahmed might be the team’s next target. This would probably depend on whether they think his new-found batting prowess is legit. After all, his career OPS+ is still a relatively weak 72, even though his figure this year is 98. His walk rate is also below major-league average, though again, that has also improved this year (7.2% vs. 8,1% average). At 28, the upside due to aging is likely limited, but with two seasons of control left, I’d not be averse to adding a reasonably-priced couple on.