Back on his 26th birthday, Paul Goldschmidt kicked his push for National League Most Valuable Player honors into high gear.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ All-Star first baseman collected two hits that Tuesday, September 10, at Dodger Stadium. He hit four in the following game and one in each of the following games and, well, he hit in each of the season’s remaining games.
A 19-game hitting streak would conclude a career season for Goldschmidt; A season, the Diamondbacks believe, is worthy of being called the most valuable among National League players.
“They’re talking about other very good candidates,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, once an NL MVP himself, said of the national media’s view of Goldschmidt during the last homestand.
“We’re certainly biased here. He proves it day in and day out. He’s everything you could want. He’s certainly deserving of Most Valuable Player.”
The first baseman was most certainly the most valuable among Diamondbacks, anyway.
On top of that, Goldschmidt leads the National League in several offensive categories, including home runs (36, along with Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez), runs batted in (125), slugging percentage (.551), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.952), total bases (332) and extra-base hits (75).
Goldschmidt finished fourth in on-base percentage (.401), behind Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen and Hanley Ramirez.
Nearly 30 percent of the Diamondbacks’ home runs this season came off of Goldschmidt’s bat — the largest percentage of home runs any single player in the Major Leagues was able to give his team. And, in the same vein, Goldschmidt’s 125 RBI accounted for nearly 20 percent of his team’s RBI, as much a share of team RBI as Chris Davis was able to provide the Baltimore Orioles.
Then, there are the sabermetrics that testify of Goldschmidt’s worth.
Win Probability Added, which takes a particular game’s situational importance into account — weighing a walk-off home run, for example, as more valuable than a home run in a blowout and a go-ahead RBI more than a first-inning RBI — is one such measurement.
Among National Leaguers, Goldschmidt is a head above the competition in the statistic. Entering play Sunday, his 6.79 mark in this category led the league, with Freddie Freeman (5.56), Shin-Soo Choo (5.06), McCutchen (4.47) and Adrian Gonzalez (4.32) rounding out the top five.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Goldschmidt ranks third in the NL in Wins Above Replacement, a metric that has surged in popularity and use over the last few years. McCutchen and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Carlos Gomez rank ahead of him, tied with an 8.2 mark, while Goldschmidt has a 7.1.
Defense, it seems, gives McCutchen and Gomez, both centerfielders, the edge in the statistic. A close look, however, proves that Goldschmidt had plenty of value away from the plate, too.
Only the Colorado Rockies’ Todd Helton had a higher fielding percentage among NL first basemen, and Goldschmidt leads the majors in first basemen “scoops,” according to FanGraphs.com, with 73 — nearly 20 ahead of any other at that position.
Finally, there’s the question of team performance — which seems to be a contradiction of the “P” in MVP. Goldschmidt’s Diamondbacks failed to reach the playoffs, and he will thus be penalized in MVP voting. Only a few players in the history of baseball have managed to capture the highest individual honor when their team failed to make the postseason.
Since 1995, the teams of MVPs have averaged a winning percentage of .573 — which translates to 93 wins over the course of a season. Despite the odds, Larry Walker of the 1997 Colorado Rockies, Barry Bonds of the 2001 and 2004 San Francisco Giants, Alex Rodriguez of the 2003 Texas Rangers, Ryan Howard of the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies and Albert Pujols of the 2008 St. Louis Cardinals managed to get the award on non-playoff teams.
On top of his season-long credentials, there’s no doubt Goldschmidt has done his best to make the most of the 19 games he’s played since turning 26 — the final contests of his season.
The only question is whether his late-season kick will hold up with the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.