“Paul doesn’t swing for the numbers,” Tony La Russa said Wednesday morning.
But that doesn’t mean that Paul Goldschmidt’s numbers aren’t extremely impressive.
The Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman currently ranks in the top five players in Major League Baseball in average (.322), RBI (97), walks (100), OBP (.437), OPS (1.000) and WAR (7.5).
At this point, it’s no story that Goldschmidt is having one of the best seasons in baseball, but La Russa, the Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer, says one thing that sets the first baseman apart is his productivity in the first inning.
Through 108 first-inning at-bats, Goldschmidt has 73 total bases, including nine home runs and seven doubles over 39 hits. His first-inning batting average is .361.
“I think it’s a testament to how ready he gets at the beginning of a game,” La Russa said. “This has always been a problem for position players. You play 162 and that next game gets there, and usually the general rule for a lot of players is about the second at-bat you start to really get the engine warm and you just play better.”
For Goldschmidt, it doesn’t take his second at-bat for his engine to get warm.
“To get ready for your first at-bat takes a very special discipline and motivation,” La Russa said. “Paul is P for perfect. I think he does it perfectly.”
On top of that, Goldschmidt is walked more often in the first inning (21 times so far) than any other inning, which lifts his first-inning on-base percentage to .458.
“A lot of times, what we need from him is to start a rally or to get one going, to add to it or finish one off with a single,” La Russa said. “He’s just playing baseball, he doesn’t swing for the numbers.”
When Goldschmidt does homer, the Diamondbacks fair far better.
At 65-68 on the season, Arizona has a win percentage of .489. In games when Goldschmidt homers, the D-backs have a record of 16-9 with a win percentage of .640.