Back in May, and June, and even July, the Arizona Diamondbacks had their doubters. The San Francisco Giants were healthy and right in the race. San Francisco had a flawed offense, but one of the best pitching staffs in the league. And here were the Diamondbacks, a team relying on unproven pitchers like Ian Kennedy and Josh Collmenter, with a good offense but by no means an irresistable force, with holes in multiple places.
They still have a hole at shortstop, and I don’t know if anybody is convinced by Aaron Hill‘s imitation of Dustin Pedroia — even with a .384 wOBA with the snakes, he sits at .292 on the season. But the real hole came at first base, and when teams have holes at first base, they tend to be exceptionally noticeable. Kevin Towers tried to fill it with Russell Branyan and Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady (and simply tossed aside Brandon Allen), but it was excessively clear neither could fill the role. The triumvirate limped to a combined -0.1 WAR as none of them managed to even touch an average wOBA — a cardinal sin when it comes to first base.
Enter Paul Goldschmidt
What Paul Goldschmidt is doing right now is merely good if you only put it in the context of “being a first baseman in Arizona.” The Diamondbacks play in a very hitter-friendly environment, and so Goldschmidt’s line of .260/.347/.500 is good, not great. Over 167 plate appearances, Goldschmidt has a WAR of 0.7, meaning his performance this year is worth roughly 2-3 WAR over the course of a season.
But Goldschmidt is so much more than just a first baseman in Arizona right now. He’s a 24-year-old (as of September 10) rookie who saw all of 457 plate appearances in the upper minors, all of them coming at the Double-A level. Forget Triple-A, it’s straight to the show. Right now, it feels as if the Diamondbacks have had a stranglehold on the division for months, but when Goldschmidt made his first start on August 1st, the Diamondbacks actually trailed the Giants by one game.
Goldschmidt didn’t make much of an impact in that first game, going 1-for-4 with a run scored in a Diamondbacks win to tie atop the division, but his presence was felt in the following game, as he clubbed his first MLB home run to give the Diamondbacks the lead in the game and eventually the division as well. Goldschmidt has remained strong throughout the dog days, and getting such a performance out of a rookie with zero alternatives on the roster (Lyle Overbay doesn’t count) goes far beyond a WAR number.
The addition of Goldschmidt to the Diamondbacks lineup has gives them a strong lineup one-through-six when at full strength, along with Justin Upton, Chris Young, Miguel Montero, Gerardo Parra, and Ryan Roberts, with Aaron Hill chipping in so far as well. Although the Diamondbacks are still far from the perfect team — and every team in the playoff field, from the Yankees to the Braves and inbetween — the extra dimension Paul Goldschimdt adds to this lineup makes them a much more formidable foe for any potential playoff opponent.
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