I read a good article today at AZCentral concerning Daniel Hudson taking the politically correct route to say, “Stop Beaning Upton or You’ll get a Fastball in Your Mouth”. There’s an easy two word solution to get this game of Upton-Beanball to stop–Paul Goldschmidt.
Upton was beaned 19 times last season in 2011–tied for the most in the National League. Yes, part of the reason was because he’s an incredibly
talented hitter but probably more so it was because he doesn’t have ideal protection behind him. Miguel Montero is no doubt one of the best catchers in baseball–but let’s face it, he’s still a catcher. Catchers aren’t paid to hit, they’re paid to manage the game and control the pitcher. When your catcher can hit, like Montero, it’s a definite bonus but hardly ever do they produce like a slugging first or third baseman. Montero’s OPS at .820 is good, but not unbelieveable and it places him with the 47th best OPS in baseball. His 18 HRs and 87 RBI are great, again for a catcher. Montero is good, but doesn’t terrify opposing pitchers like a Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista or Albert Pujols does.
It gets even worse with the next best alternative–Chris Young. The OPS slips all the way to .722 and the 20 HRs and 71 RBI are even less intimitating. Again, I think Young and Montero are incredibly vital to this team. They’re near the top of the league at their premium positions, but they’re just not quite up to snuff to protect Upton.
You want to look for Upton’s beaning savior? Look no further than Paul Goldschmidt. While he was getting accustomed to major league hitting during the regular season he had an impressive .808 OPS to open his career–which was lowered due to his .250 average being outside the norm of his minor league numbers. Cumulative in the minors, Goldschidt hit .317 with an monstrous 1.026 OPS. He might have given us a glimpse of his major league ability in the 2011 playoffs series against the Brewers where his OPS was a nasty 1.339. Not only will Goldschmidt make opposing pitcher think twice about giving Upton a free pass the hard way, he’s got the best chance to make them pay if they do.
He won’t start out the season in the four spot, but before too long Goldschmidt should be hitting cleanup for the D-Backs.
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