Like you, probably, I’m a big fan of Paul Goldschmidt. And how could we not be, given his production and leadership for the first-place Diamondbacks? The guy has been driving the offense all year while Montero, Prado and others are either struggling or injured. It’s pretty safe to say that without Goldy’s production, Arizona would be nowhere near the top of the standings.
How is he achieving such success, though? What’s different from the way he’s played in the past? I want to take a minute to address these questions and see just why he’s become such a potent force.
My first thought when looking at Paul’s increase in production had everything to do with age curves. If you aren’t familiar with them, essentially they show the way players’ production peaks and fades throughout their career. Goldschmidt is entering the peak of his age and development curves where we can expect growth, making his improved production no surprise. If you would like to read more about age curves, which you should, please click here.
Player aging trends also suggest the type of improvement we should expect to see from Goldy as he approaches his peak. As players get older, we tend to see an improvement in pitch recognition, plate discipline and power output, especially from a player with a build like Paul’s. When comparing his current improvements to this historic trend, we see that Goldschmidt is maturing right on schedule. His walk rate is up from last year (+2.2%), his strikeout rate is slightly down (-0.4%) and his isolate slugging has shown dramatic improvement (up 32%). These trends check all of the boxes we’d expect from a player who is growing into his role and towards his development peak.
So what can we realistically expect going forward? Luckily for us, the very best of Paul Goldschmidt may still be lurking around the corner. Given his recent team-friendly extension, this should be welcomed news. I don’t expect his BABIP to remain so high as its currently at an unsustainable rate (.372). That should result in a drop in batting average but not by a ton. As he continues to progress, we may see a continued increase in walk rate and hopefully his strikeout rate will remain on a downward trend. Goldy isn’t a pure masher in the most literal of senses, but his power may continue to slightly improve as he gets even more comfortable with the strike zone, works more counts and leverages himself more pitches to drive into the seats while continuing to get physically stronger. As he ages, his base running and defense may decline by a small margin, but that should be very minor as he plays first base and has plus athleticism for the position.
If Paul Goldschmidt improves at all, we should count our lucky stars. I think there’s hope that some aspects of his game improve as noted above, but the Diamondbacks are in great shape because he should remain at his current level or slightly above for years to come. He’s affordable and locked up for the long haul, plus he’s a leader on the field and a great face for the Diamondbacks to market around. You probably already knew this, but Paul Goldschmidt is a star in the making. Follow me @outfieldgrass24*All stats access via FanGraphs.com on 5/29