Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt had an off year in 2016

Sep 16, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. The Dodgers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. The Dodgers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

First basemen Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks finished outside the top-10 in all three triple crown categories last season

Since making his major-league debut Aug. 1, 2011, Paul Goldschmidt has been the face of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Goldschmidt, known as “America’s First Basemen,” has said this spring that he had “off year” in 2016, but the 29-year-old was not the only high-profile player that underperformed. Goldschmidt finished with a .297 batting average, 24 home runs, and 95 RBI.

Compared to 2015, his production was down, but the four-time all-star played in 158 games and stole 32 bases, an unprecedented amount for a slugger.

Over the last two years for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Goldschmidt is second in OBP (.432), third in OPS+ (151) and first in stolen bases (51), defensive runs saved (22) and WAR (13.6), in the majors at his position.

Goldschmidt got on base at a .411 clip in 2016, which is down from 2015 but above the major-league average. He did not hit the baseball with as much authority last season, and that is what he is focused on. Goldschmidt slugged .489 last season compared to .570 in 2015.

His line drive percentage, according to FanGraphs, was similar, but his hard-contact rate dropped significantly from 41.4 percent to 37.5 percent, below his career average of 40.3 percent.

Goldschmidt told the Doug and Wolf Show the following.

"I honestly didn’t play as well as I needed to, I didn’t hit enough balls hard, and when you’re doing that, you’re not going to hit as many home runs. It wasn’t just home runs, there was a lot of other things I didn’t do as well, and that all falls on me."

But Goldschmidt has always been a team first guy and said that if the team wins more, it does not matter how many home runs he hits.

A Line Drive Approach

Goldschmidt, who has shown an hit the ball to all fields with authority, also told Doug and Wolf he agrees “100 percent” with the notion that home runs come when you’re not trying to hit them.

"“Of course the home runs you hit, the more runs you score, that will all help the team,” Goldschmidt said to the Doug and Wolf Show during the same interview. “I talk a lot about hitting the ball hard and if you get it in the air, it will get out of there. If you (try to) hit home runs, your going to overswing, your going to hit the ball in the air to much and your going to pop it up or rollover.”"

At the end of the day, Goldschmidt said it starts with finding the right mindset, which is developed by the work that he does in the cage. He said his simple goal is to hit the ball hard and have good at-bats.

Goldschmidt hit the ball on the ground more in 2016, while his fly ball percentage dropped. His ISO and BABIP declined, and his OPS went from over 1.000 to .899.

Part of Goldschmidt’s issue could have been this idea of over swinging. He pulled the ball 10 percent more in 2016, and that coincided with a drop in his contact rate to center and the opposite field.

Passive vs. Aggressive

Goldschmidt was noticeably more passive at the plate last season, especially early in the season. He swung at fewer first pitches, and he was not as effective working the count to 3-2. After the count reached 0-2, Goldschmidt hit .195.

Pitchers are more careful with Goldschmidt than a majority of big-league hitters, and as a result, he often found himself taking hittable called third strikes.

This happened more in April and May, and Goldschmidt started to rediscover his raw power to all fields later in the season, but he was not the same.

On Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Salt River Fields, Goldschmidt drove in four with an opposite field home run, and an opposite field base hit.

After the game, manager Torey Lovullo spoke to Fox Sports Arizona and said he liked what he saw.

"“It is hard for me to believe that he drove a ball that hard, through a pretty stiff wind,” Lovullo said, speaking about Goldschmidt’s homer to right in the second inning that gave the Diamondbacks a 2-0 lead. “As I was told after he hit the ball, that he will do things like that all year long, and I am really excited about that.”"

If Goldschmidt stays committed to hitting line drives to all parts of the field, his home run count should take care of itself

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Goldschmidt, who will represent the Diamondbacks at the World Baseball Classic as a member of Team USA, said it is all about having the right mindset before he steps into the box.