If Paul Goldschmidt played in a larger market, would he be a top MVP candidate?
The question has been posed nationally following his start in this year’s All Star Game. The All-Star voting for Goldschmidt proved this season that Arizona’s – and America’s – first baseman has not only gained the respect and backing of the Diamondbacks fan base, but he has captivated all of baseball with his hitting power, fielding skills, and humble attitude. Whether he likes it or not, he has become a superstar in this league.
Last season, Goldschmidt gained deserved attention by putting up MVP worthy numbers by the end of the year. When it was over, he was edged out by Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates for the award. When I say he put up MVP worthy numbers though, it doesn’t begin to describe what he did for this Arizona team. Goldschmidt hit .302 in 2013 with 36 HRs, 125 RBIs, and a .551 SLG %. To look at his numbers, they’re not overwhelmingly impressive even though he led the NL in all three of those categories.
What blew people away was his situational hitting. Goldy did most of his damage with runners on, hitting .348 and 24 of his HRs with ducks on the pond (or Snakes on the Plane). He also did it time and time again late in games when his team was behind. In fact, Arizona led the league in comeback victories with 42, partly due to the bullpen’s tendency to blow winnable games and partly to Goldschmidt’s late game heroics. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 7.0 was 3rd in NL, which is a telling stat in the modern day baseball world. But it’s not always accurate when you try to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. One thing that’s for sure is the Diamondbacks would have been sunk without his contributions last year.
This season, Goldschmidt’s numbers have held steady and even dropped in several categories. His batting average is up to .310, yet he’s on pace to hit 12 less home runs than last season and 22 less RBIs. He has dropped out of the top 5 in many offensive production categories. Some of his offensive woes can be attributed to the lack of production by his team as well as the natural tendency for players of his ability to try too hard when attempting to put the team on his back.
It’s been a rough year for the D-Backs and Goldschmidt. After the worst start in franchise history, Goldy has been one of their only bright spots during a very forgettable season. He’s had to watch team member after team member succumb to injury while still maintaining a competitive edge even when things look bleak. He received the team’s Heart and Hustle award this week, and rightfully so considering his contributions to this team and the community. He has carried this team, so one can only wonder what an alternative timeline would like for Paul Goldschmidt. This is where the questions seep in.
Knowing his attitude and his desire to stay out of the spotlight, how greatly would Paul Goldschmidt benefit from playing with comparable talent? With the way he plays he is going to be a standout no matter where he’s at, so finding comparable talent is the first bit of Fantasy here. But if he had protection around him or other offensive threats in the same lineup, many have wondered what kind of numbers we would see Goldy put up.
More importantly, if Goldschmidt was on a playoff contending team, would we have already seen him win the MVP over McCutchen last season? With the amount of categories that he led the National League in, it would be easy to see him as the acting MVP had the Pirates missed the playoffs instead or perhaps maybe if Pittsburgh made the playoffs more than once every 20 years.
Winning and contention seems to be a determining factor in the MVP vote. With the course the Diamondbacks are on and the division they play in, it could be likely that we never see Goldschmidt as the Most Valuable Player despite the numbers he puts up if Arizona cannot claw their way back to the top of the NL West. So the question will remain out there. If Goldschmidt was on a a playoff contending team, or a perhaps in Yankee pinstripes or Cardinal Red, would we already have seen him hoist up the MVP trophy? Much like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, the world may never know.