Gold Standard

I know I’m stealing that title, but it’s so good to describe Paul Goldschmidt.

I believe this is Goldy’s year to win the MVP.  He’ll probably end up with numbers similar to 2015, but 10+ more steals and more runs.  He’ll have the numbers of an MVP.  Hopefully his team will make the playoffs, so they can’t snub him like 2013.

Unfortunately, the thing that voters will probably overlook is his character.

I’ve written about it several times.  Goldy is such an amazing leader that I’ve seen this team take on his character over the years.  He’s such a great leader that he influences everyone to be a better player.  He’s one of the most team oriented, selfless players.

He even sets the example by the way he goes through struggles because Goldy never gets too high or too low.  He’s not without passion because everyone knows he loves winning and hates losing.  He’s just so tough mentally because he doesn’t get caught up in things he can’t control and he doesn’t dwell on success or failure.

I think that is a very important factor that makes an MVP because the season is long, and and MVP should have very short slumps.  But Goldy does that and more.  Goldy will slump a series, albeit with a few walks and good defense and base running, but he never slumps for a week.

Unique to his character, Goldy helps the team not slump.  I’ve seen Lamb, Owings, Peralta, Drury, Ahmed, Pollock, even pitchers like Corbin all take on the Goldy traits.  I mention these particular players because they’ve played with him the longest.  Now, I know they’re also good players, but there’s a specific characteristic about Goldy that they’ve all embraced themselves, and you can see it if you’ve watched as much as I have.  It’s characteristic that has to do with focus and mental preparation as much as physical preparation.  It’s what many call “trusting in the process.”  Well, no one does that as well as Paul Goldschmidt, and these very good young players have imitated their best player.

Imitation is the greatest compliment.

I think they imitate him willingly because he’s so easy to like and so impossible to dislike.  He’s probably not known as a guy who has lots of personality, like David Peralta.  But he’s known as someone who is very steady emotionally.  He’s known as someone who shows respect to everyone, never showing up a pitcher, umpire, or opposing team.  He’s one of the most boring interviews but I love it because he’s steady and not drawing attention to himself.

I’m sure he has his moments of frustration, but he doesn’t let the frustration knock him off course.

If they took the V in MVP seriously, they would weigh how much a player influences his teammates.  You can probably ask his teammates and realize Goldy has the most positive influence on his team of any player in baseball.

Hopefully they keep winning and never slump as a team, continuing to shine the Goldy way.

Should they send Patrick Corbin to the bullpen?

I love hearing fans in chatrooms because they’re so emotional, so quick to make knee-jerk reactions.  I guess getting emotionally worked up is part of being a fan.  Well, so many want to take an axe to Patrick Corbin as a starter.

Is that a good idea right now?

I can agree that it’s been frustrating to watch, but it’s too early to give up on Corbin when there’s a big picture perspective of having the April version of Patrick for the latter part of the season (even possibly most of the season if he figures it out soon).  I know you’re not saying to “give up on Patrick,” but it’s not like he can go to the bullpen and then come back and start just because Delgado did it.  Delgado was already in the bullpen.  If Corbin goes to the bullpen, he’s not likely come back as a starter.

It’s unreasonable to say Corbin should go to the bullpen because (a) it’s too early in the season and (b) he’s shown a lot of good with the bad.

First, he was good in 5 of 6 starts in April, even giving them a chance in the bad one (they’re 7-6 in his games).  We so easily forget that Patrick started the season looking like his pre-TJ self.  We were very happy to see the old Patrick.  Instead, Robbie Ray was the target of most fans because he struggled out the gates and he had a terrible ERA last season.  Some even wanted to put Ray in the bullpen, and how smart does that look now.  Unless your overall numbers look good, fans only remember your recent performances.

Second, while Corbin has struggled with the first inning, he’s been really good after.  I’d tend to agree that he’s unfit as a starter if his struggles were in every inning or randomly throughout.  Instead, he’s been putting up a lot of zeros after the first inning.  His ERA is terrible because he leads the league in first inning runs, but he’s the April version after the first inning.

I hope fans can see that there’s something very specific and fixable that would get Corbin back to a high quality starter.  It’s pretty clear he’s struggling to settle into the game.

Along these lines, people wrongly believe you can fix his problem in the bullpen, but it doesn’t work like that when your on a team that’s preserving leads.  The bullpen is like the first inning with more pressure.

Third, even since his bad stretch, they are 4-3 in those games.  That means he’s not pitching so bad that they can’t win the games.  While it’s the product of playing on a good team, it also allows them to be patient with him.

Fourth, other good teams have this problem and they work with their struggling pitchers.  Look at several pitchers on the Cubs.  Tanaka on the Yankees.  The Red Sox are most like the Dbacks by how they’re finding ways to win without their reigning CY pitching well.  Although his ERA is worse, the Dbacks have a better record in Corbin’s games (7-6) than the Red Sox have with Porcello pitching (6-8).

It’s one test of a good club to pull players out of struggles.

In conclusion, it’s reasonable to think Corbin will regain his old form because he’s young, talented, and a great competitor who works very hard.  However, the timing for judging his ability to start is reasonable after the All Star break.  He needs to figure out his first inning woes by then.  I’m not only rooting for him to succeed but I’m confident he will.

Just like they need others to be healthy and productive, they need Corbin to stay in the rotation.  While it’s nice that Delgado showed he can spot start, it’s only foolish to think the team is better without Corbin as a starter because teams are not better with less starting pitching depth.

Hazen in perspective

I am learning a lot about Hazen from the roster decisions.  It’s not only the draft picks, trades, and free agent signings.  It’s also in the roster decisions.

For instance, Raymond Fuentes has received a lot of playing time with injuries to AJ Pollock and Yasmany Tomas.  Fuentes is an above average defender and base runner.  He’s still developing at the plate.

He’s actually improving at the plate.  Over the last 14 days (6 starts), his AVE/OBP/SLG is:

.346 .370 .462

It’s a small sample, as he hasn’t had enough time in the big leagues to make solid predictions, but these numbers are trending in the right direction.

Fuentes is an interesting story.  In 2009, Hazen drafted him in the first round.  If you chart Fuentes’ growth, it’s up and down.  Hazen seems to believe it’s ultimately going upward.

Hazen brings a different approach.

For instance, the previous two GMs acquired Trumbo (Towers) and Tomas (Stewart) to play outfield.  They had the belief that you give up some defense for more home runs.  Both players are feast or famine.  They’ll have high slugging and low on base.  They’ll hurt you when they’re slumping, while they’ll drive boat loads of runs when they’re feasting.  Trumbo’s career shows the downside because he’s a big liability when he’s not hitting home runs.  He’s currently making 11.5 million to DH and slug .396 through almost a half season.

I bring up these two examples because the previous GMs passed on Eaton and Inciarte.  I know both players were included in bad trades.  My argument is that both players should have been more highly valued, where there was no need to sign sluggers that would have assured them a position and not including them in bad trades.  Instead, they were seen as excess because of the sluggers.

I’m confident Hazen would have done differently.  He wouldn’t have signed Trumbo or Tomas because he values them differently.  He valued Eaton and Inciarte way more.  It turns out other teams agree and the league now values Eaton and Inciarte more.  Hazen was ahead of GMs like Towers and Stewart.  He’s still working ahead.

While Hazen probably wishes he could undo the Shelby Miller trade and have those players back, he’s not winning about it.  He hoping to find an Ender Inciarte in Fuentes.

Trade Deadline

What will the Dbacks do at the Trade Deadline?

It’s an interesting question right now.  It’s much better to be in the position of acquiring players than selling off big league players for minor leaguers.

Rebuilding teams with lots of marketable trade chips seem smart because they will replenish their farm system.  It’s the only way some can compete with a limited payroll.  I think of the A’s because they do it nearly every year until they get the right combination of players to compete, when they become buyers.  It seems like no one is more active than the A’s when it comes to trades.

At the same time, it isn’t necessary to have a great farm if your major leaguers are in their prime and performing.

For instance, teams like the Padres always have a great farm system but it’s meaningless when it doesn’t translate at the big league level.  Other teams lock up young players during their most productive years, while the Padres trade them away before they’re established big leaguers.  I think of Anthony Rizzo and Trea Turner, two star players that could be under contract with the Padres.  I’m sure there are others.  They have other problems, but the farm system thing isn’t working for them.

The Dbacks have received criticism for having a bad farm system.  However, some “experts” have admitted to undervaluing Cody Reed, Jon Duplantier, and Marcus Wilson.  Those three have outperformed their ranking probably more than any prospect.  This shows that the system is actually richer than predicted.

Hazen’s front office team is proving itself.  It’s the first time the organization has experienced a modern front office with an analytics department.  It’s not only analytics because Hazen is a good leader that knows how to use the data (including scouting intelligence) to assess value.  Like the movie “Moneyball” tried to portray, a lot of people think scouting and analytics are at odds.  The truth is that scouting is one with analytics.  The only thing at odds is paradigms that do not adapt.  Some have tasted success with old patterns and get stuck thinking that’s the way to be successful, whereas smart people adapt and make adjustments.  Smart people are not afraid of more data because they’re interested in adding to their perspective, not afraid to learn and realize their is a better way.

Hazen inherited most of this farm system.  He’s acquired a few but he’s yet to make significant trades, drafts, and foreign signings.

Hazen has acquired a lot of low risk, potential high reward players–a lot of great veterans on minor league and low salary deals.  Past regimes spent significant dollars on risky players.  McCarthy, Cahill, Cody Ross all come to mind.  Mark Trumbo and Yasmany Tomas were also bad deals.  Hazen can fix some of the bad, which I believe he enjoys the challenge.  For the first time, I’m excited about their front office leadership.

Hazen left a comfortable role in Boston because he was eager to have more influence over shaping an organization.  He saw the good and bad pieces.  He had a game plan for how to build and he’s taken action.  The decisions he makes show that several intelligent minds pour into those decisions and they were not made emotionally or based on the judgments of a few “experienced” executives that are taking an enormous risk.  There’s always risk, but there is a big difference when the amount of risk is low weighed against the amount of high reward.

It will be exciting to see his moves over the next few months.

Gold Standard

Goldy deserves the MVP if the Dbacks make the playoffs.  He’ll likely battle Harper again, but Goldy is more of an MVP than Harper, even if Harper gets more “home runs.”  I only mention “home runs” because it’s a stat that’s still emphasized way too much.  Regardless, both players will have MVP numbers, so the conversation should go beyond numbers.  Of course Kershaw will also get votes, but pitchers have the CY and have no business getting an MVP for 30-35 games.

The Goldy phenomenon is that he’s an exceptional leader even when he struggles.  It’s something he does way better than Harper or anyone.  I think this shows him as the Gold Standard more than anything because it is so important on his overall team influence, which is what we should evaluable with a Most Valuable Player.  He’s got a great influence on his teammates because he never shows frustration, doesn’t get too high or too low, and he trusts the process.

The key word to explain his character is “consistency.”  As a sports writer recently said in his title, “Goldy a model of consistency, leadership.”

Those of us who pay close attention to the Dbacks over the years have noticed Goldy’s character permeating the whole team.  Most of these guys came up with him and have a great deal of respect for him.  Others have quickly gained respect for him.

His character and example is such that you want to root for him.  He’s not a bubbly personality, which in his case works for him.  He’s just one of the most likable guys because he’s so steady.  He makes it nearly impossible to be jealous of him or annoyed at his success.  He’s so good at managing the mental and emotional aspects of the game, which also has a powerful influence on the clubhouse doing the same.  We can hope for a great season because we have the talent and leadership to keep it together.

From a fan perspective, Goldy is a pleasure to root for because he does everything well and does not draw attention to himself.

Please lock him up for 10 years!  That would make a great statement of their commitment to winning because there is no one better to build around.  In some ways his contract will be more valuable than Mike Trout because he plays a position that doesn’t wear down as much.  Unlike Miguel Cabrera, he stays in great shape.

As someone who grew up in the Northwest, rooting for Junior, RJ, and Edgar, I’ve had several favorite players in the past, but Paul Goldschmidt is by far my favorite because I learn a lot from his character.  I hope he remains in Arizona for his whole career and that he continues to lead powerfully on and off the field.

Goldy’s Road Struggles

Much has been said of the Dbacks’ road struggles.  It can’t be that bad because they’re nearly .500 on the road (12-14).  Winning is the goal, regardless of individual numbers.  It’s only really noticeable compared to how amazing they are at home.  Fortunately the pitching has remained steady, limiting their run differential and allowing them to win enough on the road to still have a great overall record.

I actually think both will trend more toward the mean.  I expect the home performances to stay good, but maybe not as good, while I expect the road to get better but not be as good as at home.

Their road struggles are a trend they’re trying to change, but it’s not a worry at this point.  It’s not like we should try to find things to worry about when the season is going well.

For instance, someone wanted to worry about the most consistent player we have.  They pointed out Goldschmidt’s 2017 road/home splits for batting average:

Home: .377

Away: .213

Compared to his career BA…

Home: .301

Away: .297

My response is that the sample is too small to conclude anything!

It might have statistical significance if the trend continues through the All Star break, but it’s more likely to get back to normal after a few series of Goldschmidt like tears.  We’re tempted to think that 89 ABs is significant, but it’s not because it only takes 20-30 ABs to completely change the perception.  It’s certainly not significant for a player like Goldschmidt, who is ridiculously capable of hitting .500 over 20 ABs.

Plus, batting average isn’t the big conclusory offensive statistic.  He’s still a very productive hitter when his batting average is low because he’s still getting on base and slugging.  Yesterday was a good example, where he only had one hit in 6 ABs, but it was a decisive home run and he scored another decisive run on a walk.

Plus, he walks so much that it takes longer for him to accumulate At Bats, which allows him to have a high average when he gets hits.  For instance, compare Goldy to Owings, where both have 89 ABs on the road.  Owings got his in 95 PAs, whereas it took Goldy 109 PAs.  Goldy went to the plate 14 more times.  That means that if both players go to the plate the same amount, Goldy doesn’t need as many hits to have a higher average.

Fortunately we don’t have to worry about Paul Goldschmidt having a low batting average.  He’s a career .299, however it averages out home/road.  He’s over .300 right now and he’s in his prime, so I’d bet he’s over .300.

Plus, he’s consistently hitting the ball hard.  He started the year with a lot of weak contact, whereas now his outs are hit hard, either to the warning track or line-drives at someone.  The probability is good that things will turn because his contact is consistently hard, which makes his balls harder to field.

Sure, we want him to get more hits, especially with runners on base because that will produce decisive game winning runs.  Fortunately we have every reason to be patient with Goldy, who is one of the most consistent players in the game because his mindset is solid (and patient).

However, the ironic thing about Goldy’s (apparent) struggles is that he’s a leader (and helping the team) even when he struggles.  Goldy is still serving the team exceptionally well when he struggles because he’s setting an example of how to continue to prepare when you’re struggling.  Most guys press.  I guarantee that Brandon Drury and AJ Pollock get frustrated.  They’re firey players who show their frustration.  They’re not good at hiding it.  I imagine that Goldy helps them (as I know he has influenced Owings and Lamb to imitate him) because he never presses, and he never gets overly worried or stressed out.  At least that’s his obvious reputation.

As someone once said, Goldy goes about his business like he’s mowing his lawn.

Maybe the fans can learn from his patience?

Starting Pitching Depth

Every team’s starting pitching depth is challenged.  We were hoping all 5 starters stayed healthy and performed according to their best seasons with even a few breakouts from the younger pitchers (Walker, Ray).  While it’s gone well overall, the injury to Shelby makes them tap into their depth earlier than expected.

As far as timing, they were lucky Shelby gave them 4 decent performances.  They started with so many games in a row and now they’re getting days off, which allows them to work in Godley and Shipley.  A Spring Training injury would be more difficult.

Miller was doing so well that it looked like he was his old self.  We’re going to miss the unknown — how would things have gone if Shelby performed?

But the season carries on and it’s not time for reflection.  It’s time to write your history by giving guys opportunities and hoping they step up because it’s good for the organization when young pitchers take the next step.

Fortunately, the Dbacks have several starting pitchers ready to transition to the big leagues.  They have several who have dominated through the minor leagues.  It probably goes in the following order of who is most ready: Bradley, Shipley, Banda, Godley, and Koch.  If they have to look deeper, Cody Reed comes to mind.  Hopefully they can find it with the five that have performed well through triple A.

It’s obvious that Shipley has good stuff.  While he didn’t get lit up, he also struggled against the Nationals.  However, the fact that it was against the best offense in baseball at their home park puts it into perspective.  Hopefully we see him again because his performance was hard to judge — not ideal but not terrible.

It’s also great to know they have Banda and Godley–two very capable 5th starters.

Regarding Godley, he’s never going to generate hype, but he’s a worker with a great mentality.  I like him a lot.  If they stick with him as a starter, and give him opportunities, I think he’ll provide some quality innings because he generates ground balls.

Along those lines, I also like Matt Koch.  He doesn’t generate hype, but he’s got great command and the ability to generate weak contact.  I hope he’s healthy and he gets an opportunity to throw some quality big league innings this year.

Banda also deserves a chance.  He’s a dominant minor league pitcher that’s earned an opportunity to prove himself on the  big stage.  I believe he’ll get his spot start at some point.  If he pitches well, he’ll get another.  Corbin and Ray provide a different style to lefty handed pitching, where Banda fits in well.

Shipley, Banda, Godley, Koch should deliver quality innings this year.  However, Archie Bradley is probably the most ready major league starter.

Bradley has been a lights out reliever.  While he deserves a spot in the rotation, and he’s a future top of the rotation starter, he’s currently very valuable as a reliever.

Having a dominant late/middle reliever is a winning formula.  I hope he keeps a big picture regarding his career.  It’s tough because of how arbitration and future contracts are determined.  However, I hope Archie keeps the perspective of “whatever is good for the team,” trusting that he can transition at a later point, either later in 2017 or 2018.  The money will be there regardless.

Imagine if he continues to dominate as a late/middle reliever.  He would be our Andrew Miller.  The game is changing how it views relief pitching.  Your best reliever is not always your closer.  He might come in at a crucial point in the game.  For instance, teams that have several quality arms can reserve their best for the most determinative point of the game.  It takes having enough arms to allow Andrew Miller the opportunity to come in and blow away hitters whenever Francona decides is the high point of an opposing lineup.  The manager must deploy this weapon wisely, but a wise manager will reply him consistently at the right time to bring about the most wins.  I have a lot of respect for Terry Francona, and not every manager can do that, but the good ones can because the manager must judge the opponent’s greatest opportunity, and then counter with his best arm.  The odds of winning increase with your best arm at their greatest opportunity of run production.

Hence, the role is super valuable to shut down an opponent for a few innings at a crucial point in the game.  With others in the mix (Rodney, the Bartender, Hoover, De La Rosa, and Delgado–also including Barrett and De La Rosa as proven arms who can get big league outs), Bradley has an opportunity to dominate out of the bullpen–striking fear into the opponent by having him available.

In conclusion, regarding the staters, I wonder if they’re going to work Banda in next and then go back through each (Godley, Shipley, Banda) a second time to assess which has earned an extended opportunity.  It’s not a bad idea because we’ve seen two decently pitched games with opportunities to win so far.  I think the auditions will produce favorable results.

The ideal scenario has one of those three stepping up into Miller’s role and Bradley continuing to dominate out of the bullpen.  Then Barrett and Rubby De La Rosa show they can dominate, which gives them more bullpen depth to free up Archie as a stater later in the season.

Fans might be pushing for Archie to start now, but reserving him for later might actually help save his arm for a playoff push.