Goldschmidt, a first baseman, has made five All-Star teams in a row, and in those five seasons (through the middle of last week) he leads the N.L. in total bases, runs and runs scored, and he trails only Votto in on-base plus slugging percentage. This year’s O.P.S., 1.016 entering Saturday’s games, will be a career high if it holds up. Goldschmidt, who has won two Gold Gloves, is also playing stellar defense, and through Friday he had 17 stolen bases to go with his .316 batting average, 30 homers and 101 runs batted in.
It is the kind of season that was typical of Jeff Bagwell, the former Astros first baseman who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month — and it is no coincidence, since Goldschmidt grew up near Houston during Bagwell’s prime. According to Baseball Reference, Bagwell is the player most similar to Goldschmidt through age 28, Goldschmidt’s age for most of last season.
Bagwell won the M.V.P. Award in 1994, when Goldschmidt, who is from The Woodlands, Tex., turned 7. Goldschmidt’s father, David, held up Bagwell and Craig Biggio as baseball role models.
“I remember him telling me about Bagwell being a great base runner,” Goldschmidt said. “As a little kid, you don’t really notice those types of things, but I do remember my dad talking about that, and talking about his defense, definitely preaching: ‘This is how to play the game of baseball.’”
Goldschmidt was a middle infielder then, but he switched to first base in college, at Texas State. A slugging first baseman can always find work, but Goldschmidt said his memories of Bagwell inspired him to be more than that.
“They play both sides of the ball, they run the bases, they steal bases, they’re good hitters, and they hit for power,” said the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach, Dave Magadan, a teammate of Bagwell’s in 1995. “And very much like Bagwell, he takes pride in doing all facets of the game well.”
Goldschmidt has been particularly merciless on the Colorado Rockies, who would meet the Diamondbacks in the wild-card game — based on the standings through Friday. Goldschmidt reached base in 50 consecutive games against the Rockies through last Sept. 3 and has hit .341 against Colorado this season.
“There’s no part of his game that you’re like, ‘Well, if he did this better, he’d be a superstar,’” said Daniel Descalso, the veteran Arizona utility man who spent the past two seasons with the Rockies. “He does everything well, like no one I’ve ever really seen.”
Goldschmidt tries to hone those skills by asking as many questions as he can — of coaches, teammates and even opponents he meets at first base. Lamb said Goldschmidt had also helped him sharpen his approach by poring over details from the batter’s box.
“Did you swing at the pitch you wanted to swing at, did you take the pitches you wanted to take?” Lamb said. “Just things like that, where we’re really breaking down an at-bat, especially a late-inning at-bat. We’re talking about that stuff all the time.”
The Diamondbacks have stumbled for much of August, losing 11 of 15 games before winning three out of four games against the Mets at Citi Field last week. They have struggled with runners in scoring position and have missed starter Robbie Ray, who returned from a late-July concussion to pitch five innings Thursday for the win against the Mets.
Arizona is trying to win while Goldschmidt is still a bargain. He is making $8.5 million this season and will make $11 million next year, with a $14.5 million club option for 2019. Besides one luxury item (starter Zack Greinke, who is in the second year of a six-year, $206.5 million contract), the roster is mostly young and inexpensive.
In Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks believe they have a player who sets a strong example for the group. He shapes the team’s personality, General Manager Mike Hazen said.
“I just try to be who I am,” Goldschmidt said. “I’m not necessarily giving speeches or anything like that, just trying to play the game hard every day, be prepared and just do my job, do my part.”
He has done his part better, perhaps, than anyone else in the National League. A return to the playoffs — and an award to recognize all-around excellence — should follow.
Two Worthwhile Ideas
The summer has always been baseball’s moment alone in the major sports landscape, without meaningful competition from the N.F.L., the N.B.A. or the N.H.L. As football rumbles ever closer to starting its season, Major League Baseball deserves credit for two August initiatives to increase its appeal.
Last Sunday’s game between St. Louis and Pittsburgh in Williamsport, Pa., at a minor league ballpark in the shadow of the Little League World Series, was a fun way to connect major leaguers with Little Leaguers. The Cardinals and the Pirates gave a sneak peek at the uniforms they were to wear this weekend — the so-called Players Weekend. Every team is wearing alternate uniforms, with looser rules on personalized accessories, and colorful V-neck jerseys with nicknames on the back.
When the idea was first announced, it seemed as if three days would be too much, the way it seems when teams wear special uniforms around Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. Those uniforms, while helping raise money for worthy causes, create a muddled look, making teams appear too similar.
The Players Weekend uniforms are just the opposite: distinctive, not homogenized. The individual touches are charming, including the shoulder patch on which each player can write the name of someone important in his life. Anything like this, with potential appeal to young fans, can only help baseball grow.
Here is another idea, which Major League Baseball and the networks, sadly, have long resisted: an afternoon start at the World Series. Baseball has not held a World Series game in the daytime since 1987. How about designating just one every year — say, Game 4, which falls on a Saturday — as an afternoon start, assuring that young fans on the East Coast could watch all nine innings of baseball’s crowning event before bedtime?
Heavy Use of D.L. …
Teams rarely use the disabled list in September because the active-roster limit expands to 40 players from the usual 25. So it is almost time to say farewell to the season-long flurry of activity on the new 10-day D.L.
This is the first year of the 10-day D.L., down from 15 days, and some teams have used it as a convenient way to let a starter skip a turn to nurse a nagging injury — sometimes of dubious severity — with the bonus of saving wear and tear.
According to Major League Baseball, teams had used the 10-day D.L. 587 times through the season’s first 142 days, compared with 484 uses of the 15-day D.L. through the same point in 2016. Most of those moves involved pitchers, who had gone on the disabled list 333 times, compared with 273 at the same point last year.
… And Emergency Arms
Expanded rosters also give teams little reason to use position players to pitch in September. But already in 2017, more position players have taken the mound than in any other season, at least since the 1950s.
With starters throwing fewer innings today, teams need deep bullpens of rested relievers. So when games get lopsided, they are more likely to let a position player mop up, rather than waste a reliever and limit themselves for the next game.
Through Thursday’s games, 20 position players had made a total of 30 appearances on the mound, up from the previous known high of 27 in 2015. In 27 innings, the position players had allowed 41 hits, 32 earned runs, 22 walks and nine homers, with three strikeouts, three hit batters, four wild pitches and a balk. Their earned run average: 10.67.
One manager in particular has defied the trend. Mike Scioscia has guided the Angels for 18 seasons, yet has never put a position player on the mound. The last Angels position player to pitch was Chili Davis in 1993. Only one team has gone longer than the Angels without a position player pitching: the San Francisco Giants (Greg Litton, 1991).
Scioscia said he was prepared to use infielder Brendan Ryan — who threw two scoreless innings for the Yankees in 2015 — in a blowout loss in Texas last May. But, as usual, he let actual pitchers pitch.
“You don’t want to do it, because every time a guy pitches, you never know how much risk there is, so you just want him to take it easy and get the game over with,” Scioscia said. “But I don’t have an aversion to doing it if it means you’re going to save somebody in your bullpen from injury.”
If the Angels ever sign infielder Daniel Descalso, Scioscia might want to try him. As of Friday, Descalso had pitched twice for Arizona this season and retired all six hitters he faced. He also pitched for St. Louis in 2014, setting down his only hitter then, too.
“Seven up, seven down,” said Descalso, who pitched in high school and tried breaking balls in his most recent outing. “I don’t really feel like pitching anymore, so I can keep that perfection intact.”
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