St. Louis Cardinals: Comparing Goldschmidt’s first 200+ PA’s
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has generally been considered disappointing so far. However, the picture isn’t so bleak when you compare this start to 2018, where Goldschmidt recovered in dramatic fashion.
Now I say dramatic not in the sense of tension or suspense, but in the sense of “man this dude went from not being able to hit a baseball to ripping the leather off and razing the league.” Now I am not saying that the St. Louis Cardinals should expect the .328/.418/.606 line that Paul Goldschmidt put up over the final 110 games of 2018, but let’s pump the brakes on “disappointment” for a moment.
Yes, it isn’t exactly what we expected to start the season, but nothing is set in stone just yet. Goldschmidt has plenty of time to return to form, just as he and Matt Carpenter did a season ago, and it won’t take nearly as much to bring him back up to where the St. Louis Cardinals expected his production.
Of course, the first place you look when gauging production is a player’s slash line. When you compare slumped 2018 Goldschmidt with 2019 Goldschmidt, the results are a bit more optimistic than you might expect.
2018 Goldschmidt (First 203 PA’s): .198/.320/.355, 5 HR, 8 2B, 2 3B
2019 Goldschmidt (209 PA’s): .254/.354/.442, 10 HR, 4 2B
The pop numbers are a little bit deceiving because of how bunched some of the home runs are. 5 of his 2019 home runs came over the first 7 games of the season, and he has only hit 3 home runs in the past 31 games. On the bright side, three of his four doubles did also come in those 31 games, and he has a .269 BA, .356 OBP, and .363 BABIP in that stretch.
Point is, there is a bit more to be hopeful for now than there was for the Diamondbacks last season. To really get this point across, think about this: one of the biggest issues Goldy has been maligned for by fans this season is his plate vision and discipline, but his K% of 27.3% is still lower than it was through his slump in 2018, and his BB% is closer to his torrid stretch than his slump.
Unlike last season, where Goldschmidt needed to play at an MVP level for over 60% of the season to turn in solid overall numbers, that isn’t exactly the case with this year’s Goldschmidt. To get to the line that we saw from Goldy last year, he would need to slash .301/.393/.565 with 23 home runs over his final 481 PA’s this season to reach that number. If we are talking about his career average, those numbers change to .307/.406/.552 over 490 PA’s to reach his per 162 averages.
Goldschmidt definitely has the ability to reach past these plateaus or something similar as we saw last season out of both him and Matt Carpenter during the tail end of the season. However, I do think that reaching his per 162’s will be the peak of the possibility in terms of what he will end up doing this year, and I see him ending this season closer to the .301/.393/.565 line in 2019.
If he does in fact hit these marks, his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals will almost assuredly be seen as a success.
It’s hard for me to just say that Goldschmidt can hit these marks without reason based on how he has looked to St. Louis Cardinals fans this season, so let me go into it a little bit.
One of the most encouraging signs coming from Goldschmidt is how hard he is hitting the ball. His distribution of magnitudes of contact are much closer to Goldschmidt’s end of 2018 than the beginning slump.
Goldschmidt’s hard hit % is actually currently at a career best 52.1%, and is actually significantly better than the 48.1% he had during his strong 2018 stretch. However, the soft hit rate is a little bit high at 15.3%, which while significantly higher than his 12% career average, still isn’t a massive red flag. For comparison’s sake, Goldschmidt had a 15.1% soft contact rate during his MVP level stretch in 2018, as compared to a 22.2% rate during his first 203 PA’s in 2018.
The fact that over half of his contact is hard hit while keeping his soft hit % at around 15%. In fact, Goldschmidt has the 7th highest hard contact rate in the league while slotting in the top 80 among qualified hitters in limiting soft hits. Goldschmidt is also doing better in both of these categories than the current best hitter on the St. Louis Cardinals: Paul DeJong.
So if Goldschmidt is ripping the ball, where are the struggles coming from? Well, there are two pieces that come together to produce a hit. As I mentioned earlier, how hard you hit it is one part of the equation, but the other part comes from where you hit it.
I’m not just talking about where on the field you hit the ball too. I am also talking about where on the ball your bat makes contact, and what type of contact is made as a result. While home runs are generated through fly balls, line drives are generally the kinds of hits that signify the most sound and meaningful contact.
This is where Goldschmidt has unfortunately faltered this season. His 20.2% LD% is down from his career average of 22.6%, and is a farcry from the 26.3% he had during his insane 2018 stretch. However, there is a bright side to this, in that more of these failed line drives are fly balls instead of grounders.
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The groundball rate is down from his career average and is actually close to his incredible 2015 season, but there’s more to the story than that. Most noticeably, Goldschmidt’s infield hit % is all the way up at 11.5%, which is the 24th highest mark in the league so far. Remarkably though, his infield fly ball percentage is way below his career average at just 2.1%, which tells a pretty damning story.
Simply put, it means Goldschmidt is hitting a lot of hard grounders, but they are just going to infielders. For a hitter like Goldschmidt, being hung up on these struggles when he is still hitting the ball well and hitting a lower number of groundballs than normal, it seems like it is only a matter of time before it all clicks again for him.
On top of that, all it took for him to get it going last year was changing his spot in the batting order, which is in the cards for the St. Louis Cardinals with Matt Carpenter struggling as the leadoff and the offense in a general inconsistent flux. Whatever the case may be, there is still plenty of time for Paul Goldschmidt to right the ship and make his first season as a St. Louis Cardinals closer to the one fans expected.
Paul Goldschmidt is the marquee St. Louis Cardinals free agent acquisition in recent history, a consistently elite first baseman, and one of the best hitters in the league. While these first 200 PA’s are discouraging, he has proven in the past he should be given the trust that comes with those distinctions, and that’s exactly what I am giving him.