Fans knew that when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired their newest superstar that the offense would be good, but how has he contributed defensively?
It’s been pretty obvious that Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t brought the same numbers at the plate this year as he has every other year of his career. Mostly due to a slow start and first half, the St. Louis Cardinals may not see the superstar batter until next year.
It’s semi-understandable though, as this is the first year in a new city for the first time and with a shiny new contract that is paying him more than he has ever made before, but Goldschmidt’s offense has lacked.
When the Cardinals traded for Goldschmidt over the summer, they knew they were getting the whole package. A perennial top-3 MVP vote-getter and All-Star. I firmly believe he will return to those numbers offensively, but one thing that hasn’t been discussed much has been his work on the other side of the ball.
In his career, Goldy has won three Gold Gloves while being a consistently great fielder at first base. Last year, the Cardinals had a mix of Matt Carpenter and Jose Martinez at first base and it was very ugly. Goldschmidt’s contributions at first base with his glove were sure to spread across the diamond as he has the ability to save errors for other fielders; something he has done often this year.
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Last year, as a team the Cardinals were actually the 11th-best defensive team in baseball by DRS (40). While that suggested an improvement, there was still room to grow as Goldschmidt’s team, the Diamondbacks, were in first by a mile with 157 combined DRS. This obviously wasn’t all Goldschmidt as the Diamondbacks have a lot of good defenders, but Goldy certainly helped.
Moving to this year, the Cardinals have jumped up to fourth-best in the MLB with 59 DRS already, and that’s been with Jose Martinez (-10 DRS) in right field still. This is obviously a blanket analysis, but not to go unnoticed is that the team has already generated about 150% of their DRS from last year with six weeks still to go in the season.
When you focus the microscope strictly on Goldschmidt, you can see that he is definitely having a better year than last year with the glove. Last year, he was down in about every single category defensively whether it was DRS, UZR, or any other of the many defensive metrics. It was reasonable to wonder if he had lost the gold on his glove at the age of 30.
This year has been a bounce-back year though as he has already generated five DRS this year when last year he had just six the whole season. His UZR has also returned to the latter 20’s average of about 2.9 after it dipped down to 0.0 last year. His best three years defensively were 2015-2017 when he had DRS’s of 18, 4, and 10 and UZR’s of 4.6, 3.9, and 3.0.
Goldy’s individual performance has jumped the Cardinals from a -4 DRS and -4.4 UZR at first base combined last year up to a 6 DRS and 3.8 UZR this year; the second-best production in baseball.
It is very tough to say how Goldy has effected the rest of the infield as far as their own numbers go, but Kolten Wong has already hit 11 DRS for the year (he probably won’t reach his total of 19 he had last year), Paul DeJong has already reached 8 DRS after last year’s high of 3, and Matt Carpenter has reached 1 DRS.
I don’t want to discount the work that the other infielders have done to keep themselves sharp by saying it’s all Goldy that has made the change, but having a former Gold Glover to throw to can’t hurt their defensive statistics.
Paul Goldschmidt’s offensive numbers will most definitely look subpar when the season ends, but at least on the defensive side of the ball, his contributions and presence has raised the defense of the infield and helped push the Cardinals into the top-5 defensive teams in the league.