Three St. Louis Cardinals who will improve this year and two who will regress
Regression: Paul Goldschmidt
The National League MVP in 2022, Paul Goldschmidt finished the season with a thud after dominating for five months, leading the league in OPS+ and even entering the conversation for the Triple Crown. Goldschmidt will be 35 for most of the 2023 season, and while the age-related decline is likely, his descent could be steeper than many fans expect.
Throughout most of Goldschmidt’s career, he has been vulnerable to the slider. In 2022, he saw 714 sliders, the most he’d ever been exposed to in his career, at least since 2017 when this started being tracked. His batting average against sliders was a respectable .276. However, his expected batting average was 90 points lower, at .186. This indicates that Goldschmidt was extremely fortunate last year. Also concerning is his expected weighted on-base average against four-seam fastballs, which was a career-low .359.
Goldschmidt’s defense slipped last year as well, as the four-time Gold Glover graded out as five outs below average. Although first base is a position where a strong glove is a luxury rather than a necessity, further deterioration from Goldschmidt in that domain could become a problem.
Goldschmidt is almost certainly on the downslope of his career, even if last year didn’t indicate it. He can likely still be productive, but expecting him to sniff his 2022 numbers would be unrealistic.
It will be fun to see how these players pan out this season. Can the players expected to improve do just that, and can others stave off likely regression? Here’s to another fascinating year.