In 2019, Paul Goldschmidt had his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals got a decent season out of Goldschmidt, but nothing like what was expected out of him in the middle of the order. Yes, the home runs were there and the RBI were there. I wouldn't expect those to raise too much next year. But what about the other extra base hits? Where did those seem to go to die?
One thing that held Goldy back was his lack of production on fastballs in play. Now, that might seem silly as his balls in play on fastballs produced a .415 wOBA. A .415 wOBA is akin to what Alex Bregman put up for all of his PA in 2019, and he knew what pitches were coming! However, based on exit velocity and launch angles of each individual fastball induced ball in play for Goldschmidt last year, it was expected that he would put up a .445 wOBA instead. That's hitting more like Christian Yelich (who had baseball's highest wOBA last season) instead.
In 2019, batters had a .985 wOBA and .955 xwOBA on batted balls that were both Hit Hard (95+ mph) and also were in the sweet spot (8 to 32 degree launch angle off of the bat). These events were 17.3% of all balls in play this year. Barrels represent only 7.4% of all batted balls and have even higher wOBA and xwOBAs. So while barrels should be the goal, hitting the ball hard and in the sweet spot is a way to take baby steps towards accomplishing that goal of barreling as many balls as possible.
Goldschmidt had 16 outs on 57 of these such batted balls. His xwOBA on these types of batted balls was 1.042 - nearly 100 points above league average. His actual wOBA was 1.008, only 23 points above league average. The worst hit of these balls, surprisingly enough, was this one:
The most average hit of these balls was:
The best hit of these balls was absolutely roped at the left fielder:
It was not any one specific type of fastball nor any one specific location that tripped up Goldschmidt on these outs when hitting a ball that well (as seen below).
Where he hits the ball might be the key here. Goldschmidt did not have the carrying power to right field quite as much this year. There were a couple to the left side of the field, but more to the center and right field areas. (For fun, here's a link to the one that Goldy hit the piss out of to second baseman Derek Dietrich - I didn't want to burden Nick with yet another .gif, however.)
What's crazier than his lack of luck on fastballs is that Paul Goldschmidt was even unluckier (!) on balls in play when swinging the bat against an offspeed or breaking pitch. Yes, Goldschmidt was flat out unlucky on balls in play this year in general. Goldy's xwOBA on balls in play (BIP) when hitting the ball at least 95 mph and between 8 and 32 degrees was 1.053 (again, nearly 100 points HIGHER than league average on balls in play), but his wOBA was actually about 100 points BELOW league average) at "just" .892. Out of 33 balls hit like this, 12 of them somehow were outs. Again, most of these were on balls hit to center or right center fields.
According to Fangraphs, Paul Goldschmidt actually had his highest percentage of "hard hit" balls of his entire career (Baseball Savant disagrees) while also being right around his career average on balls pulled to the left side of the field. Fangraphs does show that he used the center of the field more often than normal, mostly at expense of right field. He also hit a lot more fly balls as opposed to grounders - but his line drive rate was relatively normal for him. Baseball Savant adds that his barrel percentage was nearly twice league average, but was his lowest since 2016.
So it's a mixed bag on whether or not Goldschmidt was better than his numbers suggest last year or whether his likely-age-related decline has begun and this is the Paul Goldschmidt we should expect from here on out.
In any case, here's to hoping that lady luck shines on Paul Goldschmidt whenever baseball is ready to re-start. Let's go Goldy. Let's go Cardinals.