What are the Cards getting in Goldschmidt?


I think it's safe to say that through May 24th, the St. Louis Cardinals and their fan base have not gotten what they have expected from Paul Goldschmidt. Typically, no team would complain about having a .258/.351/.433/.784 guy in the lineup. He's been 13% above average by wRC+, he's been an average to slightly above first base defender - or better than the Cardinals have had in years, he's been solid on the basepaths, and he's absolutely destroyed meatballs (literally defined as "middle-middle" pitches).


In fact, minus 2016, Goldschmidt has always destroyed those middle-middle pitches. In 2015, Goldschmidt had a .591 wOBA against meatballs, in 2016 it dropped to .403, then rebounded to .530 and .453 the following seasons. Those four years, it basically rounds out to approximately a .500 wOBA against meatballs. Well, in 2019, his current wOBA is .728 against meatballs. That's 47% better than his actual 4-year average prior to this season. He's just eating those pitches up (terrible pun intended). In 16 plate appearances ending in a meatball pitch this season, he's struck out once, grounded out 3 times, flown out 3 times, reached based on an error once, singled 4 times, and homered 4 times. That's a .500/.500/1.250/1.750 line against those types of pitches this year. Not too shabby.


In fact, it was a meatball that produced one of the longest home runs of the year by a St. Louis Cardinal off of Goldschmidt's bat. It was also one of my favorite calls by FSMW announcer Danny Mac (.gif below, but must click through the link above to hear the call):

Pause me at point of contact if you can!

Prior to you reading the rest of this, I do want to add a disclaimer: I don't mean for this to be alarmist or a distress call or to bench him or even as a call to move him to 6th or 7th in the lineup. He's been a MOTO (middle of the order) hitter his entire career and will likely be that guy sooner rather than later this year. I was a huge proponent of the trade to get him just 5.5 months ago. I have not soured on Goldschmidt. This is simply an attempt to quantify what he has done thus far for the Cardinals and how he has gone about doing it.


Paul Goldschmidt is simply not doing as well inside of the zone other than those meatballs, however. Goldy has swung at a higher percentage of pitches inside the zone than he ever has in his career. He's not swinging at an egregious amount. MLB averages swinging at 65.9% of pitches within the confines of the strike zone. Goldschmidt has swung at 64.6% of the pitches he's seen in the zone this year. His career average, however, is just 61%. That alone is not a bad thing.


However, Paul Goldschmidt has made contact on 79.3% of pitches in the zone in his career, only slightly below the league average of 83.1%. This year, Goldschmidt has made contact on only 75.2% of pitches within the strike zone. So he's swinging at more pitches in the zone and is making contact at 90% of the league average compared to his typical 95% of league average rate.



Goldschmidt is compounding that problem by chasing pitches outside the strike zone 26.6% of the time. That is the highest chase % of his career.


In fact, just swinging more often is a common theme for Goldschmidt this year. His swing percentage is 10% above his career average. His chase percentage is nearly 17% above his career average. His first pitch swing percentage is nearly 20% higher than his career average. I don't know if he's pressing to meet expectations of his new contract. I don't know if he's pressing because the offense is struggling.

What I do know...this production (or lack thereof) is not what the Cardinals imagined when they traded for Paul Goldschmidt. This is the same production that they got out of Tino Martinez at first base or Stephen Piscotty in the lineup. THAT is not enough.


As always, Baseball Savant, you rock for finding information and videos quickly and easily. Cardinalsgifs, great work on the cover art and .gifs.