In early December, the Cardinals struck a deal to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He represents the best trade acquisition the Cardinals have made since at least Jason Heyward prior to the 2015 season, if not Matt Holliday in the middle of the 2009 campaign. There aren’t many combinations of franchise, player, and city that seem as perfect for one another as Goldschmidt in St. Louis, and it’s going to be a fun first- and hopefully not the last- year for it.
In acquiring Goldschmidt, the Cardinals have infused their lineup with a baseball mashing robot whose production can be measured using a calendar. The season is half over? Well, then Paul Goldschmidt must be halfway to 5 fWAR. To wit, in five of the last six seasons:
- Goldschmidt’s batting average has landed between .290 and .302. The one outlier was .321 in 2015.
- His on-base percentage has been between .389 and .411. The one outlier was .435, again in 2015.
- His slugging percentage has been .533 to .570. The outlier was .489 in 2016.
- Goldschmidt’s isolated slugging has landed between .241 and .265. The outlier was .192 in 2016.
- He’s had between 665 and 710 plate appearances (outlier: 479 in 2014).
Last season, he took a more circuitous route on the way to his MVP contender numbers. His 2018 season was similar to Matt Carpenter’s. Through May 22nd, he had slashed just .198/.320/.355, an 85 wRC+. His strikeout rate was a whopping 30.7%.
From that point forward, he was the fourth best hitter in baseball with a 170 wRC+ (.328/.418/.606). His strikeout rate returned to his career standard- 22.4% after May 22nd compared to 22.5% career. When the season was over, his 145 wRC+ had been his best since 2015 when he finished 2nd in MVP voting. His mid-to-late season burst looked like this (insert gratuitous fun video of Paul Goldschmidt mashing baseballs... here!):
On the softer side of value, peripherals and such, Goldschmidt’s walk rate continued a slight decline. He has lost at least 1% off of his walk rate each of the last three seasons, sliding from 17% in 2015 down to 13% in 2018. Using Fangraphs’ BsR (Baserunning Runs), he has experienced a slight decline each season, although his BABIP is as steady and freakishly high as ever. His strikeout rate last year was the highest of his career, though it’s a function of a rough April and May. His defense has also declined (again, using Fangraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average) with the caveat that, well, defense is tricky to gauge.
By advanced metrics, his flyball percentage was way up last year, as was his launch angle. His exit velocity took a very slight downturn (nothing to be concerned about), and his wOBA (.390) was in lock step with his xwOBA (.383). Other than the regression in his walk rate, there’s little to suggest that Goldschmidt will continue to be anything other than a baseball mashing robot.
How do you see things going for Paul Goldschmidt’s debut in St. Louis?