With no beginning in sight for the 2020 regular season, I will look at which Cardinals hitters performed the best (and worst) against certain pitch types last season. This first article will focus on which Cardinals hitters performed the best against breaking pitches. The top three are probably close to what you would expect as all three were among the top overall Cardinals hitters last season.
The player that performed the best by a large margin was Paul Goldschmidt. The 32-year-old first baseman recorded a .301 batting average against curveballs and sliders, as well as a .380 wOBA. Additionally his exit velocity of 89.6 mph was just one half of a mph below his average exit velocity on the season. These are very strong numbers, and his whiff rate of 32.6% is not bad as well. While Goldschmidt will clearly hope to replicate these numbers next season, they also denote some pedestrian-level stats against fastballs as his .260 batting average and .346 wOBA on the season are clearly not due to poor performance against breaking pitches. In fact, Goldschmidt tallied just a .256 batting average and .349 wOBA against fastballs. These are right around his full season numbers and they explain why he had the worst full season of his career at the plate. If he can improve against fastballs this season, then he could have a resurgence from last year.
The next two best performers were Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman, and their numbers against breaking balls were nearly indistinguishable. Kolten Wong put up a .280 batting average and .337 wOBA with just a 82.2 average exit velocity. Despite the relative success, his exit velocity was 1.3 mph lower than his average exit velocity against all pitches (which was already low). This could be a cause for concern heading into this season as Wong could be a regression candidate. Regression for Wong is uncertain, however, and nevertheless his production against breaking pitches in 2019 was solid.
Tommy Edman, who is another regression candidate, batted .286 against breaking pitches with a .335 wOBA. While these numbers are nearly identical to Wong’s, his average exit velocity against these pitches was a much higher 87.6 mph. This was actually one half of a mph above his average on the season. Additionally. he also posted a solid whiff rate of 28.4% against these pitches (nearly 6% lower than Wong). Due to this, he appears to be much less of a regression candidate than Wong does, at least in terms of performance against breaking balls.
It is not too surprising that the best performers against breaking balls also happened to be among the best performers at the plate overall. The ability to hit a breaking pitch can be the difference between a strong hitter and a weak hitter, so once again, it is not too surprising that Goldschmidt, Wong, and Edman were the best in this category. As we saw with Paul Goldschmidt, however, this will not always be the case, as he will likely not be in the top three in terms of fastball production. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if these hitters can replicate their success this season, or if their will be some movement in the top three.