Paul Goldschmidt had a solid year in 2019, even if was not up to his typical standards. A 116 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR is a strong season, even if it was the worst season of his career since his first full season in the majors in 2012. Despite this, Goldschmidt has bounced back in 2020 and has been the Cardinals best hitter by a fair margin. This has been especially important for a Cardinals offense that can struggle to push runs across the plate. As a team, the Cardinals are 19th in the league with a wRC+ of 99, while they have also posted the 20th best wOBA (.315).
However, Goldschmidt raises these numbers by a fair margin with his team-leading 182 wRC+ and .440 wOBA. This production has been important for the offense, however, it appears that it might simply be temporary as much of it has been built on walk rates and strikeout rates that appear to be unsustainable. In the previous three seasons, Goldschmidt’s highest walk rate was 14.1%, which is very good but still not close to his 20.6% walk rate this year. Additionally, Goldschmidt has never posted a strikeout ratae below 20% in his entire career. However, this season, his strikeout rate is just 12.1%. Additionally, nearly 30% of the balls that he has put in play this season have been line drives while he had never before posted a line drive rate above 25%. This is why his batted ball results have been so good. However, they have been about as good as last season. In fact Goldschmidt actually posted a better xWOBACON in 2019 (.445) last season than in 2020 (.433).
Essentially, this means that most of the increased production this season has come from his non-contact results. It is these results that seem the most prone to change in the future as well, as Goldschmidt has never walked at such a high rate or struck out at such a low rate, and it is unlikely that a nearly 33-year-old hitter has made such a drastic improvement. Goldschmidt has always had a good approach at the plate, but it appears that he is simply seeing the ball really well right now and that is why he is walking so much and hitting so many line drives. This has been a huge boost for a struggling Cardinals offense, but Goldschmidt will eventually cool off. This creates concern for the offense when Goldschmidt begins to suffer from regression.
It is unlikely that Goldschmidt maintains this level of production over the course of the entire season, even though anything can happen in a 60-game season. This means that other members of the Cardinals lineup are going to need to step up and start producing. Players like Dylan Carlson, Yadier Molina, Tommy Edman, Matt Carpenter, and Kolten Wong have all struggled to produce this season. This has caused Goldschmidt, Brad Miller, Paul DeJong, and even Dexter Fowler, who is a regression candidate as well, to carry the load for the offense.
It is already obvious that the Cardinals offense has been struggling. If/When Goldschmidt regresses back to his normal levels of production, it is likely that this offense will get even worse if nobody else steps up. This is why the Cardinals were correct in not making any significant trades at the deadline because there simply may not be enough offensive talent on this team for the Cardinals to be considered serious contenders. At this point, the only way the Cardinals offense can get better is if Wong and Edman begin hitting like they did last year, or if Carlson and O’Neill can show their significant promise at the plate and start to break out. Once again, the Cardinals must rely on internal improvements to improve, especially when Goldschmidt begins to regress.