St. Louis Cardinals: Will Paul Goldschmidt return to superstardom?

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

First basemen Paul Goldschmidt had a bit of a disappointing season after being acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals. Can he return to his superstar form in 2020?

Paul Goldschmidt definitely was a really good player for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, but he wasn’t the MVP candidate that he’d been for so long. I don’t think it was the new normal for Goldschmidt and I expect him to return to the superstar form soon.

In 2019 he hit .260 with 34 HRs, an .826 OPS, and a .326 wOBA. This is certainly a very good season but compared to the Paul Goldschmidt we’ve all been accustom to seeing, this was a step-down.

In the previous six seasons, his lowest OPS was .899 and the lowest wOBA of .382. His average OPS over 2013-18 was .947 and his average wOBA was .399. Those are insane numbers and show just how long Paul Goldschmidt had been consistently dominating, which makes the down year in 2019 so much more confusing.

light. More Cardinals. Hicks opts out of 2020

It really is also tough to see why his numbers suffered so much last year. His hitting profiles don’t show too much change from years past.

His average exit velocity dropped from 90.8 MPH to 90.1 MPH and his hard hit % dropped from 43.8% to 42.4%, and his K% even improved from 25.1% to 24.3%. Not much of a difference between 2018 and 2019 there.

Where I do notice the biggest difference from Paul Goldschmidt in 2019 and the rest of his career is that he barreled up the ball less, hit more fly balls, and struggled against fastballs for the first time in his career.

Goldschmidt had an average barrel % of 13.5% in 2017-18 which was in the top 7% in the MLB both years, yet his barrel % dropped to 11.3% which put him in the top 22% in the majors last year. I think this drop off ties right into the fact that he hit much fewer line drives last year as well.

His FB% (fly ball %) went all the way up from 22.9% to 29.7% last year and his LD% (line drive %) dropped from 29.5% to 24.4%. I think this is the type of thing that could be a one year thing for Goldy and he could be back to his old self in the future.

The reason I say this is because the fact that he was hitting the ball just as hard and even striking out a bit less than in years past, his numbers shouldn’t have changed as drastically as they did. Fixing the fly ball to line drive ratio is also something I’m sure he’ll see needs to be fixed and will be an emphasis in his swing.

2019 was also the first year in his career where he didn’t hit over .300 against fastballs. He hit only .256 against the fastball in 2019. A large drop there from the rest of his career. Once again though, I think this is something that won’t last for Paul Goldschmidt going forward.

His average exit velocity against the fastball last year was still a very solid 90.4 MPH and and his whiff% against the fastball was around what it has been in the past.

He did have his best year ever against breaking balls in 2019 as he hit a career best average and wOBA against breaking balls with a .301 AVG and a .376 wOBA.

I’d expect his numbers against fastballs and breaking balls to level off going forward. I don’t think he’ll struggle against the fastball again as he’s dominated it his entire career and he’s too good to just not mash the fastball anymore.

Overall, I think Goldschmidt was certainly worse for the Cardinals in 2019 than he’d been for the Diamondbacks for so long, but I think he played better than his numbers show. If he can make those few adjustments including hit line drives at the same rate as before, then look out.

Next. Tommy Edman - budding star. dark

Goldschmidt has been one of the most dominant bats in the MLB for such a long time and as far as the quality of contact made last year, it’s not enough to make me think he won’t return to that superstar form soon. Don’t be surprised if Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best hitters in the NL and maybe an MVP candidate once again in the shortened 2020 season.