The Goldschmidt Compass: Has Paul lost the North?

Although some things have to continue clicking, he will be fine.

Fact: Paul Goldschmidt signed a $130 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.

Fact: His fWAR since then (2019-2021) is barely higher than the fWAR for his final campaign (2018) with his previous team, the Diamondbacks, 6.8 to 5.2.

Fact: He is projected to finish this season with a 3.1 fWAR, with approximately 1.4 fWAR for the rest of the season.

Prediction: He will probably finish closer to a 4.5 fWAR, 2.8 the rest of the way.

So here is the thing: Goldschmidt’s first half was really underwhelming for him. His triple slash was .265/.335/.432, with a .335 wOBA and a wRC+ of 113, just 13% better than the average major-leaguer, not ideal for a player with a 26-million-dollar yearly salary.

Entering the 2021 season, with an NFBC Draft Champions ADP of 91, Goldschmidt typically went in the sixth round in 15-teamers, so although he didn’t have the price tag and expectations of a first/second-rounder, his managers are still waiting for a good return of investment.

That has not completely happened. Yet.

The Case Against Goldy

 

The first obvious thing is that Goldschmidt is getting older. As it’s been extensively researched and proven, age is a major, almost impossible to counter, fact to predict the decline in performance, unless you are Nelson Cruz.

 

Selected MLB batters hits by age

Hits by age, selected MLB batters.

 

For example, as you can see in the previous graph, the number of hits by a selected group of players with more than 2700 hits in MLB starts decreasing sharply after age 33. Goldschmidt is 33 years, 10 months and six days old.

Then there is his track record: after posting a wOBA and wRC+ of .390 and 145 in the 2018 season, he had .346 and 116 in 2019, .387 and 146 in 2020* and .335 and 113 so far in 2021. 2020, as a non-full regular season, looks like an outlier in the trend, so history is not kind to Paul and what he has done so far this year, reflects it.

Additionally, you can get a very good deep dive on what he did last season by taking a look at this piece by Zach Hayes on him. It’s very insightful.

 

The Case for Him

 

Let’s start with something that looks anecdotal but is nevertheless very interesting: Goldschmidt since the 2018 season has posted better numbers in the second half of the season than in the first, as you can see in the following chart.

 

A tale of two halves

 

I’ve highlighted in light green the stats that improved in the second half; you’ll see a lot of green there. By the way, I’m semi-arbitrarily appointing the 2020 season as a second-half season, based on the length and starting time.

We can say that, as of lately, he gets better as the season progresses. This train of thought made me want to look if there is a way to find out the inflexion point for him and if he has (or ever will) reach it this year.

I started looking at the 45-Games daily K% rolling average for the last four seasons:

 

 

I identified the approximate points at which Goldschmidt started showing the most significant decline in his K% during each season. Those points are marked with the vertical red line for each year.

Those points varied from the start of July in 2018, mid-August in 2019, to mid-May this season. 2020 had a surge in the last month of the season, but the overall number kept under 22.4%, Goldschmidt’s career average.

So this checks with the notion of a second-half improvement, at least in that important stat.

Next, I looked at the same type of graph but for BB%:

 

 

Almost exact same points in time for an improvement in this stat as for the previous one.

Let’s do a final one, OPS:

 

 

I’m not even adding the red mark this time; it’s very clear that there is an improvement in the same places in OPS for him. This, of course, is not a surprise now as knowing that he gets better in adding contact and getting on base via walks, for a batter that hits the ball hard, it can only mean that his OPS should improve too.

Regarding him hitting the ball hard, I stated in another piece that he is top 25 in MLB (min. 55 BBE) in Q, a stat that uses the Dynamic Hard Hit rate (a measurement of how hard a batter hits the ball depending on the launch angle), and the Standard deviation of the launch angle of all his batted ball events (BBE), at 0.883, being the league average half of that.

If you want to take a more in-depth look at Q, I recommend that you read this primer about it and this other follow-up article.

So we have a good recipe for success, here. But what is more important than anything is that Goldschmidt is getting hot sooner than usual, as he has started the improvement trend a month earlier than in his previous seasons.

Another important fact is that he is currently batting the lowest BABIP in his career at .303, which is more than 40 points lower than his career average of .345; this number should regress, and with that, it will also help him in his improvement.

 

Final Thoughts

 

It’s hard to be 100% confident that something will happen as predicted in baseball due to the nature of our beloved game.

The best we can do is to apply educated guesses, based on probabilities, trends, and experience (and some gut feeling, too). Looking at Paul Goldschmidt’s profile, I can’t but firmly recommend targeting him in trade opportunities for those leagues that allow it, as I am very inclined to believe he will have a superb second half.

And if you need some more reassurance about it, I will post some final numbers: from the beginning of the season and until June 26th, Goldy posted in his first 75 games a slash line of .253/.321/.418, a .322 wOBA, and a 105 wRC+; the following 13 games he is batting .333/.414/.510, a .401 wOBA and a wRC+ of 156.

The 0.6 fWAR for those last 13 games represents more than 33% of his yearly total of 1.7 so far, while being only 15% of his total games this year.

He is using his plate discipline, reflected in significant improvement in BB% and especially in his K%, as the compass for better outcomes at the plate, so…

Hey Santa, be aware: Paul Goldschmidt is heading North.

 

Photos by Rich von Biberstein & Rob Grabowski /Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG).

Carlos Marcano

Just a Venezuelan, not living in Venezuela. Intrigued by most of the things that can be measured in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and life. I love to try to estimate performances.

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