Paul Goldschmidt: Same As He Ever Was, Kind Of

Not too long ago Paul Goldschmidt’s season ended. The event that caused it resulted in a little retaliation, that may or may not have taken Andrew McCutchen out for a little while. In the aftermath of the McCutchen injury – and the Diamondbacks’ overall bad year – Goldschmidt’s season sort of became lost, carried away in the tide of Tony La Russa’s press conference, and the Pirates’ anger and sadness over losing their best player in the midst of a push for October. We aren’t here to debate unwritten rules and the policing of the game, though. It’s become a cumbersome topic that I don’t really care enough about to debate, but we needed some background, and my lede writing is below replacement level.

Goldschmidt, quietly, was putting together another splendid season; one that was going to back up the incredible one he put together in 2013 – a campaign that should have won him the MVP in some minds. His home run total wasn’t as gaudy, neither were his RBI and Runs totals, but his line was nearly a duplicate of 2013, according to both wOBA and wRC+. Some of Goldschmidt’s “decline” can be chalked up to bad luck, and bad teammates. Mark Trumbo, Goldschmidt’s protection, was lost early on. Martin Prado hit like 2011 Brendan Ryan. A.J. Pollock manned the top of the order for a while, and was very, very good, but then he got hurt, too. Arizona’s offense just didn’t get going early: they posted a .306 wOBA in the first half. And they’ve been worse in the second half – losing Goldy hurts … a ton – posting a .288 mark. He still got his, though. It was just going to be hard to reach last year’s heights when the cast around him wasn’t quite as good. Lastly, his home run rate declined a little, but considering his batted ball distance, I wouldn’t fret too much.

As I said, though: mirror image. Other than an increased swinging strike rate, which caused his strikeout rate to tick up a bit, Goldschmidt was essentially the same man. And the extra empty swings were somewhat nullified by swinging less frequently; only twelve qualified batters offered at a fewer percentage of pitches.

His batted ball profile? Same story. There are a few minor changes, but it’s mostly the same. He still did a fantastic job of maximizing the amount of balls hit in the air by rarely popping up. And, as we’re accustomed to seeing on highlight videos, he sprayed the ball all over the place. Which reminds me of a quality Freddie Freeman – whom I wrote about last week – has. The ability to keep defenses honest is huge, to me, anyways. [Note: I’m kind of obsessed with hitters who can go the other way with authority, so it’ll be a recurring theme at times. You’ve been warned.] 

Despite the delightful static nature in the components that comprise Goldy’s game, some processes, and their coinciding results, changed a little: he was much better versus cut fastballs and curveballs – his two largest weaknesses in 2013. Using our pitch values he’s been better versus the two offerings cumulatively, and on a per pitch basis. In traditional terms, it breaks down this way:

Year Pitch Count Swing% Whiff/Swing AVG SLG ISO
2013 Cutter 243 42.0% 21.6% 0.239 0.370 0.130
2014 Cutter 186 38.7% 22.2% 0.333 0.576 0.242
2013 Curveball 264 34.5% 19.8% 0.255 0.431 0.177
2014 Curveball 174 27.0% 21.3% 0.310 0.621 0.310

It goes without saying that we’re dealing with a small sample, but oh well. He was otherworldly versus curveballs this season, and nearly as good versus cutters. He came up empty more often, but that was expected, considering his overall swinging strike rate. He also offered at fewer of both offerings, though, and that’s notable. In this case, more selectivity is a good thing.

Back in 2012, it appeared Goldschmidt would have platoon issues; scouts had warned of it being a possibility for a few years. And, at the beginning of 2012 – as Goldschmidt wallowed in the muck of a slow start – it appeared as if those same scouts were right to be skeptical, then it happened. Everything clicked. And after April in 2012, Goldschmidt went on to post a .377 wOBA the rest of the way. Then he turned into a world-beater, thanks to an improved ability to hit right handed pitching.

2012 386 8.8% 24.9% 0.257 0.326 0.412 0.155 0.322
2013 540 14.8% 22.2% 0.300 0.406 0.534 0.234 0.401
2014 380 10.8% 24.2% 0.282 0.362 0.532 0.249 0.385

It almost feels as if Goldschmidt hasn’t gotten enough credit for his evolution of a hitter. Every question posed about his game at the dish has been answered resoundingly. Can he make enough contact? Yes. Can he hit right handed pitching? Yes. Can he catch up with major league fastballs? Yes (compare the two charts, and note the huge improvement over the past two seasons). Will his speed provide extra value? Yes.

One final thing before I go: remember Jeff’s article about the league struggling with pitches up in the zone? If you didn’t read it, do so, now. Goldschmidt might not fit the league-wide trend very well; he’s done very well up in the zone, with respect to his contact rate and to slugging percentage. It’s fitting. A man with bat speed questions, hits upper third pitches very well, while struggling a little down in the zone, while basically the entire league does the opposite. Baseball, man.

TL;DR: Paul Goldschmidt is fantastic. You probably didn’t need for me to tell you that, but oh well. Sometimes it just feels good to talk about what makes great players great.

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Landon is a senior writer at The Fantasy Fix. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter (@joneslandon).

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Reading this was like watching an ex-girlfriend that dumped you go out with another man… I MISS YOU PAUL!