Deep Dive: Paul Goldschmidt Happens
I don’t think it is too far fetched to say Paul Goldschmidt has somewhat disappointed us this season. He has been good but not great. Entering the 2019 fantasy baseball season Goldschmidt was being debated as possibly the best first baseman. He was often taken as the top first baseman off the board and was almost always a top 20-24 pick.
Unfortunately, he has come up short of these expectations. What has caused the drop in production and overall outlook on Paul Goldschmidt? Let’s dive in and try to see what the deal is.
Deep Dive into Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt currently has 18 home runs, with 56 runs and 43 RBI. This comes with a triple slash of .248/.336/.428. The 18 home runs are nice as are the counting stats for the most part. This is the Paul Goldschmidt we are talking about, and for Goldy this just isn’t what we’ve come to expect. The triple-slash is down across the board. These are career lows in batting average and slugging percentage. Not to mention 0.02 away from a career-low OBP.
I almost forget to mention the lack of steals. Part of what made Paul Goldschmidt such a difference-maker as a first baseman was the steals he offered. It appears that steals are no longer a part of his game. Goldschmidt ran less just last season. He totaled a whole 7 steals in 2018. In 2019 he has only attempted 1 steal on the season.
Spoiler alert! It was unsuccessful.
With steals out of the equation, he takes a bit of a hit to his fantasy baseball value.
Next, you’ll notice he has a BABIP of only .300 against a career average BABIP of .350. You expect some regression here, but if the speed isn’t what it used to be then there may not be as much regression as you’d typically expect. I wish it was as simple as “he’s due to regress to the norm” but it isn’t. There are also a few other changes in the profile that aren’t in Paul Goldschmidt’s favor.
Two words can describe the walk and K rates. Those words are steady regression. Paul Goldschmidt has been on a steady decline in said rates since the 2015 season. He has regressed about 1-1.5% every year in his walk rate since 2015. His K rate has also taken a similar path.
The K-rate has crept up since 2015 but the noticeable increase began when it jumped 3% from 22.1% in 2017 to 25.1% in 2018. This was the highest it’s been since his rookie campaign in 2011.
This year he’s on the same track but there’s a slight tick upward yet again. The K-rate is currently sitting at 25.7%. Again, it’s just a small increase but an increase nevertheless.
Batted Ball Data
There are a few noticeable changes to the batted ball data. What sticks out is the added FB%. Goldschmidt increased his FB% to 39.4% and that is actually a career-high at this moment. However, the added FB% has not led to an increase in HR/FB which is sitting at 18.2%. This is the lowest HR/FB rate since 2012 and down 3.4% from just last season.
Added fly ball rates are typically a good thing. However, the drop in HR/FB rate would suggest the increase in FB% is lending itself to the drop in batting average on the season likely in the form of fly outs.
Lastly, the pull rate is down as well. Paul Goldschmidt has never really been an extreme pull hitter with a career pull rate of 37.1%. With that said, the pull rate is sitting at 35.5%. That rate is down 2.4% from last season and is the lowest it’s been since 2015.
There seems to be a whole lot going on here. The words “steady decline” I mentioned prior come back into play yet again.
The chase rate is now up to career-worst 30.9% on the year. This is an increase of 2.1% from 2018. He has also increased the contact on those pitches which would lead to more soft contact and further contribute to the dip in batting average we have seen.
His swing rate has increased by 3.9% to 46.2%. Which correlates with the increase of 5.7% in zone swing percentage and the previously mentioned increase in chase rate.
There is an issue in the contact rates. As you can see, Goldschmidt has increased the overall swing rate but has decreased the contact rate of pitches in the zone. The contact rate of pitches in the zone (or Z-Contact) has dropped just a bit to 81.4% this season compared to 82.2% in 2018.
Basically, he’s swinging more often and chasing more pitches outside of the zone while making less contact on pitches in the zone. This is not a good mix.
The added aggression and swing and miss would explain those dips on walk rates as well as the increase in K-rate. The K-rate is also supported by a 10.7% SwStr% (or swinging strike rate). Although this is below league average, it’s actually the highest it’s been since 2011 and has also been on an upward trend since 2017.
Paul Goldschmidt has always been a great fastball hitter but over the last few years, he has begun to struggle with offspeed offerings as well as breaking balls.
This year is no exception. He is hitting under .200 on the curveball and changeup. The more surprising part is his .268 average against 4-seam fastballs. He is seeing less of them as a whole so maybe a change in pitch mix has allowed pitches to have some added success with them.
You can clearly see the change in pitch utilization against him. Let’s go ahead and put numbers to it.
That’s better! With how well Paul Goldschmidt has hit 4-seamers it’s no surprise pitchers have continued to drop the amount of 4-seamers they throw him. The amount of 4-seamers he’s seen has dropped 5% since last season and the sliders he has seen has also dropped 1.7%. You can see why as he’s been relatively successful against sliders and fastballs.
This has in turn caused an increase in usage of pitches he hasn’t had such success with. Goldschmidt so far has seen an increase of 2.6% in cutters, 0.9% in curveballs and 2.4% in changeups. This is obviously by design as his success vs said pitches has decreased over the last couple years.
Hot and Cold Zones
Pitchers haven’t really changed how they attack Goldschmidt. They tend to focus on the lower outside portion of the strike zone.
One thing you’ll notice is his lack of launch angle on said zone. The average launch angle in that zone is -6. That is not a typo. It explains part of the reason he’s being attacked there. It would also explain the ground ball rate in that zone as well.
That ground ball percentage really leaks in that area. A lot of it is due to that lack of launch angle.
Paul Goldschmidt also only has an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH in that lower outside portion of the zone as well.
As you can see, it’s not the only area he has weak contact in. Up and in is also an area of concern. That’s where he has his lowest average exit velocity which is 85.1 MPH.
His batting average up and in is a lowly .154 up and in. He’s managing to hit well low and away but outside the zone you see he doesn’t fare as well and it’s likely why pitchers really target that area. He appears to make them pay when they miss, however, as he’s hitting .270 or better in that lower outside portion of the plate.
And of course, the k rates per zone match up well with where the batting average woes lie as well as where pitchers are attacking him.
The statcast data basically falls in line with his current production. There are no real outliers as far as expected stats and current production. With that said, there are still some things worth noting.
Paul Goldschmidt’s hard-hit rate has really taken a dive. He’s sitting at 41.6%. That’s down 2.2% from last season. This is with hard-hit rate being up across the league in general. This is accompanied by his average exit velo down about one MPH to 89.9 from 90.8 just a season ago.
There’s also a minor change in launch angle of roughly 1 degree from last year as well.
Lastly, his barrel rate is down 3.6% from 2018. It’s sitting at 10% even on the season and it’s the worst it’s been since 2016. The quality of contact and change in plate discipline likely plays into the drop in hard-hit rate as well as some of the batting average issues as a whole.
Paul Goldschmidt Rest of Season Outlook
Well, unfortunately, it appears Paul Goldschmidt has been trending downward little by little for some time now. The steals appear to be an afterthought and there are no real signs of that changing.
I believe his days of being a top 2 round player are likely done. I’d say he’s more in the Jose Abreu tier vs. the Freddie Freeman tier he was in to start the year. I have players like Pete Alonso, Josh Bell, and Anthony Rizzo ahead of Goldschmidt for reference.
Paul Goldschmidt’s track record suggests he could very well turn things around. If you want to believe he’s in for a big second half you’re betting on that track record because, unfortunately, the underlying numbers don’t suggest it is going to happen.
Mike Kurland is a new contributor for FantraxHQ covering fantasy baseball. He began with Fantrax in June of 2019. He is also the creator and host of The Bases Loaded Podcast. Mike is new as a fantasy baseball analyst but he has really embraced it with open arms. Feel free to reach out to Mike on Twitter @Mike_Kurland with any of your fantasy baseball questions, he is always happy to answer them.
Fantrax was one of the fastest-growing fantasy sites of 2018 and we’re not slowing down any time soon! With multi-team trades, designated commissioner/league managers, and drag/drop easy click methods, Fantrax is sure to excite the serious fantasy sports fan – sign up now for a free year at Fantrax.com.