Thoughts On Paul Goldschmidt Winning The National League MVP Award …
1) This prestigious honor will strengthen Goldschmidt’s credentials for potential enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Goldy is building the case, and he’s already qualified by at least by one measure. In the 2019 Bill James Baseball Handbook, Bill presented a new statistic for evaluating a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. Title: Hall of Fame Value Standard, which combines two statistics that James believes in: Wins Above Replacement and Win Shares. A score of 500 is the bar for Hall of Fame worthiness. Through the end of the 2022 season Goldschmidt had a Hall of Fame Value Standard score of 520.
2) Goldschmidt currently ranks 18th in MLB history among first basemen in highest career WAR, 58.5. The average WAR for a Hall of Fame first baseman is 65.5, so Goldy has work to do. But he’s gaining ground. After his first season in St. Louis (2019) Goldschmidt had 42.5 WAR, but he’s added 16.0 WAR over the last three seasons. Goldy averages 2.4 WAR over his next three seasons he’ll have 65.7 career WAR to clear the unofficial Hall of Fame threshold at the first-base position.
3) Goldschmidt has passed one test: the 7-year peak that’s part of Jay Jaffe’s respected JAWS system for analyzing Hall of Fame candidates. Goldy’s 7-year peak of 45.3 WAR is above the average 42.1 peak WAR for Hall Of Fame first basemen. And Goldschmidt’s career JAWS rating (51.9) isn’t far from the average JAWS rating (53.8) for Hall of Fame first basemen. And Goldy’s career 5.8 WAR per 162 games is above the average (4.9 per 162) for Hall of Fame first basemen.
4) Goldschmidt already has a higher career WAR than at least 12 Hall of Fame first basemen including Hank Greenberg, George Sisler, Bill Terry, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Sunny Jim Bottomley, Frank Chance, Gil Hodges and DH-first baseman David Ortiz.
5) The MVP will fit nicely into Goldschmidt’s honors collection that includes 7 All-Star Games, 5 Silver Slugger awards and 4 Gold Gloves. He’s now received MVP votes in eight of his 12 big-league seasons, with four top-three results in the voting. Before this year he had two second-place outcomes and one third-place verdict.
5a) Side note, Goldy’s Hall of Fame case will get a boost when voters take the time to do research and discover that he’s one of the best baserunning first basemen in modern times. Goldschmidt has stolen 12 and 32 bases in a season six times, and Bill James credits Goldy with a career net baserunning gain of plus 218.
6) One thing is missing: postseason success. Baseball is definitely a team sport, but in his years with Arizona (8) and St. Louis (4) Goldschmidt has competed in six postseasons and never advanced past the NLCS round. That happened in 2019 – ending abruptly in a four-game sweep by Washington – and was his only career appearance in a league championship series. In 23 career postseason games Goldschmidt has eight homers and five doubles in 92 at-bats with a .576 slugging percentage and .909 OPS.
7) That’s where the Cardinal front office comes in. The 2022 Redbirds had the two highest-rated position players in the National League (based on Baseball Reference WAR.) And those players – Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado – finished first and third in the NL MVP voting. If ownership-management doesn’t step up in a substantial way to improve the team around them, it will be nothing short of a disgrace.
8) In Goldschmidt’s four seasons as a Cardinal the franchise ranks 6th in the majors in winning percentage (.559) but is only 4-11 in the postseason. In the two seasons that Goldy and Arenado have been teammates here, the Cardinals are 8th overall in winning percentage (.565) and haven’t won a postseason game, going 0-3. Goldschmidt and Arenado have plenty of good baseball left, but the years elapse quickly and they aren’t kids. Goldschmidt turns 36 late next season. Arenado will be 32 in April. Let’s go.
9) Goldschmidt had a hard time dealing with Cards’ rapid, two-game elimination in the 2022 postseason. “After we lost in the playoffs, I was pretty down for a few days, but fortunately time heals all wounds,” Goldschmidt said in a conference call with the media on Thursday night. “Eventually, I said, ‘That was a pretty dang good year.’ I didn’t play well in the playoffs, and that stings and I use it for motivation. I’ve already been working toward next year. A day, two or three days after (the postseason elimination) I was already focused on trying to improve and get ready for next year.”
10) In his first year as a Cardinal, 2019, Goldschmidt had a solid season but it was nothing special. Not by his standards. He had career-low numbers (in a full season) in batting average, onbase percentage, slugging, OPS and OPS+. He finished 15 percent above league average offensively. And there was nothing wrong with his home-run total (34) and RBI count (97) in 2019. But as a whole, ‘19 was Goldy’s career low point on offense.
11) From 2013 through 2018, only Mike Trout had more WAR (53.6) than Goldschmidt (36.1) among MLB position players. But the slippage in 2019 raised a question: had Goldy entered his decline phase at age 31? Evidently not. Per Baseball Reference, since the start of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season only Aaron Judge has more WAR (17.8) than Goldschmidt (16.0) among MLB position players. Goldy has batted .305 with a .389 OBP, .534 slug, .923 OPS and an OPS+ that’s 58 percent above league average offensively.
12) To recap: Goldschmidt was No. 2 in the majors in WAR over a six-season period (2013-2018) and then was No. 2 in WAR in the majors again over a three-season period (2020-2022.) During his age 29 to 31 seasons he had a 133 OPS+ … and during his age 32 to 34 seasons he had a 158 OPS+. You see, he’s actually gotten better as he grows older. That’s remarkable. But Goldy changed his batting stance, improved against fastballs and sinkers, and closed his vulnerability to changeups. He has a tremendous ability to make adjustments, and to use technology to learn more about his swing. He’s highly motivated and has an intense work ethic. All of this bodes well for his aging curve and his future. Not to mention his Hall of Fame candidacy.
13) “I think that was my best year, even if you take out my age,” Goldschmidt said of 2022. “When you start to get older, you’re thinking, ‘Man, can I replicate what I did in my prime? Factor (age) in and I’m more proud of what I was able to do in 2022 and even 2021. Even if you take out age — and I’d have to look at the stats, because I didn’t dive into them — but I think the way I played was the best.”
14) This past season Goldschmidt became only the fifth National League first baseman to churn a 180 OPS+ or higher in a season during the post-expansion era, which began for the NL in 1962. (Minimum 475 plate appearances in a season.) The other four were Willie McCovey (twice), Albert Pujols (twice), Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell.
15) During the modern era (1900-present) here are the top five highest OPS+ figures posted by a Cardinal in a season at age 34 or older, minimum 400 plate appearances:
Mark McGwire, 216 OPS+ in 1998
Paul Goldschmidt, 180+ in 2022
McGwire, 177+ in 1999
Stan Musial, 172+ in 1957
Jim Edmonds, 171+ in 2004.
16) I was surprised by the landslide nature of the NL MVP vote. I thought Goldschmidt would win, but I expected the first-place voting gap to be closer than it was. Goldschmidt received 22 first-place votes to Manny Machado’s 7. The most curious analysis of the evening came on MLB Network, when Harold Reynolds noted the respective vote totals of Goldschmidt and Arenado and somehow concluded that they had “split the vote.” Um, what? Huh? Goldy had 22 first-place votes. Arenado received only one first-place vote.
17) Nolan Arenado should be in position to win the NL MVP award soon, right? He had a 119 OPS+ in 2021, his first season with the Cardinals. He increased that to 154+ in 2022. And of course he’s arguably the best defensive player of his generation. He’ll make a run at the MVP. Arenado was genuinely happy for Goldschmidt’s MVP win. All along Arenado said that Goldschmidt deserved it and that he (Arenado) wouldn’t have it any other way. And he meant it. And Arenado was correct.
17a) In case anyone is wondering, here are STL’s top eight leaders in Win Shares for 2022, per Bill James:
Tommy Edman, 21
Ryan Helsley, 16
Brendan Donovan, 15
Albert Pujols, 14
Lars Nootbaar, 12
Miles Mikolas, 12
17b) Pujols didn’t get as many Win Shares because defense is a factor and he spent most of the season in the DH spot. But Pujols ranked third in Hitting Win Shares, with 14.1. Only Goldschmidt (33.4) and Arenado (24.1) had more.
18) Classy of Pujols to participate in the MVP presentation on MLB Network. But it left me hoping that Albert would say he’s coming back for another year. The mutual love and respect between Goldy and Pujols is special.
19) I was just glad that Goldschmidt let himself enjoy the moment instead of holding back – as he tends to do as a man of humility who never wants to take credit or turn the spotlight on himself. He was really, really happy and didn’t try to suppress his smile. Such a good dude. And having his wife and two children sharing in the big moment made it extra sweet.
20) We’re fortunate to have Goldy, St. Louis.
20a) And Arenado, too.
Thanks for reading …
Have an awesome weekend.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.