Welcome to my series of Report Card postings for individual members of the 2022 Cardinals. I strive to present a thorough profile for each player, and that takes time because I’m also writing about other topics.
Today, this one is pretty simple and easy.
Next Up: Paul Goldschmidt. I figured it was appropriate to highlight his 2022 season on Nov. 17, when the winner of the National League MVP is announced. Nothing is guaranteed, but Goldschmidt is viewed as the heavy favorite to receive the award. (The Las Vegas betting lines agree.) The other two MVP finalists are Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. The only potential problem for Goldy is splitting the vote with Arenado which could create a lane for Machado.
Opening Thoughts: For Goldschmidt, I’ll suspend the usual “debate” over a letter grade. He had an “A” season, which is the max, because I don’t do the A+ thing.
Critics can ding him for going 0 for 7 with four strikeouts against the Phillies in the NL wild-card series, but that’s a two-game sample that shouldn’t prompt an overreaction when we assess his full season. He proved his excellence over 651 regular-season plate appearances … which tell us a helluva lot more than eight postseason plate appearances.
Critics can also downgrade Goldschmidt’s performance for his 27 games during the final month of the regular season. And that would be really stupid. Because though his numbers were down in Sept-Oct from a power standpoint, he still finished eight percent above league average offensively over that time based on park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+.) To repeat: eight percent above league average. If this is your worst month, then you’ve had a fantastic season. An MVP-level season.
You judge a player on his full body of work. But if we want to play that game – pick out a specific stretch where Goldschmidt’s numbers were off in an effort to prove some sort of goofy and irrelevant point – well, I can do that too by isolating on another and far more important stretch.
After losing at Washington on July 30, the Cardinals dropped four games behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central standings. In their next 33 games the Redbirds went 26-7 to take full control of first place in the division – leading the Brewers by a lockdown margin of 8 and ½ games after defeating the Cubs on Sept. 4.
The Cards picked up 12 and ½ games in the standings during the 33-game blitz. For his part Goldschmidt played in 32 of the 33 games and batted .322 with a .427 onbase percentage, .636 slug, 1.062 OPS, seven doubles, 10 homers, 29 RBI and 28 runs scored.
Here’s why Goldschmidt gets the “A” approval: Where do I start? Well, his consistency was something special. Using park-and-league adjusted runs created, he performed above average offensively in every month. Keeping in mind that 100 in wRC+ equals the league average, here are Goldy’s monthly showings:
April ……. 114
May ……. 255
June ….. 199
July … 148
August … 210
Sept-Oct … 108
— For the season he led the National League in slugging (.578), OPS (.981), OPS+ (180), runs created (138), wRC+ (177), offensive WAR (7.5) and Win Probability Added. Plus he ranked No. 1 in at least five other metrics-based categories.
— That 180 OPS+ means Goldschmidt was 80 percent above league average offensively. It was also the best OPS+ of his career, which is extra impressive considering that he attained that mark at age 34. Rather than go into an age-related decline, Goldschmidt had the best season of his distinguished career.
— Goldschmidt was second in the NL in total WAR (7.5), RBI (115), onbase percentage (.404), total bases and Wins Above Average. For WAR, I used the Baseball Reference version. The only NL player to score higher in bWAR was his teammate Arenado (7.9), who edged Goldy out because of a dominant defensive performance.
— Goldschmidt was third in the NL in batting average (.317), runs (106), hits (178), and total bases.
— He was fourth in extra-base hits, fifth in homers (35), sixth in doubles (41) and seventh in walks (79.)
— He batted .310 with a .989 OPS with runners in scoring position. He was 77 percent above league average offensively with RISP.
— Fielding Bible credited Goldschmidt with two defensive runs saved, which ranked 10th among MLB first basemen. He was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove at first base but finished third in the voting.
— According to Bill James, Goldschmidt had a net baserunning gain of +16 this past season. That’s terrific, and highlights one of his underappreciated skills. (Since becoming a Cardinal in 2019, Goldschmidt has a net gain of +71 on the bases.)
— What about all-around performance measures? According to Bill James, Goldschmidt was in the 94th percentile in baserunning, the 80th percentile in hitting for power, the 76th percentile for plate discipline, the 79th percentile in fielding at first base, and the 57th percentile in hitting for average.
— Goldschmidt in 2022 was named to the NL All-Star team for the 7th time, won his 5th Silver Slugger, won the vote for Hank Aaron Award for being the top offensive performer in the NL, and won the Player’s Choice Award for being the most outstanding player in the NL.
Finally: here’s a cool stat which underlines the magnitude of Goldschmidt’s prowess in 2022.
In 2022, Goldschmidt batted .317 with a .404 OBP, .578 slug, 180 OPS+, 41 doubles, 35 homers and 115 RBIs.
During the Modern Era, which began in 1900, only four qualifying National League hitters have put together a season that reached that combination of performance thresholds.
(Again: at least a .317 batting average, .404 OBP, .578 slug, 180 OPS+, 41 doubles, 35 homers, and 115 RBIs.)
The four players were Cardinals — a fact that I did not expect to find when I did my research on Stathead.
These four hitters reached this statistical combination a total of seven times since 1900:
* Albert Pujols in 2003, 2008 and 2009.
* Rogers Hornsby in 1922 and 1925.
* Stan Musial in 1948.
* Paul Goldschmidt in 2022.
In the NL’s post-expansion era (1962-present) only Pujols and Goldschmidt have passed that particular stats test.
My goodness. Yeah, I’m perfectly good with giving Goldschmidt an “A.”
If I was into dishing an A+ he’d qualify.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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Stats used in my baseball columns 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.