Goldschmidt, Cards look like a perfect pair

Power and defense in season 1 bode well for long-term success

October 25th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Before even had taken his first official at-bat with his new team, he signed a contract extension that made him a Cardinal through 2024.

Now, after one year together, the Cardinals and Goldschmidt have no regrets about the long-term commitment they agreed to in Spring Training -- just three months after he was traded to the Cardinals. The transition was seamless, and Goldschmidt fit in easily with the Cardinals’ mix of youth and veteran players in 2019.

Of course, Goldschmidt still has parts of his game he can improve on, but he brought a big bat, solid defense and veteran leadership to a team that was looking to reassert itself in the division and in the postseason -- a goal St. Louis accomplished this year, in part because of Goldschmidt’s contributions.

What went right?

You can look at Goldschmidt’s team-leading 34 home runs (just two shy of his career best), his team-leading 97 RBIs, his 25 doubles, his 78 walks or his .821 OPS as evidence that his bat helped the Cardinals.

Beyond the damage to opposing teams that he did at the plate, a lot of what went right this season were things that don’t pop out when skimming Goldschmidt’s stats. Perhaps the biggest addition was his fielding; the first baseman helped stabilize a Cardinals defense that went from committing the most errors in the Majors in 2018 (133) to the fewest in 2019 (66). With the help of second baseman and shortstop , Goldschmidt was part of the most double plays in the Majors with 145. He’s a Gold Glove Award finalist this year, looking for his fourth win.

St. Louis manager Mike Shildt didn’t overlook that side of the game when he assessed the trade and extension that made Goldschmidt a Cardinal.

“When [Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak] called me ... initially, I was like, ‘Heck yeah. Paul Goldschmidt. Let’s go,’” Shildt said. “And then I started to look at it ... and [it] started to [dovetail] into what we were already doing defensively. And I called him back and was like, ‘I know there’s a lot of factors in this deal. And every factor has its own allocation of importance. Please do not minimize his defensive importance to the team moving forward and what it can do for it.’”

What went wrong?

Goldschmidt had career lows in average (.260), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.476) this year, due to a slow first half, but he still managed those team-leading home runs and RBIs.

Coupled with that sluggish start, Goldschmidt’s team-leading 166 strikeouts -- 11th most in the Majors -- were alarming, even if he was a little short of his most strikeouts in a season (173 in 2018). He struck out nine times and recorded just one hit in 16 at-bats as the Cards were swept by the Nationals in the National League Championship Series. As Goldschmidt and cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna went this season, so too did the St. Louis offense -- and when the two power hitters failed to produce, the Cardinals offense fizzled.

“It’s on me, that’s [how] I look at it,” Goldschmidt said after Game 4 of the NLCS. “If I did a better job, I think the results could have been different. They weren’t. It is what it is. ... [I] would’ve liked to play better, especially this series, and win and get a chance to win the World Series. [I’ll] do everything in my power to improve, get better this offseason, come back and try to help us win next year.”

Best moment

While Goldschmidt brought a lot of intangibles with him to St. Louis, his offense was the main reason the Cardinals wanted him in the lineup. He justified that often this season -- remember when he homered in six straight games? And his three-homer game against the Brewers in the second game of the season?

After debuting for the Cardinals with three strikeouts on March 28, Goldschmidt came back on March 29 and went 4-for-5 with three home runs and five RBIs in the Cardinals’ 9-5 win over Milwaukee. The game showed just how lethal the Cardinals lineup could be when Goldschmidt was producing in the middle.

Goldschmidt ended up as somewhat of a Milwaukee masher; he had a two-homer game in September against the Brewers and had a .644 slugging percentage against Milwaukee this year. He was to the Brewers what Christian Yelich was to the Cardinals.

2020 outlook

The 32-year-old Goldschmidt will continue to anchor the defense at first base and the offense in the middle of the lineup in 2020. The Cards will count on Goldschmidt to be more consistent with his production, especially at the beginning of the year.

One thing is certain: The Cardinals have found their first baseman for the foreseeable future. They’ve embraced Goldschmidt, and he has embraced St. Louis.

“Everything I heard from the outside [about the Cardinals] was true,” Goldschmidt said. “This organization was great. They welcomed us very quickly, treated me and my family great. The city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri, all the people around town and the fans at the games and when I’d see people around town, they were great. Loved everything about it. Really just thankful for the opportunity. I love it here.”