Ah yes, early season woes. The 10-day disabled list hasn’t helped and numerous players have started off slow. If you own Paul Goldschmidt or Anthony Rizzo, you know exactly what I’m talking about. However, it’s not fun having arguably the best first baseman in baseball struggle into May. That being said, Goldschmidt has been the epitome of a fantasy stud having been an All Star every season since 2013 and even managing three Gold Glove Awards in 2013, 2015 and 2017. How often do you draft a first baseman that not only hits 25+ home runs per season, but also averaged 18 steals since 2012? This is the exact production we’ve grown accustomed to seeing with Goldschmidt. Still, it’s only May, but his historically slow start has become frustrating and even more so for the player himself. This week, I want to take a look at Goldschmidt’s early struggles in “That’s Amore!” Sitting, Waiting, and Wishing on Paul Goldschmidt.
These are the numbers Paul Goldschmidt has averaged since hitting the scene full time in 2012: .300/.401/.534 with 28 home runs, 100 RBI and 18 stolen bases. These types of numbers are something you see with Hall of Famers and numbers that have made Goldschmidt one of the safest first-round draft picks in fantasy baseball. Struggling, especially at the beginning of the season, isn’t something Goldschmidt has ever had to endure. Throughout his career, he’s hit .290 with nearly 5 home runs and 18 RBI in March/April and .300 with 6 home runs and 18 RBI in May. However, in 2018 we’ve seen Paul Goldschmidt start extremely slow slashing .216/.347/.388 with four home runs and 12 RBI. The one thing that sticks out to me are the strikeouts. 51 may seem like a lot, and it does put him on pace to surpass career average of 138. At this rate, he would be around the 180-190 range.
He currently sits at a 30.8 K% and this is well above his career average of 22.55% through the first two months of the season. Looking at the chart above, we can see where Goldschmidt sits from March/April to May from 2018 versus his career before 2018. Early through March/April, it’s easy to see he wasn’t getting around on pitches and pulling them with the normal frequency that he had in 2012-2017. To me, this is a bit of an anomaly as we see numerous hitters that become too pull happy and struggle at the dish. However, with Goldschmidt he’s usually on par when he’s getting around on pitches and pulling them for hits. Fast forward to May and the anomaly I spoke of came to fruition as he was a lot more pull happy than he had been over his career in may seeing his Pull% increase by 6.6%. This can have a direct correlation to his struggles through the first two weeks of May. Again, when guys become pull happy and don’t dish the ball where the pitcher is throwing it, they tend to open up their hips to early and roll over pitches. This leads to lazy choppers to third and striking out which we’ve seen Goldschmidt do in an unwanted number of at-bats in May.
One of the most telling analytics are his batted ball percentages. Throughout his career, Goldschmidt has made a living out of Medium% and Hard%. Through March and April, we’ve seen his Soft% take a staggering increase nearly 11.3% while his Medium% and Hard% have taken a negative decrease 7.6% and 36.2% respectively. If we fast forward to May we can see his batted ball percentages are getting better and starting to align with his career averages. March and April saw Goldschmidt relying more on trying to pull pitches rather than look to drive the ball up the middle and the other way. Numerous hitting coaches, and players alike, will tell you that the best way to get out of a prolonged slump is to start using the rest of the field rather than rely on trying to pull everything. This is very similar to when pitchers have a high release point and can’t locate their fastball. The best thing for them to do is go to their off-speed pitches (usually a curve, but can be a slider) as this forces the pitcher to pull down on the baseball and bring their release point lower.
For Goldschmidt, the key is going to be cutting down on strikeouts. He’s gotten better at increasing his Medium% and Hard%, but the strikeouts are still apparent. One of the most notable adjustments from May compared to March and April is hitting the ball up the middle and hitting the ball to the opposite side of the field. Patience is going to be the key, but, as Goldschmidt shows the ability to hit balls the other way. this will force pitchers to lay off the outer part of the plate and make pitches that Goldschmidt will, in time, be able to turn on and pull for hits down the line — even home runs. I’ve watched video, in both real-time and slow motion and his swing doesn’t look to have any noticeable mechanical flaw. Many at-bats have seen him go to undesirable hitter counts. He’s had 29 at-bats at 1-2, 20 at 2-2, and 26 going to a full count. Only 18 of 139 at-bats have started 0-2. This leads me to believe that pitchers are going right after him, and knowing he’s showed that he wants to pull the ball, pitchers are starting off-speed pitches in the middle-of-the-plate that are breaking out of the strike zone. This leads to Goldschmidt opening up too early — leading to swings and misses.
Again, there’s no mechanical issues that I noticed and the right elbow that gave him issues in September of 2017 doesn’t seem to have any impact on his early season woes. There are articles out there that the mental part of the game has caught up to Goldschmidt and this is to be expected. What’s the fix? Goldschmidt needs to continue driving the ball up the middle and into right field. As I mentioned earlier, he’s starting to use the opposite side of the field compared to March and April and, if he keeps doing so, those breaking balls off the plate will allow Goldschmidt to get hits up the middle and to the opposite side. Staying closed and not allowing his hips to open early will cut down on the strikeouts tremendously. It’s been an uncanny start to the season for a player that hasn’t showed much struggle at any point into the early goings on the season. I can assure you Goldschmidt is too good of a hitter to let this slump continue into the summer. If you own Goldschmidt and you’re extremely frustrated I suggest holding out longer as he’s already starting to make the needed adjustments. If you’re in a league and a Goldschmidt owner is on the edge of their seat, try and acquire him because his value won’t be this low for much longer.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 13th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #120 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Friday morning and his focus is on bullpens.
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.