January 29, 2023

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How Goldschmidt has gotten even better in '22

4 min read
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When you’ve been in the Major Leagues as long as Paul Goldschmidt, you hit your way through a lot of trends in the game. And when you’re as good a hitter as Paul Goldschmidt, you adjust to those trends and keep raking. 

This time, the trend is one of the big ones: more sliders, every year. Pitchers league-wide keep spinning the ball more than ever before.

Overall slider % in MLB, by year
2015: 14.5%
2016: 15.0%
2017: 16.2%
2018: 16.8%
2019: 17.6%
2020: 17.8%
2021: 19.2%
2022: 21.2%

In 2022, the wave of sliders is hitting Goldschmidt. He’s seeing the most sliders of his career, by far. He’s seeing more sliders than any other pitch. It’s the first time he’s ever seen more sliders than four-seam fastballs. 

“Obviously you’re adapting,” Goldschmidt said. “This is my 12th year. And the game has changed an extremely large amount, in my opinion, since when I came up. But it’s been gradual. It’s not like I played 10 years ago, took a break, and then play now and am like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But yeah, every year you’re making adjustments. There’s a million different things to adjust, and learn from, and experience. The game is different, but I try to adapt each day and each year.”

Sliders thrown to Goldschmidt, by year
2015: 19.1%
2016: 19.2%
2017: 20.0%
2018: 22.8%
2019: 20.7%
2020: 23.0%
2021: 24.5%
2022: 32.9%

Five years ago, only one in every five pitches Goldschmidt was seeing was a slider. Last year, one in every four pitches Goldschmidt saw was a slider. This year, one in every three pitches he’s seeing is a slider.

How has he responded? By absolutely crushing them.

Through Thursday’s series finale against the Mets — when he took Chris Bassitt deep on a hanging slider — Goldschmidt is batting .435 and slugging .783 against sliders this season. He’s had 53 plate appearances decided on sliders, more than any other pitch type, and he’s 20-for-46 with three home runs, seven doubles and seven walks. Seven of his 20 hits are with two strikes, including two 0-2 homers.

“I just try to hit whatever they throw up there,” Goldschmidt said. “I feel like it goes in spurts, too — if you start hitting sliders good, then you’re gonna see more changeups and fastballs. And when you start hitting those good … [you adapt again]. So it’s just that cat-and-mouse game.”

Goldschmidt is hitting sliders better than basically anybody is hitting anything.

Almost every hitter around Goldschmidt on those lists is getting their hits against fastballs. When it comes to secondary pitches? Forget it. Goldschmidt is the best in baseball.

He leads the Majors in hits against any secondary pitch type, extra-base hits against any secondary pitch type and batting average against any secondary pitch type, and ranks third in slugging percentage.

Most hits vs. a non-fastball pitch type in 2022
1) Paul Goldschmidt — 20 hits vs. sliders
2) Ty France — 15 hits vs. sliders
3-T) Giancarlo Stanton — 14 hits vs. sliders
3-T) Xander Bogaerts — 14 hits vs. sliders

Most extra-base hits vs. a non-fastball pitch type in 2022
1) Paul Goldschmidt — 10 extra-base hits vs. sliders
2-T) Bobby Witt Jr. — 7 extra-base hits vs. sliders
2-T) Willy Adames — 7 extra-base hits vs. sliders

Highest BA vs. a non-fastball pitch type in 2022
Min. 30 PA ending on that pitch type
1) Paul Goldschmidt — .435 BA vs. sliders
2) Aaron Judge — .407 BA vs. sliders
3) Giancarlo Stanton — .359 BA vs. sliders

Highest SLG vs. a non-fastball pitch type in 2022
Min. 30 PA ending on that pitch type

  1. Aaron Judge — .852 SLG vs. sliders
  2. Giancarlo Stanton — .821 SLG vs. sliders

3) Paul Goldschmidt — .783 SLG vs. sliders

What Goldschmidt is doing to sliders is not what most of Major League Baseball is doing to sliders. The league batting average vs. sliders is just .207, and the league slugging percentage against sliders is just .329 — both the lowest against any pitch type except the splitter, and the slider has decided over 11 times as many at-bats as the splitter in 2022. Pitchers are striking out batters nearly 30% of the time with their sliders, the highest strikeout rate of any pitch type besides the split.

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt is knocking those sliders all over the field.

Among his 20 hits off sliders this season:

If you leave a slider over the middle of the plate, Goldy can drive it out of the ballpark. If you throw one on the outside edge, he can stay on it and go the other way. He’s a great hitter who’s tough to beat right now.

So why is Goldschmidt seeing so many sliders when he’s mashing them? Part of the reason might be that he was struggling against sliders coming into this season. But in the great battle of adjustments between pitcher and hitter, he’s turned it back in his favor.

Look at Goldschmidt’s improvement against sliders from last season to this season.

2021: .218 BA / .368 SLG
2022: .435 BA / .783 SLG
Difference: +217 points of BA / +415 points of SLG

2021: 41.7% whiff rate / 32.2% strikeout rate
2022: 29.5% whiff rate / 18.9% strikeout rate
Difference: -12.2 points off whiff % / -13.3 points off K%

So if you were wondering what was behind Goldschmidt’s tear at the plate, which has his season batting average up to .329, his OPS up to .950 and his wRC+ up to 173 — making him the sixth-best hitter in the game right now — it’s this: a longtime MVP-caliber player has adapted again, and he’s beating pitchers with their best stuff.

“I think that’s what makes [hitters like Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado] good, is their ability, whenever the script is flipped on them, they flip it back, and go back and forth,” said Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol. “That’s what this game is all about.

“You see a lot of guys with really good talent that, once the script is flipped on them, they don’t know how to adjust, and they go away really quickly. But when you sustain a career for the length of time that both of those guys have, it’s because of their ability to adjust. Goldy’s done that really well.”

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