Paul Goldschmidt has been one of baseball’s best players for over a decade. Seemingly Hall of Fame-bound, the 35-year-old St. Louis Cardinals first baseman boasts a career 145 wRC+ to go with a .296/.391/.527 slash line, 322 home runs, and 55.9 WAR. A seven-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, he’s been awarded five Silver Sluggers and is coming off a season where he was voted National League MVP.
He’s been as good as ever in the current campaign. Over 186 plate appearances, Goldschmidt is slashing .319/.403/.546 with seven home runs and a 163 wRC+. With the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2011-2018, he came to St. Louis prior to the 2019 season in exchange for Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, Andrew Young, and a competitive balance pick.
Goldschmidt sat down to talk hitting when the Cardinals visited Fenway this past weekend.
David Laurila: Some guys are big into hitting analytics, while others like to keep things as simple as possible. Where do you fit in?
Paul Goldschmidt: “Somewhere in the middle? I mean, you’ve got to know your swing and you’ve got to know the pitchers, but once you get in the box, you’ve got to see the ball and react. So for me it’s kind of finding that happy medium.
“I’m also always changing. I’m always adapting. I’m always trying to learn and get better. I don’t think there’s any time that you quite figure it out, you’re always trying to find whatever it takes to perform.”
Laurila: In which ways do you utilize hitting analytics?
Goldschmidt: “The biggest thing for me is finding the why. Analytics are very good at telling you what is happening, but they don’t necessarily give you the answer to why something is happening, whether that’s fly ball rate, groundball rate, hard-hit ball rate, strike zone judgment — all those things. It’s good to identify things you’re doing well, or not doing well, but the real challenge in this game is the why. With that, you can make adjustments and hopefully perform to the best of your ability.”
Laurila: What tends to be the issue when you’re not going well?
Goldschmidt: “It’s usually as simple as, ‘Am I swinging at the right pitches, and am I putting good swings on the ball?’ But again, the why isn’t always obvious. Is it a timing issue, or is it actually a swing issue? Or are the pitchers just pitching you a certain way? Sometimes they’re just better than you, especially on a given day.
“That’s the big question we’re trying to figure out every day: What do I have to do to perform? And what makes it hard is that it’s not always the same. Every game we try to do similar things, but one day it might be a three strikeout game, and the next day could be a three homer game. You could be trying to do very similar things and be getting very different results. Figuring out why one day is better than another is one of the tougher parts of the game.”
Laurila: So when you’re not going well, it doesn’t tend to be one particular thing?
Goldschmidt: “I think the simplest thing is getting into a good position to hit, on time. That’s going to lead to seeing the ball better and swinging at the right pitches. Honestly, that’s the thing I’m working on every day. It’s just not always the same. The same thought doesn’t always work the same feeling, or match what you see on video.”
Laurila: What would I see if I compared video of your swing and setup over the course of your career?
Goldschmidt: “It would be pretty similar, although when I first came up, I was a lot wider with my setup. But my keys are basically the same, and the swing is still the same. I’m still very simple in not having much movement. So the setup would probably be the biggest difference. As far as how the swing looks, going back even before pro ball, it would look pretty similar.”
Laurila: How about working with hitting coaches over the years? Different coaches obviously have different ideas.
Goldschmidt: “There are a lot of different ways to hit, so it’s about trying to learn and adapt. You figure out what you do well and what you struggle with. I’m always open to new suggestions. You try them out, and if they don’t work, you need to be ready to drop them. What works for someone else may not work for you, and vice versa.”
Laurila: Can you give an example?
Goldschmidt: “It could just be a drill. One drill that a lot of guys are using is swinging a heavy bat. I’ve tried it at times when I’ve been struggling and it doesn’t really transfer. I haven’t seen it really improve my swing or my timing. We’re all trying to get to the same area, but again, the same keys, or drills, don’t always work for every guy.”
Laurila: A heavy bat is obviously for training purposes, but what about what you’re swinging in games. Has that changed at all?
Goldschmidt: “I used the same bat until the beginning of last year. I went to Marucci and did the testing they have there, and they made a slight adjustment. It’s very, very similar to the bat I’ve used my whole career, though.”
Laurila: What was the slight adjustment?
Goldschmidt: “It was 34 inches, 32 ounces. Now with the knob it’s 35, 33.”
Laurila: How does a different knob impact your swing?
Goldschmidt: “They do a full-on testing — it probably took two to three hours — and the best way I can describe it is if you’ve ever gotten fit for golf clubs. You’re testing different models, lengths, weights… and again, everyone is different. The knob isn’t always the same effect for each guy. I’m not even sure on the particulars for me, I was just looking for the best bat.”
Laurila: If you were blindfolded and handed three bats that were similar, yet not exactly the same, would you know which one was yours?
Goldschmidt: “I hope so. But I’ve never done that. Some guys are changing bats all the time based on feel, but I’ve basically used the same bat my whole career. Like I said, what I’m swinging now is very, very similar.”
Laurila: Who are some of the guys you’ve most enjoyed talking hitting with over the course of your career?
Goldschmidt: “I mean, our hitting coach now, Turner Ward, has taught me so much. I talk to him every day. I had him all the way back to Double-A, in Arizona with the Diamondbacks. Even when he was with other teams, he was a guy I could always call.
“Tim Laker is another guy who had a huge impact for me. I got to play with J.D. Martinez in Arizona, and he taught me a lot. There are so many guys. I talk to everyone I can, trying to pick up anything I can.”
Laurila: What about the guy whose locker is next to yours in the visiting clubhouse here at Fenway? Based on the Talks Hitting interview I did with Nolan Arenado a few years ago, his approach is pretty simple and straightforward.
Goldschmidt: “Yeah, and we actually hit in a very similar way, so it’s been great to have him here the last two years. We speak the same language. Some guys are speaking about it a little differently, or have different feels, but he and I think about hitting the same way. It’s kind of, ‘Hey, I’m feeling this. What do you do when you’re feeling this in your swing, or when pitchers are doing this?’ That’s been helpful.”
Laurila: One last thing: Have you had to make any adjustments due to age? At 35 years old, your body isn’t the same as it was when you were 25…
Goldschmidt: “I think the biggest thing is trying to keep my body moving in the correct way, and staying strong. I need to keep moving efficiently so that I can do the things I was doing when I was 10 years younger. More of that happens away from the cage. I’m more in the weight room. What used to come a little bit more naturally… I mean, when you’re younger, you can just kind of roll out of bed and your body is moving like you want. When you get older, it takes a little bit more work. But it can be done, for sure.”
Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis