The St. Louis Cardinals usually have had just one losing season in the 21st century (2007), and in that season, their record through 66 games (30-36) was still better than their 2023 record through 66 games (27-39). This is their worst record at this point of the season since 1995, when the team finished 62-81 in a strike-shortened year.
All that to say the San Francisco Giants will not have it easy as they roll into town for a three-game series because 1) Paul Goldschmidt is still on the Cardinals and 2) the Cardinals have Paul Goldschmidt. They also have Nolan Arenado, who’s still hitting 20% above league average, but we’ll get to that transcendently talented bozo who bugs the crap out of me later; right now, I wanna focus on this Goldschmidt bozo.
The 35-year old is the second-best first baseman in the National League by fWAR (2.1), behind Freddie Freeman. He’s, technically, tied with Yandy Diaz, which would make him the second-best first baseman in baseball, so there’s that, too. His career line is .295.390.525 with a 13% walk rate against a 22% strikeout rate (144 OPS+). This season, he’s hitting .287/.383/.486 with a 13% walk rate against a 22% strikeout rate (139 OPS+).
It’s not fair. It isn’t right. There’ve been just 151 first baseman (who played at least 80% of their games at the position, anyway) to have an OPS+ of 100 or greater aged 35 or older. 27 have been from this century, but only four over the last decade:
Mark Teixeira (2015), 144 OPS+
Joey Votto (2021), 139 OPS+
Jose Abreu (2022), 133 OPS+
Yuli Gurriel (2021), 131 OPS+
It was a lot more common in the steroids era. Am I saying that Goldschmidt is juicing? Gosh, I wish; but, no. I’m saying this is something that doesn’t happen often. 35+ year old Giants first basemen appear on this list just four times:
Willie McCovey (1973), 162 OPS+
Darrell Evans (1983), 150 OPS+
J.T. Snow (2004), 146 OPS+
Willie McCovey (1973), 132 OPS+
He’s in the top 5% of the league in Hard Hit rate, and really, he’s hitting the ball as hard as he ever has. The Giants took three out of four from the Cardinals back in April, but it wasn’t because they were able to shut down Goldschmidt. He went 7-for-13 (13 PA) with 2 doubles and 2 home runs. He has played 158 games against the Giants — his most against any single opponent — and, in what’s basically a full season, has hit .302/.409/.554 with 30 HR 108 RBI 41 2B 5 3B 103 BB 132 K, which, according to Baseball Reference, is not a line a player has ever had in a season.
He’s the best part of the Cardinals’ DEEP lineup and that makes it very easy to see how the Giants might not leave Missouri on a happy flight.
After losing 3 of 4 in San Francisco, the Cardinals lost 8 of their next 9 to fall to 10-24, but since May 7th (the game after their 24th loss), they’re 17-15 with a team ERA of 3.84 and 3.6 fWAR, good enough for 13th in MLB. Their lineup has been 5 wins above (FanGraphs) replacement, good enough for 9th in MLB (just behind the Giants’ 5.2).
I talked about this series on a Cardinals podcast and noted that both teams have done almost a 180 since that April series. For all the struggles St. Louis has had on their pitching side, that has mostly stabilized. Their defense has still been a huge letdown — over the same span they’ve been a top 10 offense, they’re almost nearly in the bottom third of the league when it comes to defense. Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, and Chris Stratton have stabilized them on the pitching side, so, of course it’s not going to come down to Paul Goldschmidt until it does.
Where they stand
Record: 27-39, 5th in NL Central
Run differential: -1, 6th in the NL
Postseason standing: 7.0 games out of Wild Card, 8.0 games out of the division
Momentum: 2-game losing streak; 3-7 in their last 10 games
Record: 33-32, 3rd in the NL West
Run differential: +15, 5th in the NL
Postseason standing: 0.5 games out of the Wild Card, 7.0 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game winning streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games
Who: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
When: Monday (4:45pm PT), Tuesday (4:45pm PT), Wednesday (10:15am PT)
National broadcasts: MLB Network simulcast (Wednesday)
Monday: Logan Webb vs. Matthew Liberatore
Tuesday: Alex Cobb vs. Jack Flaherty
Wednesday: Anthony DeSclafani vs. Jordan Montgomery
Three Cardinals to watch
Nolan Arenado: There’s still a perception that he’s struggling, but he’s got a 122 OPS+ now and since the Cardinals turnaround began on May 7th, he has a 1.032 OPS with 10 home runs over a 30-game span. He had just one hit in those three games in San Francisco this past April and I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time around. Since June 1st, he’s hitting .364/.432/.849 with 4 home runs (37 PA). Ah, but his defense: that’s not been Arenadoesque. He’s -2 Outs Above Average, according to Statcast, and FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs shows a -0.9 runs value. Again, I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time around. Like Goldschmidt, he becomes an entirely different person when he sees a Giants uniform.
Paul DeJong: Ah, the sneaky killer I failed to consider in my last preview. In that 4-game set back in April, he went 5-for-13 with two doubles and a home run and in 31 games against the Giants (119 PA) he’s hit .288/.336/.469 with 5 HR and 5 doubles. He’s 5-for-9 with a homer against Logan Webb and 6-for-22 against Anthony DeSclafani, with a home run. He’s 0-for-5 against Alex Cobb... which could mean he’s due.
Willson Contreras: It’s been a rough season for the guy brought in to replace Yadier Molina and his 79 OPS+ coupled with some not good Statcast measures of his defense has really caused the Cardinals to jerk him around. They’ve stopped trying to make him a DH and he’s back at catcher, but he allows a lot of wild pitches and doesn’t throw out many base stealers. Can the Giants take advantage or will he hit some kind of Cardinals Devil Magic stride?
Jack Flaherty: In his last 5 games, he’s pitched 30 innings and has a 1.50 ERA (2.57 FIP). Back on May 9th, there was a story about Flaherty saying he’d no longer answer questions about his fastball velocity. This was after a game in which he walked 5 and gave up 7 hits in a game the Cardinals still won. In his next start (the first of this streak of five), he struck out 10 in 7 IP and overall during this span, he’s lowered his ERA from 6.18 to 4.15. He’s been making his way back from shoulder surgery and it looks like he’s almost all the way back to being the Cardinals’ hoped-for ace.
Three Giants to watch
Casey Schmitt: We saw signs of life from him in Sunday’s game and in this series he has the chance to face two left-handed starters. Can he adjust back against the league? The Giants need his energy.
Joc Pederson: Will he be given a chance to continue his power streak against left-handed pitching? Don’t know, but I’d love to see it.
Austin Slater: He’s magical against lefties. I really hope this is a big series for him; and, given the chance to steal, will he take it?
Mitch Haniger: His double on Saturday to break up Kyle Hendricks’ no-hit bid showed that he’s only mostly dead. Will getting to face two left-handed starting pitchers be like smelling salts or is he really just going to .530 OPS along until he has to be IL’d for a month or two?
Anthony DeSclafani: He has a 6.00 ERA in his last four starts, but he’s been better away from Oracle Park: 4.73 ERA (45.2 IP) vs. 2.73 ERA (30.2 IP); but also, Paul Goldschmidt has absolutely lit him up: 17-for-30 with 4 home runs.
Wilmer Flores: Former lefty crusher, but with little playing time, he’s actually been a worse hitter than Brandon Crawford since May 1st. This series could be a chance for him to be a hero again.
Giants at Cardinals - how will it go?
This poll is closed
Goldschmidt sweeps Giants
Goldschmit beats Giants, 2-1
Goldschmidt loses to Giants, 2-1
Giants sweep Goldschmidt