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Manny Machado, Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper

Manny Machado, Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper

PHILADELPHIA — Along with the usual boatload of trophies and All-Star nods and OPS and Wins Above Replacement, one of the appealing benefits of adding Paul Goldschmidt to the lineup for the Cardinals was his rock-em, sock-em history against their rivals.

In 10 games against Milwaukee, he hasn’t disappointed.

The Cardinals’ new $130-million first baseman has six homers and 13 RBIs in 10 games against the defending division champs. He has a .393 average in those games, a bonkers .964 slugging percentage and a 1.433 OPS that is beyond Yelichesque.

It’s elsewhere where he’s struggled. Against teams not named the Brewers, Goldschmidt has hit .222 with a .309 slugging percentage. He has 12 RBIs in those 42 games against teams not from Milwaukee, and as chronicled often here he’s lacked at-bats with runners in scoring position for the entirety of May. But when it comes to blockbuster winter additions who are starting cold this summer, Goldschmidt is hardly alone.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, baseball’s $300-million free agents, have also had sluggish, not slugger, starts for their new teams.

Three highly decorated and highest-costing additions from this past offseason are all grouped together entering Tuesday’s games, all clustered right around the 90s when it comes to their OPS. Harper’s .793 OPS ranks 91st in baseball, Goldschmidt’s .789 OPS ranks 93rd in the majors, and Machado comes in at .788 for 97th. There are 100 players with a higher WAR than Goldschmidt’s 1.0, according to ESPN.com’s calculations. One of those players is Machado, at 62nd with a 1.4 WAR. Harper lags behind at No.160 with a 0.5.

After Harper went oh-for-four in a game at St. Louis in early May, a headline sang out in Philadelphia, “Is It Time to Worry About Bryce Harper?” That same question could be asked of all three hitters. As Goldschmidt’s Cardinals visit Harper’s Phillies for a three-game series this week, I took a nose dive into the numbers to how and where each of the players have seen a sag in their production. Some findings:

BRYCE HARPER, Phillies oufielder

No one in the majors has struck out more than Harper’s 73 in 194 at-bats. He seeing more fastballs and more elevated fastballs as a result, and it’s no wonder. He’s hitting .108/.267/.378 for a .645 OPS against “power” pitchers, and that breaks from his career OPS of .805 and career average of .229. …

Harper has also struggled curiously against righthanded pitching, like he’ll face twice in this series based on the Cardinals’ planned starters. He hit hitting .207/.353/.400 for a .753 OPS against righthanded pitchers. His career numbers vs. righties are .283/.399/.535 for a .933 OPS. There is the drag on his season. …

Harper is batting .211 with a .692 OPS in May, and at his new home, Citizens Bank Park, he has a .206 average and a .833 OPS. Before signing a 13-year, $330-million deal with the Phillies, Harper had been a .246 hitter with a .895 OPS at CBP. …

Like Goldschmidt, Harper’s production is cloistered. He is nine-for-28 against his former team, the Nationals, and against Milwaukee, Miami, and the Mets he’s a combined 11-for-72 with 33 strikeouts. …

On his team, Harper’s WAR ranks seventh, and he’s bested by two of the Phillies’ other offseason additions, catcher J.T. Realmuto (1.7 WAR) and outfielder Andrew McCutchen (1.5 WAR).

MANNY MACHADO, Padres infielder

The Padres’ big-ticket signing is about to break free from this comparison. He has hit .303/.373/.528 with a .901 OPS this month. And against power pitching he’s whacked away for a .306/.457/.639 slash line and a 1.095 OPS. …

Machado and rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. lead the Padres in WAR, at 1.4 and 1.5 respectively. Machado has hit well when playing shortstop in Tatis’ place, going .298/.364/.511 with a .875 OPS. …

As you’d expect for a player who started his career in Camden and now calls Petco home, there’s a gulch in his production at home vs. on the road in the spacious National League West. He has hit .250/.333/.380 in San Diego, and he has a .284 average, a .866 OPS, and a .505 slugging percentage elsewhere. And more than half of his starts have come at home so far. …

What really stood out here in Machado’s start is his troubles against righthanded pitching. He’s feasted on lefties, batting .438 with a 1.031 slugging. Against righthanders, he’s hit .233 with a .325 slugging. His OPS in limited plate appearances vs. lefties (38) is more than twice what it is in 184 PAs vs. righthanded pitchers, 1.558 to .635.

PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, Cardinals 1B

There have been two drags on Goldschmidt’s production that have come up most often in recent weeks. He’s hit .179 in his previous 10 road games coming into Tuesday’s in Philly, and he has two extra-base hits the entire month of May. He has 23 hits total, but 21 of them are singles this month. … The home/road split is substantial. Away from Busch this season, Goldschmidt has hit .228/.343/.413 with a .756 OPS, and that does include two solid series at Miller Park. At Busch, the righthanded hitter has a .294/.369/.450 slash line for a .818 OPS. …

Like Harper and Machado, his overall OPS is better than average given his position and park factors. He’s got a 112 OPS+, right alongside Machado 113 OPS+ and ahead of Harper, at 107 OPS+. …

Goldschmidt’s strikeout rate is up, with 62 in his first 201 at-bats. That puts him on pace to surpass last year’s career-high 173 strikeouts. …

The less obvious gap in his production comes deeper down on the page of splits, and it’s day and night. In his career, he has been about the same hitter in day games as he was in night games. A .298 hitter with a .914 OPS under lights, and a .291 hitter with a .927 OPS under the sun. This season, not so much. In day games so far, Goldschmidt has hit .176/.300/.353 with a .653 OPS. That’s significantly off his career totals. In the evening, he’s hit .328/.400/.491 with a .891 OPS. In day games, he has 27 strikeouts in 85 at-bats. And the schedule has been pretty close with 29 night games and 22 day games for the Cardinals so far. …

He ranks fifth on the team in WAR, behind Paul DeJong (3.0), Kolten Wong (1.8), Dexter Fowler (1.6), and Harrison Bader (1.1). Marcell Ozuna is sixth at 0.8, and Matt Carpenter has a 0.5.

The answer to the question presented by the Philly headline could be “meh, not really” for Harper and Goldschmidt, though each has their worrisome splits, be it strikeout rates and success against power pitching or more boutique splits. It’s a definite “no” for Machado. But maybe it’s not the right question.

Machado’s Padres are 28-26 and in second place in the National League West, eight games behind the thundering Dodgers. Harper’s Phillies are 31-22, standing tall at first place in the short National East League with a 1 ½-game lead. The Cardinals have spiraled out of first place and stand now on the edge of a losing record again. At 26-26, they are tied for third in the National League Central and four games behind the Cubs. They’ll face the Cubs six times in the next 12 games. If they don’t get traction as a group in the coming week, the question that could greet them in a headline after that stretch?

“Is It Past Time to Worry About the Cardinals?”

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