Subscribe for 99¢

Benjamin Hochman is a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Oakland Athletics vs St. Louis Cardinals

For the first time since 2013, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt failed to make the National League All-Star team this summer.  Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

St. Louis treads somewhat lightly, perhaps because of his past production, because he chose to sign a long-term extension and because he is one of baseball’s good guys. But it’s got to be said — more than halfway through the Cardinals’ season, Paul Goldschmidt’s offense has been offensive.

He’s like a Tino Martinez out there.

Clearly, Goldschmidt is not the only Cardinal who can’t hit consistently. But he’s the Cardinal the club could least-afford to have slumping in lieu of slugging. He was signed to be the face of the rejuvenated Cardinals, no longer this team with a win total and delusions of grandeur stuck in the '80s.

Instead, Goldschmidt is the face of mediocrity.

Of course — and for the fans who have suffered through the past 3½ seasons, here’s hoping — he could have a great second half.

It happens in baseball. All the time.

Maybe Goldschmidt put too much pressure on himself to try to be Albert Pujols or some St. Louis savior. Maybe he’s still adjusting to St. Louis’ bigger ballpark. Maybe the new No. 46 on his back has caused psychological and spiritual misalignment, and he simply needs the 4 under GOLD and the 4 under SCHMIDT again for balance.

But 82 games into this season, the Cardinals are 41-41, and their prized acquisition is just as average.

Fans from Arizona must think his stats are typos. The Cardinals’ first baseman is hitting .246 with a .336 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage is .405. From 2013 through 2018, his on-base percentage was .406!

It’s all rather inexplicable. Most everyone thought he was an ideal acquisition. Yes, he’s in his 30s (at 31). But at 30, he was sixth in the MVP voting. This drop is stunning. The good news for him is the Cards’ final games before the All-Star break are against Seattle and San Francisco, teams that are not good at winning. Maybe it’s just what "Goldy" needs — he mashes at the Giants’ park, slugging a career .569. But at this point, you can’t really speculate anything with Goldschmidt. Or any of the Cards’ hitters.

Even with the 5-3 win on Sunday, there was so much to pick apart. Jose Martinez’s slow play in right field, which led to Fernando Tatis Jr. dashing from first to home on a single, as if Tatis Jr. was a descendant of a different former Cardinal (be it Enos Slaughter or Miguel Mejia). Meanwhile, Goldschmidt swung on a 3-0 pitch in extra innings and grounded out. And what was with that decision for Yairo Munoz to try to steal second with a key runner on third base?

And even though they won, stealing a game from San Diego, it took them 11 innings to tally nine hits. And that included one from a pitcher and a couple of infield squibbers that turned into singles, one by Goldschmidt.

Incidentally, he grounds out a lot. His ground ball percentage is 43.1 this year, compared to 38.6 last year. And while he’s been in the low 40s before, that’s been complemented with much mash.

This season, Paul Goldschmidt has 14 homers and 31 RBIs.

Kolten Wong has 33 RBIs.

And Goldschmidt tallied three of the 14 homers in just one game — in Milwaukee, in the first series of the season. That was one of the more-magical performances fans had seen in years. Alas, it was no dinger-binge harbinger.

From April 23 to now, he’s played 60 games. He’s hit five home runs.

The Cardinals are 12th in the National League in homers, with 97, and this is in a year, across baseball, with the most homers ever hit before the All-Star break. The onus isn’t only on him.

Goldschmidt’s June was particularly paltry. He hit .181 with a .274 OBP and a slugging percentage of .309. While the rest of the country will celebrate when it becomes the Fourth of July, Goldschmidt might just celebrate that it’s the First of July.

And all the fancy advanced stats back up the fact that Goldschmidt has been a bust so far. Yes, his glove has been an upgrade. Baserunning, too. In Sunday’s win, a head’s up play while rounding third base led to a key run.

But at this point, it’s all rather frightening. When can he turn it around? The same can be said for Matt Carpenter. Or Dexter Fowler. Or Harrison Bader. Or Kolten Wong. Or even All-Star Paul DeJong, who made the All-Star team Sunday despite a .632 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in the past 40 games.

It’s easy, natural and sometimes even cliché to call for the head of the hitting coach. Yes, as the season progresses, we’ll continue to monitor and analyze Jeff Albert’s role in the Cardinals’ offensive slide. He arrived as a heralded hitting guru of sorts. Now, the whole offense is out of sorts.

But the accountability, first and foremost, goes on the players. And nobody has underachieved more spectacularly than Goldschmidt. Yes, other guys have worse numbers, but no one was expected to do more — and has done less — than No. 46. Again, we’re talking about 82 games here, compared to seven previous seasons of great baseball. This is not giving up on Goldschmidt. It’s wondering: What must be done to make him play at least somewhat like his old self?

With the addition of Goldschmidt, the Cardinals looked like a playoff team. But according to the playoff odds on baseball-reference.com, the Cards entered Sunday with an 11.3 percent chance to make the playoffs (and an 0.3 percent chance to win the World Series).

If there’s any city that can find hope in a team’s awful start, it’s St. Louis in 2019.

But if there’s any fan base that deserves to be awfully mad, it’s also St. Louis in 2019.

Cardinals Update e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.