It’s a sentence that hasn’t been written often since he joined the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011: Paul Goldschmidt is slumping.
The three-time All-Star heads into Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Rockies batting just .234 — and that’s after a 2-for-2 night in a 10-5 win over the Rockies on Monday night.
He’s driven in just two runs in his last 14 games.
Whatever’s been limiting Goldschmidt’s production isn’t related to any kind of injury, according to manager Chip Hale.
“Physically, he’s fine,” Hale told Burns and Gambo Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “I think a tell-tale sign was in Atlanta. The last two days, I think one day he saw 27 pitches and swung twice, the next day it was 24 and swung once.
“He’s just getting locked up and he hasn’t been able to free himself.”
Hale said Goldschmidt met with hitting coach Dave Magadan before the series-opener in Denver and made a slight adjustment in his stance which he believes “freed up” the two-time National League MVP runner-up.
“Let’s hope it keeps going,” Hale said. “It’s not easy to hit. These pitchers all target Paul to be the guy not to beat them. So sometimes when you see him not swing, there’s a reason — they’re not throwing him strikes. At points in games, if you’re watching closely, there are some strikes that are very, very questionable.”
Goldschmidt’s strike-zone recognition is among the best in baseball, as evidenced by his league-leading 35 walks drawn this season. Hale acknowledged some hitters, in an attempt to break out of a slump, will chase balls out of the strike zone, but Goldschmidt isn’t comfortable doing that.
“You know what happens when you go out of the zone,” he asked. “You rarely hit the ball well and you rarely get hits, so we don’t usually try to get our hitters to go out of the zone.”
One area where Goldschmidt has really struggled is with runners in scoring position. He’s hitting just .185 (5-for-27) in those situations in 2016, down from his career mark of .313. There are ways to try to improve that figure, like starting runners with Goldschmidt at bat. But Hale says there are even pitfalls in that strategy.
“But when you put a hit-and-run on, you have to remember that you’re hoping first for a strike and second, for a fastball strike,” the second-year manager said. “Those are kind of the two caveats that we think about when we want to put a hit-and-run on, so I do a lot of studying on that to see when pitchers throw those pitches and throw them for strikes to try to give our hitter the best chance.
“Goldy gets very few fastball strikes. They don’t like to throw him strikes, so you’re hoping for a mistake.”