Exit Interview: Matt Holliday

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Matt Holliday

Season stats:  156 games, 667 PA, 83 R, 37 2B, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 74 BB, 100 K, .272/.370/.441  126 OPS+

Hero/Goat: Hero 21, Goat 14

Overall grade: B+

Positives: Reached the 20 home run plateau for the ninth straight year….raked left-handers for a 1.004 OPS….was stronger in the second half, posting a .882 OPS after the All-Star Break….10 of his 20 HR came in August and September as the Cardinals pushed for the divisional title….had a .958 OPS with runners in scoring position….put up a 1.007 OPS in high-leverage situations.

Negatives: Until that power surge in the last couple of months, he was well under his normal career homer rate….tended to have trouble early in games, hitting only .218 the first time he saw the day’s starter….hit just .244 in day games….hit into 20 double plays, which was down by a third from last year.

Overview: By now, we know what we are going to get from Holliday.  We’re going to get a streaky performer that will carry the team on his back for a couple of weeks.  We’re going to get a guy that’s going to be about 20 homers and 100 RBI.  We’re going to get some memorable moments and we’re going to be a little concerned when some balls are hit out to left field.

There’s no doubt Holliday has earned that large contract the Cardinals signed him to in the winter of 2009 and even if he vanishes for the last two of them, the Redbirds come out ahead.  He’s not a 30-home run guy anymore, but there’s a lot fewer of them in baseball these days anyway, so that’s not a big surprise.  With his production and his quiet leadership, Holliday is a rock in this organization.

That said, Holliday will turn 35 a couple of weeks after Christmas.  The offense has been gradually sliding since his big 2009 in St. Louis and there’s not much reason to expect it’ll turn around.  Players do sometimes have a big out-of-nowhere year late in the career–look at Victor Martinez this year, for instance–and it wouldn’t be stunning if Holliday was that way.  It’s just more likely he’ll only hit 17-18 home runs next season with an OPS just shy of .800.  Time waits for no man and there’s no place that’s more obviously true than baseball.

Outlook: Holliday will be the left fielder next year but it will be interesting to see if they get him a few more days off.  He played in 156 games, which has always been his normal level of participation, but with the number of outfielders in the system and the fact that he’s on the downward swing of his career, you wonder if Matheny would rest him more.  That doesn’t seem like it’s Matheny’s style, though, so expect another 150 games out of the big guy.

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