Exit Interview: Matt Holliday

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is STL CardGals.  Laura and Holly recap most every series and usually bring a very positive approach to whatever is going on with the Birds.  Find them on iTunes and check out their website for some totally biased baseball.

Player: Matt Holliday

Season stats: 110 games, 426 PA, 48 R, 20 2B, 1 3B. 20 HR, 62 RBI, 35 BB, 71 K, .246/.322/.461, 107 OPS+, 0.3 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 11, Goat 8

Overall grade: B

Positives: Had his best PA/HR rate since his initial partial season with the Cardinals in 2009….hit .297 with a .917 OPS away from Busch Stadium….while it was limited by injury, did put up a .264/.340/.494 mark in the second half….hit .306 in August before being hit by a Mike Montgomery pitch and breaking his thumb….hit .303 with a 1.040 OPS in 35 PA as a first baseman….hit .306 with three home runs in 12 games hitting fourth….seven of his 20 homers came with men on base….hit .277/.377/.462 in high leverage situations…had possibly the best of last weekends in St. Louis, with a home run, a huge RBI single, and a standing ovation as he was alone on the field in three consecutive games.

Negatives: His .246 average was a career low by 25 points….hit just .233 against lefties….didn’t put on a great show at home, with a .203/.288/.382 line, though nine of his homers came there….hit .188 in July….hit .231 with four homers when he led off an inning….hit just .234 with a .737 OPS on the first pitch….had a .226 mark when nobody was out….his late and close line was .118/.211/.137….had a .610 OPS when it was a tie game….had a .227 mark in the first inning….had three homers against the Cubs but just a .212 average.

Overview: What can you say about Matt Holliday that hasn’t already been said?  When we think of the outfielder, I think some of us, given the injuries of 2015 and 2016, feel like he’s on his last legs.  Yet while he’s not the Holliday that starred in St. Louis for so long, the Holliday that earned that big contract and then some, there’s still seems to be life in him.  To see him rebound to hit 20 home runs was something, though obviously homers were a bit devalued this year while everyone was hitting them.

It took Matheny a long while to realize that Holliday isn’t a number three hitter anymore, which caused a lot of discussion and debate among the fanbase for a long period of time.  You wonder how the rest of the season would have played out if Holliday can get out of the way of that pitch in Chicago.  Would he have slipped further down the lineup?  Would he have thrived in the four spot as he seemed to be doing?  In the 15 games (14 starts) before he was sidelined, he hit .288/.383/.462.  It could be he was finally getting his legs back–we saw how long it took Adam Wainwright to rebound from his Achilles’ wound.  Maybe it was just a hot streak.  We’ll never know.

Outlook: The Cardinals announced before the end of the season that they wouldn’t be picking up Holliday’s $17 million option.  (Which sounds expensive until you realize that’s the going rate for a qualifying offer this year.  I mean, it’s still expensive, but it’s not completely crazy.)  It was a bit of a head-scratcher given that there was a case for bringing Holliday back for that one year to see what he had left, see if he could actually play first base, if nothing else provide leadership and mentoring.  While John Mozeliak hasn’t ruled out signing Holliday to some lesser deal, it sounds like the thumb injury scared them off and the chances are almost 100% that he’ll be plying his trade somewhere else next season.

Which will be sad.  Holliday was always overshadowed, first by Albert Pujols, then by a dominant pitching staff, and Yadier Molina would always rank before him when you are talking face of the franchise.  That said, he had a very, very good career in St. Louis and was well-embeded into the community.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him wearing a red jacket somewhere down the line.

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