Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Holliday in the Hot Seat

Matt Holliday, that gum-smacking, leg-kicking slugger with the handsome mug – who also just happens to be from my home state of Oklahoma – was signed by the Cardinals (back in January) for the richest contract in team history at $120 million for 7 years.  Matt was the proposed golden boy of the off-season and was tagged as a savior for a team needing someone – anyone- who could bat 4th and protect our platinum star Albert Pujols in the lineup 

With Holliday batting behind him, nobody would dare to pitch around Pujols and wins would be all but guaranteed, right?  Perhaps naively, I entirely expected the Cards to come out swinging this season, rocketing their way to the top of the standings and giving us reason to party all the way to an inevitable 2010 World Series Championship.
I have to ask:  could even Superman live up to those expectations?  

Baseball is a team sport and it takes an entire team – hitting and fielding and doing things right-  to make that kind of dream season a reality. 

So now, here we are just over 1/3 of the way through the season, and fans are getting understandably restless at the pervasive absence of power at the plate.  Lately the Cardinal fans on twitter – my gauge for the pulse of Cardinal Nation – have been increasingly more critical of Matt Holliday, questioning when he’s “going to earn that big paycheck.” 

Our St. Louis Cardinals were in first place in the NL Central until being swept by the Dodgers this week. I can’t help but wonder what happened- not just in the Dodgers series, but overall in the Cardinals 2010 performance so far.  A highly touted, dangerous one-two punch of Pujols and Holliday has yet to live up to the hype.  Overall, the team is hitting in spotty streaks and has failed to be a consistent threat. The spur in the side of the Cardinals slumping offense is the situational batting failure with runners in scoring position – and Matt Holliday is in the hotseat.
Is it realistic to expect Holliday to repeat numbers like his 2009 St. Louis stats?
What kind of pressure does that $120 million contract put uniquely on the shoulders of Mr. Holliday?  
Looking at the chart compiled from Baseball-reference.com, Holliday’s 2009 STL stats were stellar, but his career averages still remain a comforting reminder that Matt Holliday is a proven, dependable slugger.
Regardless of the salary he is collecting, Holliday should continue to play ball in his proven style. The season is long and we have lots of road left to cover. If Holliday is healthy– and he sure looks healthy to me – he is a consistent, solid player.   Plus various scribes have written that Holliday has been a perennial slow-starter with May being his traditionally slow month.  So, hopefully we will be enjoying a Holliday heat wave soon!
Hearing the song “Chicken Fried” with Holliday coming to the plate continues to make me smile, not just because I find his walk-up music endearing, but because I believe in Matt.  I know Holliday will soon hit his stride and pitchers will have to pick their poison – pitch to #5 or pitch to #7. So you will continue to hear support for hunky Matt Holliday from this side of the bleachers. 

6 responses to “Holliday in the Hot Seat

  1. Michael June 12, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    >Going into last night's game, Holliday was a weak .206 with runners in scoring position — for a third of the way through the 2010 season. That's pretty strong evidence that something is wrong.Past performance doesn't necessary indicate future results, so which is the real Matt Holliday? The guy who posted those gaudy stats in Coors Field and for two months in St. Louis? Or the guy hitting .206 with RISP today?If there's something about Holliday that's not going to produce with RISP, what's the harm in allowing him to bat second? He has gotten on base regularly this year — with the bases empty — so why not put someone with a pretty OBP ahead of Pujols?Because he's sure not "protecting" Albert in the lineup right now.

  2. Chris June 12, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    >"That's pretty strong evidence that something is wrong" — what do you think is wrong? I don't really know, just know how frustrating it is to continue to watch him not come through.

  3. Michael June 12, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    >Don't know what's wrong — maybe it's the extra pressure Holliday is putting on himself because of the huge contract and providing "protection" for Albert.Oh, here's another thing: There is absolutely no such evidence of "protection" in a baseball lineup. Nope. None. Doesn't exist. There have been studies by Bill James and others that show it absolutely doesn't make any difference who hits behind whom in a lineup. For one example, Jeff Kent hit behind Barry Bonds for years with the Giants, even won an MVP award. Didn't keep pitchers from not pitching to Bonds.

  4. Chris June 12, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >I can understand the part about extra pressure because of the huge contract. I would assume that Holliday, of course, knows what he typically does and how this year he is not doing that. So then he would just try harder, which never seems to help …The protection part — can you let La Russa know?

  5. Michael June 13, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    >Oh, and being optimistic and being a Jean Teasdale and all that is reasonable when your team is 18-8 and enjoys a five-game lead in the division.But at some point, you've got to kick a hole in the wall when subsequently the Cardinals go 16-20, and look like they're going to lose again to the D'Backs — even with Carp on the mound.I think April was the mirage. May and June is the reality for this sorry 2010 team.

  6. Chris June 14, 2010 at 8:06 PM

    >May and June is the reality at the moment, and the team has everyone frustrated or worse. But you have NO idea what's going to happen in July, August, September and (hopefully) October. And, as tonight has shown so far, a change in the lineup has changed Holliday's production for the better. As Crash Davis told Nuke LaLoosh, "You've got to play them one game at a time."

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