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Matt Holliday: Beast or Bust?

The United Cardinal Bloggers Fall Roundtable discussions have been going on now since November 1st and are finishing up soon.  Great questions, superb insight, fun & informative reads.  You can review all the previous topics HERE.  Today was my turn to start the conversation.

“…before all this fun comes to an end, I’d like to turn our attentions back to one of my favorite subjects: Brendan Ryan.  Okay, okay…. I had to try. Come back. Let’s talk about hunky Matt Holliday.

How do you feel about Holliday’s 2011 season?  Are his contributions (to date) worthy of the biggest contract in franchise history?  Will Holliday be the producer in 2012 who helps us overcome the lack of #5?  Is he worthy of potentially becoming the new superstar face of the franchise?

Your topic:  Matt Holliday, Beast or Bust?”

I’ve heard continued grumblings about Holliday’s performance online and wondered if the UCB crew would come to his defense.  Here are their replies with everything from charisma comparisons to hunky ratings, stats and injury reports:

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball 

That is a big question mark, isn’t it?

I think Holliday has performed well.  He has been healthy (for the most
part) and has been one of the most consistent performers in the cleanup
spot in the last few years.

As for him becoming the star…I don’t think he has to.  I think the
pressure will be on homegrown players like Freese and Molina to step into
that role and Holliday just needs to be what he has been to date.  I’m not
sure the fans will embrace anyone completely for a while, kind of like that
jilted lover that just doesn’t want to date, it may take some time.

Daniel Solzman, Redbirds Fun
To the subject of Matt Holliday, he was not a bust.  In no way was he a bust.  How many baseball players start the season with their appendix bursting?  Get a moth trapped in their ear?  Not to mention the other injuries that I can’t recall. His 2012 numbers, I feel, will be on par with that of 2010.  This was the first season since his rookie year of 2004 that he hit under .300.  I think he’ll come back better than ever and put up an MVP caliber year and be sent to another All Star Game.
Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM

Holliday just needs to be consistent. I don’t believe “star power” is a
necessity. I think he will enjoy being a bit more free of Albert and will
be ok.

Now as far as he being hunky, methink not.

Ray DeRousse, StL Cardinal Baseball

Did hunky Matt Holliday have a bad 2011? Sure, he had a WEIRD 2011, but his season-ending numbers were all pretty typical: average around .300, homers between 20-30, and slugging around .500. His RBI’s were down a bit, but that could’ve been due to the Pujols/Berkman factor in the lineup.

Let’s be honest, though – Holliday isn’t going to “make up for the loss of Pujols.” He’s going to give you another robotic year of similar production barring injury. And that’s what he’s being paid to do.

If anything, I’d like to see Holliday be more of a leader on this team. His performance during the Series was an awful example of tail-between-the-legs surrender that we can’t afford this season. So far, Holliday has seemed aloof and distant (much like Pujols). I’m hoping Holliday steps it up emotionally with the departure of Pujols.

Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout

When I look back on Holliday’s season, I’m not disappointed by his season at all. I would have liked more games but an appendix and the tendon issue
can’t really be avoided. And only Matt knows if his back injury that nagged him a lot of the late season could have been avoided.

If you project Holliday’s numbers out to his typical playing time, he would have hit .299 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI. For me, I’m happy with .300-25-100 out of Holliday and he just about met that. He hit .316 with
RISP, better than in 2010. He hit .419 with a runner at third base, better
than in 2010. He scored 19% of his base runners, tied for the team lead
with Freese and better than 2010 (where he once again led the guys who were
on the team all season).

His lack of ability to stay healthy was disappointing, but I’m not
concerned with it yet. If he has another year of freak injuries this year,
I’m going to start questioning whether we can depend on him long-term, but
right now this is an aberration and I have no reason to believe that it is
anything else. This is the first time he’s gotten less than 620 plate
appearances since he started playing everyday back in 2006.

Going forward, it’s going to need to be a total team effort. The Cardinals
have 6 starting players who can hit .300 (Jay, Holliday, Berkman, Freese,
Craig, and Molina). They also have four guys who are capable of hitting 20+
home runs (Holliday, Berkman, Freese, and Craig). However, Holliday needs
to be the offensive leader in that 3 spot in the lineup and he needs to
step up into that role. It’s obviously one that he’s filled before in
Colorado, so I am not worried about him going overboard in his approach.

Aaron Hooks, CardsDiaspora

I’m scared about Holiday.

Frankly, I’m scared about how Cardinals team in general. Pujols was
such a staple in the lineup that not one other player on this team the
past 11 years had to worry about being THE man, they just had to be A
man. Is Holliday capable of being THE man, much like he was in
Colorado? He’s got the talent to do so, sure. But 2007 and ‘Rocktober’
was 5 years ago for a team gambling with house money.

He hasn’t had to carry a team for a while. He hasn’t had to carry a
World Series contender ever.

I think we all agree with Ray DeRousse, who called Holliday’s season
in 2011 ‘weird’. It was. But if I was to have a pejorative descriptor
for my feelings in 2012? scared.

For Erika’s sake, I hope he comes out strong.

Tara Wellman, AMF

You don’t replace Albert Pujols, no matter who you are.

That said, Matt Holliday has a chance — and the potential — to carry much of the load.

Others have already quoted his stats, so I won’t repeat them. But, his numbers are enough to conclude that his year of freak incidents isn’t the norm.

The only problem I foresee is that, as the potential “face of the franchise,” he’ll put that pressure on himself and struggle. We saw that with Pujols all the time — when he started to play like it was all up to him, he struggled (usually pretty badly). I hope none of the guys are told/feel that pressure of being the ONE to step into Albert’s role.

Just one more thing on his leadership. He’s a quiet kind of guy. You listen to him talk or give interviews, it can feel like he’s distant. However, I tend to build my thoughts of players’ personalities and their “clubhouse dynamic” by what other players say about the guy. Listen to David Freese tall about Matt, and you’ll get a pretty solid idea of their bond and the understated leadership style Holliday displays. Plus, keep in mind, he wasn’t supposed to lead this team to victory. Albert was. Now that AP isn’t there, I suspect Matt will be able to have a greater impact on the guys around him.

Kevin Reynolds, Cards ‘N Stuff

Matt Holliday’s contract looks a lot better after Werth’s absurdity in
Washington. Holliday has the ability, name, and track record to become the
face of the franchise for the next couple years…but he seems to rely a
lot on skills that could erode fairly quickly over time. Many of the hits
he gets are hits simply because he hits the ball so hard and powers it to
the wall or past a fielder. That strength and bat speed could gradually
fail him – twice as much so because skills required to make his strength
look good (coordination, etc.) will also gradually fade. And although he
catches most of what he gets to (except, apparently, in the playoffs…?),
he still isn’t an exceptional defender.

I think what I’m trying to say is that Holliday, to me, is not a “pure”
baseball player. He’s a helluva an athlete…no question…and great
hitter…but I believe guys who are athletes first and baseball players
second tend to erode more quickly than guys who seem to come out of the
womb with a bat in their hands.

Also, for whatever reason – pressure, comfort level, playing in Albert’s
shadow, quirky injuries – Holliday hasn’t been able to truly settle in as a
Cardinal. He seems to be, at times, attempting to turn his bat into paper
right there in the batter’s box. Dude just tries too hard. I love that
about him, but he has to get it under control.

Okay, all that being said…I think Matt is poised for his biggest seasons
as a Cardinal with Albert gone. Watching Holliday in Colorado, I saw a
ballplayer who would do anything it took to win…to cross the plate…etc.
He seemed to shine in the spotlight. Then, when he came to St. Louis…he
seemed less sure of himself and perhaps hesitant. I don’t know if he was so
aware that it was Albert’s team and he was just here to support the dude in
the 3 hole…or what…but I think now Holliday will have more room to
shine.

With Albert out of the way and TLR’s controlling nature giving way to
Matheny’s “go out and play” attitude, I think you will see a more
assertive, aggressive, “gimme the ball” Matt Holliday. If that’s true, and
given the player contract landscape, I don’t actually have a problem with
his contract. And for me, his 2011 season was rather remarkable considering
what the guy dealt with all season.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner
I will add more later when I have the time to do this great question justice, but on the subject of “face of the franchise”, Holliday does not have the charisma for that label.  Not a problem because David Freese, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Chis Carpenter have plenty :). With a catcher as a manager, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter should replace Albert Pujols as the new face of the Cardinals.  A new era of pitching led championships, just like another rookie manager led after the Cardinals won the World Series in  …… Well you know 🙂
Mark, Retrosimba
Matt Holliday underperformed in 2011. Injuries played a part but he still was inconsistent and subpar. The season he had in 2010 for the Cardinals established the baseline: 28 home runs, 103 RBI, .312 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .532 slugging percentage. That’s what I expect from him each of the next 3 or 4 seasons. He’s clearly capable.

Subpar?!  Gosh, I’d hate to see what you thought of Ryan Theriot’s season…If you adjust his 2011 season into 650 plate appearances (in other words,assume health) he winds up with exactly 28 home runs.  Sure, health is not a
guarantee, but in home run rate, he was clearly even with his 2010 season.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 batting averages is 7 hits.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 on-base percentage is 1 hit.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 slugging percentage is 1 home run,
or 2 doubles, or 4 singles.

His OPS+ was 10th highest in MLB among qualifiers, his OPS was 13th in MLB
among qualifiers – both ahead of a new Anaheim Angel.

It wasn’t Holliday’s best season, when compared to his own high standards,
but to say he underperformed and had a subpar season is just not accurate by
any measureable, IMO.

Dustin McClure, Welcome To Baseball Heaven

I had a good idea that Erika’s subject would be around hunky Matt Holliday.

To answer the given question in short he’s definitely not a bust. Last
season was just such a weird campaign for him. Ruptured appendix, moths, sprains, it was so unusual for the durable outfielder. I reference 2010 as a medium of what I consistently expect from Matt Holliday which is pretty damn good. I’m always surprised at the number of people I come across that refer to him as an underperformer. I just don’t get it.

As for being the “Face of the Franchise” I’m with Bob in the fact he’s not charismatic enough for said title. Lovable Lance Berkman is a good comp of someone who has the skill set and personality to attain such a title if he was in Matt’s position as far as contract and age.  This Albert Pujols wound will need some time to heal before Cardinals fans are ready to crown another “Face of the Franchise” I believe. Or maybe it’ll be J.C. Romero who knows.

Disappointing season because he struggled with injury?  Sure, I’ll go along
with that, because who knows how much the nagging injuries hampered him.
Subpar?  C’mon.

Holliday’s been worth every penny, and I don’t care if he is the face of the
franchise or ever has a season as good as Pujols does in Anaheim – so long
as he keeps posting numbers in line with his career averages.

Malcolm Pierce, Redbird Menace

History and the changing nature of the league have been kind to Matt
Holliday’s contract.  Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford inked larger deals
despite being inferior players.  And then they both busted like overstuffed
pinatas.  Meanwhile, Matt Holliday has continued to be Matt Holliday. The
only thing disappointing about his 2011 (in which he posted the
second-highest OPS+ of his career) was a series of bizarre accidents and
maladies.

Meanwhile, the remainder of his contract runs through the five years of the
newly-approved MLB CBA.  This agreement significantly limits the ability of
teams to spend money on talent beyond MLB payroll (and NPB posting fees,
interestingly enough).  Money can no longer be significantly allocated to
the draft or international free agents, especially by competing teams.  As
long as owners invest that money into their ML teams, this should have an
inflationary effect on contracts, which was probably what the MLBPA
intended in negotiations.  We’re already seeing it: from Anaheim’s behemoth
deal with Pujols to Boston turning Nick Punto into a multi-millionaire.
Holliday’s contract, which seemed like a bit of an overpayment the day it
was signed, just continues to become more and more of a bargain.

As far as what to expect from Holliday, he’s been a remarkably consistent
player throughout his career.  I think we can expect more of the same.  As
long as he doesn’t have any more internal organs burst or insects take up
residence, we can expect an OBP near .400 and a SLG a tick over .500.
That’s pretty fantastic.  While no one can replace Pujols, I think he’s
already the kind of producer who can help make up for the loss.  He was
second on the team in OPS last year–behind Berkman, not #5.

One last note: if you told me three years ago that someday I’d be trying to
decide whether Matt Holliday or Lance Berkman would be the face of the
Cardinals lineup, I’d have thought you were crazy.

JE Powell, STL: Fear The Red

Matt Holliday helped the Cardinals down the stretch to win the division in 2009 and was an integral part of the Championship in 2011. Early in the season im 2011, the Cardinals were much better with him on the field and his several stints on the DL hurt. I think that in 2012  we will see a Holliday that will have a .300+/25-30/90-95 line. I really feel that he is going to step it up next year and have one of the best years he has had in awhile.

In 2010 he had 28 homeruns and 103 RBI in 158 games and in 2011 he had 22 HR in only 124 games. Had he had a full season, he may have been able to get 27 HR and 95 RBI. As long as he stays healthy the next few years I think he will be a beast.

Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat ’82

Not sure the whole charisma thing matters much in regards to “face of the franchise”…Has anyone given less interviews and less intriguing interviews than Pujols?

After game 7 of the world series he looked and talked like someone had just shot his dog. Dont buy the charisma argument in regards to face of the franchise. Pujols was the face of the franchise because of his gaudy numbers, unexpected rise to greatness, and potential as the next and last Stan the Man.

I think Holliday will put up great numbers in 2011. He’s a good enough hitter not to need pujols protection to put up big numbers. Freese and berkman should be plenty of protection.

My vote is 2012 beast

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

There’s really not much to add here, but that’s never stopped me before.  I
do think Holliday is going to be one of those metronomes in the lineup,
that he’s going to get to his numbers but perhaps in a quiet way, in that
way when you look up at the end of the year and say, “Wow, I guess he did
it again.”

No need for him to be the face of the franchise or anything like that.  As
long as he keeps hitting, everyone will be happy.

Diane Shultz, Diamond Diaries
Poor Matt did have a crummy year.  All kinds of bad stuff happened to Matt this year.  Hopefully, he will rebound next year and have a great 2012 season.  The long shadow of Albert will be gone and Matt can shine.  He can be a big help to the younger outfielders.
Pip (Matt Philip), Fungoes

I appreciate Nick showing just how consistent Holliday’s production has
been the last couple of years and therefore how his performance shouldn’t
be seen  as anything less than beastly — unless for some reason someone
thinks that a 5-WAR season in an injury-shortened campaign connotes a
“bust.” Maybe I don’t listen to enough sports-talk radio, but I was
flabbergasted to hear someone at a recent SABR meeting propose the idea of
trading Holliday.

Are his to-date contributions worthy of the biggest contract in team
history? That question comes with some baggage — if you’re asking whether
he has been a positive value for his salary, then yes, certainly. But
that’s going to be necessary to offset the probable negative value in the
last couple of years of his contract.

I’m not sure why Holliday would actually fare better with Pujols gone, but
he’s likely not going to suddenly lose the ability to hit for both on-base
average and power. Neither is he going to magically gain out-front
leadership skills. He’s simply going to produce as he has been, which is
exactly what the Cardinals ask and need him to do.

——
Well, there you have it…
I think Hunky would be pleased.
Happy Holliday, everyone…  😉

United Cardinal Bloggers Roundtable:The Sophomore Class

Each day during the month of February, the United Cardinal Bloggers fire off an email roundtable discussion about all things baseball – from serious talk of lineups and rotations to the lighter side of the game such as wishlists for musical acts during the 2011 World Series at Busch.  If you missed some of the fun, check out the full list of roundtable questions and responses at http://www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com/.

This weekend, it was our turn to come up with a question.  And since we gals love our babybirds, we decided to focus on the youngsters.  We asked our fellow bloggers to predict how the Cardinals’ Sophomore class would fare during the 2011 season.


Angela threw the topic into the ring with this email question:


“Let’s focus on a less threatening question today and look at all of the sophomores on the Cardinals roster. Who of these players is due for a big season, and who is in for a sophomore slump? Your choices: David Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Jaime Garcia.”


Bill Ivie (I-70 baseball)

I look for Jon Jay to have a bit of a slump as he adjusts to being a part time player most of the time this year.

As for breakout years, as much as I have said the opposite, my gut and hope is that Craig is due to show that he belongs in the bigs.  My mind tells me that is not going to happen and we have a better shot of a solid year from the glass ankles of David Freese.  I would look for Mr. Freese to put up a solid .280/20HR/85RBI season and be considered a solid option at third for a few years


Daniel Shoptaw (C70 At The Bat)
I’m with Bill, I think Jay slides some, due to both lack of playing time and the fact that he kind got figured out at the end of last season.  He’ll be of value, of course, but may not be quite as impressive as he was last year.  Garcia will slip a bit as well, but as we discussed in a previous question, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t still be good.


You figure if Freese can stay healthy, he’s going to easily be more than he was last year.  I also think that if Craig can get some regular at-bats, no matter where it may be, he’ll bring something to the table as well.

Dennis Lawson (Pitchers Hit Eighth)
I think that Freese has the best opportunity for a big season, because he has the best opportunity to play and make an impact.  In theory, I look for Jay to slide based on lack of playing time, but we’ve already seen that projecting playing time is a very slippery slope.  TLR has a lot of mix-n-match options, and an injury to any of the position players could completely change the formula. With that in mind, Allen Craig could have a really good showing simply by being in the right place at the right time in 2011.

Mark Tomasik (Retrosimba)
If he stays healthy, David Freese seems poised for a productive season at the plate and in the field. Could see him generating significant run production with gap-power. I suspect Jon Jay is in for a sophomore slump, primarily because of lack of playing time. I’m worried about Jaime Garcia being able to duplicate or exceed last season’s performance, but I’m in denial about it because Cardinals cannot afford him to slump after Adam Wainwright’s setback.


Christine Coleman (Aaron Miles’ Fastball)
If Freese can stay healthy, I think he will be due for a big season. He definitely showed the potential during his healthy times last year, so staying healthy throughout all of 2011 will likely be his biggest challenge. If he can meet it, he should have a big year.  I think that Jaime Garcia will have a little bit of a sophomore slump, yet still play a very significant role in the Cards rotation (all the more important now). Like others have already said, I think that Jon Jay will have a little bit of a sophomore slump just based on his presumptive decrease in playing time. Hopefully Craig will see his playing time increase this season as well.

Like most of my fellow bloggers have stated I’m going to predict a very nice season for David Freese barring injury. Unfortunately the way this season has started I’ll be more than surprised if he doesn’t land on the DL for an extended period.
Jaime Garcia set the bar so high for himself it’s going to be hard for him to repeat that success. Some regression for Jaime, but not a sophomore slump my any means.

As for Jon Jay and Allen Craig my gut feeling predicts a semi-breakout season for Craig. He’s done nothing but rake in Memphis and I’m hopeful with regular MLB at bats he can have similar production. As far as Jay goes I’m thinking Skip Schumaker type offensive numbers. To me Jay projects as a long term 4th outfielder while Craig could be the Cardinals right fielder of the future.

Matthew Philip (Fungoes)
David Freese seems the best equipped to go big this season, though his hopes are limited by the same thing that prevented a breakout rookie season in 2010: health. And that reality leads to Allen Craig potentially performing better this year, if for no other reason than he might get more playing time (filling in for Freese) and can’t do much worse than his .282 BABIP last season. Bill James even projects him for a .350 wOBA, which is more in line with his minor-league numbers. Realistically, Garcia is going to look like he’s slumping, though he’ll probably simply be performing more toward what his numbers should’ve been last year: an expected FIP an entire point above his ERA.


Bob Netherton (On The Outside Corner)
For a breakout season, you have to go with David Freese because either way it goes, you’ll be right 🙂  He’ll either hit .280, 12 homers and drive in 75 runs or some part of a stadium will fall on him in a game and break some body part.   David Freese is more than just a baseball player, he’s a walking anatomy lesson. 

The sophomore slump will have to go to Jon Jay, although that’s not altogether fair.   The lack of consistent playing time will hurt him somewhat.  Add to that some expectations from last year that are unrealistically high, he will have the perception of slumping.

I do believe that Jaime Garcia will defy all of the projections and have a terrific year.  Every once in a while a player comes along that just doesn’t fit the model, and I believe Garcia is that player.


Erika (Cardinal Diamond Diaries)
Ever the Cardinal optimist, I foresee our sophomores surging ahead this year.  Jaime Garcia had a phenomenal first year.  With his maturity and professional demeanor, I expect him to continue to grow with experience and step up again this season to make up for the absence of Adam Wainwright.

I am hopeful that both Jon Jay and Allen Craig will get enough playing time to further hone their big league skills.  Jay did burst onto the scene last season with what could only be described as offensive magic last year, but slid a little back into the realms of reality as opposing pitchers became familiar. Allen Craig, on the other hand struggled offensively from inconsistent playing time. I think both their numbers normalize to some solid contributions in 2011.

And then there’s David Freese.  Pardon me a moment while I stop and smile?  OK… all better now.  😉  Dave has worked his tail off over the winter rehabbing not one, but two ankles.  Tagged with the “injury prone” label is never a good thing.  This is the season that Freese makes us all forget about the past.  If When he stays healthy, David Freese is going to have an amazing year.  Back in 2010 we saw his power and range.  I’m looking forward to a solid year for Dave!  *fingers crossed*

Thanks to the UCB group above for joining the conversation!

The Cardinals play their first Spring Training game today!  Doesn’t that just make your Monday better?  Have a great week everyone!   =)


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