Matt Holliday: Cornerstone of the St. Louis Cardinals Lineup

christophercarelli
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The St. Louis Cardinals are going to need increased production from various players in the 2012 season and none could be more important than Matt Holliday. Holliday missed 38 games caused by an assortment of injuries in 2011. He lost time due to an appendectomy at the very start of the season, spent time on the DL with a strained left quadriceps, and missed various games at the end of the season and in the postseason, because of a wrist injury. These injuries severely hampered his output totals, but he was incredibly productive when present in the lineup. Considering the down time he was still able to produce a 5.0 WAR. With so many injury risks on the Cardinals’ roster, Holliday will hope to remain healthy for 2012 and become the new cornerstone of production for the remainder of his contract with the Cardinals.

Holliday has been a very consistent contributor over the last six seasons. He has averaged 5.85 WAR per season during that time span. He was often unfairly characterized as a player who benefited from playing half his games in Coors Field while with the Colorado Rockies. But he has been every bit as productive since leaving Colorado’s thin air after the 2008 season. Here are his standard stats since 2006.

YearAgeTmGABRH2B3BHRRBIBAOBPSLGOPS
200626COL15560211919645534114.326.387.586.973
200727COL15863612021650636137.340.405.6071.012
200828COL1395391071733822588.321.409.538.947
200929OAK9334652992311154.286.378.454.831
200929STL6323542831621355.353.419.6041.023
201030STL1585969518645128103.312.390.532.922
201131STL124446831323602275.296.388.525.912
8 Seasons11364279751134830827202770.315.388.541.929

Holliday really only seemed to gain a little home run boost from playing in Colorado. His HR/FB% in 2011 (18.5%) resembled his days in Colorado (20% and 19.5% in 2006 and 2007 respectively). So, when he gets the ball up the air, he still has the ability to hit 28-30 home runs if he is able to get 150 games under his belt. Hopefully, his wrist will be fully healed by the time the season begins, as an injury there can sap power. At this time, there has been no indication that his wrist is going to be an issue.

His position in the batting order and how manager Mike Matheny sets the lineup around him will dictate if Holliday will be in the position to score more often or if he’ll be the primary run producer in the lineup. In my opinion, Holliday will be best served in the cleanup position in between switch-hitters Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman.

However, I’ve read discussions of Beltran hitting second, which would have Holliday in between Beltran and Berkman, hitting third. There is nothing wrong with this scenario, as typically your best hitter is in the third hole and Holliday can now lay claim to that distinction. My feeling is that Beltran would be most comfortable in the third spot as that is where he has typically hit in his career. Since he is the new member of the lineup he may be best served by hitting from the position he is most used to. Holliday and Berkman each hit very well from the cleanup spot and five hole respectively last season.

This type of set-up also allows Jon Jay to stay in the second spot and David Freese to remain sixth. For a team that has had a major change (losing their premier hitter) it may be easier for everyone to maintain their performance hitting in the same spot as last season. When Allen Craig returns from injury, there may be some juggling of the lineup, but this is a good “problem’ for Matheny to have.

No matter where Holliday ends up hitting, he will be the focal point of the offense and will be effective. He is probably going to be deemed, more so than Beltran or Berkman, as the guy teams don’t want to be beat by. While Beltran’s signing is seen as the replacement for Albert Pujol’s production, it is really Holliday who is in the best position to prosper from the move.

He once again becomes the best hitter in his lineup, a distinction he seemed to relish while in Colorado. He is signed with the Cardinals through 2016, with a club option for 2017. At 31 years old, he has plenty left in the tank, and there is nothing to suggest he is going to slow down soon. During his remaining time in St. Louis, he more so than Beltran, Berkman or any of the young players, has the ability to become the offensive leader of the Cardinals and the cornerstone of the lineup.

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