Matt Holliday has the unenviable position as the top salary earner for the St. Louis Cardinals. I say that among ball players not the common man. I envy his money. Among ball players that cash comes with high expectations from the fans and rightly so. However, these expectations are often unreasonable or they are fulfilled without the naysayers even knowing it’s happened. I believe this has transpired in the case of Holliday, and I also believe that this could be the season where he “puts it all together” for Cardinals’ fans.
In my humble opinion, Holliday has performed more than adequately in relation to his contract. Unfortunately for him, he has yet to have the break through moment that fans starve for. He comes in and does his job rather consistently and because there are not many defining moments, he “fails” to live up to his contract.
The contract, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts was signed in January 2010 for seven-years/$120 million, evenly spread at $17 million per season with a club option for $17 million in 2017 or a $1 million buyout. There is a deferral of $2 million annually which will be paid from 2020-2029 without interest and the deal contains a full no trade clause.
Below are Holliday’s stats, courtesy of FanGraphs.
Holliday had an injury plagued 2011 and still managed a 5.0 WAR. That is one-tenth of a point less than Albert Pujols‘ 2011 season in 135 less plate appearances. I believe I recall many Cardinals fans suggesting that the team should have let Albert write his own check and Holliday in the meantime is lambasted. Again, it all comes down to the defining moment. Pujols obviously had many and I am not trying to compare the accomplishments of the two. Pujols is a superior player. The point is Holliday receives some unreasonable criticism.
He is said to have lost something at the plate since he moved from Colorado’s Coors Field. Not really, what he has lost if anything, is a stronger lineup around him since he left Coors Field. In 2007 & 2008, Holliday’s last two seasons with the Rockies they scored a total of 1607 runs. In his two full seasons with the Cardinals the team scored 1498 runs. Sure, the home runs and RBI are down, but look at the weighted runs created plus the last two seasons. If you crave the home runs, had he maintained the same pace of plate appearances in 2011 as 2010, he would have ended up with 29.
His ranks over a three year span are telling as well. From 2009 through 2011 Holliday ranks 9th in WAR, 11th in wOBA and 8th in wRC+ in all of MLB. Among all MLB outfielders he is 2nd in WAR, 4th in wOBA and 3rd in wRC+ in the same time frame. He has better WAR figures than the following over the span; Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton. Remember he played most of 2009 with the power house Oakland A’s.
If his statistical placement isn’t enough, let’s talk about the salary, because that is a big concern for Cardinals fans who don’t feel Holliday is carrying his weight. First, let’s name some players who make more than Holliday per season; Braun ($21MM aav), Mark Teixeira ($22.5MM aav), Alex Rodriguez ($27.5MM aav), Carl Crawford ($20.29MM aav) and Ryan Howard ($25MM aav). Holliday’s WAR total from 2009 to 2011 is 17.3. Here are the WAR numbers for the players above; Braun (17.1), Teixeira (12.6), A-Rod (12.3), Crawford (13.7), and Howard (7.6). If you want to see someone swallow cash, check out Ryan Howard.
Over the last two seasons the Cardinals have paid Holliday $34 million. His WAR for the two seasons is 11.7 and FanGraphs places the value of those wins at $49.4 million for a net positive for the Cardinals of $15.4 million.
Holliday just turned 32 a few days ago. He’ll be 36 when the contract ends in 2016 (if the Cards decline the 2017 option). I’m not going to suggest that Holliday is going to pump out some monster season during the remainder of the contract (though it wouldn’t shock me either). However, I can say with some confidence that he can churn out a two or three more seasons with figures resembling the average of the last three seasons. Then the remaining years would see a decline. By the time the contract ends, I suspect the Cardinals will maintain positive value in this deal. If only Holliday could have that defining moment so Cardinals fans would give him his due. Apparently and unfortunately, top 10 level production doesn’t cut it.