What’s Wrong With Matt Holliday?


In today’s baseball economy, Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals has provided good value for the money he received in 2010. The six-time All-Star, (three while with the Cardinals, in 2010, ’11, and ’12), sports a career .309/.386/.523 line. He’s mainly batted third in his career, excepting his time here with Albert Pujols, when he batted fourth in the lineup. He is the fulcrum around which the Cardinals’ lineup has been tailored.

Going into Sunday’s game with the Miami Marlins, Holliday’s line for 2014 stood at .266/.374/.381. He’s hit five home runs. His slugging percentage is down over 100 points from 2013, which was down only slightly from 2012. Holliday’s on-base percentage is still very good, based on a league average OBP of .313.

Offense is down in Major League Baseball. Home runs and total bases are down by around 12 percent and five percent respectively in the National League. The hitters’ dilemma–seeing so many different hard-throwers–has been written about elsewhere. Suffice to say that in context, some regression, considering Holliday’s age, is to be expected.

What are we seeing with the left fielder? Is it natural decline? It could be. Albert Pujols, an inner circle Hall of Famer based on his first eleven seasons, is not the feared hitter he used to be. Although he is slugging again, he’s hitting in the .250’s and is getting on base just above league average. He used to challenge for batting titles and led the league in on-base percentage a few times. Holliday and Pujols are both 34, born a day apart. This may be a preview of future performance by Matt Holliday.

But could it be either an undiagnosed or undisclosed injury? A catalog of hints points to the possibility that some physical ailment impedes his play. Holliday hardly played the field when the Cardinals were in American League ball parks. This was done for defensive reasons, but he also has been leaving games early. He left Saturday’s game with a “knee contusion”, of which no one could say how he got it.  He left Sunday’s game as well.

There was this from Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss two weeks ago:

Mr. Strauss has reported nothing more about this cryptic “explanation”.

In light of the Jaime Garcia imbroglio, with both sides distrusting each other regarding the handling of his shoulder, how much do we really know about what Holliday is experiencing? How close to the vest is he keeping things? What do the Cardinals know about his knee, or his back, another recent concern?

Is Matt Holliday’s pedestrian season a sign of the times for hitters? Is it regression having to do with age? Or is it an injury/chronic ailment that someone is hiding? We don’t know how much to attribute to each of these categories, and, for the time being, Cardinals fans can only wonder.