St. Louis Cardinals leftfielder Matt Holliday is a pillar of the offense and has been about as durable as a pillar for most of his career. Up until 2015, he appeared in no fewer than 121 games per season. Then, age finally caught up to him.
Actually, it was his right quad, which he strained in a game in Colorado back in June. Holliday played just 73 games for the Cardinals this year and posted career lows in almost every offensive category, from batting average (.279) and runs (24) to homers (4) and RBI (35). By the time the playoffs rolled around, he was spent. Holliday collected just two hits, both singles, in his 16 NLDS at bats.
It’s no wonder. The quad, a set of four muscles in the thigh, is the source of stability and strength in the legs. When your quads are shot — and Holliday aggravated them again less than two weeks after he came off the DL the first time — your entire swing is out of whack because the momentum shift and rotation start there. No quads, no power. Holliday most likely compensated, relying on his upper body to drive the ball.
It didn’t work.
Remember Holliday’s final at bat of the 2015 season, Game 4 of the NLDS in Chicago? You won’t find a clip of it online because it wasn’t worth it. But it was a perfect example of how debilitating a quad injury can be for a power hitter like Holliday.
Facing Cubs reliever Fernando Rodney in the top of the 7th, Holliday smoked a hanging changeup to deep left field, just short of the warning track. A healthier Holliday would have driven the ball on a line out of Wrigley Field. Someone in the bleachers would have been hurt.
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I gave Holliday a hard time in the Game 4 wrap-up, but that was frustration talking. The big man was in pain. He’d probably dealt with spasms, which are never fun. And if all the online diagnoses are correct, he also probably felt a big knot in his right leg the whole time.
Here’s the thing that really sucks about quad injuries. They can linger. The quads are big muscles
An all-too-familiar scene for Matt Holliday and Cardinals fans in 2015. Utter frustration. Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
made up of a lot of fibers. (And just consider how much bigger the 6-4, 250-lb. Holliday’s quads are.) When you push the rehab to come back sooner than you should, you risk winding up with scar tissue as the muscles heal. This scar tissue doesn’t cause pain necessarily, but it does restrict flexibility, a critical attribute to a slugger’s swing.
Given that Holliday reaggravated the leg by coming back too early this year, he probably has scar tissues. Guess what happens if he chooses to push it and ignore that little bit of extra rigidness? Rip!
Holliday will be 36 in January and is heading into the final guaranteed year of his current contract with the Cardinals. Maybe it’s time we temper expectations and lower our sky-high expectations of him just a bit. The big guy has earned more days off at this point in his career, whether he likes it or not.
Another World Series run for the Cardinals depends on it.