St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Holliday key to revitalizing offense
By Landon Clapp
A healthy Matt Holliday figures to rejuvenate a Cardinals offense that finished 24th in runs scored in 2015
It can be difficult to truly appreciate what Matt Holliday means to an offensive unit. That is, of course, until that group has to try to be productive without him.
Since Albert Pujols‘ departure following the 2011 season, Holliday has been the man that Mike Matheny has built his lineups around. While he has used different guys in different spots of that lineup seemingly on a game-by-game basis, Holliday has been a constant in that three-hole pretty much the entire way.
There isn’t a more imposing player in the game to stick in the heart of your lineup. Holliday towers over most at 6’5, he’s got forearms bigger than most anyone else’s thighs, and he takes hacks at the plate that gets everybody’s attention.
Holliday isn’t an elite offensive producer, but when healthy you can bank on getting 20 home runs and 90-100 RBI out of him. He’s going to hit around .300, and if you try to work him exclusively on the outer half, he’ll shoot a missile out to right-center with a simple flick of his very over-sized wrists.
When Holliday is in the Cardinal lineup, everyone else seems to fall into their place. All the other spots in the lineup seem to fill in naturally, and everybody benefits from his presence in terms of how it alters an opposing pitcher’s game plan.
Doubters are going to knock the 36-year-old for his age, citing hamstring injuries in 2015 as evidence for why he may no longer be a middle-of-the-order threat. Anybody with any knowledge of the type of guy that Holliday is would laugh that off as pre-mature and maybe even downright silly.
His off-season work habits are well documented, and I can just about guarantee you that by the time April roles around, he’s going to have those hammy’s bullet proof. Something makes me doubt that he likes being called old all that much, and I’m just guessing that he might come out with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.
If Matheny’s comments on Holliday are any indication of what we should expect, I think everybody in Cardinal Nation should be ecstatic about his return in 2016. At Winter Warm-Up Matheny predicted a “ridiculous” season for Holliday, emphasizing that he is “able to do things other people can’t” at the plate.
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Matheny also praised Holliday for being the type of guy that wants to make adjustments to help the club even more. He says that that mindset, combined with his special talent and not being able to have the type of 2015 that he wanted make up the recipe for a special 2016 campaign.
In terms of adjustments, there have been intriguing ideas floating around about how Holliday may be utilized best in 2016. Based largely on his 45-game on-base streak at the beginning of 2015, there is actually a pretty good argument for having Holliday hit leadoff. Could you imagine being an opposing starter and having Matt Holliday there to greet you to start off a ballgame?
To me, the most likely scenario would be Holliday staying in the three-hole or possibly moving down to five. I think that Matt Carpenter has the potential to take over that three-spot in 2016 and really jolt the offense. In that scenario, Carpenter could be a run-producer hitting third and still be a de-facto leadoff man at times for Holliday in the five-hole.
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Anyhow, Holliday’s presence alone boosts the intimidation factor of that Cardinal lineup tenfold. Wherever he hits, he is going to have an impact on how everyone around him is pitched. I’m not looking for anything outrageous from Holliday in 2016, just a steady rebound performance that stabilizes that Cardinal lineup and brings it back to a respectable level.