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A Holliday Surprise

“It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, but takes an even bigger man to make fun of that man”.

-Unknown, but I’d guess that it would have to be Jack Handey.

I was wrong. I said the price – Brett Wallace – was too much for the Cardinals to pay for a two month rental of Matt Holliday. Factoring salary and production I reckoned Holliday was worth about $8 million of surplus value. According to studies, a top fifty hitting prospect is worth on average $25 million dollars in surplus value. Including Wallace, the Cardinals also gave up two solid prospects (Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson) for an additional $3 million worth of surplus value. The math, I figured was simple enough: $28 million is better than $8 million.

I underestimated how much Matt Holliday would enjoy his return to the National League. I mean, he is really, really enjoying it. Holliday is hitting like a man possessed, to the tune of a .459/.490/.776 line in 85 at-bats, something I don’t think anyone could have predicted. Coincidentally, the Cardinals have distanced themselves from the Cubs and are sitting atop the NL Central with a 5 game lead. According to coolstandings.com, their playoff odds have more than doubled from 40% on July 24th (the day they acquired Holliday) to 83% today, and the Cardinals are now on pace to win 91 games. Holliday can’t be credited for doing this single-handedly, obviously, but his performance has been worth +2.01 in win probability added; quite a boost. Obviously he’s been playing over his head, and I still feel good about my expected value figures, but I think I neglected to see how much the deals increased the Cardinals’ playoff odds.

The Cardinals paid a high cost for all their wheeling and dealing, trading six of their top prospects to get Holliday and Mark DeRosa, but the cost looks to be worth the reward, as the difference between an 87 win team to a 91 win team can mean a lot. In the book Baseball Between the Numbers, Nate Silver calculated that reaching the playoffs is worth about an extra $30 million dollars to a club’s bottom line. Flags fly forever, and thanks to Mozeliak’s dealings, the Cardinals are in line for their 23rd postseason appearance in franchise history, barring an unforeseen meltdown.