A Holliday Worth Taking

With all the talk about Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee being the belles of the trade deadline ball, Matt Holliday is suddenly looking like the girl with glasses who lost 15 pounds and got lasik for her birthday. Someone would be wise to pull the baseball equivalent of asking him to dance.

After a brutal April (.240/.288/.360), Holliday has gone right back to being an All-Star caliber player. Since May 1st, but not including the two hits he already has today, he’s at .292/.394/.473 while playing his usual above average defense. Considering that those numbers are coming while playing in a good pitchers park, and Holliday’s performance should have ended any talk about him being a product of Coors Field.

ZIPS projects a .369 wOBA from Holliday over the rest of the season. If he’s traded to a team with a more hitter friendly park, that’s probably more like .375. Toss in the defense and the baserunning, and Holliday is a +4 to +5 win player going forward. Even with just two months remaining in the season, that makes Holliday about +1.5 wins compared to a replacement level corner outfielder between now and the end of the season.

While pitchers often draw the most attention at the deadline, an impact player like Holliday is going to have just as much effect on helping a team win this year. He’ll command significantly less in return to acquire than either of the Cy Young contending arms, thanks to his contract status, but for a team looking to gear up just for ’09, Holliday could be a big addition.

Two months of an all-star plus two draft picks? Holliday isn’t going to come cheap, but he’s worth it.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

23 Responses to “A Holliday Worth Taking”

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  1. WW says:

    LOL what an awesome extended metaphor.

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  2. jrdo410 says:

    Mariners?

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  3. Brad says:

    He’s a perfect fit in Atlanta, where they would die for a power hitting righty. But I don’t think they’d give up what the A’s want.

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    • John C says:

      maybe, but I don’t think they have the room to take on the salary, and I don’t think they’d be willing to give up enough for the A’s to throw in cash.

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  4. Sean says:

    Can we rename this post Attn: Dave Dombroski ?

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  5. He may be hitting in a pitchers park – he’s actually hitting higher at home than on the road by a margin – but I don’t know how you can say definitively that his recent hitting is more valid than his hitting before.

    Let’s take his monthly hitting from 2007 to now. In the 16 months thus far, 3 of his 4 lowest OPS months were with the A’s. His .946 this month is only 10th, meaning that his 4 months with the A’s represent 4 out of his worse 8 months out of the past 3 seasons covering 16 months. And his bad first month this season was just as bad his his last month with the Rockies in 2008, so it is not like it was extraordinarily unique for him. And thus I think you need to look at his full 2009 season stats to conclude anything, and not just his hot streak.

    Looking at his 2009 stats overall, he is hitting .287/.375/.414/.789 on the road this season. For his career, he is hitting .281/.351/.450/.801 on the road. So it would be my contention that he isn’t that great a hitter, he’s only been a slightly above-average hitter on the road for his career, and any recent better hitting is just one of the ups and downs he has experienced during this career.

    What he has been good at is hitting at his home park, though I would still contend that we should wait until the season is over to proclaim that for this season for him. Not too long ago, his home batting line was almost a mirror image of his 2009 road stats and we are now looking at his stats in the middle of a hot hitting streak, whereas before he had an OPS of .648 in April, .872 in May and .814 in June. His .946 in July sticks out compared with those, boosted by the two homers he had in a game. And his OPS could quickly drop below .800 with a few more Oh-fers.

    For example, he had a nice hot streak of 6 games at the start of June, but for the rest of the month he hit .228/.322/.304/.626 with 0 HR in 79 AB over 22 games. But that hot streak pushed his June to .814 OPS. We don’t know that he won’t suddenly hit another cold streak.

    And that cold streak in June actually lasted to July 10, meaning he was cold for a whole month there. In the first 10 days of July, 8 games, he hit .259/.400/.296/.696 with 0 HR in 27 AB. For a total of 0 HR in 106 AB over 30 games.

    And if you really want to get fine on it, from July 1st to July 19th, he was hitting .288/.381/.423/804, meaning he had been pretty bad to ordinary for a long time there, then hits 2 HR on July 20th to boost his July OPS really high, then went 0-for-4 on July 21st before getting three hits plus a walk today. If you are saying that two days of great hitting out of his past three games negates his relative averageness of the previous 4 months, well, I think you are jumping the gun there.

    Overall, I think one has to conclude that Holliday is not as great a hitter as he appeared to be, boosted by his Colorado stats, that anyone trading for him based on that will be sorely disappointed unless they have a home park that is a hitter’s park. And in any case, is overpaying for him if they are expecting a great bat. He has a very nice bat, but not a great one.

    I feel sorry for the team that overpays for him once Boras spins his web. Unless, that is, the Dodgers sign him up, as they seem to be collecting outfielders who aren’t as good as they appeared to be during the prior career, in Pierre and Andruw.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      I love when people make the argument that you should take away every player’s hot streaks when evaluating players. “If you take away player X’s 20 best games, they OPS drops 50 points!”

      Also you’re giving way too much importance to OPS. On the season Holliday has an OPS of .826, but has a wOBA of .364. His road wOBA has increased every year: http://www.fangraphs.com/splits.aspx?playerid=1873&position=OF&page=8&split=ha&type=full

      It’s also hardly unique to have a lower road performance.

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      • cpebbles says:

        In fact, home OPS is expected to be about .020 higher than road OPS. The bigger point is that focusing on a home or road split is obviously vastly inferior to simply park-adjusting a player’s stats, and is only done by people who find a sliver of support in it for the point they’re trying to prove.

        If Holliday’s true talent in a neutral park was really a ~.811 OPS, as you’d expect by ignoring everything except his road splits, he would indeed be massively overrated. But is it really any more likely that Holliday is uniquely suited to Coors Field (A park which is consistently very favorable to every kind of batter) than that he simply struggled adapting his game to sea level as a young player?

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      • don says:

        You can’t take away his hot streaks, but the article makes it look like Dave’s trying to take away his slow start.

        It seems to me that he’s a very good player but not as good as he looked playing 81 games at Coors, which I suppose is totally unsurprising.

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      • minstrel says:

        Dave isn’t trying to “take away his slow start.” His slow start matter in exactly the proportion of the number of plate appearances it comprises…the problem is that his partial-season is already a small sample of his whole career, so if you use the arbitrary standard of “just this season’s numbers” then his slow start implies a lot more about Holliday than it should.

        Basically, Holliday has been a very high-caliber hitter for the past few years *except for about a month* this season. Feel free to factor that month into his aggregate performance for this year and the last few, park-adjust it and see what you get. Still an elite hitter. That’s essentially why Dave was saying “after a brutal April.” Yes, that April counts but it’s hiding the fact that it’s just one bad month in an overall excellent body of work that has continued after that month.

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  6. Michael says:

    I hadn’t been aware of how well Holliday had played since his terrible first month. Checking out the numbers, he seems as solid as ever in the values that stabilize early. He’s been swinging slightly less, he’s had a weirdly small amount of line drives which I presume is attributable to park factors, and of course it isn’t surprising that his HR/FB dropped right into the league average range when leaving Coor’s.

    If we look at the things that stabilize early, it seems clear to me that Holliday still has the same patience numbers and his power numbers dropped switching from the NL to AL and from a hitter’s haven to Oakland’s cavern. His wOBA* according to StatCorner is .376 (which surprisingly came out as a wOBA+ of 110; damn the AL is good). I’ll take it.

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  7. Spencer says:

    During the offseason, Holliday tinkered on his batting stance with McGwire (http://tinyurl.com/m46wst). It may have included a toe tap during the pitcher’s delivery that was throwing off his timing; I don’t know the exact details. Around late April/early May he ditched it and went back to his old swing. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s put up numbers more in line with his career numbers since.

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  8. RollingWave says:

    Holliday also steals 10-20 bases a year. so he’s got little extra value in his legs than most corner OF.

    Even if we evaluate him as a 120 OPS+ guy he’s still plenty valuable because he does everything well. but obviously that’s not the same as evalutating him like… you know. the 150-160 OPS+ guy over the last few years.

    If a team can sign him closer to Johnny Damon’s 4/52 contract instead of a Mark Teixerian type contract. then it’s worth doing.

    trading him in season though. I’m not too sure.

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  9. InternLabor07 says:

    “ZIPS projects a .369 wOBA from Holliday over the rest of the season. If he’s traded to a team with a more hitter friendly park, that’s probably more like .375.”

    Isn’t wOBA already park adjusted? In theory, shouldn’t it be consistent regardless of his home park? What am I missing?

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  10. Fresh Hops says:

    Holliday is supporting my “Players who leave Coors have an adjustment period” thesis. He’s a great player and someone could get him on the cheap (though Beane may decide that a Type A FA is worth more than what he gets offered in prospects for his undervalued LF.)

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    • Jason T says:

      Holliday is supporting my “Players who leave Coors have an adjustment period” thesis.

      Welcome to the club.

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