Even though he has been flashing some power lately, Matt Holliday should no longer be starting for the Cardinals
I know that this decision would be a very difficult one to make. Holliday has long been a middle-of-the-order bat who has been a key cog for his various teams. However, the power numbers don’t tell the whole story. In fact, he would probably already be on the bench if he couldn’t still do this:
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 12, 2016
While the traditional counting stats are pretty good for Holliday, his overall impact is still not enough. 11 home runs and 36 runs batted in is more than you could have asked for from a thirty-six year old coming off of a season in which he didn’t even make it to 250 at-bats. The problem, though, is just about everything besides the homers.
Despite the home runs, Holliday’s offensive contributions are nothing spectacular. His walk rate is down about two percent from what he usually does, and his on-base percentage is down to .338. Holliday’s best attribute has always been his high on-base percentage (OK, maybe not for those last two years in Colorado), so if he isn’t doing that, then not much can be expected of him.
The biggest issue with Holliday is his fielding. Holliday was never a good fielder and, as you might expect, he’s gotten worse as he has gotten older. He currently has negative six defensive runs saved, good for the worst mark among all left fielders in the majors. It’s gotten so bad that his total WAR is just .2 even though his offensive WAR is .8.
I don’t know if I believe that Holliday has been that bad this year, but it is worth wondering whether or not his power makes up for his defensive woes. In any event, the Cardinals have much better options than to keep putting him in left field.
Matt Heiken recently wrote an interesting piece on why it’s so hard to bench Brandon Moss right now, and he looks like the perfect candidate to take over in the outfield. It’s possible that Moss will even be a better hitter over the course of the season, but when we throw in defensive numbers the two aren’t even close.
For some reason, Moss has recently been considered a first baseman (maybe it’s because he looks like one) even though he has played much better in the outfield. He has put up some atrocious defensive numbers at first base, as he has -19 defensive runs saved for his career there, but he is plus three in right field. He came up as an outfielder and really was not bad there, but Oakland switched him (because of course they did) to first base.
Moss is clearly more comfortable in the outfield, and would provide a much needed boost to the outfield defense. While many people may want to see Randal Grichuk go to the bench, Holliday has to be the choice. Grichuk is really the team’s only center fielder and he does it very well. While Stephen Piscotty and Jeremy Hazelbaker were both terrible in center field, (though Piscotty has been very good in right) Grichuk leads all National League center fielders in defensive runs saved.
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) June 11, 2016
While Holliday is just barely providing a positive impact (if he even is), Grichuk is still fourth on the team in WAR, due in large part to his defense. We’ve been complaining about the defense all year long, and benching Holliday would provide a huge boost to that part of the Cardinals’ game.
In the end, it’s likely that benching Holliday would end up giving the Cardinals an improvement on both offense and defense, while Holliday would still add value off the bench. Holliday has actually been a bit better against righties than lefties throughout his career, so a platoon wouldn’t make sense but his bat would really help late in games.
If Holliday were reduced to a pinch hitter most of the time, then the Cardinals could get at least some value from his bat without having to worry about what happens when they put him in the field. He may have a big name and a big contract, but Holliday doesn’t provide enough to be starting everyday.
Photo captured by Benny Sieu – USA TODAY Sports