PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11: National League All-Star Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in the first round of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby at Chase Field on July 11, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
It's weird to remember being worried about Matt Holliday. Not Matt Holliday's contract—I remember that pretty well, and now that he's starting to lose games played to nagging injuries and random bouts of appendicitis there's still reason to be worried about it, long-term—but Matt Holliday himself, and whether he was a brilliant hitter or the last of the Coors Field products. Since joining the Cardinals and leaving the humidor behind he's put together what amounts to his two best seasons by OPS+, and done it in a way that looks as much like the old Matt Holliday as anything else does; if you squint at his baseball card it seems more like he was traded from the Rockies after 2007, when he goes from slugger to hitter all at once.
Now he's a great hitter. If I had to compare him to anybody it would be the player broadcasters seem to think Albert Pujols is—the one who is not going to lead the league in homers but can take any pitch and turn it into a line drive. Holliday swings too hard to win the Home Run Derby, and he doesn't hit enough pitches with that particular trajectory that I don't think thepainguy wants me to call backspin. If you banned the home run like the dunk was banned in college basketball you would get players like Holliday, whose swing, despite his size, seems geared primarily for vicious-looking doubles and comebackers.
As an All-Star I think Holliday gains a little from the atomized way we look at a baseball player's contributions in the wake of WAR. He's a great hitter, but he doesn't put up awe-inspiring on-base or slugging percentages, and he hasn't hit 30 home runs in years now; he distinguishes himself in part by looking pretty good at everything else, from running the bases to running around the outfield in his enthusiastic-converted-linebacker manner.
So far, a year-and-a-half into his contract, he's hit .315/.398/.545, with 42 home runs and 10 derby homers. If the success of the contract was dependent on his playing at his peak abilities at the beginning of it, we're about halfway there. If it was dependent on him not really being a .286/.378/.454 hitter outside Coors, as ardent Brett Wallace fans might have been led to worry, it's been better still.