During the First Three Years of His Contract With the St. Louis Cardinals, Where Does Matt Holliday Rank Amongst His MLB Peers?

Scott Cunningham

After trading for Matt Holliday during the 2009 regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals signed the slugger to a 7-year contract worth $120 million. Here's a look at where Holliday's batting production ranks in the big leagues through the first three years of that deal.

The Hot Stove following the 2009 season was a tense one for the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans. The club was involved in tense, drawn-out negotiations with free agent outfielder Matt Holliday and his infamous agent Scott Boras. At one point, the talks reportedly deteriorated such that Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. wanted to walk away from the negotiating table, but general manager John Mozeliak talked DeWitt into continuing talks. Eventually DeWallet was opened up for a contract seven years in length and worth $120 million. The contract would cover Holliday's age 30 through 36 seasons at an annual salary of $17 million.

When a club signs a free agent like Holiday to a large contract, the hope is that the player will give the club elite production in the contract's early years. This allows the club to get surplus value out of the player before the decline of age makes the likelihood high that the club will be overpaying for the player in his mid-to-late 30s. Through the first three years of the Holliday contract, the club has gotten excellent production form their left fielder. Using Fangraphs bucks, Holliday has given the Cards $21 million dollars in surplus value from 2010 through 2012.

MATT HOLLIDAY'S STATISTICS (2010-2012)

Year

G

PA

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

Salary

fValue

2010

158

675

28

95

.312

.390

.532

.922

.397

149

6.6

$17

$26.5

2011

124

516

22

83

.296

.388

.525

.912

.395

154

5.0

$17

$22.5

2012

157

688

27

95

.295

.379

.497

.877

.378

141

5.1

$17

$23

*Salary and Fangraphs Value (fValue) are in the millions.

Whether one looks at batting average (BA), home runs, RBI, on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), on-base plus slugging (OPS), weighted on-base average (wOBA), weighted runs created plus (wRC+), or Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), Holliday has been a very good player for the Cardinals since signing his seven-year contract. In order to get an idea of just how good a player's stats are, I like to look at how he ranks relative to other major-leaguers. The players with similar production help to give one perspective as to the relative quality of a player's batting and his value.

To help us gain a collective perspective on how elite Holliday's production has been over these last three seasons, I've made graphs of the major batting and value stats that show Holliday's MLB rank and the five players who rank above him and below him in a particular statistic. The stats shown are cumulative from 2010 through 2012, and the rankings are for this three-year stretch. The charts will start with the more traditional stats (BA, HR, and RBI), progress to more intermediate stats (OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+), and conclude with what are often categorized as advanced stats (wOBA, wRC+, and fWAR).

HOLLIDAY'S BA RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

BA

13

Troy Tulowitzki

1,338

.305

14

Paul Konerko

1,868

.304

15

Melky Cabrera

1,716

.303

16

Carlos Ruiz

1,326

.303

17

Daniel Murphy

1,035

.302

18

Matt Holliday

1,879

.302

19

Jose Reyes

1,905

.301

20

Jon Jay

1,328

.300

21

Michael Young

2,058

.299

22

Albert Pujols

2,021

.298

23

Jacoby Ellsbury

1,139

.297

From 2010 through 2012, Holliday has hit for a cumulative .303 average. This BA ranks him 18th in all of MLB for this time period. As the chart shows, he has hit for a higher average these last three seasons than his former Cardinals teammate Albert Pujols, who hit .298. In additional to hitting for a higher average than Pujols, Holliday's .303 BA is also higher than the BAs of Dustin Pedroia (.297), Derek Jeter (.294), Matt Kemp (.291), Ichiro Suzuki (.290), Alex Gordon (.285), David Wright (.285), Michael Bourn (.279), Evan Longoria (.275), Alex Rodriguez (.272), Jose Bautista (.271), Jayson Werth (.271), and Shane Victorino (.264).

HOLLIDAY'S HR RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

HR

23.

Mike Napoli

1,359

80

24.

Josh Willingham

1,629

80

25.

Edwin Encarnacion

1,541

80

26.

Aramis Ramirez

1,763

78

27.

Ryan Howard

1,556

78

28.

Matt Holliday

1,879

77

29.

Adrian Gonzalez

2,092

76

30.

Nick Swisher

1,894

76

31.

Adam Jones

1,936

76

32.

Nelson Cruz

1,600

75

33.

Carlos Pena

1,788

75

In the stat of homers, Holliday has his lowest rank. This isn't terribly surprising as Holliday has never had the reputation as a home-run hitter. That his ranking 28th in MLB in a statistical category is Holliday's lowest rank speaks to his impressive production over this time span. Despite playing his home games in pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium, Holliday has hit more homers over the last three seasons Adrian Gonzalez (76), Alex Rodriguez (64), Michael Morse (64), Jason Heyward (59), Andre Ethier (54), Jayson Werth (52), Carlos Lee (51), Cody Ross (50), Michael Cuddyer (50), and Pablor Sandoval (48).

HOLLIDAY'S RBI RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

RBI

12.

Curtis Granderson

1.903

292

13.

Hunter Pence

2,014

292

14.

Paul Konerko

1,868

291

15.

Matt Kemp

1,806

284

16.

Aramis Ramirez

1,763

281

17.

Matt Holliday

1,879

280

18.

Billy Butler

2,030

280

19.

Ryan Howard

1,556

280

20.

Alfonso Soriano

1,671

275

21.

Joey Votto

1,842

272

22.

Nick Swisher

1,894

267

The 100-RBI mark has long been a threshold for so-called run producers, the hitters in the middle of the order charged with driving in runs. For two of the last three seasons, Holliday hit cleanup for the Cards, a lineup position named for the expectation that the batter hitting in it will drive in runs. Despite not having a 100-RBI season during the first three seasons of his Cardinals contract,* Holliday ranks 17th in MLB in ribbies over those seasons, besting the likes of Joey Votto (272), Jay Bruce (266), Evan Longoria (258), David Ortiz (258), David Wright (257), Nelson Cruz (255), Alex Rodriguez (244), Andrew Ethier (233), Giancarlo Stanton (232), B.J. Upton (221), and Adam LaRoche (215).

*Author/editor's note: I misread Holliday's stats when researching this post and mistook Holliday's runs scored totals for his RBI totals. Holliday drove in 103 runs in 2010 and 102 runs last season.

HOLLIDAY'S OBP RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

OBP

4.

Jose Bautista

1,737

.400

5.

Joe Mauer

1,558

.399

6.

David Ortiz

1,594

.391

7.

Lance Berkman

1,165

.391

8.

Carlos Ruiz

1,326

.388

9.

Matt Holliday

1,879

.385

10.

Ryan Braun

1,991

.384

11.

Paul Konerko

1,868

.384

12.

Buster Posey

1,238

.384

13.

Adrian Gonzalez

2,092

.382

14.

Shin-Soo Choo

1,690

.378

Holliday ranks No. 9 in all of MLB in OBP over the last three seasons. To put it another way, Holliday has made outs at the ninth-lowest rate in the big leagues. This is very impressive. Looking at the names just ahead of him on this list and those below him, his company is a who's who of batting elites. Notable players not shown on this chart that Holliday ranks higher than: Andrew McCutchen (.376), Albert Pujols (.375), Billy Butler (.374), Troy Tulowitzki (.374), Kevin Youkilis (.372), Carlos Gonzalez (.371), Josh Hamilton (.370), Robinson Cano (.370), Dustin Pedroia (.368), Chase Utley (.367), Victor Martinez (.366), and David Wright (.365).

HOLLIDAY'S SLG RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

SLG

12.

Robinson Cano

2,074

.539

13.

Paul Konerko

1,868

.530

14.

Matt Kemp

1,806

.523

15.

Prince Fielder

2,096

.521

16.

Mike Napoli

1,359

.520

17.

Matt Holliday

1,879

.517

18.

Michael Morse

1,298

.516

19.

Corey Hart

1,787

.514

20.

Buster Posey

1,238

.509

21.

Nelson Cruz

1,600

.508

22.

Adrian Gonzalez

2,092

.507

The most impressive aspect of Holliday's high SLG during his three full seasons in St. Louis is that he has posted it while playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly park. Most of the players above him on the SLG rankings play their home games in hitter's stadia. In the top 30, Matt Kemp, Buster Posey, and Evan Longoria are the only other players who don't benefit from their home park. Impressively, Holliday has posted a higher SLG than Curtis Granderson (.506), Jay Bruce (.493), Josh Willingham (.490), Alfonso Soriano (.489), Mark Teixeira (.484), Ryan Howard (.483), Billy Butler (.480), David Wright (.480), and Nick Swisher (.480), and Mark Trumbo (.478).

HOLLIDAY'S OPS RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

OPS

9.

Troy Tulowitzski

1,338

.918

10.

Carlos Gonzalez

1,757

.918

11.

Paul Konerko

1,868

.914

12.

Adrian Beltre

1,820

.912

13.

Robinson Cano

2,074

.909

14.

Matt Holliday

1,879

.903

15.

Giancarlo Stanton

1,498

.903

16.

Buster Posey

1,238

.893

17.

Adrian Gonzalez

2,092

.890

18.

Matt Kemp

1,806

.882

19.

Mike Napoli

1,359

.875

During the first three years of his contract with the Cardinals, Holliday ranks 14th in the majors in OPS. His .903 OPS is 23 points behind Pujols, is tied with Giancarlo Stanton, and is higher than Adrian Gonzalez (.890), Matt Kemp (.882), Mike Napoli (.875), Lance Berkman (.874), Evan Longoria (.872), Andrew McCutchen (.863), Carlos Beltran (.857), David Wright (.845), Nick Swisher (.844), Curtis Granderson (.843), Nelson Cruz (.840), Jay Bruce (.833), Justin Upton (.830), Jacoby Ellsbury (.824), Ryan Howard (.822), Alex Gordon (.821), Jayson Werth (.821), and Andre Ethier (.820).

HOLLIDAY'S OPS+ RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

OPS+

5.

Ryan Braun

1,991

152

6.

David Ortiz

1,594

151

7.

Prince Fielder

2,096

150

8.

Buster Posey

1,238

149

9.

Josh Hamilton

1,745

146

10.

Matt Holliday

1,879

146

11.

Paul Konerko

1,868

143

12.

Evan Longoria

1,547

143

13.

Robinson Cano

2,074

141

14.

Adrian Gonzalez

2,092

141

15.

Matt Kemp

1,806

140

Holliday batting for an OPS of .903 while playing his home games in Busch Stadium is more impressive than Robinson Cano batting for a .909 OPS while playing home games in New Yankee Stadium. The reason for this makes intuitive sense. Yankee Stadium is a hitter's ballpark while Busch is friendlier to pitchers. OPS+ takes this reality into account, adjusting OPS by park effect. The stat also adjusts for the offensive environment, a fact that is less important in this exercise (which compares players from the same three years) than it would be if we were comparing players across difference eras. OPS+ is scaled in a way that makes 100 league-average. The higher above 100, the better a player's OPS+.

With his unadjusted OPS of .903, Holliday ranked 14th in MLB. Holliday's 146 OPS+ ranks him 10th in all of baseball. He has leapfrogged players like Cano who play their home games in hitter-friendly parks.

Another interesting comparison to be made is one of Holliday's time with the Rockies to his time wearing The Birds On The Bat. In 2007, Holliday finished second in the MVP voting with a 150 OPS+. In the first three years of his contract with St. Louis, Holliday posted a 149 OPS+, 151 OPS+, and 136 OPS+. These rank first, third, and sixth, respectively, in his MLB career.

HOLLIDAY'S wOBA RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

wOBA

6.

Josh Hamilton

1,745

.401

7.

Prince Fielder

2,096

.396

8.

Troy Tulowitzki

1,338

.392

9.

Paul Konerko

1,868

.391

10.

Carlos Gonzalez

1,757

.390

11.

Matt Holliday

1,879

.390

12.

Albert Pujols

2,021

.388

13.

Adrian Beltre

1,820

.387

14.

Robinson Cano

2,074

.387

15.

Buster Posey

1,238

.383

16.

Giancarlo Stanton

1,498

.383

I like using wOBA to evaluate a player's offensive production. Using linear weights, wOBA takes into account the run value of a player's entire offensive contribution--walks, singles, doubles, triples, homers, outs made, and baserunning. The stat then scales this figure to OBP. This means that wOBA numbers can be judged on the same scale as OBP. Anything above .400 is excellent. The .370-to-.400 window is great. A wOBA of .340 or so is good. Usually, .320 is about average. A .300 wOBA is not very good. A wOBA below .300 is awful.

Given how well Holliday has ranked in the stats already discussed, it is unsurprising that he has posted an outstanding wOBA during the first three years of his contract: .390. This figure ties him with Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez, making him a top 10 offensive player in all of baseball. It is also two points ahead of Pujols.

HOLLIDAY'S wRC+ RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

wRC+

2.

Joey Votto

1,842

167

3.

Jose Bautista

1,737

166

4.

Ryan Braun

1,991

156

5.

Prince Fielder

2,096

150

6.

David Ortiz

1,594

150

7.

Matt Holliday

1,879

148

8.

Albert Pujols

2,021

148

9.

Josh Hamilton

1,745

147

10.

Buster Posey

1,238

145

11.

Paul Konerko

1,868

143

12.

Robinson Cano

2,074

142

Like raw OPS, wOBA is not adjusted for park or run-scoring environment. Like wOBA, wRC+ measures a player's entire offensive contribution using linear weights. Like OPS+, wRC+ contains an adjustment for park effects and run-scoring environment. It is also scaled to 100 just as OPS+ is.

After adjusting for home park effects, Holliday ties Pujols for the seventh-highest wRC+ in the majors for the time span of 2010-2012. That Holliday ties Pujols reflects just how great an offensive player he is. Holliday ranking amongst the other names on this list further cements his place as one of the best offensive players in the game today.

HOLLIDAY'S fWAR RANK (2010-2012)

MLB Rank

Player

PA

fWAR

4.

Ryan Braun

1,991

19.9

5.

Adrian Beltre

1,820

19.1

6.

Jose Bautista

1,737

18.2

7.

Andrew McCutchen

2,004

17.0

8.

Josh Hamilton

1,745

16.8

9.

Matt Holliday

1,879

16.7

10.

Albert Pujols

2,021

16.4

11.

Ben Zobrist

1,997

16.4

12.

Evan Longoria

1,547

16.1

13.

Dustin Pedroia

1,705

15.7

14.

Michael Bourn

2,030

15.2

The metric Wins Above Replace (WAR) attempts to value a player's contribution in the three primary facets of the game: batting, baserunning, and defense. As explained in the Fangraphs Glossary primer on WAR, this is done in an attempt to answer the question:

"If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?"

Given his overall excellence as a batter and defense that is usually thought of and measured as about average for a left fielder, Holliday once again rates as one of MLB's best players when using fWAR to measure his talents. Holliday is a player on par with Josh Hamilton, who just signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels, Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels, and better than Adrian Gonzalez, who is entering the third year of a seven-year, $154 million contract. Prince Fielder's 13.5 fWAR places him well below Holliday in terms of value. Fielder signed nine-year, $214 million contract last Hot Stove.

The Cardinals opened up their coffers and signed Holliday to the largest contract in Cardinals history in terms of overall value. During the first three seasons of the Cardinals' seven-year deal with Holliday, he has been more than worth it, playing at an elite level that ranks him amongst the ten best position players in all of baseball. The Holliday signing has worked out as well as anyone could have hoped.

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