August 1, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) hits a home run during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
Matt Holliday went 0-3 and only got on base once last night, and the St. Louis Cardinals lost. This is the weirder and more obvious formulation of the Holliday-isn't-clutch-no-he-is pseudo-dilemma: Because he is clutch, or because he's not not-clutch, the Cardinals don't play as well when he isn't hitting. This is the kind of thing that ends up in the shade when Clutchness is your framework for player evaluation, instead of, say, runs and wins.
In any case—I'm ready to forget about clutchness, or lack thereof, too. I'd rather use a different arbitrary narrative for a while: Namely, just how good Matt Holliday has been since the last time he was actually bad. Since the end of April, when he was hitting .215/.277/.376, Holliday has been no worse than the third-best hitter in baseball.
He's basically been Mike Trout, minus the awesome baserunning and some outs—Trout's hit .356/.417/.613 since May 1, to Holliday's .356/.444/.614. During the last three months—while the Cardinals have been just barely treading water—he hasn't just performed like we've come to expect, he's performed at a rate of a win or two above a replacement Matt Holliday.
This has been a frustrating summer's worth of Cardinals baseball; this team seems to bait Pythagoras once a week, and now that the Reds have stopped losing even the blowout wins have lost some of their flavor. But I'd hate for an incredible tear like the one Matt Holliday is on to go unnoticed for all that.
While I'm at the Day by Day Database, here's how some other Cardinals have performed since baseball stopped being breezy and fun and started being frustrating and strange:
- Most of the on-base-first guys have stopped getting past first base under their own power. Jon Jay has 11 extra bases—seven doubles, two triples—in his last 47 games; Rafael Furcal has a slugging percentage of .330. Their on-base percentages aren't very impressive, either, but it's their nonexistent power numbers that really stand out.
- Skip Schumaker, who's hitting .314/.398/.429, is the exception to this rule. I don't know how useful it is to say it, going forward, but it's very fair to say it: The Cardinals would, somehow, be much worse off at this moment if they'd taken the internet's collective advice and dumped Schumaker in the offseason. He's been excellent.
- This was supposed to be the year David Freese traded his weirdly high BAbip for the more sustainable power he flashed in the minor leagues. Lately it's become the year that he just does both. His BAbip in June was .525, which looks too much like a field goal percentage to register as a baseball number to me. On the season it's .376, which ties his career high.
- Finally: I can't blame him, or anything, since he doesn't get many chances to swing the bat, but Tony Cruz has yet to walk in 79 plate appearances. Thanks to his lone sacrifice fly he's hitting .218/.215/.359 on the season, and a meatier and less comprehensible .279/.273/.512 since June 1.