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Matt Holliday: 2014 performance vs. projections

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A look back and a look ahead.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

For St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, 2014 was his age-34 season. It was the fifth season of the seven-year, $120 million contract Holliday signed with St. Louis as a free agent during the 2009-10 offseason and the first in which his $17 million salary was not the highest among the Cardinals—Adam Wainwright, in year one of his five-year contract extension, earned $19.5 million.

Signing Holliday was a truly excellent move by general manager John Mozeliak. The veteran left fielder has been worth every penny of his hefty annual salary and then some. By Fangraphs' valuation, Holliday's batting, baserunning, and fielding have combined to be worth over $20 million in each of his five seasons with St. Louis after signing with the Cards as a free agent. From 2010 through 2014, Holliday has been worth $109.7 million total. With at least two years left on his seven-year contract (there's a club-option year for 2017), Holliday need only produce $10.3 million to have been worth his $120 million in total salary. After that, every addition walk, hit, homer, run scored, and run batted in will be gravy—delicious gravy on top of a Holliday feast.

Year after year, Holliday has been a metronome of offensive production that is consistently well above average, even if his raw numbers of declined some due to moving from the hitter-friendly confines (I use the term loosely) of Coors Field to the offense-suppressing environs of Busch Stadium III and growing older. A beast of a man, Holliday hits baseballs really hard, whether they be on the ground or in the air. Over his career, this has been a recipe for a high batting average, in part due to a Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) that was often head and shoulders above the major-league average, which usually falls right around .300.

Some of the systems projected Holliday's BA to fall in 2014. The VEB community, on the other hand, did not. In continuing our bullish outlook on the 2014 Cardinals, the VEB community predicted Holliday to have another boringly excellent Holliday season in 2014. By contrast, ZiPS was comparatively bearish on Holliday entering 2014 (though it still projected a good year for the left fielder). This was by and large due to a projected BABIP drop.

Before Fangraphs, Dan Szymborski released his annual ZiPS projections on Baseball Think Factory. For those seasons before 2013, we don't have a ZiPS-projected BABIP. All we have is batting average (BA). In 2012, ZiPS projected Holliday's BA to fall to around .288. It's a dip that I assume is based on ZiPS anticipating a BABIP drop. Why? Because that's exactly the same thing ZiPS projected for Holliday in 2013 and 2014. For 2014, ZiPS was just about dead on.

2012: ZiPS Projection vs. Holliday Performance

2012

PA

HR

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

ISO

wOBA

ZiPS

-

21

-

.288

.371

.484

.855

132

.196

.372*

Holliday

688

27

.337

.295

.379

.497

.877

138

.202

.378

*Rough back-of-the-envelope wOBA calculation based on OBP and SLG since ZiPS did not specifically project it in 2012.

2013: ZiPS Projections vs. Holliday Performance

2013

PA

HR

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

ISO

wOBA

ZiPS

609

22

.312

.281

.365

.473

.838

129

.192

.358

Holliday

602

22

.322

.300

.389

.490

.877

142

.190

.383

2014: ZiPS Projections vs. Holliday Performance

2014

PA

HR

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

ISO

wOBA

ZiPS

577

21

.307

.277

.360

.468

.828

128

.192

.359

Holliday

667

20

.298

.272

.370

.441

.811

126

.169

.360

So what does ZiPS foresee for Holliday in 2015? A year that looks an awful lot like his 2014.

2015 ZiPS Projection: Holliday

2015

PA

HR

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

ISO

wOBA

ZiPS

584

20

.304

.275

.348

.456

.804

126

.181

.359

If Holliday posts a 2015 season like ZiPS projects, Holliday will take us into the gravy zone of contract value. He will have produced at a level in excess of his $120 million salary. in 2016, the final guaranteed year of the deal, Holliday would just be racking up more surplus value for the Cardinals.