It’s as predictable as the hot humid weather in St. Louis in August. The Matt Holliday resurgence has arrived and all the critics will soon be scurrying back to their holes until next April. Holliday has been on a tear in July and his bat is only heating up. When I think about Holliday at the plate, I think of Thor and his hammer being swung incredibly hard at weak feeble baseballs. When I think about him running around the bases, I think of Arnold screaming in Predator, “GET HIM TO THE CHOPPER!” Can you tell I am a Film-Addict? Well, baseball and movies fill my summer every year so afford me a few references here and there.
Holliday is doing exactly what he did in his first season here in 2010. He endured a painful first 2-3 months and then burst out of the gate when the temperature got high and the games started to mean something extra. He did it in 2013 as well. The man stays quiet for three months while smacking doubles and getting on base a bunch before unleashing the power slugging stick in the second half. When the lines reach the middle of Chippewa at Ted Drewes on a hot summer day, Holliday is surely swinging a hot bat during this time.
After hitting for a decent average in April without the required power stats, Holliday drifted through May and June with a slugging percentage that was low for the big man’s standards. When Holliday is slugging below .400, something is clearly wrong. He is a third place hitter who carries more responsibility this season with the loss of Carlos Beltran and the missing bat of Allen Craig. Since Holliday has started swinging a big stick in July, the rest of the team has started to produce more offense.
Holliday has slugging .523 for the month of July and has four home runs this month and 13 RBI. Those aren’t earth shattering numbers, but they are representing a change in Holliday’s power position. He is starting to be THAT GUY again. The hummingbird of this Cardinals lineup. Someone to be depended upon for big hits. Holliday started the game on July 2nd with a slugging percentage of .386. He ended today’s game with a .418 slugging percentage. Since July 11th(courtesy of Chris Tunno) Holliday leads the Major Leagues in slugging percentage during that time.
The biggest critics of Holliday say he does most of his damage in meaningless situations. He happens to lead the league in game winning hits. Also, 44 of his RBI have come with runners on base. Holliday is hitting .347 with runners in scoring position, a stat that has dropped for many other Cardinal hitters after the euphoria of 2013’s clutch parade of big hits. Holliday is getting on base at the clip of .373, which trails only leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. Holliday has cranked 25 doubles in addition to his 10 home runs and 53 RBI on the season. His average crept up to .270 in today’s game.
There’s nothing stopping Holliday from ending up with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .290 batting average with a great line of stats again. His OPS is sitting at .905 for the month of July. My guess is that number will be steady for a few weeks as the temperature reaches triple digits and the games start to add up and separate division leaders from the pack.
Holliday’s defense in left field has also improved. He hasn’t missed any fly balls out there and is showing off a better arm and running better routes to the ball as well. His error total is down and he has mixed in a few great catches. He told Fox Sports Midwest reporter Jim Hayes that his legs have never felt better.
When Albert Pujols left for Los Angeles in December of 2011, many people wanted Holliday to take over that mantle of The Man in St. Louis because of his yearly salary. That isn’t the way Holliday is built. He is a line drive hitting machine and a guy who cranks doubles, gets on base, and gives you a rapidly consistent dosage of production every season. He isn’t Pujols and never was. He is a guy whose career batting average is .309 and on base percentage is .386 and someone who will produce the stats this team has come to expect. If you want true big flies, look at Matt Adams. Every home run Holliday hits is a stung line drive. That’s what he does. When July rolls around, the man steps up right when the team needs him.
With Craig lost in his own swing and Yadier Molina out until September, Holliday can be that lineup equalizer. A man who can hit lefties and righties, sting a double, draw a walk, crank a home run and deliver in the clutch. He can be the everyman this team requires today. Don’t expect baseball mafia shiny stats from Holliday. He is more versatile than that and gives the manager a little bit of everything.
The one thing I have come to expect from Holliday is getting his best in the stretch run. Look at the majority of his career and you will see a man who delivers when it counts. He may be soft spoken and hit into his fair share of double plays, but the man delivers. Every year. His slugging percentage is decreasing as he reaches his mid 30’s. That can’t be avoided or denied. That doesn’t mean he can’t hit or give the fans their money’s worth.
It’s the trade deadline for the Cardinals. John Mozeliak can look at the market for a hitter if he wants but even he knows when the calendar strikes August, Matt Holliday becomes a force to reckon with. He is a guy who every true baseball fan can appreciate because he does all the little things along with the much needed tasks of a big league professional ballplayer.
To the day he retires, Matt Holliday will be underappreciated and consistent.