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Matt Holliday is more Hall of Fame worthy than people realize

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, January 3, 2024

It’s a brand new year and we are just a few weeks away from knowing who has been elected to the class of 2024 for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Colorado Rockies fans are eagerly waiting with dire anticipation if this is the year that Todd Helton achieves the coveted 75% of votes needed for induction.

Another player I’m watching is someone who may be at risk of falling off the ballot in his first year despite being one of the most consistent hitters of his era. I’m speaking of course about former Rockies Matt Holliday.

Colorado Rockies Days

Holliday has certainly earned a soft spot in the hearts of Rockies fans. Drafted in the seventh round out of Stillwater High School in 1998, he rose through the ranks of the minor league system and made his big league debut on April 16, 2004, after injuries to Preston Wilson and Larry Walker opened the door for his arrival. For five seasons, Holliday would be a power staple in the Rockies lineup and become one a feared slugger in the sport.

During his rookie season in 2004, Holliday batted .290/.349/.488 in 121 games, with 31 doubles, 14 home runs, 57 RBI, 65 runs scored, 48 extra-base hits and 195 total bases, all of which were top five among all rookies. His efforts earned him a fifth-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting but the bar was set; Holliday was something special.

2005 was a forgettable year for the Rockies, but Holliday was a bright spot through and through as he hit .307/.361/.505 with 19 home runs and 87 RBI, 32 of which came in the month of September. He had improved in nearly every category from his rookie year and it turns out he was still just getting started as the next three seasons of his career would be the pinnacle of his time with the Rockies.

From 2006 to 2008, Holliday kicked off a three-year stretch that saw him earn three All-Star nominations and three consecutive Silver Slugger Awards. In 452 total games he batted .329/.400/.579 with a 142 OPS+ and 144 wRC+. He also slugged 133 doubles, 13 triples, and 95 home runs while driving in 339 RBI. He also accumulated 15.2 rWAR during that stretch.

In 2006 Holliday became the 19th player ever to reach 195 hits, 30 home runs, 45 doubles, 115 runs and 110 RBI in one season. He finished that season in the top five of the National League in batting average, hits, runs, extra-base hits, total bases and slugging percentage.

Then, 2007 and Rocktober happened.

There were a number of crucial and incredible performances by the Rockies in 2007, but perhaps none were greater than Holliday’s MVP-caliber season. In a career-high 158 games, Holliday slashed .340/.405/607 to win the National League Batting Title, but he also led the league in hits (216), doubles (50), RBI (137), and total bases (386). He became just the fifth National Leaguer in the previous 59 years at the time to lead the NL in both batting average and RBI, and only the 13th major league player in the previous 45 years with at least 200 hits and 50 doubles. Unfortunately, despite his dominance, Holliday finished second in MVP voting to Philadaelphia’s Jimmy Rollins.

Rockies fans best remember Holliday’s 2007 for this moment in game 163 against the San Diego Padres.

He remained a catalyst through the playoffs that season. In the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Holliday batted .333/.412/.733 with two home runs and four RBI to be named the NLCS MVP. He continued his success in the World Series with a .294 AVG and .765 OPS as well as a home run as the Rockies were swept by the Red Sox.

The Cardinals and Postseason Success

This highlights an important aspect of Holliday’s career. Following another stellar season in 2008 with the Rockies in which he hit .321/.409/.538, the Rockies traded him in the offseason due to not being able to sign him to an extension. Eventually, he ended up with the St. Louis Cardinals where he would continue to cement his career as a great hitter.

From 2009 to 2016, Holliday was a staple in the Cardinals lineup as they dominated the National League. In 982 games over eight years, Holliday slashed .293/.380/.494 with 156 home runs and 616 RBI for a total of 23.1 rWAR. He was a four-time All-Star in St. Louis and earned one final Silver Slugger Award in 2010. In 2014, he became just the fifth player in MLB history to amass nine consecutive seasons of at least 20 home runs, 30 doubles, 75 RBI and 80 runs scored each season.

Holliday’s offensive prowess carried over to the postseason where he got plenty of opportunity with the Cardinals. In 58 postseason games with the Cardinals, Holliday batted .243/.306/.387 with seven home runs and 26 RBI and even helped win a World Series title in 2011. Over the course of his entire playoff career, Holliday batted .245/.303/.421 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI. In the somewhat limited sample size, Holliday proved he could perform under the brightest of lights and help his team to victory.

Twilight Years and Hall of Fame case

Following the 2016 season, Holliday found himself a free agent and signed with the New York Yankees. In his single season in the Bronx he clubbed 19 home runs but had a career-low 93 OPS+ and a batting average of .231 which was also the lowest of his career. Following the season he was retired in name until the Rockies came calling in July of 2018, signing him to a minor league contract where he spent a few weeks in the minors before joining them for their postseason run. In 25 games down the stretch, Holliday returned in purple and batted .283/.415/.434 with a pair of home runs. It was his last hurrah in the big leagues but it was a reminder of what made Holliday so great as a player, and a player worth Hall of Fame consideration.

Over 15 years, he played in 1,901 games and amassed 2,096 hits while batting .299/.379/.510 with a career 133 OPS+. He clubbed 316 home runs and had 468 career doubles and has a career 44.5 rWAR. He featured a strong 10.1% walk rate and 17.1% strikeout rate, showing that he was more than just a slugger, he was a strong individual but had strong plate discipline for the majority of his career. In many ways, his numbers resemble or exceed that of players like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, both of whom are receiving plenty of Hall of Fame votes.

At the time of writing, Holliday has received just a single vote on public ballots and is likely to fail to reach the 5% needed to stay on the ballot another year. This isn’t to say he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he should be receiving more consideration than people may believe. He had plenty of faults, including his subpar defense, but he was one of the premier hitters of his era and played a huge role for the Cardinals in the 2010s.

Holliday was never the flashiest player on the field. He played in the shadows of some of the all-time greats in Colorado and St. Louis. He never was the superstar of the league, but for 15 years was one of the most consistent and reliable sluggers in the game and is more worthy than people may realize.

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