Yankees Matt Holiday Will Be Better Than You Think
By Cory Claus
It is hard to predict how aging players will perform. The question is always whether they are at the tail end of their primes or already entered the end of their careers. At 37, Matt Holliday has come to the end of his career but will still give the Yankees one last big season.
Any fan of the Yankees knows the team is rebuilding with youth. The talent is coming but is not yet ready, so it made sense that the Yankees went out and signed a veteran free agent slugger, both for the bat and the locker room presence.
But employing older players in the post-steroid and post-speed era comes with some trepidation. If the player can still perform at a high level, why is his team letting him go? Is he about to fall off of an offensive cliff? And what about injuries and playing time?
One of the best ways to predict success in the next year is to look at the last two years. Using that method, Matt Holliday’s numbers do not bode well. He missed roughly 150 games and averaged .262/.358/.435. That could make Yankees fans nervous. But, believe it or not, there is plenty of reason to be sanguine.
What the hell does Sanguine mean?
In the first place, we have to ask whether or not his injuries have been separate issues unlikely to repeat or symptoms of a chronic problem. For instance, Alex Rodriguez dealt with degenerating hips for several years and had more than one surgery. You knew he was getting worse every year. Had he not been suspended, his career would have ended sometime in the summer of 2014.
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Holliday’s injuries do not seem part of that type of pattern. Two years ago he had a recurring quad injury and last year he broke his thumb. Neither appears to be chronic or threaten to derail his 2017. He even came back at the end of the year and played well, hitting his 20th home run.
But he will still be 37 and coming off of two shortened seasons. Believe it or not, that last bit is the good news.
Let’s consider A-Rod again. He looked like a beat player when he left the field in 2013. His home run totals were way down: 16 in 2011 and 18 in 2012. His Total Bases (TB) were also way down over those two seasons: 172 and 199. His hips had slowed him to a crawl, and his suspension might have eroded his baseball skills to a level that would leave him unfit to play.
But when he came back in 2015, his hips had healed and, more importantly, he was well-rested. That year he hit 33 home runs and collected 254 TB’s. Both of those, along with most if not all of his power numbers, were his highest totals since 2008.
It is most likely that Holliday, rested and recovered, will have one of his best years. If so, that will be as fun to watch as A-Rod in 2015. A-Rod put up his best numbers since his age 32 season. When he was 32, Holliday hit .295/.379/.497, 27 home runs, and 102 RBI’s. If he hits anywhere close to those numbers, the Yankees offense will have a powerful engine in the middle of the order. And make the playoffs.
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Holliday is a great character guy. He will help young players like Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird, who have had success at the big league level but have not played full years. And adding a player who has had a lot of postseason success, including having won a world series, is always a good influence. The Yankees might not have gotten younger by adding Holliday, but they definitely got better.
And if he does come back and have a career year, as is likely, he might help the Yankees understand what it means to win in the playoffs with more than just stories. That would make for a fun Holliday in October. Damn, that name just keeps on giving.