Archive for July, 2013


The next entry in the ongoing series looking at the potential candidacy (or lack thereof) for the Baseball Hall of Fame turns to middle of the country and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. For the better part of his career, Holliday has been among the most consistent hitters in baseball. From the major boom he made early in his career with the Colorado Rockies, to the role as protector of Albert Pujols, and more recently, lineup axis in St. Louis, Holliday’s comprehensive approach has kept him among his era’s best at the plate.

Yet when assessing his value in the big picture of the game, he’s the classic example of hitter that doesn’t have any eye popping numbers mid-career, but then towards the end has complete body of work that begins to shift the opinion on him some. However, that is a pendulum that can swing both ways: sometimes they continue to build up, yet other times it runs into the ultimate gray area of the “nice, but not quite THAT nice” that so many fantastic hitters have landed at. But Holliday is also playing for consistent contenders and in a solid spotlight as well, which has been known to make the difference in a push over the hump as well.

Let’s have a look at the career of Holliday, where’s it has been and where it could be headed, and if the unique combinations of career levels he’s built already could make him an intriguing candidate somewhere down the line…or not.

The numbers (thru July 12): .310 average, 242 home runs, 919 RBI, 1608 hits, 910 runs, 359 doubles, .385 on-base percentage, .531 slugging percentage


The Case For: Holliday has been among the most balanced hitters of the past ten years. In his first decade in the game, he has hit over .300 six times, drove in 100 runs five times and hit over 25 home runs five times as well. Among active players, his .310 career average is the tenth best total, and sixth best among players with ten years served. He is not what would be classified as a power hitter, but he is easily among the best line drive producers of his time, as his seasonal average of 42 doubles indicates. In his 9 full seasons, he has hit over 35 doubles seven times, and led the league with 50 in 2007. Also during that ’07, which truly put him on the map, he led the NL in hits (216), RBI (137), total bases (386) and was the batting champ with a .340 mark. He finished second in the MVP race that season, and was the runner-up in the MVP race.

That season also was his first in the postseason, due to being the catalyst of the Rockies improbable 21 wins in 22 September games and scoring a thrilling (and debated) winning run in the season’s final game against the San Diego Padres to win the NL West on the season’s final day. He has continued his winning ways in St. Louis, where he made the postseason in three of his four seasons, and won a World Series in 2011. Also in St. Louis, he has successful shook off the “Coors Field stigma”, with an average season of .302 avg/25 home runs/95 RBI/165 hits as a Cardinal over roughly four years, compared to a only slightly better .319/25 HR/96 RBI/170 hits per year over five seasons.

The Case Against: For as many benefits as there has been to Holliday’s career, there are a few easy calls against it as well. Even at his very best, he’s been a bit of a complimentary player. He’s been at his best when in an ensemble role: a la not the primary focus. He’s never really carried a team on his own for long; although he’s definitely been a difference maker in all of his stops, save for the brief one in Oakland.

There’s also the Coors factor. His best statistical years were when he was a member of the Rockies, and while he has been an All-Star caliber player elsewhere, perception plays as reality, and the fact that the only time he led his league in anything was in Colorado could hurt him.

Another issue is his age. He’s 33 years old in his tenth year, and while he isn’t showing much downturn, time is not on his side to get in range of many magical numbers that stand out on a HOF resume. His best bet would be stay as close to being a .300 lifetime hitter as he can, because it’s his biggest calling card currently. A steady stream of .300/25/100 seasons would be a strong indicator, because he’ll never be seen as the guiding force in such a deep St. Louis team that sets him from the pack.

There is also the fact that he has struggled in the postseason in his career, hitting only .261 across 10 career postseason series, including a .158 mark in the 2011 World Series. He also had a crucial dropped pop fly that played a pivotal role in the Cardinals’ elimination at the hands of the Dodgers in the 2009 NL Division Series.

Similar Players (thru age 32)

Larry Walker: .312 avg, 262 HR, 855 RBI, 1431 hits, 886 runs, 314 doubles, .389 on-base percentage

Wally Berger: .303 avg, 227 HR, 849 RBI, 1452 hits, 770 runs, 282 doubles, .360 on-base percentage

Magglio Ordonez: .305 avg, 219 HR, 853 RBI, 1436 hits, 744 runs, 289 doubles, .362 on-base %

Holliday had a top two MVP finish, and led the NL in four categories during his breakout 2007 season in Colorado.

Holliday had a top two MVP finish, and led the NL in four categories during his breakout 2007 season in Colorado.

Where he Stands: His resume is a complicated one, because it screams above average for his era, but then it’s much grounded at the same time. Perhaps Holliday is the ultimate “really, really good” player. He’s been an All-Star for more than half of his career, and factored into a few MVP races as well. Yet, at the same time, he’s always been A factor, over being THE factor. He’s been best being able to be the complimentary hammer over the focus of a team’s success. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it is usually a bit tougher on those guys to pull themselves apart from the pack.

Yet what is on his side is winning. He’s consistently been a member of competitive teams due in part to his presence. The Cardinals and Rockies have averaged 86.5 wins per season with Holliday in the fold, who has sported an average of 5.2 Wins Above Replacement over that time. This impact has been particularly evident in the teams he has been a member of who have made the postseason, whom only won their divisions by a half game in 2007 (21 of 22 to finish season), 7 ½ in 2009(he joined at the trade deadline), 1 game in 2011 (won Wild Card on last day of the season) and 2 games (won Wild Card play in) in 2012. All things considered, he has made a steady impact for teams that have had to fight to just make the postseason.

But individually considered there’s more ground to cover. He should top 2,000 hits in about 2.5 years, which would keep him well short of the magic number range. He has another three guaranteed seasons on his deal, which would likely have him in the range of just above 2,100 hits, and if he plays through a few more seasons, about 2,300 hits. In regards to the HOF, that’s borderline and the fact he’ll be below 400 home runs or so for a player of his type is a tough sell as well.

So when the question is asked regarding Matt Holliday, and his likelihood of being IN, OUT or IN-BETWEEN Cooperstown, he’s OUT, but still an upper tier very, very good career…quietly.


For more on the now with both Holliday and his St. Louis Cardinals, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.


Tonight, the best baseball players of the year thus far will be celebrated. However, there is also a group of players that have had just as much impact on the year, albeit in adverse way. They are the group of players that you would usually look to revere this time of the year, however they haven’t had the time of season that helps the cause. Rather, they are the reason why the summer hasn’t panned out the way it may have seemed in game 1. Yes, they are the Un-Stars; the players who have to do more, if it is not too late already.

So with no further delay, here is the squad that has left a lot to be imagined thus far on the year…


Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks— He’s quietly been one of the most productive catchers in baseball over the past few years, and finished fifth in the NL in on-base percentage a year ago, and has driven in 87 runs on average over the past two years.

At the break, Montero’s average sits at a career-low .224. The rise of Paul Goldschmidt, along with the acquisition of Martin Prado has eased the blow of it, but D’Backs will not be able to hold off the Dodgers and Rockies without a much bigger second half from him.

First Base

Nick Swisher, Indians— The big money signing that was “most likely to not play up to contract level” has lived up to his billing. While he has shuffled between first and right field, his production has not picked up regardless of where his glove is filled out in the lineup. His average his pit stopped in the middle of the .240’s, and he’s on pace to hit only 15 home runs and drive in just over 50 runs. Not much bang for the $11 million bucks he’s bringing in.

Second Base

Dan Uggla, Braves— The great paradox continues. Uggla is leading all NL second basemen, well as the Braves, in home runs with 18, but is once again scraping by hitting .200 and reaching base only 31% of the time. Not to mention he’s still playing his tradition lead glove defense, and the reasons for the Braves offensive struggles become clear: they have many captains of industry in the All Feast or Famine squad, and Uggla’s the Admiral of it.

Third Base

Chase Headley, Padres— The Padres may have sat on him for too long, as one of the off season’s hottest commodity’s has come back to Earth, meteor style. A year after leading the NL in RBI with 115, hitting 31 home runs and snagging a Gold Glove, Headley sits with a .230 average and just 31 runs driven in at the break.

The bright side is that he only had 8 long balls at this point last season, before taking off with his huge second half, but there is also the stark truth that before 2012, he’d hit 36 homers, total. Whatever the numbers are, a quick trade of him would help the Padres save some of the top tier market value he built up last fall.


Starlin Castro, Cubs— The tendency in recent years has been to pay young guys early to lock up their pre-prime years at good price without any interruption from arbitration or agents. The Cubs gave Castro $60 million over eight years at the ripe young age of 22 so they could lock in what was supposed to be the cornerstone they would rebuild around.

Smart logic at the time, but so far in 2013 it has seemed like they may have fed the Baby Bear too soon. He’s struggled with his effort all year, which has also not so ironically impacted his results as well. He’s hitting a bleak .243 on the year and was even benched in mid-June for both lacking hustle on the bases and focus in the field. It’s too early to write him off, but some signs of life would be nice to see.

Hamilton has not delivered on the promise that he brought to the Angels line and the hopes for a turnaround season via the former MVP and division rival.

Hamilton has not delivered on the promise that he brought to the Angels line and the hopes for a turnaround season via the former MVP and division rival.


Ryan Braun, Brewers— For the first time in his career, he has looked mortal, and the Brewers have suffered because of it. Braun hits the break coming off a first half where he took his first trip to the disabled list, then was brought back up on a second round of PED controversy with the Biogenesis investigation and ended the half on the bereavement list just a few games after returning from injury. Along the way, he’s still managed to hit .304 with nine home runs, but for a team that is without much of its offensive core already; it was the worst possible time for Braun’s fall to begin.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers— He was once baseball’s iron man, but in the last two years Kemp hasn’t been able to hold himself together. 2013 has been pinnacle of his ongoing struggle to rise back up, as even when he has been healthy, he’s been a shell of his true self. He hits the break with a .254 average, only 4 home runs and over a month of time missed already between two stints on the disabled list. Probably his greatest highlight of the season was his vendetta trip to track down Carlos Quentin after he broke Zack Greinke’s collarbone.

Even when he has been active, he’s been limited and the Dodgers struggled to get mobile until Yaisel Puig arrived and provided the spark that had previously been Kemp’s to light up. It remains to be seen if LA can reach its summit while its greatest asset is still down.

Josh Hamilton, Angels— Two years, two big offseason adds in Anaheim, and two questionable (at best) returns. Hamilton has been stuck in a summer-long slump since landing with the Halos, and is carrying a .224 average into the break. By the month on the season, he has hit .204 in April, then .237 in May, back down to .231 in June and thus far .233 in July. Perhaps for the Rangers less (as in player, contract and roster boulder) is more with Hamilton plugging up a spot in LA instead of Arlington.


Matt Cain, Giants— It is hard to say why the Giants’ ace is down in the dumps, but one thing is for certain, he’s been the biggest enigma in one of the least impressive championship defenses in many years. His ERA is just north of 5.00 across his first 19 starts. April was particularly brutal, seeing him post an 0-2 record, with a 6.49 ERA and the Giants lose his first five starts.

R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays— The biggest name addition to the Jays run for the pennant this season has failed to find the form that made him the story of last summer. At the halfway point, he has already taken 10 losses, which is four more than his total all year with the Mets and has an ERA at 4.69. He has had seven starts where he has surrendered at least six earned runs, and has been responsible for the decision in all but two of his 20 starts thus far.

For more on these potential turnaround stories, or the fallout that will continue to be, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.


The debate on the validity of numbers made by those that spend the majority of their seasons as members of the Colorado Rockies is nothing new. Ever since the club was founded and quickly became a fountain of youth for veteran bats that had long seen their better days elsewhere, as well as a springboard for borderline hitters elsewhere, the environment has been under dispute. However, until now, there had never been a player who had staked his entire career in friendly, Humidor regulated environment of the Rockies come up for inspection for the Hall of Fame until Todd Helton. And now, in his final season, the greatest Rockie of all-time will have his list of achievements taken not only under the microscope, but also stretched to be put in context.

Helton has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball over the past 17 years. A career Rockie, he is the owner of eight major career records in offense friendly book for the club. Yet, if there is an element in baseball that is issued a more blanketed line of questioning than PEDs, it’s numbers produced with 81 games spent in Coors Field a year. How will this effect Helton when it’s time for him to be placed on the ballot for Cooperstown? Will he be held to an even keel with others of his era and position? Or will he instead be under review for being in the right place, most of the time? Here’s his case, coming and going.

The Numbers (Thru July 1st): .318 avg, 360 home runs, 1372 RBI, 2461 hits, 576 doubles, 1374 runs scored, .416 on-base percentage, .542 slugging percentage

The Case For: Helton is one the best hitters of the 2000’s by far. He is the only player in MLB history to have 100+ extra base hits in consecutive seasons, and is tenth all-time in on-base percentage. After coming up during the 1997 season, he quickly became one of the most consistent performers at the plate of any era, hitting over .300 for ten consecutive seasons and only once under .315. His masterpiece season was in 2000, when he won his sole batting title, with a .372 average and 147 RBI, made on 216 hits, including 42 home runs and 59 doubles. While power was never absent from his game (six seasons of 30 or more home runs, two over 40), his true calling card was the double. His steady, level swing made him a terror in the gaps, and he has 10 consecutive seasons with at least 35 doubles, making him the only player in MLB history to achieve this as well. His career total is good for 20th best all-time. A winner of four consecutive Silver Slugger awards, his patient approach often forced pitchers to deliver to him; he has only has one season of greater than 100 strikeouts and eight straight years of totaling more walks than K’s, with seven seasons where he did not total more than 70 strikeouts.

He is also far from a one-dimensional player, as in his prime he was one of the best defensive infielders in baseball. He is a winner of three Gold Glove awards, and was an asset as a defensive stopper in an offensively inclined ballpark. He’s also the definition of a company man, and is the third most tenured active player to spend his career with one club.

The Case Against: This is where the situation gets sticky for Helton, and where all of those prestigious accomplishments begin to be diluted for some. Coors Field has produced a record amount of offense in its time, like no other field before or since it. The lighter atmosphere is kinder to bats, and it is a pretty solid advantage to have on your side for half a season, as it has hosted several record-setting seasons for home runs. And while regulation of the baseballs used in Coors (via a humidor to regulate the density of the ball) have changed things some, he has still benefitted from a thin air home half of his career games. This can aid the line drive ball, which is his greatest tool, and it slightly has.

In his career, he is a .347 hitter at home, compared to .289 on the road, and has 142 more extra base hits at home as well. Perhaps the greatest difference in splits is the impact it has on his home versus road on-base + slugging percentage (OPS). At Coors, his total is an incredible 1.052, which when placed on an even keel with the greatest totals of all-time, would sit at the fourth best of all-time, right in-between Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds. That is hallowed ground in baseball heaven, and is quickly brought back to mortality by his road OPS of .861, which would be good for 133nd of all-time, yet right between Darryl Strawberry (a upper-tier Hall of Very Good member) and Jesse Burkett (an actual Hall of Famer) all-time.

Along with Lou Gehrig and Bill Terry, Helton is one of three first basemen ever to hit at least .315 for eight consecutive years.

Along with Lou Gehrig and Bill Terry, Helton is one of three first basemen ever to hit at least .315 for eight consecutive years.

Similar Players (through age 39)

  1. Larry Walker (.313 avg, 383 home runs, 1311 RBI, 2160 hits, 1355 runs, 471 doubles)
  2. Frank Thomas (.301 avg, 521 home runs, 1667 RBI, 2468 Hits, 1494 runs, 495 doubles)
  3. Chipper Jones (.303 avg, 468 home runs, 1623 RBI, 2726 hits, 1619 runs, 549 doubles)

Cooperstown Likelihood: Helton’s career is a study in differences, but not extremes. He had a five year run from 2000-2004 that was as productive as anybody has ever had. Some of it was encouraged by location, but a lot of it was him being a great hitter as well. In many cases, the “yeah, but” approach has handicapped him from getting many of the individual awards that could he for the taking. Helton has flown below the radar for much of his career; in part due to being in a sort of media nowhere land in Colorado, but also not being a highlight player. Yet he has not only been one of the most productive, bad team players of all-time, he has also been one of the most consistently above-average to quietly great players of any era as well. Despite averaging posting an average year of .336, 30 home runs, 108 RBI and 188 hits from 2000 to 2007, he never finished higher than fifth in any MVP vote and is only a five-time All-Star in his career. As far as magic numbers, injuries curbed his chance at 400 home runs (which would qualify well for a line drive hitter of his variety), as well as 3,000 hits (which would be a clincher in his case).

Injuries curbed his later years, starting at about 34 years old, which also ended his chance at big accumulation marks. He went from averaging 154 games a season his first ten years, to only playing in better than 124 once in his last six years. Regardless, the OPS difference once again paints the easiest picture of understanding Helton’s credibility. He is neither the 4th best all-time that he has been at Coors, nor is he the 133nd all-time that he was on the road. The truth is found in the middle, which would be just about at 65th all-time. That’s where you would find Bill Terry, the star manager and first baseman of the 1920s/30’s New York Giants, as well as a likewise undervalued contributor in the big picture at the position.

In the end, Helton is among the very best hitters of his era, and has made a quietly historic impact in his career. While there could be some apprehension in the vote results covering him, in the same fashion that former teammate Larry Walker experienced in his initial appearance on the ballot, the truth should eventually set him free.

So when the question is asked if Todd Helton is in, out or in-between Hall of Fame status, the answer should be IN…even if it takes the clouds clearing up some to realize it.

For more on the season as it develops in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan


One of the enduring allures of Major League Baseball is the timeless figures that it has created in the American story, but also the great moments that it has been responsible for stand as monuments in the American way as well. Lou Gehrig remains chief among those figures to this day, and for all of the greatness that was his career as the New York Yankees first baseman, it’s also his combination of those two timeless elements in his final moment on the field that was his most enduring memory.

In the Iron Horse’s career, he drove in 1,992 runs, hit 493 home runs, won six World Series and played in a long-standing record of 2,130 consecutive games. Yet it was shortly after that record ended that Gehrig made the speech that still rings out as one of the great public addresses in American History. See, the incomparable Gehrig had been struck down by a then unknown disease that took away all of the great assets that made him the legend that he already was, and it happened out of nowhere. He was struck by what is now known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that took his strength, energy and dexterity, but kept his mental functions completely intact.

It became clear that baseball was over for him, and for many, it seemed his life was too by association. Think about it in the vein of when Magic Johnson made his initial HIV announcement, it was terrifying and deeply saddening for a nation that loved him. But for Gehrig himself, it was far from that. On July 4, 1939, the inherent competitive nature that made him a constant for all of those games gave him the drive to let everybody know that there was to life than just the game.

So, in recognition of a great American holiday that makes observance of the initial persistence of the nation to have its own way of life, I present to you Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech from Yankee Stadium, 74 years to the day.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.

For more on the game, past, present and future, follow me on Twitter @CheapSeatFan


Tonight, for the first time (and perhaps the last time for many years), the St. Louis Cardinals will face Albert Pujols. In the year and a half since the best player in at least a generation is St. Louis left for LA Angels, and invoked a large range of emotions in his wake.

In the time since he’s left, there has been a contradiction of sorts in the emotion towards Pujols. On one hand, there’s the feeling that he betrayed the club by leaving; that his decision to leave went against the sentiment and covenant that develops between a franchise cornerstone and the fans of said franchise. On the other hand, there is the fan of the team first, that still roots for the Cardinals above all, and the name on the front of the jersey is all that matters.

In many cases, there has been an odd crossover between the two segments of the fan base when the subject shifts to Pujols. There is the feeling that, regardless of the rationale in maintaining him in St. Louis, or the success since of the team itself, that Pujols should still be vilified in regards to his move. On every level possible, this makes absolutely no sense and has to end, for multiple reasons.

The reality of the situation of keeping Pujols in town show the inherent ridiculousness of why having an issue with his decision is as well. The fact of the matter is that the fan should follow with their heart, but also base reaction on reality. There was no realistic, plausible positive outcome of Albert returning to St. Louis. Yes, there would of course be a place for him to come back, but the cost would have been detrimental to everything that the club is looking to establish. If the contracts of Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and Rafeal Furcal have looked like dead weight over the last two years, imagine what seven more years of Pujols’ inflated, yet fair, deal would have seemed like. The organization’s greatest asset has been financial flexibility, that is offset by an ability to build around 1-2 large deals. With the massive price of Pujols sitting as a boulder in the middle of the Cardinals payroll, all of the long-term success of the team would have been put at risk. Need an example? Look at the Minnesota Twins.

When the Twins signed hometown hero/MVP Joe Mauer to his eight-year, $184 million deal in 2010, the Twins had won the AL Central six of the last nine years. For the annually cash strapped Twins to pony up the funds to secure not only their best player, but a community cornerstone such as Mauer to an elite contract in baseball, it was reflected as a big deal in keeping the club’s identity concrete. Fast forward two years later, and the Twins haven’t moved out of the cellar of the division since that deal was signed, and have lost over 95 games two years in a row and are at the bottom of the AL Central again.

This is due to an inability to keep their promising youngsters in tow, and a lack of flexibility to compete in the free agent market financially. Conversely, those are the strengths of the Cardinal approach. Championship caliber rosters require large level of compensation across the board. The Cardinals are the most successful lower-medium market team in baseball because they have been business savy. The decision to not pay ahead for “reputation pay” years of Pujols enabled them to lock up their entire core to contracts that could carry them through the full prime of their careers. In other words, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are here because Albert isn’t. The ability to maintain Allen Craig and Jason Motte was done because Albert did not have to be accounted for. Because of these decisions, the Cardinals were able to be tactical in how to approach filling their needs. Between the signing of Carlos Beltran for $13M per and the expansion of time for Allen Craig, the Cardinals got in return 54 home runs and 189 RBI. Basically, the expected 2-for-1 exchange for Pujols paid off with a similar production level in the lineup, the flexibility to extend Yadi Molina $96 million and to keep free another $118 million, of which $97M was given to Adam Wainwright this spring to keep him in town. Basically, the Cardinals built another five years, at least, of competitive advantage by not keeping Pujols in tow.

And at the end, that’s what matters if you are truly a Cardinals fan: your team being competitive. If Albert had taken less, would there have been a place for him in St. Louis? Absolutely. But is it is fault for cashing in on the reward that was rightfully his for the unworldly start that his career took off with? Absolutely not. There are no bad guys in this equation, and in the end, everybody has truly walked away better for it. This is not a case of the team going from championship level, to in the tank, such as when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, due to one man’s decision. No, the greater good was served overall here.

So if anything, the next three days in Anaheim present an opportunity finally move on for the portions of the Cardinal fan base that have their feet stuck in the tar of two years ago. It is irrational to celebrate the success following the decision of Pujols and adjustment of the team, but to vilify him for the decision that he made. The time to move on is here; let carpe diem be your friend this week.

Maybe it’s the most ironic Independence Day yet, and if you don’t get the gist of that, give a Twins fan a call and ask them how their two years have been since their “Decision” went the other way.


For more on the Cardinals and the return of the King, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan