Thursday, November 19, 2009

Angels Not Interested in Matt Holliday

After numerous writers and bloggers speculated that Matt Holliday could be a good fit with the Los Angeles Angels, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times reported that Angels owner Arte Moreno said that the organization isn't interested in pursuing the veteran outfielder.

As far as I can tell, Moreno's comment makes a lot more sense than those of the writers and bloggers of the baseball world. Certainly, the Angels could use a cornerstone position player to replace Vladimir Guerrero, but it's pretty questionable if Holliday is capable of being that kind of player in the AL.

After struggling in his tenure with the Oakland Athletics in the first half of 2009, many speculated that the issues were because of the change in ballpark, as Coors Field is a hitter's park and the Coliseum in Oakland is a well-known pitcher's park. But this was hardly reflected in what Holliday did in Oakland:

Home: .286/.383/.494
Road: .287/.373/.416

Rather than struggling in Oakland, he was actually much more productive at home, and his biggest issue was a lack of power production away from home. As far as I can tell, the problem wasn't the change in ballpark, but rather the change in leagues. Obviously, it's established that the AL is more competitive than the NL, but the impact that the change in leagues had in Holliday was fairly substantial.

Routinely one of the best fastball hitters in the NL, when he moved to the AL, his numbers against fastballs plummeted. After posting wFB/C (the number of runs above or below average that a player offers against a given pitch, per 100 pitches) marks of 1.17, 1.37 and 2.00 in 2006-2008, the mark dropped down to 0.18 with Oakland, before skyrocketing back up to 2.45 in his time in St. Louis.

I know that the sample size is small, only 400 plate appearances, but given how radically different Holliday's production was in Oakland compared to what he did in Colorado and St. Louis, it seems that spending huge money on this guy to expect him to thrive in the AL West would be misguided. I'm just not really sure if Holliday is capable of being an impact hitter worth giving $15M+ per season in the American League, and if he's looking for at least five years on a deal, then to me that just seems like a risk not worth making.


  1. I don't know, I think Holliday would end up being okay in the AL. I think overall there aren't too many players who can play at such an elite level but their game would only be suited to one league. I have to think that Holliday, given time to become familiar with the AL parks and pitchers would likely have returned to his (park adjusted) earlier level of performance, or at least a reasonable approximation of it. There may be adjustments that need to be made but I believe he's smart enough and talented enough to make those adjustments. I think his trouble were perhaps more mental than anything. New league, new teammates, new opponents, stepping to the plate in the Coliseum and it probably feeling like the Grand Canyon compared to the neighborhood park he used to play in. The fact that he went off immediately after returning to St. Louis tells me that it wasn't a physical problem in Oakland, more of a comfort thing. If some team in the AL is willing to meet his contract demands I believe he'll find comfort pretty quick in his new park.

  2. ^^ meant returning to the NL with St. Louis.

    I know that seems to go against my argument but going back to the NL also meant going back to parks, opposing pitchers and opponents that he was familiar with as well as entering a pennant race. If you assume that his trouble came from how he was pitched in the other league then you should also assume that NL clubs would follow suit. Either they didn't, or Holliday had no trouble handling the new way NL pitchers threw to him. That's why to me it was more of a comfort issue (along with the sample size not being large enough to draw concrete conclussions from) and not the league itself.

  3. scribble - Your point is well taken though, if I were the GM of an AL team Holliday's performance with Oakland would give me pause. Anyone in a position to hand out that kind of money needs to be VERY sure what they're getting and with Holliday there is that question. I believe he'll be okay if he goes to the AL but until he actually IS okay in the AL we just won't know for sure what his trouble was in Oakland.

  4. I'm not saying that Holliday is incapable of being an impact player in the American League. I'm just saying that the statistics indicate that it's more likely that the change in leagues was the primary catalyst for his change in performance level.

    Given that knowledge, it seems to me that any AL team signing Holliday to a long-term deal is inherently taking on more risk than is worthwhile. He clearly was pitched to different in the AL and it affected his approach at the plate, and while he certainly could have showed improvement with extended time in the AL, it just seems to me that his skill set doesn't fit particularly well in the AL, compared to the NL.

    I just don't see how an AL team can spend $15-20M per season on this guy after the way he played in Oakland, with the abundance of OF/DH options on the market and the fact that an AL team wouldn't even be sure of what they're getting from Holliday in 2010, let alone 2015.

  5. Just stopping by to congratulate you on finally starting your (much anticipated) blog, Scribble. I'm sure it will be a great success, bro.

  6. Scribble, while I understand your point, I will have to disagree with you. I don't think that really the NL-AL switchoff killed his stats, it was the awful excuse of a lineup he was in everyday. Oakland had absolutely no hitter anywhere near Holliday's level (Cust/Giambi as protection? Really?). Going into a Cardinals lineup with Pujols right in front of you helps your hitting for sure. But if he went to a team like the Angels, I guarantee he would thrive. With everyone in that lineup hitting over 300 last year? That's nasty.

    My list of possible Holliday suitors at the end of the offseason contained the Yankees, Mets, Angels, Cardinals, and Red Sox.

    The Angels can be scratched out, the Red Sox aren't out of the running and have contacted Boras, but they are still negotiating with Bay, and the Yankees probably will not pursue since they would rather not block the development of Austin Jackson.

    So to me, that leaves the Mets and the Cardinals. In my opinion, the Mets have way too many holes to address, namely pitching, while the Cardinals have the desperate need for a cleanup behind Pujols (Ludwick still hasn't been consistent enough to warrant the role).