The I-70 team has selected Matt Holliday as the 2010 Cardinal position player of the year. When a site supporting a team boasting Albert Pujols on the roster picks someone other than Pujols for this honor, some explanation is needed, perhaps even necessary.
By most measures, Pujols’ 2010 campaign was a step down from his norm both offensively and defensively. He posted his third-lowest season in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. He finished with his lowest wOBA in a season since 2007. Albert grounded into the more double plays (23) than any season but the 2007 campaign (27). He struck-out more than in any season since his rookie campaign of 2001. On defense, his UZR/150 dropped for the fourth straight year and was barely above average (1.1). His Dewan (+/-) also dropped for the fourth straight season, and he received a negative value (on straight-on chances) for the first time in his career. He was rated the #8 defensive first baseman by that Dewan metric.
To be fair, for the mere mortal, Albert’s 2010 season line of .312/.414/.596 would garner quite a lot of MVP votes. he posted an OPS+ of 173, which is only 1 point behind current MVP favorite Joey Votto. But when your career averages are .331/.426/.624, well, it’s a down year for you.
Matt Holliday did not continue at his 169 OPS+ pace from 2009, but he did put up excellent numbers. Matt’s 149 OPS+ for 2010 is only 1 point off his career high, and he posted that 150 while playing half his games at Coors Field. His .312/.390/.532 line is right on his career averages (.317/.388/.543). He just missed (.396) cracking .400 wOBA for the fourth time in his career. He lowered his strike-out total for the fourth consecutive year. For the first time since Ryan Ludwick (2008 version) the Cardinals had someone who could, and did, make teams pay for pitching around Pujols. Holliday also had a tremendous defensive year. His UZR/150 came in at 8.7, best in the NL and fourth-best in the Majors. He posted the second-best Dewan (+/-) number of his career, and was ranked as the #3 left-fielder by that metric.
His superior glove work closed the WAR gap between the two. Fangraphs rated Pujols at 7.3, Holliday at 6.9 (second and fourth in the league among position players, respectively). By Baseball Reference’s calculation there was a slightly bigger difference; Pujols pulled a 7.2 to a 5.5 for Holliday (AP led the league, Holliday was sixth, among position players per the B-R ranking).
Or, we can throw all that statistical analysis out and simply say this. Matt Holliday was the most consistent Cardinal hitter the entire season. He did not go into an extended funk at any point, and whatever was going on around him he just produced. Pujols ended up with better numbers, but Holliday was the cornerstone for this year’s offense. And that’s before we bring in his defensive prowess in left.
Congratulations to Matt Holliday on his selection.