Is Matt Holliday a Hall of Famer?
The debate surrounding a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy often revolves around a combination of statistical achievements, longevity, and impact on the game. Matt Holliday enjoyed a highly productive offensive career over 15 seasons in Major League Baseball and his batting statistics paint a picture of consistency and excellence. However, as we delve into his career, statistics, and contributions to the sport, we can better evaluate whether Holliday deserves a place in baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Based purely on his traditional counting stats he can make an argument. Holliday finished his career with a solid .299 batting average, demonstrating his ability to consistently make contact with the ball. He also Holliday amassed 316 home runs and 1,220 RBI, showcasing his power and run-producing capabilities. A profound slugger, Holliday was a consistent power threat and extra-base machine during the bulk of his career with the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals.
Over the course of his career, he hit 10+ home runs in all but two seasons and in a nine-year stretch from 2006 to 2014 hit 20 home runs every season. His career .510 slugging was aided by his ability to take advantage of the gaps at every ballpark he played at. Over 15 years he hit 468 two-baggers and even tossed in 32 career triples, which, all things considered, makes for a well-rounded slugger. He hit 30 or more home runs in a season just twice but had 30+ doubles in 10 of his 15 seasons.
Also worth noting is the fact that Holliday had an impeccable eye at the plate. His 10.1% career walk rate pairs nicely with a 17.1% strikeout rate showcasing his ability to consistently make contact and get on base. Holliday struck out at least 100 times in nine seasons but also drew 30 or more walks in all but one season of his career, including eight seasons in which he had at least 60 walks. The drawback with some of his high-contact rates was the fact that had a 45.9% ground ball rate for his career but did manage it with a 25.4% fly ball rate and a 21.8% line drive rate.
His efforts also provided a favorable look with deeper metrics. A career 135 wRC+ is nothing to sneeze at while a 132 OPS+ for his career helps negate some of the bias that comes from playing six years in Colorado. According to Baseball Reference Holliday also amassed 44.6 rWAR while FanGraphs marks him at 49.3 fWAR. His rWAR doesn’t necessarily put him in elite company, as his career WAR falls below the average of 66 for most Hall of Famers, but when compared to other players in the Hall of Fame or presumed future Hall of Famers, Holliday has an argument. There are players with less rWAR and arguably “worse” stats than him already in the Hall, but that points out the subjective nature of the voting process. In comparison to other Hall of Famers, Holliday’s OBP, and SLG may fall slightly below the absolute elite.
There is also a matter of defensive contributions. It’s no mystery that Holliday wasn’t exactly the best fielder around. His defensive and baserunning contributions were not very significant, as he was mostly a below-average fielder and an average runner. According to Baseball Reference, he had a career Defensive WAR of -13.2, which means he cost his teams 13.2 wins with his glove. His career Ultimate Zone Rating, which is a metric that measures how many runs a fielder saves or allows compared to an average fielder at his position, was -11.8, not exactly the stuff of legend. Additionally, his career Baserunning Runs, which is a metric that measures how many runs a player adds or subtracts on the bases compared to an average baserunner, was -0.6. While not a total liability defensively and on the bases, Holliday’s strong suit was his bat.
Another aspect that often distinguishes Hall of Famers is their ability to maintain a high level of performance over an extended period. Holliday’s durability is evident in his 1,903 career games played. While not an astronomical number, it attests to his longevity and consistency as a major-league performer. From 2004 to 2014 he managed to play in at least 120 games each season before injuries and age began to take a toll in the final five years where he managed at least 100 games in 2016 and 2017.
Holliday also earned his fair share of career accolades including seven All-Star selections, demonstrating his recognition as one of the premier outfielders during his prime. Additionally, he received four Silver Slugger Awards, further highlighting his offensive prowess. He won the batting title in 2007 thanks to a .340 AVG on the season and finished second in MVP voting that season. 2007 was most notable as he was a driving force behind the Rockies’ miracle run to the World Series including being named the NLCS MVP. During the regular season, Holliday led the NL in AVG (.340), hits (216), doubles (50), RBI (137), and total bases (386). Jimmy Rollins ended up winning the award but Holliday was statistically better in most categories overall. While individual awards are not the sole criteria for Hall of Fame induction, they contribute to the overall narrative of a player’s impact on the game.
One aspect that can significantly enhance a player’s Hall of Fame case is success on the postseason stage. Holliday was no stranger to this as he had ample opportunities to showcase his skills in October, making it to the playoffs with the Rockies, Cardinals, and New York Yankees. Over his career, he played in 77 postseason games slashing .245/.303/.421 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI. In 2011 he won the World Series with the Cardinals after dominating in the NLCS with a .444 AVG, one home run, and five RBI. His postseason stats weren’t prolific, but he was a capable leader on and off the field for the teams he played on.
Beyond on-field accomplishments, a player’s impact off the field and within the community can also influence Hall of Fame considerations. Matt Holliday has been widely praised for his charitable work. He was awarded the Darryl Kile Good Guy Award by the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and he co-sponsored a pledge drive for Greater St. Louis hospitals called “Homers for Health”, which raised more than $3.7 million. He was also inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.
Ultimately, Matt Holliday was a great player and a great person for his era, but he is unlikely to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His career and peak numbers are below the standards for his position and era, and his offensive, defensive, and baserunning contributions are not up to snuff. Add in the external bias that will come from his peak Colorado years and his consistent and reliable years in St. Louis that weren’t anything spectacular. His postseason success and his leadership and character are admirable, but they are not enough to overcome his statistical shortcomings. He may receive some votes from the writers who appreciate his intangibles and his impact on the teams he played for, but he will probably fall short of the 75% threshold required for induction, likely falling short of the 5% needed to stay on the ballot another year. He may have a better chance with the Veterans Committee in the future, but for now, he will have to settle for being a Hall of Very Good player.