Matt Holliday: One of the Most Cost-Effective Players in Baseball

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Since Matt Holliday signed his Cardinals’ record-setting contract back in 2010, he has been one of the most cost-effective position players in all of baseball. Over the past four seasons, here are Holliday’s season averages:

.301 batting average
.386 on-base percentage
37 2B
25 HR
94 RBI

Cardinals’ owner, Bill Dewitt, has paid Holliday a total of $67 million over the past four seasons. During this time, Holliday has collected 651 hits, 148 doubles, 99 home runs, and 374 RBI. According to Fangraphs’ calculation of WAR, Holliday has accounted for 20.4 wins above replacement since 2010.

In my opinion, I feel that the numbers I just listed should be enough to show Holliday’s value to the Cardinals, but I realize that he has some really tough critics out there. I figured that these critics probably needed some more convincing, so I took it a few steps further.

I compared Holliday to some other “big money,” high-profile players around the league. I fully realize that there are other players like Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen who have been better than many on this list. However, since they have not yet been given “big money” contracts, I decided to not include them in the discussion. Rather, I decided to compare Holliday against 12 other position players who have also made at least $53 million over the past four seasons. The results of my findings are as follows:


Before we break down the numbers, let me point out that Holliday is the 9th highest paid player on this list of 13. Now, let me explain the most integral part of the table above–a measure that I will call “$ / WAR“–super creative title I know. The main point of this measure is to see how much a team is paying a player for the wins above replacement that he provides(If there is already a statistic out there just like this, my bad!)

Well, as you can see, the Cardinals are paying Holliday $3.27 million per one win above replacement. Of the 13 players included in the discussion, only two have been better–Miguel Cabrera (duh!) at $2.99 million per WAR and Adrian Gonzalez at $3.13 per WAR. Some notable names below Holliday on the list are Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, and Prince Fielder. Also, if you look again, Holliday has the second most wins above replacement on the entire list–behind reigning AL MVP, Cabrera.

Another thing to note is that Holliday is 6th on the list when it comes to percentage of games played (89.51%) and is the 3rd most durable outfielder behind freakishly healthy Ichiro and Alfonso Soriano. Considering how violent of a swing Holliday takes and the fact that he plays a position that requires a lot of running, it is pretty unbelievable that a big guy like him has been able to play in almost 90% of his team’s games since 2010.

A Quick WAR Mini-Digression:

I realize that there are many people out there that are not big fans of WAR, and I completely understand your opinion. However, to me, it is our best way of calculating a player’s overall value right now. Sure, you can look up the standard numbers like batting average, on-base percentage, home runs, etc, but once you start comparing a player’s rank among numerous different categories, you are basically creating your own way of calculating a player’s value compared to others in the league.

If that did not make sense, I realize that it was kind of wordy, let’s look at it another way. In my opinion, Miguel Cabrera is one of the best players in Major League Baseball, if not the best. However, I will not say that Miguel Cabrera is the best player in baseball just because he has the highest batting average. Rather, I will see that he also leads the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and is in the top five of a slew of other offensive categories. Thus, by creating an argument for Cabrera by combining all of his individual numbers together and comparing them to others–I would basically be creating my own make-shift definition of a player’s value.

Back to the Point of this Article:

Holliday-haters, I really hope you were able to read this article. Holliday has not only been one of the most valuable players for the Cardinals over the past four seasons, but he has been one of the most valuable in the entire major leagues as well. The only players ahead of him in “$ / WAR” are perennial All-Stars, Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez.

If you still do not like WAR even after my two paragraph mini-digression, then just look back at his standard season averages–.301 BA, .386 OBP, 37 2B, 25 HR, and 94 RBI. For $17 million per season in today’s market, that is an incredible deal for the Cardinals.

Until next time…


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17 thoughts on “Matt Holliday: One of the Most Cost-Effective Players in Baseball

  1. The first sentence of your article is laughable. Sorry. He’s not even in the top 50 by that metric. I can easily find dozens players who have cost less than half as much per win above replacement.

    • My question for you is did you continue reading the article? My article compares Holliday to 12 other players that have also made over $53 million over the past 4 seasons. Holliday just completed his 10th MLB season–a career highlighted by one batting title, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 6 All-Star teams. 10 years into your career with a resume like that, you are bound to get a big-money contract like Holliday. However, compared to other big-money contracts listed in the article, Holliday is living up to it pretty well. Thus, I understand that a guy like McCutchen or Trout or Matt Carpenter will all have minuscule metrics compared to Holliday, but that was not the point of the article at all–as stated further along in the post. Thank you and have a nice day.

      • Since 2010 Shane Robinson has produced wins above replacement per $ at 3 times the rate that Holliday has. I don’t think anyone has been wowed by Shane Robinson. However, using the metric you propose… he’s clearly far better value than Holiday.

  2. You are right about Holiday being worth his price. I think he is one of the most underrated players in baseball. But – proving it based on WAR still makes no since to me…

    Take for instance Jon Jay with a 1.5 WAR this year, but when he had one or less at bats in a game the cardinals were 4 and 11. And Beltran has a 2.4 WAR yet the cardinals were 15-7 in games he only had one at bat or less. So it seems when Jays replacement was in the Cards didn’t win and when Beltrans replacement was in the Cards won. So it makes no logical since for Carlos to have a wins above replacement higher than Jon Jays.

    Stl Cardinals were negative 7 without Jay and plus 8 without Beltran, yet WAR say Beltran gives Stl one more win this year than Jay. If you look at true wins and loses based on who was playing and how they played in the close games- Jay was way more valuable that Beltran….

    Can you please tell me how WAR is calculated when in real life situation – see my example – it is way off….

    • I respect your opinion here, Jon. However, there are FAR too many variables that go into each individual baseball game to compare two players’ values based on the team’s overall record when he is or is not playing. Variables such as the team’s starting pitcher or the opponent’s starting pitcher that day and MANY more. Also, I do not understand why you have to keep coming back to the Jay/Beltran argument. This article had nothing to do with either of them. I respect that you like Jay more than Beltran, but that was not discussed in this article. Beltran will most likely not be re-signed this off-season so you can move on from this debate in 2014. Thank you, again, for reading, though. It means a lot!

      • i thought I replied this morning but I guess it didn’t go through

        1. your article was very accurate and true for what you were wanting to say
        2. I am just using Jay vs Beltran cause both play on same team and both in outfield and I feel there numbers make my case
        3. my case is WAR doesn’t pass the reallity test. In my 37 game comparison of the two it shows that when Jay doesn’t play cards lose and when beltran plays cards win yet beltran has a 1 higher WAR than Jay.
        4. This article is about Holiday being worth the money based on his WAR and I just feel WAR is not a good way to measure it. I feel WAR is flawed and used the Jay/ Beltran to point out one case that is relevant since they are on same team and play in same outfield as Holiday.
        5. Holiday has been great for Stl and is most underrated player (besides Jay) on the team. He has been worth the money and then some.
        6. Maybe you can explain to me how I am wrong about WAR – since no one can calculate it and the two companies that do have different numbers and in many cases like the Jay/Beltran prove it is flawed-
        7. Again, enjoy your articles

  3. You can get a lot closer to matching the first sentence by modifying it some and eliminating the actual most cost-effective players and say you are only evaluating high paid players…

    Since Matt Holliday signed his Cardinals’ record-setting contract back in 2010, he has been one of the more cost-effective players making at least $12,000,000 per season.

    Robinson Cano …. $1.62M per WAR
    Adrian Beltre …….. $2.07M per WAR

    If you want to limit it to players making at least $15,000,000 per season… well, there are not many of them. And almost all of them are overpaid. Cabrera being the lone exception.

    • Thank you for your input. You make a very good point on my wording. I should have most definitely put one of the most cost-effective high-paid players in my opening statement.

      I did clarify this later on in the post by saying that I ONLY compared players who have made $53 million or more over the past 4 seasons. Thus, I see where my title could be misleading and incorrect.

      However, I will be moving on from this post and onto the next one. I will be more careful with my titles/opening sentences in the future. Thank you for the consideration. It means a lot.

  4. for all players…

    Mike Trout …………. $0.09M per WAR (includes minor league pay for 2010-2011)
    Giancarlo Stanton … $0.12M per WAR
    Andrew McCutchen …. $0.24M per WAR
    Jason Heyward ………. $0.27M per WAR

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