No, Matt Holliday Is Not Un-Clutch; Yes, He Helps The St. Louis Cardinals Win Baseball Games

Let me start this bulletin about Matt Holliday being just fine with a disclaimer: The idea of clutchness—I had to delete some habitual scare quotes there—is tenuous at best. It basically means, "When I observe this player, he appears to do what I want him to do, and when he doesn't do that, well, you can't win them all." I've come to realize the way my mind works in situations like this; maybe you recognize it:

  1. A player about which I have no opinion comes up to the plate in a high-leverage situation. He wins the game or loses the game.
  2. That same player comes up in a high-leverage situation again. He wins the game or loses the game.
  3. That same player comes up in a third high-leverage situation (it's a long season.) He loses the game—takes a wild, ugly swing on a 1-2 splitter in the dirt, one of those annoying closer wipeout pitches—maybe throws his batting helmet on the ground, and then my sub-rational mind makes a decision.

If he won one game and lost the other—no change. One out of three isn't so bad, in baseball. If he won both games and he isn't normally terrible—I believe in him! I want to see him step up to the plate in big situations. If he lost both games—I get an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach from now on.

If you do not believe Matt Holliday to be a star player and—thus far—a worthy free agent signing, I'm guessing you got the unpleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach through some combination of his slow start back in 2010 and your particular viewing patterns. Here's why you should ignore it:

Matt Holliday hits just fine in the clutch. And not just on Saturday, when he drove in five crucial runs—most of the time. In Late and Close situations—that's "Plate Appearances in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck," according to Baseball Reference—he's hit .304/.381/.524. When games are within a run either way he's hit .304/.387/.517. His numbers are better in low and medium leverage—OPSes of .925 and .949, respectively—than they are in high leverage situations, where he hits .291/.366/.510, but the pitchers are worse.

Matt Holliday is good at baseball. Since 2010, his first full year with the Cardinals, he's got the 12th-highest OPS in baseball. He's off to a slow start, but his OPS+ is 126 after yesterday's outburst, and I bet it will keep going up. If you think he's keeping the Cardinals down, you should rethink it.

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