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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Esquire Blog: Raab & Levin:  Why Matt Holiday Is a Fraud

Esquire has a sports blog?...That is the weirdest thing I’ve seen since the New Colony Six appeared on Kiddie A-Go-Go!

Matt Holliday is a nice ballplayer, but all this MVP talk is proof that the Sabermetric Revolution has yet to sweep through the press box. A generation ago, Bill James began writing about the crucial importance of a player’s home park to his numbers; further studies have proved this beyond all dispute. And it’s no secret that Coors Field—humidor or no—is an extreme hitter’s park.

...This isn’t any one-year aberration; this is how Holliday performs. In short, Matt Holliday at Coors produces like an inner circle Hall of Famer, or Barry Bonds in an off-year. But in truth, he’s a below-average left-fielder, a pretty good—not great—hitter, a complete idiot for sliding headfirst into home plate, and a guy whose name does NOT belong in any sane MVP discussion. That he’s being pimped this way says more about media idiocy than it does about Matt Holliday.

Repoz Posted: October 04, 2007 at 12:38 AM | 50 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, phillies, rockies

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   1. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: October 04, 2007 at 12:53 AM (#2558895)
And yes I'm still bitter that Holliday's Coors inflated BA cost Chipper the batting title.
   2. Tom Cervo, backup catcher Posted: October 04, 2007 at 12:59 AM (#2558916)
ZR puts him at +11 on the year in LF. Combine that with his park adjusted LWTS (and that may be a bit unfair to him since I'm using 4-years for the PF) and he comes in 4th among NL position players.

Since Chipper and Utley won't get any love because of DL time, I'm fine with him winning. He's not the best choice, but he's not a bad one either.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:01 AM (#2558921)
They credit Hurdle for yanking Francis early? He let Francis hit and then pulled him without throwing another pitch. It was one of the most unquestionably dumb managerial moves I've ever seen.
   4. mgl Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:25 AM (#2558978)
I am not one to claim that any context-neutral performance measure (like lwts) has much to do with an MVP type vote (it doesn't, although obviously the best hitters, as measured by metrics like lwts, tend to be the MVP candidates as well, unless they were incredibly unclutch), but in talking about "how good a hitter" someone is, they have EVERYTHING to do with that assessment. Holliday's park neutral lwts this year is one of the, if not the best, in the NL, at 40.6 per 150 games. Last year, it was in the 30's. Again, this is park neutral. He was this year and IS (meaning true talent and future projection) one of the best hitters in baseball. Whoever wrote this article (although I did not RTFA) is an...

And yes, he is more than worthy of the MVP this year, given his garbage stats (which are not "garbage" when it comes to MVP-type awards), and given that the Rockies made the post-season, and is the likely winner.
   5. Rally Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:26 AM (#2558979)
UZR puts him at +13. He's done fine with the glove, other than the Giles line drive he misjudged. The author just wants to be provocative. Probably thinks no hitter with the advantage of Coors field can actually be good. Run the numbers and you'll see that Holliday was one of the top half dozen players in the league.
   6. mgl Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:29 AM (#2558983)
It is funny (sad, actually) that someone (the author or authors) can invoke a sabermetric argument (park factors being ignored, misunderstood, or not fully understood, by the media - which they are to a large extent) when in fact, the use of sabermetrics clearly shows that Holliday is and was a "park netiral" premier hitter and is clearly deserving of the MVP.

Even though Rollins has by far the better defensive and running value, his park neutral lwts is only +11 this year and -.7 last year, not even in the same (cavernous) ballpark as Holliday. I think the only one close to Holliday in park neutral lwts this year is Fielder and Braun (in limited time - so in rate only).
   7. mgl Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:31 AM (#2558988)
And yes, he has a tremendous UZR this year and a very good one last year, although I need to update my Coors Field UZR Park factors as they are based on "pre-humidor" or "semi-humidor" days.


Rollins, contrary to many people's beliefs, is NOT a good SS, at least according to UZR.
   8. Carry The Zero Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:31 AM (#2558989)
I thought the humidor was supposed to end complaints about Coors, and if not, why isn't the phillies park considered a detriment to Rollins awesome numbers?

Is a co-mvp only rewarded with a tie in votes or is there some special procedure?
   9. John DiFool2 Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:32 AM (#2558993)
Well as for as Rollins is concerned at least, after seeing a parade of RBI men stealing MVPs left and right for the last decade I wouldn't really mind him winning it, trading some points of OBP if need be. I'd be a bit more annoyed with Holliday because he's precisely the kind of guy that MVP voters have always overrated.
   10. Francoeur Sans Gages (AlouGoodbye) Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:36 AM (#2559002)
The "below-average left fielder" comment... Holliday's fielding seems pretty brutal to my eyes, but what do I know? I mean, let's say I've seen him play twenty times in the past two years, which is nothing, and it's not like I'm a scout either. But still, +13? What does the +/- system say about him?
   11. Ginger Nut Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:41 AM (#2559008)
This is like some kind of funky tesseract-inverted-reverse-stupidy, where the authors read something smart a long time ago and converted it into an incredibly stupid opinion after a two decade time warp. Holliday's OPS+ (park adjusted, obviously) in 2007: 151.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:54 AM (#2559022)
Is it possible that Holliday is in some way especially suited to playing in Coors? The Rockies's team OPS was 120 points higher at home. Holliday's OPS was 300 points higher at home. That 300 number is also his career mark: 1087 at home, 781 on the road. And so his splits look similar to what Bichette and Castilla were doing in the golden days of Coors number inflation.

I don't think he should be discredited for having such an ability, if it exists, but is it possible that if you give Holliday 81 games in a normal ballpark, he looks more like Mike Lowell or Jeff Kent as a hitter? Which is to say, still really great, but not MVP level.
   13. Boots Day Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:57 AM (#2559026)
Holliday had the misfortune to make the worst defensive play of his career at the worst possible time, on the national stage. I doubt anyone will ever again be convinced that in fact he's a pretty good fielder.
   14. Boots Day Posted: October 04, 2007 at 01:59 AM (#2559027)
Right handed power hitters who put the ball in play have always done extremely well in Coors.
   15. frannyzoo Posted: October 04, 2007 at 02:08 AM (#2559037)
Perhaps the biggest irritant (and there are plenty of candidates) of such a post is the implication that somehow Holliday is a worse player because others are "pimping" him for MVP. We are for some reason supposed to laugh because this ridiculously bad LF can't touch homeplate or some such ####, and anyone thinking different is a paid shill for Matt Holliday (or Jimmy Rollins, or Ryan Howard).

The players just play...the plots/drama/melodrama is BS invented to provide ancillary sports employment and things for drunk guys to talk about at the bar. That's fine on one level, but when they start to take themselves seriously, I get pissed.
   16. J. Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 04, 2007 at 02:59 AM (#2559169)
This is classic Idiot Sabermetric Thinking (as mgl points out above). Instead of *using* or *applying* sabermetric principles in order to inform an analysis, sabermetric principles are substituted for critical thought - so instead of analyzing how Coors Field affects Matt Holliday, you unilaterally declare his statistics worthless because be plays in Coors Field. It's not the use of statistics, it's the rubbishing of statistics.

This is an extremely common tactic from supposedly "analytical" people. Drives me crazy.
   17. Brandon in MO (Yunitility Infielder) Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:03 AM (#2559180)
But, is Holiday a fraud who poops his pants?
   18. MM1f Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:19 AM (#2559234)
If these guys are so sure of how much Coors inflates Holliday's stats then they must be support Jeff Francis for Cy Young, right?
   19. Fred C. Dobbs Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:46 AM (#2559304)
I also heard Matt Holiday won't go 'down there.'
   20. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:49 AM (#2559310)
I heard Holliday is a Never-Nude!
   21. Greg K Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:56 AM (#2559327)
...which is exactly what it sounds like
   22. NJ in NJ Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:08 AM (#2559375)
Whoops, it seems I really blue myself, Michael!
   23. Greg K Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:14 AM (#2559394)
I can taste those juicy leading man-parts in my mouth!
   24. TerpNats Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:15 AM (#2559398)
Are they trying to turn Matt Holliday into a latter-day Chuck Klein?
   25. Shredder Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:51 AM (#2559473)
Holliday had the misfortune to make the worst defensive play of his career at the worst possible time, on the national stage. I doubt anyone will ever again be convinced that in fact he's a pretty good fielder.
And in his defense, I was rooting for the Padres in that game, and the first thing I thought when Giles hit that ball was "I hope that drops in front of Holliday for a hit". To me, it didn't look like he hit it that hard, and it really took off.

And calling him a fraud is ridiculous. He's not out there campaigning for himself. It's not his fault he plays in a hitters' park. The guy puts his uniform on and plays the game well. Don't vote for him if you don't want him to win.
I heard Holliday is a Never-Nude!
Him?
   26. Ipish Posted: October 04, 2007 at 05:07 AM (#2559481)
Amazing -- but mainly sad, I guess -- that a guy could lurk here for so many years and still wind up so stupid. But somehow that's the story of my life.

Still, it's a proud moment all in all. To be linked to by Repoz would've been ecstasy enough. But to get pissed on by Lichtman? Man, that's truly special.

I'll try to make sure that tomorrow morning the Esky blog links back to this thread, so that the blind may see. Meanwhile, I'll always have The Death of Derek Jeter thread to salve my pain.

Scott Raab
   27. Boots Day Posted: October 04, 2007 at 05:12 AM (#2559484)
Scott Raab has Chief Wahoo tattooed on his forearm.
   28. Ipish Posted: October 04, 2007 at 06:29 AM (#2559506)
Not to mention the Magna Carta tattooed on the underside of my Sweet Lou Johnson.
   29. mgl Posted: October 04, 2007 at 08:20 AM (#2559541)
It is entirely possible that his game is suited to Coors Field moreso than the average hitter. You can't really tell though from the large splits in his home/road stats. Lots of players have weird splits like that by chance. In fact, I have done some regression studies which suggest that a weird split like that has no predictive value whatsoever. Still, it is worthy of some research to see if he is different. In the old, pre-humidor days, I did a study which suggested that guys like Bichette who hit lots of medium deep fly balls were really benefitied by Coors, and guys who hit lots of really long fly balls, like Galarraga, were affected very little. A player's HR rate is NOT necessarily a good proxy for the average distance of his fly balls (I was going to write "length of his fly balls," but didn't look or sound right).

And yes, I think that, ironically for this article, Coors Field and the Philly Park probably have around the same park run factor now. Philly's may even be higher.
   30. The Bones McCoy of THT Posted: October 04, 2007 at 09:00 AM (#2559546)
Amazing -- but mainly sad, I guess -- that a guy could lurk here for so many years and still wind up so stupid. But somehow that's the story of my life.

Still, it's a proud moment all in all. To be linked to by Repoz would've been ecstasy enough. But to get pissed on by Lichtman? Man, that's truly special.

I'll try to make sure that tomorrow morning the Esky blog links back to this thread, so that the blind may see. Meanwhile, I'll always have The Death of Derek Jeter thread to salve my pain.

Scott Raab


Scott:

Goes with the territory. You should read how some of my recent columns on MSN Canada got slagged by some bloggers. By the way, stop lurking and start posting. For what it's worth I've been here for years and I'm still the same ol' dumb lovable self.

Even though I didn't agree with critics I did see some value in what they said. A differing POV is a great way to learn stuff. Just tune out the rhetoric and see if there's anything in the posts that you can add to your personal database.

BTW ... I don't always agree with Lichtman myself (and vice versa) but I'm always grateful for his feedback--I always come away with a broader understanding of the issue under consideration.

I'm glad you lost the cloaking device. Now jump into the pool with both feet dammit--it's fun in here.

Best Regards

John
   31. Ipish Posted: October 04, 2007 at 02:13 PM (#2559664)
Bless you, John. You've always been a pillar of grace and good humor among the preening throng of J. Henry Waughs.

Seriously, though, I'm genuinely pleased to be linked, and no less happy to be trashed. Par for the course, whatever the subject, when you write for a living.

The Esquire blog's link to this here thread is up and running now. They will come. They will come for mgl's razor-sharp research-driven wisdom -- 'lots of players have weird splits like that by chance' -- but they will stay for his people skills, which are truly unquantifiable.
   32. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:02 PM (#2559743)
You've always been a pillar of grace and good humor among the preening throng of J. Henry Waughs.

Which part aren't you serious about?
   33. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:14 PM (#2559761)
Scott Raab is, oddly enough, the first person who I've ever seen post here that I had previously met in real life. I have a couple of friends who are also writers at Esquire, and I shook his hand at a party for one of them -- I'm sure Scott doesn't remember it, because truth be told, I barely do.
   34. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:19 PM (#2559770)
It is entirely possible that his game is suited to Coors Field moreso than the average hitter. You can't really tell though from the large splits in his home/road stats. Lots of players have weird splits like that by chance.

but in Holliday's case, we're starting to get enough data to indicate that's it's NOT a random fluke--he's always had a higher home/road split than his teammates, or the team as a whole

from 04 to 07, OPS diff 314,273,355,297

in contrast Helton, e.g. 193,196,195,129 (remarkably consistent until this year)

but, should it be held against Holliday that he has a unique ability to take advantage of Coors for reasons that we may never understand?
   35. akrasian Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:31 PM (#2559785)
but, should it be held against Holliday that he has a unique ability to take advantage of Coors for reasons that we may never understand?

Depends which question you're trying to answer. If the question is "Who would have been the most valuable in a neutral context?" then yes, being exceptionally well suited for your home park shoud be held against him. If the question is "Who was the most valuable to their team in 2007?" then it's not something that should be held against him, but rather an explanation of why he was so valuable.
   36. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:34 PM (#2559792)
but, should it be held against Holliday that he has a unique ability to take advantage of Coors for reasons that we may never understand?


No, it shouldn't - and if he demonstrated the same kind of ability playing in any other ballpark besides Coors, we probably wouldn't take much notice of it. But because Coors has been such an extreme ballpark, there's a tendency, I think, to overcompensate for its effects, and therefore players like Holliday (and Helton, to a lesser extent) don't get the credit that they deserve.

-- MWE
   37. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:44 PM (#2559805)
but, should it be held against Holliday that he has a unique ability to take advantage of Coors for reasons that we may never understand?



No, it shouldn't - and if he demonstrated the same kind of ability playing in any other ballpark besides Coors, we probably wouldn't take much notice of it.


Bill James, in one of his last abstracts, discussed this question in the context of what to do with Boggs' home/road splits; i.e., how much do you ratchet down his Fenway numbers

and he said something to the effect of "you can't hold it against Boggs that he has a unique ability to dump doubles off the Monster" because those doubles DO help the Bosox score runs and win games

(and, by the way, Boggs' doubles splits WERE enormous)
   38. bond1 Posted: October 04, 2007 at 03:47 PM (#2559812)
I think its the other way around. Playing at Coors messes you up at other ballparks. You get used to the thin air, non-breaking pitches and balls that pop off your bat. Then you travel around to sea level stadiums with a weight tied to your bat and balls that break 12 inches. Not fair!
   39. bond1 Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:00 PM (#2559836)
Helton's career OPS split is 1.128 at Coors and .897 away - that's a difference of .231. And 185 HR's at Coors vs 118 away. The reason Helton's OPS splits are contracting recently is because he can't hit homeruns even at Coors lately.
   40. Boots Day Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:10 PM (#2559848)
It stands to reason that the higher the player's overall OPS, the bigger the split will be between his raw OPSs at home and away, doesn't it? We'd expect Holliday to gain more OPS points at home than Helton would, and Helton to gain more than Yorvit Torrealba.
   41. Gaelan Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:21 PM (#2559865)
They will come for mgl's razor-sharp research-driven wisdom -- 'lots of players have weird splits like that by chance' -- but they will stay for his people skills, which are truly unquantifiable.


This made me laugh. I guess that's how you become a professional writer.

Amazing -- but mainly sad, I guess -- that a guy could lurk here for so many years and still wind up so stupid. But somehow that's the story of my life.

Still, it's a proud moment all in all. To be linked to by Repoz would've been ecstasy enough. But to get pissed on by Lichtman? Man, that's truly special.

I'll try to make sure that tomorrow morning the Esky blog links back to this thread, so that the blind may see. Meanwhile, I'll always have The Death of Derek Jeter thread to salve my pain.


This is how you stay a professional writer. On the surface all grace and humility, yet said with enough irony to leave us wanting more. I love it.
   42. Tim D Posted: October 04, 2007 at 04:36 PM (#2559892)
Absurd. Holliday leads the league in BA, hits, doubles and RBI. He's on the leader board in about everything else. His team made the playoffs with an incredible September run, during which he hit 12 HR and put up a 1.244 OPS. Yes his stats are inflated. Every other candidate hit better at home as well, except Howard. (And no one with 199 Ks is ever going to be MVP) So deflate all the other guys stats and then look again. Holliday still wins. Fielder gets my vote for second. Milwaukee's collapse wasn't his fault. Rollins third; a great year, but he made a huge number of outs, and I just don't think steals and average defense at SS make up for 100+ points in OPS. In any park. And it's not like Rollins was playing in Dodger Stadium. Oh, and whoever thinks BA and counting stats are "garbage" is an idiot. They don't tell the whole story but they do tell you that Holliday was the key player on a very successful team. Holliday deserves the MVP.
   43. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: October 04, 2007 at 06:27 PM (#2560022)
This made me laugh. I guess that's how you become a professional writer.

Maybe Jesus Melendez also writes for Esquire.
   44. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 04, 2007 at 06:38 PM (#2560038)
(And no one with 199 Ks is ever going to be MVP)

181 k's =MVP
199 k's= Never never never?

I see Holliday as a legit candidate, but he's not the frontrunner except by sentiment, I think. I'm perfectly ok with him winning it as the top candidates are bunched together and he's the fresh face on the team with the best story arc. If Utley hadn't been hit by a pitch, we wouldn't be having this conversation. In fact, I'd still vote for Utley.
   45. JPWF13 Posted: October 04, 2007 at 07:10 PM (#2560076)
I think the only one close to Holliday in park neutral lwts this year is Fielder and Braun (in limited time - so in rate only).


That's not what I get

Holliday: .340/.405/.607 with 27 dps, 11 sb, 4cs and 1 time picked off
Wright: .325/.416/.546 with 16 dps, 34 sb, 5 cs and 6 times picked off
Holliday is going to be ahead in park neutral and it's not going to be close???

Unadjusted Runs above average I get:

Matt Holliday
Chipper Jones
David Wright
Albert Pujols
Prince Fielder
Hanley Ramirez
Chase Utley
Miguel Cabrera


Park Adjusted the list becomes:
Chipper Jones 64.9
David Wright 62.6
Matt Holliday 59.8
Albert Pujols 59
Hanley Ramirez 58
Prince Fielder 57.5
Miguel Cabrera 53.1
Chase Utley 52
   46. Hombre Brotani Posted: October 04, 2007 at 07:30 PM (#2560112)
That fraud's just hit his second homer in as many games in the LDS.
   47. akrasian Posted: October 04, 2007 at 08:19 PM (#2560193)
He was a fraud in the regular season - he's legit in the playoffs.
   48. Tim D Posted: October 04, 2007 at 08:23 PM (#2560204)
I don't think his September when Colorado won all their games was a fraud either. The guy is a monster right now.
   49. Baldrick Posted: October 04, 2007 at 08:29 PM (#2560214)
This thread is everything wonderful about Primer. Lots of snark, some decent analysis, the writer showing up and exhibiting tremendous grace at the evisceration of his bad arguments, Brattain being a goofball...the only way it could get any better would be a few Shredder double-posts.
   50. Tracy Posted: October 04, 2007 at 09:25 PM (#2560351)
Question - are the park adjustments in #45 and elsewhere based on this year's data, or on previous years data?

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