With many questions as to what Yankees’ designated hitter Matt Holliday could offer, he could have a notable impact if he could stay off the DL.When the Yankees inked Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million deal, not many people knew what to think of the signing.
On one hand, general manager Brian Cashman signed a batting champ from 10 years ago to be their designated hitter. It’s also safe to say that he’s well past his prime (.246 BA in ’16 compared to .303 career BA).
Then, on the other hand, Holliday, even at age 36, can still change the complexity of a lineup that already features Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.
Yes, I know. His slash line (.246/.322/.461) and OPS (.782) in 2016 was the lowest of his 13-year career, but, in a season in which he experienced a fractured thumb that required surgery, his magnificent power was still evident.
First off, Holliday crushed 20 home runs in 110 games — a 29 home run pace.
While that’s impressive in itself, his average exit velocity, according to MLB.com’s Stat Cast, sat at 95.26 m.p.h. with the league average sitting at 89.57. His generated velocity also trumped league average by 6.26.
Secondly, and arguably the most importantly, his batting average on balls in play drop of 82 points a year ago insinuates that Holliday, who’s a career .291 hitter at Yankee Stadium, was simply unlucky especially when considering his line drive rate increased and exit velocity was way above league average.
Why is this good news for New York? Well, while the rotation was suspect over the course of 162 games, the offense wasn’t any better.
In three of the last four years, the Yankees have not had anyone in their lineup hit 30 home runs and it serves as no coincidence that these teams are the only Yankees to miss postseason play in the 21st century.
The last player to hit 40 home runs in a year was Curtis Granderson in 2012 while the last right-handed batter to do so was Alex Rodriguez in 2007.
No, I’m not putting any money on Holliday hitting 40 home runs, but the team’s overall slugging percentage (.405) ranked 21st in major league baseball in 2016 — 56 points lower than Holliday’s “down year.”
With that said, a healthy Holliday could make the 2017 season feel like a holiday for the New York Yankees.
On opening day, he’ll be 37 and coming off a year in which he fractured his thumb, had surgery and multiple setbacks before returning to play.
While that unquestionably waves some red flags, Holliday, whos career .897 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks ninth among active players, doesn’t hinder the youth movement with his short commitment and could still have a tremendous say in the power outage that the “Bronx Bummers” have encountered recently.
We’ve preached leadership before, and the influence of a former batting champion could do wonders for a team in year two of a rebuild craving nothing but growth.