below his career mark (.541).
Just months ago, Matt Holliday could reasonably dream of scoring something like the $180 million contract Mark Teixeira signed last December. At the time, Holliday was coming off three years in which he'd averaged .320 BA/.400 OBA/.579 SLG and won a batting title and three Silver Slugger awards. Twenty-nine years old, he was still in his prime, due to be a free agent at year's end, and expected to be the hottest commodity on the trade market if the Oakland A's fell out of the race.
Holliday is still in his prime and still eligible for free agency this fall, but any dreams of a $180 million contract are pretty far gone -- and even with the A's 13 1/2 games out of first, he's nothing like the most coveted player around. After a monster game Monday in which he knocked two home runs and two doubles to raise his slugging percentage by 30 points, Holliday's line on the year is .284/.376/.454. That's not embarrassing, but it's nothing special, and right now the line on Holliday is that he was little more than a Coors Field illusion, a Dante Bichette for the aughts.
There's of course some truth to this: Holliday's stats on the year look a lot like the .280/.348/.455 road line he put up over his years in Colorado, and not so much like the .357/.423/.645 he put up at Coors as a Rockie. But the massive drop in Holliday's raw numbers is nowhere near as bad as it looks, and he can still help any team.
Assuming Oakland wants to trade him -- and they may, as to net draft picks out of his departure as a free agent they'd have to risk him accepting an offer of arbitration and landing a hefty award -- contending teams should be paying attention.
The main point here is that there's nothing much wrong with Holliday at all. Going by OPS+, a park-neutral offensive metric scaled so that 100 is average, his last six year look like this: 103, 114, 137, 150, 140 and, this year, 125. In other words, from ages 26 to 28 he enjoyed a peak, as players typically do, and he's now settling in at a level below that, where he'll likely remain for the next few years. That doesn't make him a truly elite player, but combined with his fine defense and durability it's more than enough to put him in a class with players like Jason Bay and Carlos Pena.
Past that, though, there's reason to think he can find a middle point between what he's doing now and what he did for the last three years.
Stylistically, he's been a totally different hitter this year than he has been in the past: His line drive rate is down by a fifth, he's popping up on the infield more than half again as much as he usually does, and his home run-to-fly ball ratio is less than half what it usually is. He may be a completely new man these days, but it's just as likely that a change in approach -- the kind the right batting coach could help with -- could pay some real dividends.
It's quite common for players to be criticized for what they aren't, rather than lauded for what they are. Holliday isn't the Triple Crown threat he looked like when he was playing in what is, even post-humidor, a ridiculous hitters' park; he isn't a $180 million man. He's still a very fine ballplayer and certainly no Dante Bichette.