ST. LOUIS, MO: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a three-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Matt Holliday is in the Home Run Derby, even though he's more of a 25-homer guy rather than a slugger. How will he fare?
Matt Holliday is in the 2011 Home Run Derby. Matt Holliday is not a home-run hitter.
Oh, he hits home runs, but that's not what he's known for. He's what broadcasters, managers, and old-timey baseball people might call a "professional hitter," which means that he gets paid money to play baseball. Good for him. Sounds like fun. But it's also a catch-all phrase for a hitter that does everything well without blowing away the league in a single category. Ichiro! is a professional hitter when he hits .303 with 15 home runs, not when he's hitting .372. Then he's something else entirely.
Holliday is also supposed to be a line-drive hitter. That's a subspecies of the professional hitter.. Over the past three-plus years, his line-drive percentage is right around the league average -- his 18.6% mark since 2008 is just below Jeff Francoeur and Kurt Suzuki, and just above Jason Kendall. The difference is that when Holliday's line drives get in the air, they have a much, much better chance of leaving the park.
But what does that mean for Holliday's chances in the 2011 Home Run Derby? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Usually Holliday is facing "pitchers" who throw from "sixty feet and six inches away" in a "competitive environment" and "really fast-like." In the Home Run Derby, he'll be facing a pitching coach of his choice, who will lob balls down the heart of the plate. It's slightly different for everyone. In 2007, Holliday finished third in the Home Run Derby with 13 home runs. In 2010, he hit only five home runs in a first-round exit.
Garret Anderson has a Home Run Derby championship, in 2003. He was, at one point, also a professional hitter. He was a line-drive hitter. If you want to stretch out the taxonomy further, he was a gap-to-gap guy. He's proof that the professional hitters of the world can out-slug the sluggers.
Holliday is a batting-practice specimen. He's a strong dude. He has just as good of a chance as anyone to win the 2011 Home Run Derby. Even better, he'll probably get paid. Because he's a professional. It's a pretty sweet gig, if you ask me.