For most of the year, newcomer Matt Holliday has toiled in the considerable shadow of three-time MVP Albert Pujols. But the club’s highest-paid player has quietly — if you can call an All-Star season by the league’s top leftfielder "quiet" — propelled the Cardinals. Whereas perenial MVP candidate Pujols has produced his share of wins, Holliday has been as valuable, especially lately: Although Yadier Molina had the headline-grabbing hit (a grand slam) yesterday, it was Holliday who cracked the go-ahead hit, which added more win probability. Could it be that the Cardinals have this year’s MVP and it’s not Pujols?
Actually, by our Sabermetric MVP ranking, which simply combines Wins Above Replacement and Win-Probability Added, the Cardinals have three players in the league’s top 10, including Pujols:
By this measure, then, Holliday is only the team’s third most-valuable player. But another way to gauge a player’s importance to his team is to see how a team’s success correlates to his production. It’s an imperfect correlation, of course, but it gets at the idea of how much a team’s and a player’s fortunes are intertwined. And in this, Holliday is the clear league leader (at least among batters) — correlation between games in which the player has a positive WPA and team wins:
Like no other senior-circuit player, as Holliday goes, his team goes.
We expect that Votto, Cargo and Pujols will share the bulk of MVP votes, primarily because of their pursuit of the Triple Crown. But Matt Holliday makes a strong case that individual stats, combined with context, matter. Just ask the Cardinals.