Diamond Duels: Josh Hamilton vs. Matt Holliday

by Eric McClung and Matt Trueblood on February 21, 2011 @ 13:16:46 PDT


Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers

Eric McClung

Hamilton's fantasy baseball player profile

  • The only real knock on Hamilton - injury concern - is overplayed. To keep the mileage down in 2011, Hamilton will be stationed exclusively in left field with the speedy Julio Borbon manning center field. If not for a misadventure into the outfield wall that caused small fractures in two ribs, he likely plays in over 25 games for each of the final five months of the 2010 season. With sizzling production over a full season, Hamilton likely elevates to the top outfielder on this year's draft board.

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    Hamilton is a free swinger but manages to produce a healthy batting average. His swinging strike percentage, 13.3, was fifth highest among qualified hitters a year ago, yet his strikeout percentage (18.3) was below the league average of 20.7 percent. Batting over .350 again is unlikely as Hamilton hit a ridiculous .401 off righties and .390 on balls in play, but his swatting skills will allow him to hack away to .300 or better once again.

  • Skip over Hamilton's injured-plagued 2009 and compare last year's MVP season with the 2008 breakthrough campaign. The line drive rates were similar, 21.5 percent versus 22.0, while Hamilton's HR/FB saw a slight bump from 19.2 percent to 20.6 percent, sixth best in the majors. The similarities show his 30-home run, 100-RBI muscle is likely to be repeated for the third time in four years.

  • During his three prime seasons, 2006-08 with the Colorado Rockies, Matt Holliday averaged over 30 homers and 110 RBI at a .329 clip. Since moving away from the mile-high air of Coors Field two years ago, he has yet to hit those marks again. His current beer box, Busch Stadium, is a pitcher's ballpark and doesn't yield as many cheapies. Last year's contact rate of 79.9 percent was a career best for any season in which Holliday played in over 150 games yet he couldn't outpace Hamilton.

  • While Holliday posted a career-high 41.0 percent fly-ball rate last year, it did not help increase his chances of leaving the park. His HR/FB ratio was a pedestrian 13.5 while punching a round trip ticket once every 21.3 at bats, Holliday's worst performance in any season in which he registered 670 or more plate appearances.

Closing argument: While Holliday packs a fine and legitimate power bat, he can't hit Hamilton's ceiling. Last year's production appears to be the cap for Holliday as redbird, which will still make fantasy owners happy. Hamilton is the better bet to hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs. Last year's rib injury was more of fluke than a sign Hamilton is damaged goods. Be sure to crack open a cold, non-alcoholic beverage right after you tap Hambone over Holliday on draft day.

Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Matt Trueblood

Holliday's fantasy baseball player profile
  • Consistency is Holliday's trademark. In four of the past five seasons, he has played at least 155 games. His worst numbers in each fantasy category over that span: A .312 AVG, 24 HR, 88 RBI, 94 R, 9 SB.

  • St. Louis Cardinals OF Matt Holliday
    Steady? Boring?

    Holliday's durability stands starkly opposed to Hamilton's injury history. Josh Hamilton won the MVP last season, but he played only 133 games. He has only one season of 150-plus games played in his career.

  • Holliday may be learning well from Albert Pujols: His strikeout rate dropped in 2010 for the third straight season, this time to the lowest level of his career. He also draws more walks than Hamilton. Combined with a better health profile, that points to many more chances to steal bases for Holliday.

  • Hamilton batted .359 last season, but it came on the strength of some unsustainable peripherals. His batting average on balls in play was .390, which is ludicrous and impossible to repeat. Meanwhile, more than a fifth of the fly balls he lifted left the park - a reasonable figure, but not necessarily a normal one: In two previous seasons with Texas, only 15 percent of Hamilton's flies found the seats.

  • Holliday will never lack RBI chances batting behind Pujols in St. Louis. Hamilton, in contrast, will likely be hitting behind Elvis Andrus and Michael Young, who have shaky on-base profiles. Hamilton hit .359 with 32 homers last season: That he drove in only 100 runs in the process ought to raise red flags, even in 133 games. He is not, in all likelihood, going to play more this year.

Closing argument: Holliday and Hamilton are similar players by skill profile: Holliday delivers better on average, runs scored and steals, but Hamilton's ceiling is way above Holliday's head in the power department. I understand the argument that Hamilton is the kind of guy that can win you your league - I just don't buy it. He has the physique of Michelangelo's David, and the fragility to match. Bottom line: You don't take chances in the second round, especially when you don't have to. Realistically, unless you think we still haven't seen the best of the 30-year-old Hamilton, Holliday gives you everything Hamilton does, and he does it without the added injury risk.

KFFL staff verdict

Cory J. Bonini
Tim Heaney
Keith Hernandez
Eric McClung
Nicholas Minnix
Matt Trueblood

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Fantasy Baseball Diamond Duels

March 18


About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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