Who's better: Matt Holliday or Jason Bay?

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As right-handed-hitting left fielders with big bats and questionable gloves Matt Holliday and Jason Bay have been linked together as free agents. Some teams like Holliday more than Bay, some teams like Bay more than Holliday, and whatever the case one has often been described as an alternative to the other.
Now that the market for both players has narrowed considerably, I thought it would be a good time to examine whether the 30-year-old Holliday or the 31-year-old Bay is more valuable. Simply comparing their raw numbers is misleading because Holliday called Coors Field home for five seasons and hit .357 with a 1.068 OPS at the majors’ most hitter-friendly ballpark, so let’s dig a bit deeper.
Holliday hit .280 with an .803 OPS on the road during his time in Colorado and then basically matched that non-Coors Field production by hitting .286 with an .831 OPS in Oakland. However, he then went nuts after being traded to St. Louis, batting .353 with a 1.023 OPS in 63 games. His true talent level may be tough to decipher from that, but Baseball-Reference.com has a stat called adjusted OPS+ that normalizes a hitter’s production by essentially taking leagues and ballparks out of the picture.

ADJUSTED OPS+     CAREER     2009     2008
Matt Holliday       133       139      138
Jason Bay           131       134      134



Holliday has a career adjusted OPS+ of 133, including 139 last season and 138 in 2008. By comparison Bay has a career adjusted OPS+ of 131, including 134 in each of the past two seasons. Based on those marks it seems clear that Holliday is a slightly better hitter, although both rank among the top 20 or so bats in MLB. And sure enough over the past two seasons Fan Graphs pegs Holliday as worth 41 runs above average per 600 plate appearances offensively, compared to 36 runs above average for Bay.
In other words Holliday has been about five runs better per season offensively and because he’s a year younger that figures to continue. Examining their defense is also somewhat tricky because while both players have poor reputations in left field the advanced defensive metrics see them as significantly different. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs Bay as 8.0 runs below average per 150 games for his career, including 14.7 runs below average per 150 games since his knee problems in 2007.
On the other hand per 150 games UZR shows Holliday as 6.9 runs above average for his career, including 8.5 runs above average per 150 games in the past two seasons. Given their similar defensive reputations some people may find it hard to believe that Holliday is that much better than Bay in left field, but even if the true gap in gloves was, say, 10 runs instead of 20-25 runs that’s still big. Tack on Holliday’s edge offensively and he’s at least 10-15 runs better per season and perhaps as many as 25-30 runs ahead of Bay.
At first glance they may look the same because of their many similarities, but Hollliday is a better hitter and better fielder along with being a year younger. He’s a superior player and more desirable free agent target.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: The game is the game  — Alen Hanson singled in two runs for the Giants and all the Dodgers got was an RBI single from Manny Machado — but the big story here, obviously, was the benches-clearing brawl kicked off by a shoving match between Yasiel Puig and Nick Hundley.

Everyone is going to talk about the argument and the shoving — including Puig reaching over the guys holding him back to give an open-handed smack to Hundley’s mask-covered face, as you can see in the video below — but I’m more interested in what started it.

As the Giants announcers note, Hundley’s comments to Puig were no doubt some sort of smack talk about Puig being frustrated that he didn’t handle a pitch he thought he should’ve handled. In other words, Puig was mad at himself for not executing and Hundley decided that him being mad at himself is somehow “showing up” Giants pitcher Tony Watson.

What the hell is that about?

Why is it that pitchers can cuss and scream and yell at the sky when they don’t execute a pitch — and my God, do they, as they always have — but if a batter is mad at himself for not putting his best swing on a fat pitch, he’s somehow unsportsmanlike? Or is it just the Giants — who have raced to the top of the “play the game the right way or we’re gonna get a case of the red-ass” rankings over the years — who get mad at this? It’s certainly the case that they’ve made it their mission to police Yasiel Puig. Remember Madison Bumgarner going off on Puig simply for Puig looking at him? And for a bat flip? I’m filing this in that category. My God, they need to get over that guy.

Rockies 5, Astros 1: Justin Verlander was good (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 11K) but German Marquez was better (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7K) and then the Rockies unloaded for three more runs against the Astros’ pen. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story went deep and the Astros went down for the fifth straight game which, combined with the A’s win, reduced their AL West lead to a single game.

Athletics 3, Mariners 2: Mike Fiers won his first game as an Athletic — and the Athletics won their second game started by Mike Fiers — by allowing two runs over six. Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie each went deep. The M’s hung in there pretty admirably considering they lost ace James Paxton in the first inning after he was hit by a comebacker on his pitching arm. Luckily for them Paxton only seems to have a contusion and is considered day-to-day. At the end of the day it was the A’s fourth straight win and, as noted, they are now a day’s work, and a little help from the Rockies, from moving into first place.

Cardinals 6, Nationals 4: On the bright side, the Nats’ bullpen didn’t blow this one. Heck, they only gave up one run in four innings of work. The Cards scored five off of Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, however, with Cardinals starter John Gant hitting a homer and Kolten Wong adding a bomb of his own. Gant likewise allowed only one run while pitching into the sixth and the Nats’ late attempt at a comeback, fueled by a two-run homer from Bryce Harper, fell short. The Cardinals have won nine of ten and climb to within four games of the Cubs in the Central and are only a game behind the Phillies in the Wild Card race. I guess firing Mike Matheny was the right move, huh? Washington, meanwhile, has lost six of eight and falls eight games back in the NL East. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

Brewers 7, Cubs 0: Ryan Braun hit two homers and drove in four, Lorenzo Cain and Erik Kratz each went deep too and Jhoulys Chacin dominated the Cubs for seven innings, shutting them out and punching out 10. Not literally, of course. Apparently the high of Sunday night’s walkoff win didn’t carry over the off-day on Monday for Chicago. Indeed, the 2018 Cubs have been a case study in anti-momentum.

Orioles 6, Mets 3: The Mets held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth but Adam Jones homered then, Chris Davis homered in the seventh and Tim Beckham homered in the eighth to help Baltimore push past ’em. That ends the Orioles’ five-game losing streak but fear not: today is a new day and a new losing streak is always likely to begin once again.

Yankees 4, Rays 1: J.A. Happ allowed only one hit over seven innings, continuing his strong run to begin the Yankees portion of his career. It was his third win in as many starts since being acquired. Austin Romine hit a two-run homers, Greg Bird knocked in a run on a double, Aaron Hicks singled in a run and Miguel Andujar doubled twice.

Red Sox 2, Phillies 1: The Yankees have won seven of nine since that ugly sweep at the hands of the Red Sox the weekend before last, but they’ve actually lost ground to Boston in the standings, which has won seven of eight in that time. They’re just a machine. Here it was Rick Porcello allowing only one run while striking out ten over seven innings, backed by just enough offense in the form of solo homers from Sandy Leon and Brock Holt. Holt’s was a pinch-hit number. Holt’s was the 168th homer hit by the Red Sox in 2018. They hit 168 bombs in the entire 2017 season.

White Sox 6, Tigers 3: It was 3-3 after the first inning and 3-0 from then on out. Two of the White Sox’ first inning runs came on a two-run sacrifice fly. Yes, you heard me:

There cannot be enough Pepto in the world for Ron Gardenhire after watching that play.

Indians 8, Reds 1: Corey Kluber allowed one run over seven. The Indians were nowhere nearly as impressed with Reds starter Sal Romano, who got tagged for six runs on seven hits in the first inning and two-thirds. The Indians only got three hits for the rest of the game after Romano left, but one of ’em was a two-run Jose Ramirez homer. He went 3-for-5 on the night. Yonder Alonso drove in three runs in the first two innings.

Braves 10, Marlins 6: The Ronald Acuña show continued as the Braves young rookie hit his third leadoff home run in as many games, added another bomb for his sixth homer in the past five games and his eighth homer in his last eight games. He’s also drove in four, giving him 15 RBI in his last eight games. He pushed his batting line up to .288/.346/.576 on the season. Guess those couple of weeks in the minors at the beginning of the year are what made him good. Freddie Freeman hit his 20th homer to tie the game in the sixth, and Dansby Swanson hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh as the Braves win for the 13th time in their last 17 games and take a two-game lead in the NL East over Philly.

Diamondbacks 6, Rangers 4: Patrick Corbin allowed three over seven Daniel Descalso drove in two runs and scored on a wild pitch in the first four innings which, along with a Paul Goldschmidt homer, put the Snakes up 4-0 early and they held on. Corbin hasn’t given up a homer in ten starts. That ties him with Chris Sale for the longest such streak going right now.

Twins 5, Pirates 2: Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but that’s all they’d get. Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer, Jake Cave singled in a run and Jorge Polanco knocked in two with a single. That was actually the reverse order in which it happened. I put it that way because I’m receiving fat product placement money from the author Martin Amis in service of a viral marketing campaign for his 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow. Just felt like I should offer full disclosure there, as I know I have built up a lot of trust with y’all over the years.

Blue Jays 6, Royals 5: Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer in the eighth to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead for Toronto and that lead would hold up. He had earlier singled in the Jays’ second run of the game. Danny Jansen went deep. Russell Martin got plunked once with the bases loaded to drive in a run the hard way. Adalberto Mondesi had four hits, including two doubles, stole three bases, drove in a run and scored a run for Kansas City but baseball is a team sport so none of that ultimately mattered.

Angels 7, Padres 3: Threes ruled for the Angels. Justin Upton had three hits, homered for the second straight game and drove in three, Taylor Ward made his big league debut, doubled in a run and reached base safely three times and Eric Young Jr. tripled — three bases! — and had two RBI for Los Angeles. Man, if he had only drove in three it would’ve been important. It would’ve meant something. *sculpts potatoes*