An Atkins-Holliday comp

The 2007 National League champion Colorado Rockies featured a pair of hard-hitters in the number three and number five spots in their batting order, Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins. Holliday had become a regular in 2004, with Atkins joining the next season, but now both 29-year-olds are former Rockies.

Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday with Colorado, 2007 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Each struggled during the first half of the 2009 season, but a second change of scenery helped Holliday substantially while Atkins’ surprising funk continued from April until October. As a result, the latter became one of the most prominent names non-tendered on Saturday. The reason was clear – the third baseman’s 2009 on-field performance was out of line with his compensation.

After having averaged 22 home runs and 105 RBI over the previous four seasons, Atkins hit rock bottom in 2009. Atkins could do nothing with the bat and eventually lost his job to the younger and cheaper Ian Stewart.

With Atkins being arbitration eligible and coming off a $7.05 million salary in 2009, the Rockies apparently didn’t want to take a chance on having to pay for a longer-term view in arbitration so they cut the right-handed hitter loose.

With Atkins now on the open market and the Cardinals apparently at least somewhat interested in a third baseman, I thought it might be enlightening to look at the two, accused by some as having been products of the mile-high atmosphere in Denver.

There is no doubt which of the two is the better player, by any comparison. Yet depending on the environment, the gap narrows.

Holliday Career 3237 0.318 0.387 0.545 0.933
Coors 1360 0.357 0.422 0.643 1.066
Away 1587 0.284 0.353 0.454 0.808 75.8%
w/StL 235 0.353 0.419 0.604 1.023
Atkins Career 2788 0.289 0.354 0.457 0.811 86.9%
Coors 1356 0.327 0.385 0.507 0.892 83.7%
Away 1432 0.252 0.324 0.411 0.735 82.4% 91.0%

Observation: Holliday seems more of a Coors product than Atkins when comparing individual home and road performance. The former’s career road OPS was just over 75 percent of his Coors OPS, while the third baseman’s away OPS was over 82 percent of his Coors mark.

Note: For the Holliday data above, some explanation is appropriate. The “Away” data includes his results in all road ballparks over his career.  The “w/StL” numbers include his entire stats while with the Cardinals, both home and away, and are included for reference only.

Observation: The gap between Atkins and Holliday was smaller away from Denver. Atkins’ career road OPS compared to Holliday is substantially closer (91 percent of Holliday’s) than it was at Coors (83.7 percent).

To temper the enthusiasm a bit…

Holliday 2009 Oak 346 0.286 0.378 0.454 0.831
Atkins 2009 354 0.226 0.308 0.342 0.650 78.2%

Observation: As much as Holliday struggled in Oakland prior to his July 24 trade to St. Louis, Atkins’ season-long problems in Colorado were comparatively more severe. Atkins’ 2009 OPS was 78.2 percent of Holliday’s Oakland outcome.

The bottom line question regarding Atkins’ future value is whether 2009 was an anomaly or his first four seasons as a Major Leaguer were instead the outlier. Some club will pay to find out. Will it be St. Louis?