By Sweeny Murti
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OXON HILL, Md. (CBSNewYork) — Matt Holliday told reporters earlier this week that he was excited to be joining the Yankees and feels like he will be better than he was in 2016 when he put up the worst numbers of his career.
In his 13th big league season, his eighth with the Cardinals, Holliday posted career lows in batting average (.246), on-base percentage (.322) and OPS (.782) over 110 games and 426 plate appearances. A deeper look inside the numbers offers hope for a bounce-back year.
The Yankees highlighted Holliday’s exit velocity in their press release, noting that he was third in all of baseball with an average of 94.7 mph, behind only Nelson Cruz (95.9) and Giancarlo Stanton (95.1), among players with at least 100 batted balls in play.
Fangraphs shows that Holliday’s 50 percent ground-ball rate was the highest of his career and his 14.1 percent line-drive rate was the lowest of his career.
“Quite frankly, I probably hit too many ground balls, too many hard ground balls, which nowadays, with how good the infielders are, it’s not a great idea,” Holliday said. “I think if I can combine the exit velocity with a little bit more lift on the ball, just hitting the ball a little more on the line and having my misses be more in the air than on the ground, I think my numbers can get back to where they have been my whole career.”
It would appear that will be pretty easy area of focus for Holliday when he begins work with hitting coaches Alan Cockrell and Marcus Thames.
“I think that’s a good sign that the exit velocity was really high,” Holliday added. “I think I did have a little bit of bad luck last year, but that’s no excuse. I’m in a good place and I feel like that I can put up some really good numbers.”
Holliday also knows he’s entering a hitter-friendly environment in Yankee Stadium and thinks that will play to his strengths as well.
“I think it’s a really good fit,” Holliday said. “I think my strength of driving the ball to the right-center field gap lines up pretty well. I have at times some mishits in the air to right field that could potentially be rewarded with the shorter porch in right field.”
Holliday said he also likes the size of the pull-side gap in left-center and the potential for extra-base hits in that direction. He will enter his 14th big league season next year at age 37 with nine seasons of 30-plus doubles and 20-plus home runs.
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