You’ve all seen the highlight by now. With two out in the ninth inning, James Loney lined a ball right at Matt Holliday. If he catches the ball, the Cardinals tie the series with a 2-1 win in game two. But he didn’t catch the ball. It hit him in the stomach, bounced to the ground, and the comeback was on. A few batters later, the Cardinals lose, and Matt Holliday is the obvious candidate for blame.
But I’d suggest that Cardinal fans go easy on the poor guy. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and Holliday’s not the one most at fault for the loss.
Yes, if Holliday catches the ball, the game is over. But even after the drop, the Cardinals still had an 87% chance of winning the game. Ryan Franklin then took that 87% percent probability and flushed it down the toilet. Walk, single, walk, single, ballgame. Holliday put one guy on base. Franklin put four guys on base. It takes some kind of perverse twisting of the facts to think that Holliday was more responsible for the loss than Franklin.
Or, if we want to look at earlier lost opportunities, how about Brendan Ryan? Three times he came up with a runner on second base, where a base hit would have scored a run that obviously would have been fairly crucial by the ninth inning. He grounded out, struck out, and flyout. No runs would score.
And, let’s not forget that the Cardinals first run of the game came on a home run by Holliday. Had Holliday hit like the rest of his teammates, the Cardinals would never have had a game to lose in the first place.
It’s easy to say that if he would have caught the ball, the team would have won. While true, it also ignores everything that went before and after that play. Matt Holliday didn’t lose the game for the Cardinals – it was a team effort.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.