The fact that Billy Butler is a very good hitter is beyond doubt. Even before, albeit not much before, it was announced that he had won the Silver Slugger award at designated hitter he also won a local award. Butler was, for the third time, named as the Kansas City Royals player of the year earlier this week by the Kansas City chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. That Butler deserves the award is obvious and his fantastic stats have been documented already.
The more interesting award given out by the Kansas City baseball writers was for pitcher of the year, however. The Royals pitching was not good this year and it cost them. But that inefficacy was mostly limited to the starting rotation and in fact the bullpen rewrote the American League record for strikeouts in a single season. (Though part of that is due to the very large number of innings they were obliged to pitch, of course.) It was clear some weeks ago then that the Royals’ pitcher of the year would come from the bullpen, but picking a single winner out of the talent on display was no doubt a difficult task.
The award went in the end to Greg Holland, the Royals closer for the last third of the season. Holland actually got off to a dreadful start to the year before going on the DL and coming back revitalised. He was lights-out in setting up Jonathan Broxton during the height of the summer and after Broxton was traded to the Cincinnati Reds Holland was named the new closer. Despite never having pitched in the role before, Holland notched 16 saves in the final two months of the season, blowing only two. Over the course of the entire season he racked up 91 strikeouts, third most amongst American League relievers.
More than any one stat, however, Holland provided much-needed stability at the back end of the bullpen. The Royals had good reason to trade away Broxton, but there was a real danger that in so doing the Royals would lose the ability to reliably close out games. Holland made sure that did not happen and he also made sure that the Royals can be a lot more relaxed about how long Joakim Soria takes in returning from the DL.