It sure is a good thing that the Kansas City Royals chose to exercise patience on Greg Holland.
And there I was, being silly and thinking that Kelvin Herrera had a chance to to become the team’s closer (to be fair, he has vultured a pair of saves on three opportunities in 2013, so … maybe I wasn’t totally off) after the disastrous way that the Royals’ incumbent ninth-inning man had come out of the gate.
Fast forward a couple of months ahead, and It’s Herrera struggling with a ridiculously poor 3.09 HR/9 and a 4.24/1.24 ERA/WHIP, while Holland … well, he’s simply been one of the very best closers in baseball.
No, he hasn’t been absolutely perfect, and he hasn’t always been afforded the opportunities, but he’s nearly there. After a first week that saw him give up four earned runs over his first two innings of work (three appearances), the right-hander has allowed just one earned run (three total) since in his 22 subsequent innings.
As a matter of fact, in those 22 appearances since, 13 of them have been flawless outings, and he has struck out at least a batter in all but three of them.
That, by the way, gives him a fifth-ranked 13.88 K/9 among relievers, while his 1.0 fWAR is in a five-way tie for fourth place. More important then the fact that he’s striking out as many batters as he is, though, is his improving control: since issuing six free passes in his first four outing through April 9, he’s allowed just four walks in 21 appearances since, good for a 1.71 BB/9.
Now, that number is skewed a little bit based on the arbitrary starting point, but with his walk rate settling in at 2.25 BB/9 in May and 2.57 in June, and his K/BB progressing at 2.83, 4.50 and 5.50 over the first three months, you can pick just about any point and see that this is an improving pitcher settling into a groove here.
We haven’t even gotten to the fact that his BAA has gone from .250 in April to .185 in May, to .091 so far in June yet. In short: Greg Hollands is really, really good.
But the thing that really distinguishes him as one of the best in the game? Out of 22 MLB relief pitchers with at least 10 saves on the season, Holland is just one of three that has yet to give up a home run.
He’s succeeding at all facets of what a relief pitcher is supposed to do, and considering that he’s accomplishing all of it with a relatively low 73.1 percent strand rate (76.5 career), it’s likely that the Royals closer’s already-elite numbers can climb even further towards the top yet.