by John Viril—
Greg Holland was so shaky early this season that fans started to scream for Kelvin Herrera to take over as closer. On April 6 he blew a save against Philadelphia and Herrera rescued him from another failure the next day. His ERA was an unsightly 18.00. Many observers considered it only a matter of time before the harder-throwing Herrera seized control of the marquee bullpen job. Those calls gained new life when Holland blew a save in the “James Shields” game on May 6, transforming a 1-0 9th inning lead into a 2-1 loss to Chicago.
That might as well have been the Neolithic Era for all the relevance it has to today. Holland is on a roll.
Since May 6, Holland has racked up 13 consecutive saves. He’s surrendered 2 runs in 21.0 IP. He’s whiffed 37 hitters in those 21 appearances, including 6 in which he’s struck out the side. Greg Holland has almost been untouchable for the last two months (while the struggling Herrera has been sent back to AAA).
Greg Holland has the 5th highest K/9 (15.27) since 1900 for any pitcher with 30 or more innings in a season. While impressive, this stat also demonstrates how much the game has changed in the last 15 years. All of the top 10 K rates have been put up by relievers since 1999, while the top 5 rates have been notched in the last 3 years. With the influence of sabermetrics, hitters are taking more pitches to draw walks while swinging for the fences to hit home runs. Many power hitters now refuse to cut down their swings—even with two strikes. Add in increased specialization in the pen, where relievers rarely go longer than 1 inning per appearance, and you get the stratospheric K rates we’ve seen in the last 5 years.
Greg Holland has now seized total control of the closer job in Kansas City. Indeed, he’s one of the top closers in the game today—despite not getting tapped for this seaosn’s A.L. All-Star staff.