The Colorado Rockies are sitting atop the National League West and seem primed to contend for the long haul. They’ve got the hitting, the fielding, the speed and, maybe most importantly, the dominant closer.
That last part should be the least surprising.
The fact is, Greg Holland has been embarrassing batters for a few years now. Yet coming off a season lost to Tommy John surgery, it was logical to wonder just how good Holland would be when he returned.
Through one month the results are pretty telling: 12 save opportunities, 12 saves.
Holland is leading the league in that column. He’s only had to throw 13 innings and has collected 15 strikeouts on seven hits and five walks in that span.
Here’s where things get really wild. Holland has only given up two runs this year and both came in the same outing. It’s numbers like those that force you to remember just how dominant he was in Kansas City, because thinking two runs per month would put Holland on track for a career year doesn’t add up. In 2013, Holland appeared in 68 games, converted 47 of 50 save opportunities and gave up just nine earned runs all year. He struck out 103 batters while walking just 18. The next year was more of the same — 65 appearances, 46 saves in 48 chances and 10 earned runs for the year.
It didn’t matter when those numbers started to slip in 2015, the year the Royals won the World Series, because Holland was still surrounded by Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
But his arm blew out that September. Holland’s career with the Royals was over. He was no longer a part of the league’s most intimidating trio of relievers. So who knew what the 31-year-old would be capable of when he was finally healthy again?
It turns out he’s just as formidable in Colorado. And it goes back to his slider — the pitch that made him both famous and feared in the American League.
According to FanGraphs, Holland throws that pitch 56.4 percent of the time with the Rockies, which is actually a more than a 10-point bump from how often he used it in Kansas City.
Maybe switching leagues has helped Holland fool hitters to start the year. Maybe the knowledge of having stellar talent behind him again has eased him back into the closer role.
Whatever the case, the Rockies are shutting down opponents in the ninth inning, which means Holland is silencing batters in the ninth inning.
Are you really surprised?
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –