During last nights 4-2 win over the Twins, Royals closer Greg Holland collected his 30th save on the season.
He came in for the 9th inning and pitched it clean, not putting any runners on base. The results were fantastic, but the details seem a bit worrisome.
Last night marked the first time Holland has stepped on the hill for KC since August the 28th. He has been sidelined with "cranky arm" according to Ned Yost. It is anyones guess what exactly that means, but bottom line he has been less than 100%. It is not like Yost to leave his closer out of action so long.
He has spent time on the DL earlier this season with a strained pec muscle, but that does not seem to still be a factor of late. At least Ned isnt saying it is.
Aside from a bit of an extended layoff, Holland has also experienced problems with not allowing runs this year. His 3.73 ERA is a far cry from the 1.83 ERA in 2014 and 1.36 ERA in 2013. He also enjoyed sub 1.00 WHIPS both of those seasons and now sports a 1.390 for 2015.
In fact, in almost every category, his numbers are down.
Strikeouts are still at 10.3/9 innings but he has averaged 12.2 over his career. He is walking a career high FIVE batters per nine and his FIP is 3.17, almost a full run over his 2.20 career average.
Even with all of this, the Royals have still only managed to truly lose 1 game because of Greg Hollands ineffectiveness. A 7-6 defeat at the hands of the Angels on August the 13th in which he gave up 3 earned runs (4 runs allowed total) without ever recording a single out. This one outing raised his season ERA at the time from 3.12 to 3.89. For relievers, one bad outing can incluence ERA greatly.
Since that time, he actually has a 2.84 ERA and has 5 saves in 7 games he has appeared in.
The problem isnt that his results have been bad. While his numbers have regressed accross the board, the bottom line is the Royals are still winning games.
No, the problem is what it means for the future.
As you can see, last nights Twins game represents an new low for Holland in terms of average velocity. This is alarming mostly due to the fact he was already experiencing a decline in velocity since 2013. Whereas he used to be a guy considered as someone who sat in the mid to upper 90's, he is now pitching in the low 90's, evidenced by last nights apex of 91.
Hollands average fastball velocity in 2015 is 93.8 mph. In 2012 and 2013 both it was 96.1 mph. It decreased slightly for the 2014 season to 95.7. This isnt something that would seem near as bothersome if it wasnt still trending downward. His slider has maintained velocity for the most part, being 85.7 mph in both 2014 and 2015. This is down slightly from the 87 mph he averaged in 2013 and 86.5 mph in 2012.
His batting average for balls in play is up 50 points from last year at .308. Is this simply bad luck or are hitters making better contact?
Another interesting addition to what I wrote earlier, Holland is throwing a slider more lately than any time before pic.twitter.com/rRNU00qfT4
— Luke G. (@LG_RoyalsBlue) September 9, 2015
Walking a career high, striking out fewer and losing velocity are a bad combination. It is one thing if he decided to become a finesse pitcher and work on hitting corners instead of overpowering batters, but 5 walks per 9 innings is more indicitive of a problem with command.
Its quite possible that he will be perfectly fine. Its possible that he has a little nagging injury that will go away. But with declining numbers, declining velocity and a downward trend, its also possible that there are stormclouds on the horizon in terms of the Royals closer.
**Many are saying I am negative in coming up with this. I am enjoying the winning as much as anyone, only point is this — Its ok to enjoy a picnic with the sunshine over your head, but that doesnt mean you shouldnt start packing stuff up if you see lightning and storm clouds in the distance. Positive thinking doesnt change anything, it just makes the inevitable that much harder to cope with.
Out of 145 relievers who have pitched 40 innings or more, Greg Holland is #103 (3.71 ERA) Wade Davis is #1 (0.95 ERA) #Royals
— Luke G. (@LG_RoyalsBlue) September 9, 2015
UPDATE: Hollands game on 9/9 continued the downward trend:
Updated again 9/16 — Not getting any better
The Royals avoided their first five-game losing streak of the season with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. Edinson Volquez continued his excellent season with a solid seven innings and Eric Hosmer contributed a majority of the offense with a ... Read more
Answering fan questions regarding the postseason It’s that time of year. The tempretures are dropping, leaves will soon be changing, and fall baseball is upon us. Some of you still think that the Royals will somehow go all 2008 Milwaukee Brewers and miss October entirely. ... Read more