Kansas City Royals Player Profile: Greg Holland


Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.

If you want to read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.

Up next: closer Greg Holland.

In 2013, Greg Holland had the best overall season ever by a closer for the Kansas City Royals. He put up a 1.21 ERA, and a .866 WHIP. His 47 saves in 50 chances is a new franchise record.

It wasn’t just his surface staff that were cool and shiny. He put up one of the most impressive set of strikeouts ratios you will ever see from a closer. His K/9 innings ratio was a phenomenal 13.8. In Dennis Eckersley‘s heyday, his best season was 10.7 in 1993. Mariano Rivera never had a season with a K/9 over 9.8. Trevor Hoffman? Nope! Hoffman’s best year was 12.3 in 1997.

The highest qualifying career number historically is 10.6 from Randy Johnson. His best season was 13.4 in 2001 in 249.2 innings. Of course, the Big Unit was a starter, which is a whole different level of awesomeness. The point is, Holland’s strikeout numbers were beyond terrific.

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest chinks in Holland’s game before 2013 was the number of walks he issued. His seasonal ratios for BB/9 were 3.9, 2.9, and 4.6. The 2010 and 2012 marks were totally inappropriate for a closer.

In 2013, he lowered that number to 2.4, which is acceptable. It isn’t the incredible marks that Eckersley posted in 1989 and 1990, when he had a .5 BB/9. In those two seasons, Eck walked 7 (non intentional) in 131 innings – total.

Enough of the history lesson, as fun as those can be.

The point is that it may very well be impossible to duplicate those numbers on Holland’s part. As good as he was, and he was historically good, it is so difficult to replicate these types of seasons in back to back years, let alone over several years.

That being said, Holland can regress, and he probably will, and still be very, very good. The problem this creates for the Royals is that three relievers had fantastic seasons in 2013 – Holland, Luke Hochevar, and Louis Coleman – none of which will likely be repeatable.

Hochevar is already out for the year, so is it very unlikely anyone will be able to repeat his season. Coleman and Holland both return for the Royals, but both should suffer some regression.

There it is – regression. The Royals had the best ERA in the American League last year, and had at least 4 pitchers (throw in starter Ervin Santana) had career years. That is a whole lot of things going right.

Yes, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and Kelvin Herrera each can improve on their seasons, although Kelvin Herrera was dominant in the second half. Wade Davis most certainly has the talent to take Hochevar’s place, but will be hard pressed to match Hochevar’s numbers from 2013.

The key to the bullpen is, of course, Greg Holland. He can fall back to earth a bit, and still be very good. That is what he needs to do, if he does in fact, regress. He still has to be a dominant force at the back of the bullpen. He still needs to be that shut down, reliable closer for the Royals to have even the slightest chance at making the post season.

This bullpen doesn’t have to be better, or even as good as last year’s edition. Chances are, it won’t be. It does, however, need to be nearly as good, especially Greg Holland.

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