The Colorado Rockies have a closer whose saves pace in 2017 could flirt with surpassing Francisco Rodriguez‘s record of 62 in 2008.
It’s a subjective (as most are) and often overlooked award in Major League Baseball. But it shouldn’t be. Being consistently great over the course of a six-month-long regular season is no easy task. The Colorado Rockies have an exceptional example of a story being woven among relief pitchers in baseball through two months of the 2017 season, and Greg Holland is the player holding the pen.
Some are of the opinion a Comeback Player of the Year award needs to only consist of a bounce-back campaign after a prior poor season. Others feel a player should only qualify for consideration if they’re returning from a fairly significant injury. Either way, it’s about overcoming adversity in a game littered with challenges.
MLB Network didn’t even consider Holland on their list of National League candidates for 2017. If returning from a medical leave to the field of play isn’t a necessary credential, then surely Zack Greinke is a prime candidate. Greinke had a down 2016 (13-7, 4.37 ERA, 134 K, 158.2 IP). Especially since that season followed his historically great one with the Dodgers in 2015 where he narrowly lost a Cy Young-worthy campaign to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta.
Greinke is leading NL starters in innings pitched, is 6-3 and with a 3.24 ERA and has boosted his K/9 almost three full points from a less than stellar 7.6 last year to a present-day 10.5. Meanwhile, Holland’s K/9 of 12.54 ranks 17th among all MLB relievers, despite not having delivered a single pitch to home plate in a 2016 game.
The former Royals closer, an All-Star in 2013 and 2014, returned to action in 2017 after his last appearance came on September 18, 2015 in a blown save against the Detroit Tigers. Tommy John surgery followed and Holland was signed by the Colorado Rockies as a free agent on January 28, 2017. He won the closer job out of spring training and has not faltered.
Holland, being called upon in the ninth inning in the worst environment in which a pitcher can play home games, currently leads the league with 19 saves in as many opportunities. His Rockies, as of May 28, have more wins than any other NL club at 32.
In front of the home crowd amidst the daunting pitching confines of Coors Field, Holland has been nearly perfect. He is yet to give up a run and has allowed only four base runners through 8 IP, while posting a K/9 of 15.8, compared to 10.1 on the road.
From 177 qualified relievers, Colorado’s closer ranks fifth in fWAR (1.1), eighth best in ERA (0.96) and 12th in BAA (.145). Holland’s 31-year-old surgically repaired right elbow is more than holding up through the rigors of hurling a five-ounce baseball 60 feet, now a total of 245 times in 2017. His velocity is just fine, as well, with an average pitch speed of 93.7 mph on his fastball.
Holland’s junk is in good shape, too. He’s actually thrown his slider more than his fastball this season. It’s also the offering he’s registered 20 of his 25 punch-outs on.
About one-third of the season is now in the books. The Colorado Rockies’ combination of a deep lineup, adequate starting pitching and a vastly improved bullpen over last year’s has made for a nice recipe to success.
Considering the Rockies used three regular relievers to register saves in 2016, Holland’s addition to the pen has been of great significance. The reliability and experience he brings to the role has made all the difference in the world for Colorado’s Mile High City ball club.
Through April and May of 2016, the club collected only 14 saves in 20 opportunities. In roughly the same span of time this go-around, Greg Holland is proving to be more than worth his $6 million salary in 2017. He has to be the clear frontrunner for this year’s NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.