Jul 9, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) reacts to the final out against the New York Yankees following the ninth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Holland is Making His Case

Kansas City, as we know, has a small market in the MLB landscape. Geographically, it’s in the middle of “flyover country”. The team’s been bad for a while and haven’t given national writers much reason to look this way.

So I shouldn’t be that surprised that Greg Holland was overlooked when All-Star Game selections were announced.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

As I mentioned when the rosters were announced, I don’t want to take anything away from the relievers that were selected for the team. They’ve had great years of their own and they’re deserving of the recognition.

But, again, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The problem lies in the factors I lined up above. Nobody knows who Greg Holland is. By now, they should. He debuted with a solid 2011 that many feared wouldn’t be sustainable. He came back to earth a bit in 2o12 but was still dominant and ended the year as the Royals closer. This year, he’s right back in the range he was at in 2011 when it looked too good to be true. Thing is, after all of that, it’s true.

Holland’s recent run has been most impressive. He’s recorded at least one strikeout in his last 18 appearances, including in Tuesday night’s win over the Yankees. That’s a span of 18 innings, during which he’s allowed just seven hits and three walks. He’s tallied 34 strikeouts, with six appearances in which he’s struck out the side. He’s doing so with a fastball that’s not only fast, but increasing in velocity as the year goes on. He complements that with a wicked slider and an equally tough splitter. Often, hitters are way late on the fastball, then can’t hold back when he brings in the secondary stuff. They’re so amped up to catch up to upper-90s heat that they’re caught in the middle of a check swing before they can hold up.

Greg Holland’s 2013 velocity (From BrooksBaseball.net)

That arsenal has him in elite closer territory. He’s struck out 60 in 35 innings. Aroldis Chapman has struck out 61 in 36. Holland has faced 13 fewer batters, though, and he’s walked fewer as well. As Rany Jazayerli pointed out recently, he’s in historic company with his high strikeout rate.

So it makes perfect sense that Holland wasn’t even in the Final Vote. Except it doesn’t.

I see that Jim Leyland is looking to add a setup man with his Final Vote selections with an eye towards the strategy of a game. Feasibly, those players are more likely to be available for more than one inning of work if the situation calls for it. Yes, the game counts for home field advantage in the World Series (whether it should be or not is another discussion), but in the end, this is an exhibition. And not to take away from what Steve Delabar has done this year – 40 IP, 1.55 ERA, 12.8 K/9 (though 5 BB/9) – but he’s about to turn 30 after years in the minors and the Canadian-American Association. The other relievers selected have had fine years as well, but still, Holland has been automatic nearly every time out.

He’s been among the best performers out of any bullpen this year and it’s a shame to have it go unrecognized.

He displayed his skills over the last two games in New York, striking out the side on Monday with the bases loaded, then overpowering the Yankees again on Tuesday, making quick work of their last at bats. The Yankees aren’t quite the offensive juggernaut they’ve been in the past after so many injuries have decimated their lineup, but they’re still the Yankees and it’s still New York.

Rob Neyer’s taken notice. Jeff Passan’s taken notice. Amanda Rykoff witnessed it first hand:

 

 

So yeah, he’s good. But nobody knows it. Should an injury or other replacement situation arise with an All-Star pitcher, Holland should be the first guy on the list to fill in. Recognize his strong big league career to this point and his utterly dominant performance in 2013.

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