Greg Holland: Revisiting the Dirty South


It’s safe to say Greg Holland had quite the breakout season last year. There weren’t too many who saw his strong performance coming, possibly no one at all. Throughout the season, I was still having trouble grasping what he was accomplishing on the mound. A quick glance at his 2011 stat line will show just the type of dominance I am talking about. Holland racked up 74 strikeouts in only 60 innings of work, good for an 11.1 K/9 ratio. He notched 5 wins and 4 saves and recorded a miniscule 1.80 ERA. On top of all of those terrific numbers, he only gave up 37 hits and had a remarkable WHIP of 0.933. In my eyes, he clearly had the best season of any Royals pitcher on the staff.

While Holland had a spectacular 2011 campaign, his 2010 season did not go nearly as well. He pitched in 15 games and his ERA approached 7, settling at 6.75. His WHIP was also at an alarming 1.661. He walked 8 guys in 18.2 innings for a 3.9 BB/9 ratio, which isn’t good, but is also a small sample size. However, he wasn’t all that bad in 2010, as he struck out batters at an 11.1 K/9 clip. Even though he would have much rather had a better season, statistically speaking, he still illustrated to everyone how capable he is of dominating batters with his electric fastball and sharp slider.

I got the idea to write about Greg Holland after listening to the Danny Parkins February 22nd pod cast regarding 3 top Royals bloggers, including our own Michael Engel, and their takes on the 2012 Royals. I have not heard much about Holland heading into spring training, which was mentioned by those on the show, and it strikes me as odd. Here is a guy who absolutely tore up the league last year and slammed the door on any team who even thought of starting a rally. Also, it seems Jonathan Broxton has already been anointed as the 8th inning guy, and like those on the pod cast, I was curious as to what exactly warranted this decision. It is early, and certainly anything can change at this point, but it doesn’t seem feasible to grant Broxton the 8th inning. He is coming off September elbow surgery and has a lot to prove. I hope he can regain his former All-Star form, but until he has proved himself, why not go with someone who clearly established himself last year as an elite reliever?

Holland is very capable of becoming a closer in the future. I would be a very strong advocate of this move as it only seems like a matter of time before the Royals end the union between Joakim Soria and the 9th inning. Holland shines in moments where the game is on the line and has displayed the confidence needed to be a shutdown closer. I’ve heard talk of trying him out in the rotation, but I think a guy with only 7 career starts in professional baseball has found a niche in the backend of the bullpen. Why mess with something that seems to be working, right?

He is mainly a two-pitch pitcher and that translates into a very effective reliever when those pitches are dominant. Holland’s slider is one of the most effective sliders in all of baseball and it has even caught the eye of Kings of Kauffman Senior Editor, Michael Engel. Engel also wrote a great piece on Holland last year and nicknamed him “Dirty South” due to his roots in Asheville, North Carolina. You can revisit Engel’s article here.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m very high on Greg Holland. I believe we can count on him to perform very well again this summer, and help solidify the pen if Soria has another rocky year and Broxton is unable to stay healthy.

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