KC Royals: Greg Holland Fastball Velocity Hits 94 MPH
By John Viril
KC Royals closer Greg Holland‘s fastball bounced back to average 94.1 miles per hour against Seattle on Tuesday night. While down from his 95.7 mile per hour average in 2014, Holland’s showing in Seattle represented an almost 2 mph improvement over one month ago.
Greg Holland has not been nearly as dominant for the Kansas City Royals in 2015 as he was last season. While his numbers look fine at first glance (2.95 ERA, 14 saves), both Holland’s velocity and command aren’t what they were in 2014. As a result, Greg Holland’s isn’t missing bats like he did last season.
Holland’s strikeout rate (K%) has crashed to 24%, down from 37.5% in 2014. For the first time in his KC Royals career, Greg Holland is striking out less than 10 batters per nine innings with an 8.84 K/9 in 2015.
He almost looks mortal.
A big reason is his loss of fastball velocity. In 2014, Greg Holland averaged 95.7 mph with the heat. This year, that number is a mere 93.3 mph. Loss of zip has caused Holland to nibble at the plate. His walk rate (BB%) has zoomed to 16.0%, up from his career rate of 9.4%.
Despite these troubles, Greg Holland has saved 14 games in 15 chances for the Kansas City Royals. He sports a solid 2.95 ERA, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a much less impressive 3.81 and his adjusted Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP, which normalizes for opponent quality and park factors) is an even worse 4.25.
Holland has pulled off this trick by getting an outrageously low batting average balls in play (BABIP) of .182. That’s simply unsustainable. League average sits around .300. Even the KC Royals defense doesn’t help out a pitcher that much.
Good fortune appears to have aided Greg Holland through his 18.1 innings pitched this season.
You can really see the drop in Fangraphs.com’s xFIP- stat. This number compares a pitcher’s xFIP to league-average. Holland’s xFIP- has zoomed to 109 (9% worse than a league average pitcher) in 2015, up from an outstanding 56 xFIP- (44% better than league average) in 2014.
In short, Fangraphs.com is asserting that Holland has been worse than an average pitcher if you strip away the Kansas City Royals defense.
The one caveat to this analysis is that Greg Holland’s infield fly ball percentage (IFFB%) has zoomed to 26.7%. His IFFB% is up from 13.3% in 2014, and his career rate of 9.2%. Those infield popups are almost certain outs and help explain Greg Holland’s low BABIP as something other than “luck”.
Could it be that Holland’s reduced velocity means hitters are popping up his high fastballs rather than missing them?
The question might not be relevant. Holland has notched five strikeouts in his last 3.0 innings pitched since giving up three earned runs to Milwaukee on June 15. Maybe, just maybe, Greg Holland’s uptick in fastball velocity has brought back his dominance.
KC Royals fans can only hope.
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