Greg Holland entered Tuesday night's game with a 2-0 lead and with his first pitch, the radar gun read "87." It was a fastball. That is alarming.
Holland immediately put two runners on base, but a terrible decision to bunt and some unclutch Indians hitting got the Royals out of the jam. Holland was able to grit his way out of the inning by eventually amping his fastball up to 93 and relying on his slider, but his declining velocity has been a very troubling trend for some time.
Mike Petriello at MLB.com lays out the grisly results.
Greg Holland's velocity trend since May 1 is kind of terrifying.. pic.twitter.com/AlEED8PodU— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) September 13, 2015
Holland has reportedly dealt with a "cranky" elbow for a month now. It has looked as if it takes a few batters for Holland to get loosened up and get his velocity up. Since the All-Star break, Holland has given up ten runs (nine earned) in 16 innings and nine walks, with opponents hitting .318/.400/.455 off of him during that time. On the other hand, he's suffered from a .417 BABIP in that stretch, and is still striking out over a hitter per inning over that time.
Here's what Ned had to say about his closer.
Yost: "A little bit of concern with Holland." But still has "closer mentality." #Royals— Craig Brown (@royalsauthority) September 16, 2015
"Wear & tear on his elbow and shoulder. He knows his velocity is down but he feels strongly that he can close out games" - Yost on Holland— 610 Sports Radio- KC (@610SportsKC) September 16, 2015
THE POWER OF BELIEF!
Its great that Holland is able to gut out a win on Tuesday, but ultimately it will be velocity, not a "closer mentality" that will retire hitters in the ninth. If its a matter of changing his routine so that he can get his velocity up by the time he enters the game, then the Royals need to make that adjustment.
But should they move Holland out of closing duties entirely until his arm feels right?
The obvious replacement would be Wade Davis, who, despite some back issues, has still been dominating this year with a 0.91 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. Davis has also shown he can handle closing duties, converting all sixteen of his save opportunities the last two seasons combined (he had three blown saves last year, but none in the traditional ninth inning closer role).
Moving Davis to the ninth would create a void in the eighth however, which can be a pretty high-leverage inning as well. Preserving Davis for the ninth would take him out of opportunities to get the Royals out of jams in the middle innings. However Ned doesn't even use Davis for this role - all of his appearances this year have come in the eighth inning or later.
Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson might also be options for closing. Herrera has been one of the better relievers in the game the last few years and was an All-Star this year while Madson is a former closer for the Phillies. However Herrera has given up seven runs in his last two outings and has given up 12 runs in his last 17 innings, while Madson has dealt with aches and pains of his own.
Is it time to take Holland out of the closing role? Should Ned Yost play it by ear? Or should the cyborg Wade Davis take over closing duties full-time?