Greg Holland’s Closer Job At Risk After 2nd Consecutive Blown Save

Diamondbacks reliever Greg Holland’s hold on the club’s closer role appears to be tenuous after a second-straight blown save. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes, skipper Torey Lovullo declined last night to confirm that the veteran hurler will keep the job moving forward.

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To his credit, Lovullo wasn’t willing to make a rash decision in the immediate aftermath of another late-inning collapse. “I’m in an emotional state right now,” he said. “I want to probably think through it with a clear head.”

At the same time, the skipper acknowledge that he’s “concerned” with his veteran closer. That stands in contrast to Lovullo’s words after Holland’s hard-to-watch meltdown the night prior, when he nearly shut the door on the rival Dodgers before summoning a cavalcade around the bases with a series of free passes.

As Piecoro documents, Holland’s steady start to the year has given way to increasingly shaky performances. He has blown three of his last five save opportunities. Since a scoreless appearance against the Los Angeles club on June 5th, Holland’s earned run average has shot up from 1.31 to 3.21. Worse, he has managed just five strikeouts against seven walks in that 7 1/3-inning span.

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It’s not entirely surprising that Holland has failed to sustain the early success. He’s no longer a dominating pitcher: his arm speed continues to trail off (career-low 92.2 average fastball, 84.8 mph slider) and his swinging-strike rate has fallen to levels (12.3%) not seen since his debut campaign. Free passes continue to be an issue, with Holland dishing out 5.2 per nine since the start of the 2015 season.

That said, there was (and perhaps still is) hope that Holland would be a key piece for the Snakes the rest of the way. Statcast suggests that he has been legitimately excellent at limiting hard contact, crediting him with a .253 xwOBA-against that is actually a shade better than his .256 wOBA-against.

No matter the course the team takes, Holland is an important player to the organization. Should the club elect to hang in there and continue fighting, despite a yawning divisional deficit and tough Wild Card competition, then it’ll need to take more than its fair share of tight contests. If it decides instead to cash in some chips at the deadline, Holland would be the team’s most obvious rental piece to sell. The difficulties, then, come at an awkward time for Arizona. At the moment, Holland is neither helping the team keep pace nor boosting his own trade value.

While it’d be silly to overplay the notion of the proven closer, contending teams still value late-inning experience and steadiness (and not all that infrequently will give up notable prospects in search of certainty in the 9th). Now, it’s increasingly hard to imagine the Arizona franchise successfully marketing Holland as a reliable veteran who could handle closing duties down the stretch.

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Holland is guaranteed only $3.25MM on the year and needs not feature as a closer to have trade appeal. But that’s where his greatest potential value lies to the team. Odds are, he’ll be given a shot to regain his standing over the next several weeks even if he’s removed temporarily from the role.

There are also some direct financial considerations worthy of note. With thirty appearances and twenty games finished, Holland is also already in the meat of his contract’s incentive package. He has already picked up $300K in extra earnings. He can earn $100K upon reaching 35, 40, 45, and 50 appearances, with $200K apiece if he logs a 55th and 60th. And there’s $150K promised for finishing games number 25, 30, 35, and 40, with even bigger numbers thereafter ($300K at 45 and 50, $600K for 55 and 60).

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