St. Louis Cardinals: Greg Holland is the closer we need

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KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 23: Greg Holland
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 23: Greg Holland /
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With news that the Rockies closer is entering free agency, the St. Louis Cardinals are showing interest for good reason. Greg Holland would be an excellent candidate for the closer role in 2018.

Greg Holland had a solid season returning from Tommy John surgery, undergone in October of 2016, posting a 3.61 ERA in 57.1 innings as the Rockies closer in 2017. He also picked up forty-one saves in forty-five chances, good for the fifth best save percentage in the majors. With how the season went, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking for any back-end help.

More than anything, the Cardinals need reliability, availability, and consistency in the bullpen. Holland has proven reliable with a career 2.72 ERA over his career. He has had a pretty clean injury history besides his aforementioned surgery, and small, weird, nagging injuries.

Consistency is another test Holland passes with flying colors. He only uses two pitches, but he has something the Cardinals have not had in the bullpen in a while: good control. He consistently challenges hitters, and while this results in a high 15% BIP, Holland’s stuff is good enough to make him dangerous.

His fastball sits in the mid to high 90’s, but this velocity is not so much used as an individual threat, instead acting as an offset pitch for his deadly slider.

Holland’s slider is one of the best yet unknown pitches in the league. He threw it over 40% of the time in 2017, and generates a whopping 26.19% whiff rate. For reference, Clayton Kershaw’s slider produces a 24.17% whiff rate, and his curve a 14.13% rate.

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Hitters don’t have much more luck when they do make contact, allowing just a .205 slugging percentage and a .265 BABIP.

He is able to do this while keeping the ball in the strike zone effectively, registering a 33.39% ball rate compared to a 42.06% strike rate.

This forces batters to swing at the pitch, producing a 50.26% swing rate. Paired with the high whiff rate, Holland’s slider is a pitch worthy of the Cardinals’ closer role.

Holland has also proven to be a consistent reliever, unlike the other prospective closer signing at the moment in Juan Nicasio. While Nicasio has just shifted to a relief role, Holland was a two-time All-Star as a reliever with a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP before his Tommy John surgery and subsequent move to a hitter’s park in Colorado.

While I am not asking for those kinds of numbers, the Cardinals have not had a closer with those numbers since Joe Hoerner in 1968. I would be fine with the consistency and the 90+% save percentage Holland can bring. Cardinal relievers simply had problems locating their pitches effectively, and Holland excells at just that.

Even if the Cardinals resign Juan Nicasio, I would like to see the Cardinals make a significant effort to acquire Holland. With Trevor Rosenthal out for 2018, and the Cardinals passing on opportunities in seasons past to get reliable and elite relievers, the time is ripe for the Cardinals to bring in some top tier bullpen talent from the outside.

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Instability in the later innings and the inability to close out wins was one of the biggest reasons that the Cardinals were unable to reach the playoffs last season, and Holland would be a great option to alleviate most of that. With the bullpen thinner than ever and surrounded with questions, bringing in Holland is an ideal move.

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