St. Louis Cardinals: A deep look at Greg Holland with the Cardinals

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 14: Greg Holland
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 14: Greg Holland /

The St. Louis Cardinals finally signed the closer we all begged for but are we getting what we thought?

The St. Louis Cardinals added Greg Holland to their bullpen (finally) after the start of the season. This- as we all know- has seemingly hampered Holland’s entry into the season. Thanks in large part to his missing authentic Spring Training, the typically-perennial closer has experienced some bumps and bruises.

In just 4.1 innings here in 2018 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Holland is carrying an unlike-him-ERA of 6.23. This certainly does not tell the whole story but does indicate that something is awry especially when noting his career ERA of 2.64.

Now before we go diving down the rabbit’s hole in regard to ERA, let’s take stock of the fact that there were great years for Holland wherein his ERA sub-2.00. These occurred in 2011, 2013, and 2014 and all with the Kansas City Royals. His ERA leapt to the mid-to-upper 3.00s during his two seasons in Colorado.

Let’s dig a little deeper… Using 2011, 2013, and 2014 as the litmus test for positive numbers, Holland recorded the following K/9 numbers: 11.10, 13.84, and 12.99 (respectively). These were the strongest numbers of his career yet again. In 2018, Holland’s K/9 is sitting at 6.23– the lowest of his career.

How about how batters are faring against the seasoned closer? Batters in 2018 are posting 70 percent of hits as fly balls. This is the highest his percentage has reached in this category in his career. His ground ball and line drive percentages are at a career-low as well coming in at 20 percent and 10 percent respectively.

All of these things could be attributable to an over-reliance on his fastball. In 2018, Holland is throwing his fastball 50 percent of the time. Don’t let that alarm you though as his career-high was 57.4 percent reliance on fastball back in 2013– one of his greatest years.

Here’s the deal though, in 2013 Holland’s fastball was zipping at pitch velocity of 96.9 according to FanGraphs. For the St. Louis Cardinals, his fastball is showing a velocity of 89.1, thus making it hittable. Holland’s slider velocity is also down while his changeup velocity is a little higher than in recent years.

But wait, there’s more: the velocities are strangely similar. If you know anything about pitching, you know that pitchers live and breathe on the disparity between their fastball and their off-speed material. Holland- with the St. Louis Cardinals on reduced/absent Spring Training- has a fastball averaging 89.1 and a slider averaging 81.8. This is not that great of a difference.

During his great years as listed above, Holland saw a disparity in the neighborhood of eight to ten miles per hour difference between the fastball and slider.

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Continuing the concerning numbers, Holland has opposing batters swinging at 36.7% and making contact at 69.7%. The swing number is too low and the contact number is far too high. During his great years, Holland was seeing swing percentages between 43 and 46 percent. Holland also saw contact numbers between 63 and 64 percent.

So what do we make of this? Is it too early to worry about Holland? To me, yes. We all know that he needed a full Spring Training and that he didn’t get one but I feel assured that the St. Louis Cardinals would not spend the money without the thought that he will come around.

Listen, I’m one of the first to worry and complain about the St. Louis Cardinals and the front office decisions. That said, I believe the front office deserves a great deal of credit in their recent decisions and I include the Holland pick in that same light.

One more thing about Holland: he is under a one-year deal. This means that he needs to perform as badly as the team needs him to perform. I think this will be reason to believe he will do just that as he will likely want to better his chances at a larger deal following 2018 be that with the St. Louis Cardinals or not.

…and just think of dangerous the bullpen is going to be when Holland does get it going. Think about the back end of Bud Norris, Dominic Leone, Luke Gregerson, and wrapping it up with Holland– I cannot think of a better pen in all of baseball.

Next: Cardinals top-10 prospects check-in

How long do you wait before you worry about the numbers above? I say we pause on these until at least the end of May. Check back with me then.