Searching for Saves: Can Greg Holland Thrive As “The Man” In Arizona?


It appeared to be a three-man competition for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer role, with Archie Bradley, Yoshihisa Hirano and Greg Holland battling for the job.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it was ultimately Holland who was dubbed “the man”, at least for Opening Day, despite being outpitched by the two alternatives this spring:

  • Hirano – 3.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 .67 WHIP
  • Bradley – 5.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 1.88 WHIP
  • Holland – 3.2 IP, 12.27 ERA, 1.91 WHIP

Of course none of them have thrown many innings, it’s Spring Training after all, and the Diamondbacks have always had the desire to keep Bradley as a flexible option who can be used in any high leverage situation.  It makes sense that Hirano is used in a similar role, after posting a 2.44 ERA last season, though there’s room for significant regression (.250 BABIP).

That leads us to Holland, who struggled with the Cardinals before revitalizing his outlook after joining the Nationals late in the year:

TeamIPERAWHIPStrikeouts (K/9)Walks (BB/9)Groundballs

He obviously isn’t quite as good as he was with Washington, having benefited from a 96.8% strand rate and .186 BABIP.  At the same time he did alter his approach, throwing his curveball a career high 14.5% of the time.  It was a change that made sense, to an extent, and helps to explain the groundball improvement (46.67% groundballs per balls in play).  Is it enough of a tweak to get us to fully buy in to the “new” mark?  Not quite…

The real key to his change was in his control, though is anyone going to brag about his 4.22 BB/9?  It’s not that far from his career mark of 3.89 and is never going to be viewed as a true positive.

There could be home run problems…  There likely will be control issues…  Those two things combined tells you that he’s likely going to fail as a closer before long.  With two capable options waiting in the wings, the outlook gets that much worse.

If you are searching for saves it makes sense to try and take advantage in April and get what you can out of him, because come May or June his time in the role could already have come to an end.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball,


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