Kansas City Royals: Why Greg Holland Is the Best Closer in Baseball Right Now

Bill Robbins@bill_kc28Correspondent IMarch 2, 2014

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland during a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. The Royals defeated the Tigers 5-2. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

The closer role used to be a major strength of the Kansas City Royals year in and year out.

The late Dan Quisenberry held down that role for much of the 1980s, and later, Jeff Montgomery was that guy for much of the '90s.

Since both of these great closers left the organization, the Royals have been searching for consistency at the position ever since.

For much of the 2000s, they had been playing musical chairs with pitchers to fill that position up until the second half of the 2012 regular season.

This was the season it all changed.

That year, a star was born at closer for KC. His name: Greg Holland.

At the time, Holland took over the job from veteran Jonathan Broxton—the veteran hurler that was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline that year.

The ex-West Carolina star did a solid job of finishing out the campaign as closer for the Royals, as he picked up 16 saves in 20 chances and ended the year with an impressive 2.96 ERA.

Then came the 2013 season.

Holland began the year with a lackluster performance against the Philadelphia Phillies on the road, blowing that save and also yielding four earned runs in his first three appearances combined.

Many around Kansas City were wanting to replace him with talented flamethrower Kelvin Herrera who was coming off of a fantastic rookie season in which he compiled a 2.35 ERA in 84-plus innings.

However, the Royals didn't listen to the other voices and stuck with their man for the rest of the season.

This decision turned out to pay dividends in a large way for the boys in blue.

Holland ended up turning in the best regular season for a closer in franchise history.

In fact, the former 10th-round pick of the Royals had such a great season, it's hard to pinpoint what the most impressive part about it was.

It could be his 103 strikeouts while allowing just 18 walks in 67 innings, or it could be his minuscule 1.21 ERA or even his .170 batting average against.

With all of that aside, arguably the most impressive thing about Holland's 2013 season was the 47 saves that he registered, making him the all-time saves leader in a single season in Royals history.

If that isn't enough, the hard-throwing righty also turned in one of the best season statistically for a closer in 2013, even better than three-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves.

It's not just the stats that make Holland so good though; he is also a dominating presence on the mound every time he comes into a game.

Whether he is mowing down batters with his blazing fastball or even seeing opposing hitters attempt to do something with his hard slider that he likes to use, it's clear that Holland is a force to be reckoned with in this league.

It's also clear that the Royals have a special talent, and they are fortunate to have the best closer in baseball on their roster.

With the 2014 MLB regular season set to start in less than three weeks, it's time for Holland to pick up where he left off last season and continue his dominance as the anchor of Kansas City's bullpen.


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