Whatever else was made of the Royals’ off-season makeover, most agreed that the bullpen was a strength. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow had shown to be good relievers who might even be worthy of closing for some teams, but were only the the third and fourth options in the Royals bullpen. Kelvin Herrera came up and dominated in 2012 with a fastball that touched triple digits, and projected closer Greg Holland had been one of the best relievers in the American League over the two previous seasons. There were serious questions about the reconstructed rotation aside from James Shields and an offense that would no longer have Wil Myers projected to come up and save them from The Right Field Horror. However, the bullpen seemed safe.
The first week of the season, particularly the weekend series in Philadelphia, has gone a very different direction. The rotation has not dominated, but other than Wade Davis‘ start on Friday night, the starters has gone at least six innings in every game so far. The offense was dormant in the opening series, but exploded against the Phillies for 25 runs in three games. However, the bullpen — more specifically, Holland — was shaky. Holland blew a save on Saturday in one of the most frustrating ways possible, by walking three batters in a row, striking out two more to almost get himself out of a jam, then finally losing the game on a hit by Kevin Frandsen. Holland looked bad again on Sunday. He came into the game in the ninth after J.C. Gutierrez managed to turn a 9-4 semi-laugher into a 9-7 semi-nail-biter. Holland gave up two hits before Ned Yost had seen enough and brought in Herrera, who himself just eked out of the game, 9-8, after giving up a run.
Naturally, fan insta-reaction to Holland’s problems has been, shall we say, less than measured. There has not been obvious buzz coming from the team about a closer switch, but many fans would welcome it. One way or the other, the over-reactions will likely be forgotten by mid-season. We are not to mid-season yet, though, and the situation provides a nice opportunity for a few reflections on this sort of situation more generally.
Read the rest of this entry »