While my array of fantasy baseball teams benefited from the likes of MVP candidates such as Chris Davis, Mike Trout, Jose Fernandez and Paul Goldschmidt, I am going to buck the trend and hand over the MVP honors to Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland. The debate over the value of a closer is a recurring hot-button issue and, obviously, I sit on the side of the fence that preaches their importance. But even those who like to dismiss the position can’t deny how tremendous a value Holland was to those who owned him this year.
Let’s just start off with the basic numbers.
Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.
Amongst qualified relievers, Holland ranked second in saves, second in K/9, third in ERA, fourth in strikeouts and fourth in WHIP. Save for Koji Uehara and Aroldis Chapman, no other reliever bested in Holland in more than one category. And as for the two who did, Uehara wasn’t notching consistent saves until the second half and Chapman’s ERA was more than twice as high with nine fewer saves. Zach Sanders has Holland ranked 44th overall, 10 places behind Craig Kimbrel, the first closer ranked, but come on…Kimbrel has three more saves but every other number was either worse or, at best, equal. Yet Holland went significantly lower in drafts this year. Significantly lower.
Holland’s ascension actually began in 2012 when he was finally given the job to open the month of August. Over the final two months, he notched 16 saves and, even with a couple of late-season stumbles, posted a 1.99 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 27.1 innings. He came into this season with the job in-hand, weathered an early-season storm with so many crying for Kelvin Herrera, and went on to completely dominate. The fact that he gave up just two earned runs after the All Star break only emphasizes how fierce he was on the mound.
But it’s not just the raw numbers that give him such a strong fantasy value. It’s what he allowed you to do with the rest of your pitching staff that made him so valuable. Sixty-seven innings of a 1.21 ERA and 103 strikeouts also gave you tremendous flexibility with your starting rotation. If you wanted to dominate in strikeouts, you were able to roll with Lance Lynn or Jeff Samardzija or even Tim Lincecum without concern as Holland’s ERA helped offset their respective overblown ERAs. Or, if you wanted to just stay competitive in strikeouts but maintain some high-end ratios, then Holland’s whiffs were a fantastic complement if you went cheap on starters and were rolling with Bartolo Colon or Travis Wood. When I was setting up my draft strategy this season, I had high hopes for Holland and with a projection for him that looked worse than what he actually gave me, I was able to bargain shop for starters and divert the extra funds/higher picks to a loaded-up offense. Even on the trade front, I never needed to go after a Clayton Kershaw-type guy.
Say what you want about the value of closers, but in the six leagues (out of 11) where I placed fourth or better, Holland was a big part of that success. He was the anchor for my pitching staff, his numbers were insane and his consistent dominance allowed me to focus my attention on other aspects of my team. If that doesn’t warrant a Most Valuable Player award in the fantasy game, then I don’t know what does.