Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.
No. 11: Greg Holland (1.4 rWAR)
This past offseason, the Colorado Rockies made a splash in free agency when they signed Greg Holland to an incentive-laden contract after missing the previous season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament which resulted in Tommy John surgery. One short stretch prevented him from fully returning to his previous levels of dominance, but he nonetheless remained a quality reliever in the late innings.
In his 571⁄3 innings of work, Holland posted a 3.61 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 2.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio as the Rockies closer. He also saved 41 games, tying Jose Jimenez’s single-season franchise record set back in 2002. It was a strong year overall for the 31-year-old, but felt like somewhat of a let down after the way he began the season.
Holland’s first 42 appearances in a Rockies uniform were a dream. He was mowing down hitters, holding them to a .168/.263/.255 slash line while striking out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. Through those 42 appearances, Holland rated 11th out of 390 pitchers with at least 500 pitches thrown by Statcast’s xwOBA metric. After that, eight appearances turned his elite season into merely a good one.
In the eight appearances from August 6th through August 26th, Holland had a disastrous 19.89 ERA in 61⁄3 innings. He allowed hitters to mash to a .406/.513/.844 slash line, walked six, and struck out only four. During that three-week stretch, Holland’s xwOBA ranked 426th out of 432 pitchers who threw at least 50 pitches.
After that, Holland quietly returned to his previous dominance, posting a 1.69 ERA and a 13-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio while limiting hitters to a .105/.150/.211 slash line in his final 11 appearances. His xwOBA returned to an elite 15th out of 371 pitchers with 150 or more pitches thrown in that time frame.
One possible culprit for his August lull was a cut to the index finger of his throwing hand in a kitchen accident early that month. Holland always said the right things and never blamed the injury for his poor performance, but it’s hard not to wonder whether it was a factor.
Holland has declined a $15 million player option, and he’s expected to also say no to the Rockies’ $17.4 million qualifying offer. He’s currently a free agent looking to score one more big contract as he enters his age-32 season. The Rockies and Holland appear to have mutual interest in bringing him back to Denver on a multi-year deal, but there will undoubtedly be other teams interested in acquiring Holland as well.
At this point, there is no clear answer about whether Holland will spend the 2018 season in a Rockies uniform. Wherever he ends up, his team will likely be glad they have him.