Earlier in the week, Kansas City announced that Alex Rios would be placed on the disabled list for 3-6 weeks with a fractured metacarpal (finger). Just hours ago, the club also announced another devastating blow to their bullpen. Greg Holland is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a pectoral strain. Two significant losses in just five days. Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson, though are a major downgrade in most aspects, are expected to fill the void that Rios has left. But with an All-Star closer going down for a time length of this magnitude, can the Royals still be that team to fear during late innings of a ballgame?
Yes. Because more than any other team in baseball, the Royals can withstand a bullpen injury. Because, B-Boat…the best bullpen of all-time.
Since taking over for Jonathan Broxton at the All-Star Break in 2012, Holland has been everything the Royals have hoped for, and more. In 2013, 2014, and the start of 2015, Holland has blown five saves in 102 opportunities and a 1.28 ERA. These numbers are off-the-charts fantastic, but there’s someone who has been slightly better, but way overlooked.
But, think about this. Since the beginning of last season, Wade Davis has been better than Holland, statistically. AND HOLLAND WAS THE 2014 AMERICAN LEAGUE RELIEF PITCHER OF THE YEAR.
After another miserable season in 2012, Dayton Moore went back to the drawing board yet again. His solution? Trade his best prospect, Wil Myers, for a potential ace, James Shields, and a fifth starter, or long-reliever, Wade Davis. Just hours after the trade was announced, many people dubbed it as the “James Shields trade” and completely overlooked Wade Davis. There were a few other pieces of that trade, but they have turned out mostly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Now, it should simply be known as the Wade Davis trade.
Starting out, the Royals made Davis a starting pitcher. He pitched over 135 innings with an ERA of 5.32 in 2013. In just 24 starts, Davis allowed fifteen home runs. Eventually, Kansas City gave up on the idea of Wade Davis being in the starting rotation, so they moved him to the bullpen in September of the same season. In that month, he pitched ten innings, only allowing three hits. Wade Davis’ transition to the bullpen is one of the most remarkable in baseball history. In 2014, Davis was part of a three-headed monster that people now know as “HDH,” which stands for: Herrera, Davis, Holland.
Kelvin Herrera, the other of the three-headed monster, has been severely underrated as a reliever too. Though he left something to be desired in 2013 with an ERA of 3.86, Herrera really brought the fire and tenacity that the bullpen didn’t need, but greatly appreciated in 2014. Last season, he threw seventy innings, and pitched to the tune of a 1.41 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14. During most parts of the season, if the opposition was seeing Kelvin Herrera pitch during the seventh inning or later, it wasn’t going to end pretty for them.
HDH in 2014 was the talk of the MLB. In the entire 2014 season, HDH blew just one lead after seven innings. They went down as the best threesome in the bullpen, EVER. In all of baseball. The three relievers had a combined ERA of 1.28, a WHIP of 0.96, and an ERA+ of 319. Though Greg Holland won the Mariano Rivera Award in 2014, it was Wade Davis who was actually the better pitcher. Davis led the bullpen in ERA (1.00), WHIP (0.85). ERA+ (399), K/9 (13.6), and innings pitched (72).
The injury to Holland shifts everyone up one spot in the bullpen. Jason Frasor, who has added to the bullpen success since last year’s All-Star Break, will shift to the seventh inning spot, Kelvin Herrera will move to the set-up role, and Wade Davis will close things out in the ninth. Also in the Royals plethora of relieving cyborgs is Ryan Madson. Though Madson is playing his first year in the bigs since 2011, he knows how to deliver in key situations. He was a closer, after all. Chris Young and his 87 MPH “invisiball” will also play a factor in filling the void left from Greg Holland.
To most teams, the loss of an All-Star closer would be devastating, and may affect the course of their entire season. For the Kansas City Royals, it’s no big deal. The Royals won’t even miss a beat. Though it’s fun watching Greg Holland fool hitters with his nasty “splider,” Wade Davis is just as capable, if not more capable, than Greg Holland to get the job done.
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