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5 reasons why clubs should pursue Holland

November 24, 2017

When Greg Holland declined the 2018 player option in his contract last month, the 32-year-old veteran immediately became one of the more sought after relievers hitting the free-agent market this offseason.Holland enjoyed a stellar 2017 season in his return from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 3.61 ERA, converted 41

When Greg Holland declined the 2018 player option in his contract last month, the 32-year-old veteran immediately became one of the more sought after relievers hitting the free-agent market this offseason.
Holland enjoyed a stellar 2017 season in his return from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 3.61 ERA, converted 41 saves -- tying Kenley Jansen for most in the National League -- and earned his third trip to the All-Star Game.
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Holland declined his $15 million club option for 2018, and while the Rockies are expected to try to bring him back on a more lucrative deal, they'll likely face some competition from other interested clubs. Here's a look at five Statcast™ metrics that help show why Holland figures to be one of the most highly valued relievers in free agency:
1. xBA
Holland impressed with 41 saves last season, but the right-hander also excels in a number of Statcast™ metrics. Among those are expected batting average, which factors in a pitcher's strikeout totals and the quality of contact of each batted ball. Holland finished the 2017 season with the 17th lowest xBA in baseball (minimum 200 at-bats against). Holland's expected average was slightly lower than his actual average of .193.
1. Lowest xBA in 2017 (minimum 200 at-bats)

  1. Dellin Betances: .127
  2. Craig Kimbrel: .160
  3. Corey Knebel: .163
  4. C.J. Edwards: .164
  5. Kenley Jansen: .165
    ---
    17. Greg Holland: .183
    2. Barrels
    Holland also succeeded by limiting the quality of contact opposing hitters made against him. He gave up just six barrels -- classified as batted balls with an exit velocity and launch angle that typically results in a minimum .500 average and 1.500 slugging percentage -- through 235 plate appearances last season. All but two of those barrels were surrendered in August, a month in which Holland struggled to the tune of a 13.50 ERA and a .333 opponents' batting average. Even with that stretch, his 2.6-percent barrel-per-plate-appearance rate tied for 58th among the 438 pitchers who yielded at least 100 batted balls in 2017.

3. Slider usage
In his return from Tommy John surgery, the velocity on Holland's four-seam fastball has diminished, falling from an average of 94.3 mph before his injury in 2015 to 93.4 in '17. He has adjusted by leaning on his elite slider more than ever. Holland's four-seam fastball usage dipped to 43.4 percent from 54.6 percent in '14. Meanwhile, his slider usage climbed from 42.8 percent in 2014 to 49.8 percent last season.
Holland's fastball velocity by year
2014: 96.4 mph
2015: 94.3 mph
2017: 93.4 mph
Holland's four-seam fastball usage by year
2014: 54.6 percent
2015: 46.5 percent
2017: 43.4 percent
Holland's slider usage by year
2014: 42.8 percent
2015: 46.7 percent
2017: 49.8 percent
4. Slugging vs. sliders
Holland's increased slider usage produced great results. Opponents hit just .137 (17-for-124) with only five extra-base hits -- all during his August rough patch -- against the pitch last season. His .226 slugging percentage ranks him near the top of the leaderboards for pitchers who ended at least 75 at-bats with sliders in 2017.

Lowest slugging percentages on sliders in 2017 (minimum 75 at-bats)

  1. Dellin Betances: .034
  2. Andrew Miller: .128
  3. Kyle Barraclough: .156
  4. Daniel Hudson: .158
    5 (tie). Roberto Osuna: .171
    5 (tie). Max Scherzer: .171
    ---
    16. Greg Holland: .226
    5. Swinging-strike rate on sliders
    Holland's slider was also an effective strikeout pitch. He was 20th among pitchers who threw at least 300 sliders last season with a 23.1-percent swinging-strike rate. Holland ranked even higher (ninth) prior to his August slump with a 26.6 percent rate (min. 200 sliders). As a result, he notched 58 strikeouts with his slider, good for fourth-most among relievers in 2017.
    Highest swinging-strike rate on sliders in 2017 (minimum 300 sliders)
  5. Carlos Carrasco: 30.9 percent
  6. James Hoyt: 29.7 percent
  7. Pedro Strop: 29.6 percent
  8. Roberto Osuna: 28.4 percent
  9. Adam Morgan: 28.3 percent
    ---
    20. Greg Holland: 23.1 percent
    Most strikeouts via sliders by a right-hander in 2017
  10. Ken Giles, 62
    2 (tie). Dellin Betances, 61
    2 (tie). Edubray Ramos, 61
    4. Greg Holland, 58
  11. Kyle Barraclough, 55

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.