Holland reveals approach to closing games

Rockies closers has converted all 21 save attempts this season

June 6th, 2017

Variety spices the performance of the Rockies' Greg Holland, who leads the Majors with 21 saves -- nine more than any closer who has converted all opportunities.

Holland, 31, has thrown sliders for 138 of his 287 pitches (according to Statcast™), plus 134 four-seam fastballs and 15 curveballs. The way he manipulates the speed of the slider -- usually 85-87 mph but as low as 81 or as high as 89 -- and its movement has fueled rumors (which he doesn't deny) that he throws a split-finger pitch. But suggest he has a mix worthy of a starting pitcher, and the Asheville, N.C., native lets out a Smoky Mountain chuckle.

"I'm not good enough to start," Holland said Sunday morning, before his save of a 3-1 victory over the Padres. "That's why I don't.

"I always go back to my dad telling me a story -- I believe it was [ex-big league closer] Bob Wickman's quote. Usually by the time the other team realizes I don't have very good stuff, the game's over. It cracks me up. A lot of times the game ends and you're like, 'Woo. How did I get away with that?'"

With 30 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings, Holland dominates more often than he escapes. But there are also days like Sunday. Holland began his two slowest fastballs this season, 89.3 and 89.4 mph. He threw his signature slider just once, for a swinging strikeout of . Yet he prevailed.

Here are five keys for Holland.

1. Know what's working

"Usually, I like to have two options, at least -- something to work with there," Holland said. "You usually have a pretty good idea after warmups of the way the ball feels, the way it's spinning, before you start the inning. But it sometimes changes from hitter to hitter. Sometimes I have one pitch, sometimes three or four."

2. Have an outline, not necessarily a plan

"I've seen guys, especially starters, say, 'I want to do this, this, this and finish him that way.'" Holland said. "But with 2-0, the plans are out the window, and you're just trying to throw a strike to get back into the count.

"I have an idea of how I want to attack this guy, how I'm going to finish him and if I get in trouble, what are my best odds if I go with my fastball, I have to throw a fastball and he knows I'm throwing a fastball. You don't want to be married to a way you're going to get a guy out."

3. Read the swing, make them weep at the slider -- if you can

"Sometimes, I have a really good feel and I can manipulate the ball two or three different ways, because there are sometimes guys that hit slower breaking balls worse than harder ones," Holland said. "I typically don't have supreme command to throw two or three different sliders or two or three different split-fingers. But it's nice when I do."

4. Sometimes, it comes down to trusting Gold Glove Award winners like third baseman and right fielder

"It happened in Milwaukee -- Opening Day, Nolan makes a diving play and turns it into a double play," Holland said. "It happened in San Francisco. CarGo makes a diving play. Even then, those were outings where I felt I had pretty good command but sometimes guys just find a way on base. You've just got to trust your defense and let them work as much as you can."

5. Have something special -- like a split-finger (which has not been detected by Statcast™) -- for when you really need it

"I kind of keep it in my back pocket for days I don't have my best stuff or a guy is putting a good at-bat against me or he's seen me two or three times in one week and you kind of want to throw something different at him," Holland said.