The Colorado Rockies have long been one of the top offensive teams in baseball. That is no different in 2017, as they are fourth in baseball and second in the National League with 176 runs scored.
Nolan Arenado continues to fly under the radar, but is one of the best all-around players in the game. DJ LeMahieu quietly won the National League batting title in 2016. Their outfield of Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and (when he’s healthy) David Dahl is among the best in baseball.
Pitching has been the one thing the Rockies have had difficulty putting together. They have done that so far this year, entering the day with a 23-13 record and a 2.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
The man who is responsible of finishing the job is a big reason why.
The Rockies took a gamble on Greg Holland, signing the two-time all-star to a one year, $7 million deal in January. The Western Carolina product was one of the top relievers in the game just three years ago, when he piled up 46 saves for the American League Champion Kansas City Royals in 2014. He was even better the year before when he closed out 47 games, had a 1.20 ERA and struck out an insane 103 batters in 67 innings.
But Holland was not the same in 2015. He still converted 32 of 37 save opportunities, but his ERA rose to 3.83 and he was not striking out nearly as many batters. It was revealed that September he had been pitching with a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament for about a year, and he underwent Tommy John surgery in October while his teammates went on to win their first World Series championship in 30 years.
Colorado took a gamble on Holland, who had over a year to rehab, and it is evident he is back to his old self.
The Rockies’ pitching staff as a whole has been improved this season thanks to a collection of young, promising arms such as hometown boy Kyle Freeland, Tyler Chatwood, and Antonio Senzatela. They also have Jon Gray on the disabled list and Jeff Hoffman knocking on the door. This group has been excellent at times, but they have held up enough to at least get a lead to their bullpen, which is a much improved area for the ball club.
That bullpen improvement goes beyond Holland for Colorado. Adam Ottavino has 11 holds in 14 games as of May 12 to go with a 2.63 ERA and southpaw Jake McGee has rebounded nicely in his second year with the Rockies. The former Tampa Bay Ray has a 2.19 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a minuscule .140 average over 13 appearances.
One of the primary reasons the Rockies have struggled in the past has been their inability to hold leads at the end of games. Holland has locked down 15 of Colorado’s 23 victories and has yet to blow a save. He leads all of baseball in saves and at this rate, he should once again find himself near the top at the end of the season.
Yes, it is only May. Should the Rockies be in contention this summer, Holland’s knack for recording the last three outs is sure to be a key reason why. His big game experience and presence in a clubhouse filled with young players wouldn’t hurt, either.
No relief pitcher has won an MVP since Dennis Eckersley with the Oakland Athletics in 1992. But take Greg Holland off the Rockies, and chances are they are not one of the best teams in baseball. That’s the definition of Most Valuable Player.