Greg Holland made his debut for the Cardinals walking 4 over 1/3 of an inning eventually earning the loss. The Cardinals signed Holland for the pressure situations during the season but to expect him to come in and make an impact right away is unfair to him and unfair to the fanbase. The Cardinals have an answer for the closing role but Mike Matheny for some reason wants to fight it and force Greg Holland into the role. That answer is former Cardinal killer Bud Norris.
Bud Norris converted to the bullpen full time last year while with the Los Angeles Angels. Norris began the season as the Angels closer and found some immediate success. Norris’s 2017 strikeouts per nine spiked dramatically, going from just under eight to well above ten strikeouts per nine innings, mostly due to his developing cutter. Before suffering knee problems Norris was very comparable to Holland in nearly every statistic according to fangraphs.
While Norris was finding his niche in the bullpen Greg Holland was also finding success as closer for the Colorado Rockies. But similarly to Norris an injury caused second half trouble for Holland. While Holland finished the 2017 season tied with Kenley Janson for the most saves in the National League there was still some issues with arm fatigue. Holland throughout the year was showing signs of velocity loss in his fast ball which scared off many potential suitors during the offseason. Cardinals management signed Holland to a 1 year $14million contract because they felt they saw a need that would put them over the top in the NL Central, but they cannot force Holland into the role with a couple of Palm Beach appearances. Holland needs time to get comfortable both on the mound and with his new team. That does not mean that Cardinals have to lose. Use Holland in situations that are stressful but do not set him up to fail until he is at full strength.
Bud Norris has been great over the first two weeks of the season getting a hold and a save in two of the four Cardinal wins. He has shown the ability to handle high leverage situations early and has a veteran presence on the mound. I understand that Greg Holland is the closer the fanbase wants and he will eventually be the guy they want, but he needs time to work on his mechanics. He is not a fireball closer like Aroldis Chapman or Wade Davis. Holland’s game is about movement and location similar to an aging Mariano Rivera.
The signing of Holland made sense on multiple levels for the Redbirds but again this has turned into a case of Mike Matheny making a bad decision with the bullpen. Relievers live a life of ups and downs, confidence is a huge part of the game. Putting Holland in a tough situation to start the year is the exact situation that needs to be avoided. Ease him into the role early in the season. I am not saying he should get special treatment but his ego had to take a pretty big shot taking this long to sign with a team. Matheny and new pitching coach Mike Maddux have a tough task ahead of them trying to fit new bullpen pieces into the puzzle. They have to let the new arms develop their role.
Bud Norris isn’t a flashy name he probably isn’t even the guy for the job in the long run, but right now with a bullpen of uncertainty he is the only one that has been certain. The Cardinals have a team ready to win right now and he gives them the best chance to finish off games. Don’t look at this as a game with defined roles based off of projections. Look at the guy that right now gives you the best chance to win. His name is Devin “Bud” Norris.