Royals "time-share" can work
April, 12, 2013
By Eric Karabell | ESPN.com
It's not terribly uncommon for a big league team to provide three different pitchers with enough save opportunities to reach double digits, even though it hasn't occurred since the 2005 Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves. The current Kansas City Royals have the opportunity to do precisely that, as their loaded bullpen features several hard-throwing right-handers, and while manager Ned Yost will likely settle on one man to handle ninth-inning duties and ultimately please fantasy owners, he really doesn't need to.
Fantasy owners can't stop asking about Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and even Aaron Crow in their never-ending, fanatical search for every last save, and I get it. I want to know, too. In the case of the Royals, I still think Holland, last year's closer, is Yost's first choice, but he's well aware how fortunate he is to have exceptional depth, and he's using it. While two teams enter Friday without any saves at all (New York Mets, Miami Marlins) and a third really awful team doesn't count since it was a starter throwing long relief for its save (Erik Bedard, Houston Astros), those three Royals each have recorded saves this week!
I'll stop short of giving full credit to Yost, as circumstances have dictated some of this, but here's the deal: Holland has struggled a bit, blowing a save last weekend in Philadelphia, starting to blow one the next afternoon, and that's when Herrera was brought in. But the next day, on Monday, with Holland and Herrera unavailable due to workload, Crow was summoned. Holland handled Tuesday's chance, and then on Wednesday when he needed a rest, Herrera struck out the side. Lost in this save extravaganza is the positivity that the Royals are winning quite a bit, necessitating such out-of-the-box thinking. Even unintended, it's smart, too.
Holland's velocity woes aren't uncommon, as everyone and their mailman seem to be throwing slower than they did in 2012, and Yost continues to proclaim him the guy. But he's probably not a guy on his way to more than 30 saves, because Yost doesn't need him to be. This isn't really 1980s baseball, because none of the Royals relievers will approach 100 innings, but sharing is good. Since saves became an official statistic in 1969, 16 teams have produced a trio of double-digit save guys in a season. The 1980 Houston Astros, with all three fellows yielding a sub-3.00 ERA, did it; the 1999 Boston Red Sox, with Tim Wakefield and Tom Gordon posting ERAs above 5.00, did it. And the Chicago White Sox did this in 2002 and 2003, with five different relievers saving 10 or more games, which is really unusual. Yost has the luxury of using any of his big three -- and perhaps lefty Tim Collins if the situation dictates -- because they're all good pitchers, but will he?
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsGreg Holland is off to a slow start, with a 12.00 ERA and 3.67 WHIP in four appearances this season.
There are so many annoying closer situations in the game now, but with the Royals, this has a chance to change opinions if it continues, and it works. Managers still rely on the singular-closer mindset, even if it's a lesser pitcher doing the closing. I believe Herrera has top-5 closer upside if he was "the guy," and perhaps he will be, but whether he's superior to Holland is irrelevant to Yost's dilemma. Just look at the Los Angeles Dodgers for proof.
Fantasy owners should add and activate both Holland and Herrera, though, for even if one of them ends up closing regularly, the other should remain effective. I still think Crow is least likely to save 10 games, but it's feasible. Look at other messy bullpens, and the loser of the closer role probably isn't very good, and you wouldn't want him. I don't want to own any of the active Detroit Tigers or Houston Astros relievers, for example. Phil Coke isn't a good pitcher, not like Holland, Herrera and Crow. Jose Veras might save 20 games, but you don't think he'll be effective, do you? Last season, each member of the Royals trio succeeded, as did Collins, and each was better than the actual closer for a few months, the overrated Jonathan Broxton.
To be honest, and I see cool colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft and I are of a similar mindset here, I'd rather own Holland and Herrera, even if neither saves 20 games, at this point over any relievers on the Astros, Tigers, Marlins, Cardinals, Mets or Cubs. Yep, that includes Bobby Parnell and Kyuji Fujikawa, though I'd change my mind if Frank Francisco and Carlos Marmol become officially out of the picture, which just isn't truly the case. I want to run with Trevor Rosenthal in St. Louis, but I think Mitchell Boggs is the closer. Eventually I think Jose Valverde will get saves, too. But today, don't fret if Holland -- or Herrera -- doesn't get every last save, because in fantasy sometimes it's not about getting every last save.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesJoel Hanrahan has allowed three homers in his past two appearances.