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The Cardinals should cut Greg Holland

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It is not worth the risk to see if Holland will eventually turn it around.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it’ll get better, I tell myself. It’s been a few years since this show was one of the best on television. It showed glimmers of what it use to be in its most recent season, but it didn’t exactly end its season well. But this is the final season. Am I really going to cut bait on this show when I’ve invested so much into it already? I only have to commit to a year.

So I watch the premiere episode of its final season and it’s not very good. Things are bleak. It looks like this show won’t get better. I mean to watch the second episode, but I just can’t bring myself to do it and I let the episodes load on my DVR. I’ll watch it eventually. But then I get spoiled on the final episode and learn that Dexter becomes a lumberjack.

Greg Holland is already a lumberjack in this analogy. At the risk of saying something that’s just asking for trouble, Greg Holland literally cannot be worse than this. He has faced 60 batters so far this year and allowed 25 of them to get on base. He has a .289 BABIP against him, which means that he has managed this feat not because he’s been unlucky, but because he’s really been that bad.

He has walked 21.7% of the batters he’s faced and given that he has faced 5.1 batters per inning, that means he’s walked a guy for every inning he’s pitched. His 10.08 BB/9 ranks 2nd worst in Cardinals history among relief pitchers with at least 10 IP. That’s going back to the 19th century. He also ranks poorly by FIP and xFIP. FIP means Fielding Independent Pitching, which sets out to grade a pitcher using only strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed and scales it so that FIP looks like ERA. HR/FB% means how many home runs a pitcher has given up for every flyball hit against him. xFIP tells you what his FIP would be if he had given up homers with a league average HR/FB%.

Since 2002 - which is the first year xFIP is available on Fangraphs - Greg Holland’s 6.24 FIP ranks 17th worst among relievers with at least 10 IP - right in between Jeff Fassero’s 2003 and Josh Kinney’s 2009. His xFIP on the other hand ranks dead last. Holland’s performance last night pushed his xFIP up to 7.37, which pushed him above Mike Crudale’s 2003 for dead last among Cards relievers since 2002. (The 2003 bullpen was hilariously bad - The worst offenders Fassero, Crudale, Esteban Yan, Dustin Hermanson, Lance Painter, and Russ Springer threw a combined 168 innings in the bullpen that year and all are in the top 30 for worst FIP in a single season among Cards players since 2002)

Okay so I probably didn’t need to write a post telling you Greg Holland has been awful. I don’t think I’ll ever write something on this site that is less controversial. Even Holland’s parents are like “I was always taught not to say anything if I can’t say anything nice at all” about his pitching this year.

It’s pretty obvious that the Cardinals rushed Holland to the majors before he was ready, and worse it’s already affected the Cardinals negatively. In order to add Holland to the 40 man roster, they needed to put Alex Reyes on the 60 Day DL. Given that Reyes just struck out 12 in 5 IP in a rehab start, he appears ready for the MLB now, but can’t get activated for another 11 days. Instead of possibly two extra Alex Reyes starts, we get presumably two John Gant starts. Nothing against Gant, but he’s not Alex Reyes.

Now, the Cards needed to add him to the roster because it was a stipulation of the contract, but nonetheless it’s looking like they should have shook his hand and wished him luck elsewhere if he didn’t want to stay in the minors longer. Jake Arrieta signed with the Phillies on March 11 and didn’t start his first MLB game until April 8. Holland signed with the Cards on March 31st and was up in the majors by April 9.

The Cardinals can show Holland his results and ask him to accept an optional assignment to the minors, but that’s probably not going to happen. Holland, much like every MLB player, probably thinks he’s too good for the minors and won’t accept an assignment. Yes I’ve been bad, but I’m this close to turning it around. Doesn’t matter if it’s true. You pretty much have to think that way to be an MLB player.

It’s not the most ideal scenario, but the Cards could keep letting him try to figure it out on the roster, but only pitch him in low leverage situations until he starts stringing together like a solid month of dominance. But obviously, Matheny would give him a chance at high leverage innings much, much sooner than that. He did in fact. Holland hasn’t been good this year, but whatever he’s done so far apparently earned him the 8th inning slot when the Cards are leading.

With the disclaimer that extra inning shenanigans and a tired bullpen undoubtedly contributed to the following to a certain extent, Holland has been used as the setup man in his past five appearances. He appeared in the 8th inning of 6-6 game against the Cubs on May 5. He walked a guy and didn’t strike anyone out. That’s a bad inning. He appeared in a 2-2 tied game in the top of the 9th the very next day and he actually pitched well this day. 2 groundouts and a strikeout in a scoreless inning.

Four days later, he pitched the 8th inning of a 2-1 game. He walked a guy and didn’t strike anyone out. He also pitched the 8th inning of a 1-1 game two days later, that resulted in a strikeout-less appearance with a walk. These four appearances followed two poor appearances against the Pirates, an appearance in a game the Cards eventually lost 5-0, and an appearance where he failed to record an out in his first save attempt with Bud Norris available. Matheny will keep trying to get him to be the setup man or the closer until the day you take the option away completely.

You might argue that yesterday’s appearance was low leverage and it was, but I’m not sure Matheny believes that. It was a 7-3 game and he typically will use his setup man in that scenario instead of a weaker pitcher. The Cardinals are winning and it’s not quite a blowout so you use the setup man in the 8th inning. Obviously, he ended up recording just one out, while walking two and giving up two hits.

In his last 5 appearances, Holland has now walked 5 batters and struck out one. He shouldn’t be anywhere near the 8th inning in a high leverage game for the foreseeable future and yet he’ll be back in that spot if he shows any semblance of competency. You and I probably see 5 BBs and a K in his last 5 appearances. He probably sees four scoreless appearances and one bad game. I wouldn’t really be surprised if he pitches the 8th inning of the next close game when he’s available (as he’s surely not available tonight against the Phillies)

Remember Mitchell Boggs? Boggs had pitched 14.2 IP through May 30 with a 10.54 ERA. He had 14 BBs to 11 strikeouts. He had a 6.59 FIP and a 5.85 xFIP. He had given up a run in his latest appearance with 2 BBs, 0 Ks, and an ER in a 4-3 game the Cards were losing. In a game started by Michael Wacha with a long rain delay, Boggs came out for the save of a 2-1 game. Boggs gave up a homer and a walk. He didn’t record an out. Boggs was sent to the minors where he pitched 23 uninspiring innings in AAA, got taken off the 40 man and picked up the Rockies for the remainder of the season. He literally needed to be taken off the team in order for Matheny to stop trying to use him as a closer.

Boggs was shockingly bad and had much less of a track record than Holland does. Holland has a history of being an elite reliever. How long until you think Matheny gives up on the idea of Holland as a setup man and eventually a closer? Given that Boggs literally needed to be taken off the roster, I am honestly not sure. Let’s not find out. The Cardinals should cut Greg Holland before he costs the Cardinals another game.