Any time a young arm is brought up to the majors for a relief role and immediately excels, there exists a hint of reservation. He could dominate for months at the big league level, until opposing teams build a proper scouting report, grow familiar with his arsenal, and expose its weaknesses. There’s also the concern of workload, and if a reliever will begin to lose life on their fastball after logging more innings than they did in their entire minor league career.
These concerns began to surface with Jonathan Holder around the trade deadline, and really came to a head in Boston, when he recorded one of the worst relief outings in recent history in the 15-7 loss. As Holder’s ERA ballooned from 1.76 to 3.65 in a matter of 10 days, fears of regression were prevalent. Fortunately, Holder has bounced back and temporarily quieted those concerns, showing the Yankees that he has staying power in the bullpen.
Since the Boston series, Holder has thrown 7.2 shutout innings in six appearances, allowing just two hits while striking out 11. His stuff is still there, as his K/9 this month is his highest of the season (10.80). An issue for Holder this month has been his control, as his walk percentage in August is almost double the previous high-water mark of the season. Still, he hasn’t issued a walk in his last three appearances, so that can be another trend that is leveling off as Holder works his way back to his early season form.
Holder’s rough patch was of course inflated by one historically poor outing, and also possibly by some tough baseball luck, as his BABIP this month is .417. Again, that is another number likely skewed due to the damage inflicted by the Red Sox. But it’s also worth noting that his hard contact percentage this month is 28 percent, the second lowest showing of the season. His fly ball percentage is also the lowest mark of his 2018 campaign, so there are encouraging trends that suggest Holder is back on track, and still improving.
We’ve seen electric young arms struggle after a while to maintain their efficiency, such as Chad Green this season. Like Green, Holder is figuring things out as he goes along, and it looks like his hiccup at the beginning of the month was a speed bump, and not the end of the road.