Saturday, December 3, 2011

#58 Al Holland

Card: This is Al Holland's third Topps card.  Although he had appeared in the majors as early as 1977, he didn't appear on a Topps card until the '81 set.

Pic: The powerful Holland is getting ready to unleash a pitch towards the plate.  With his goatee, jewelry, and menacing glare he earned the nickname Mr. T after the actor who portrayed characters such as the A-Team's  B.A. Baracus and Clubber Lang in Rocky III.

Player:  Al Holland was signed as a free-agent by the Pirates in 1975 and worked both as a starter and reliever in the minors.  He made his major league debut in September of 1977 pitching 2.1 innings and giving up two runs.  Holland spent all of '78 in AAA struggling as a starter posting a 5.34 ERA.  Still in AAA during the middle of the '79 season, he was swapped midseason to the Giants in a multiplayer deal that brought Bill Madlock to the Pirates.  Holland got a brief look with the Giants at the end of the year pitching in three games in relief with seven scoreless innings.

The 27 year-old Holland made the Giants out of spring training in 1980 and was a valuable member of the bullpen, setting up for closer Greg Minton and getting to close out games himself from time to time.  Holland pitched in 54 games, logged 82.1 innings, recorded seven saves, and finished with a nifty 1.75 ERA.  He finished 7th in Rookie of the Year voting.  Holland was trusted with a heavier workload in '81 with 100 innings during the strike shortened season.  He notched another seven saves and had a 2.47 ERA.  The Giants tried the left-hander as a starter in September and he did well allowing only five runs in three starts.  He started '82 in the rotation and had a 3.76 ERA after seven starts.  A power pitcher who aggressively attacked hitters, Holland's repertoire was better suited for late inning relief work and the Giants moved Holland back to the pen.  He assumed his old set-up role and did well with five saves and a 3.33 ERA in 129 innings.

Before the '83 season commenced Holland and Joe Morgan were traded to the Phillies for Mark Davis, Mike Krukow and a minor leaguer.  In Philly, Holland became the closer and had his best season.  He pitched in 68 games, saving a Phillies record 25 games with a 2.26 ERA.  The Phillies won the NL East and Holland contributed three scoreless innings in two games as the Phillies knocked out the Dodgers.  Against the Orioles in the World Series, Holland added 3.2  scoreless innings in a losing effort.  His excellent year earned him Cy Young consideration (6th) and even some MVP votes (9th).  Holland pushed the Phillies team record for saves to 29 in 1984 but he and the Phillies both faded down the stretch.  He pitched in 68 games but he allowed 14 home runs, lost ten games, and saw his ERA rise to 3.39.

Holland had a 2.90 ERA in 87 innings of combined work at three stops in '85.  Early in the '85 season Holland and a minor leaguer were dealt to the Pirates for veteran Kent Tekulve.  He was traded again in August to the Angels in a six player deal.  In addition to being traded twice Holland testified about his cocaine abuse in the Pittsburgh drug trials.  He was able to get a 60 day suspension reduced to community service.  Holland was a free agent and signed with the Yankees for the '86 season.  Over the next two seasons he was back and forth between New York and AAA Columbus and never was able to regain his old form.  Holland finished his career with 78 saves and a 2.98 ERA in 384 games.

Stuff:  High 90's four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and occasional curve ball.

Flipside:  Holland pitched and played football at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State UniversityListed at 5'11'', 203 lbs, Holland wasn't built like a typical pitcher and played running back on the gridiron.
Oddball: As a batter Holland had only six hits in his career but two of them were triples. 

History:  Holland was the Phillies ace reliever during their pennant winning run in '83.  He twice set the franchise mark for saves in a season (since broken) and was an All-Star in '84.  He pitched in the Senior Professional Baseball Association in '89 and '90.  Holland since has worked as a minor league pitching coach. 

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