Holland Rings Hollow
Derek Holland enters 2016 in the last guaranteed year of his current contract with the Texas Rangers. An inability to stay healthy, coupled with inconsistency on the field, have marred the last few years for him, and in a way, may have derailed his overall potential. It’s time for the Dutch Oven to put it all behind him, or the Rangers will be putting Derek Holland, behind them.
By now we all know the scouting report on Holland. A mid-nineties sinker, a solid change up, and an above average slider. Put that with the fact that he’s a lefty, and most scouts thought his ceiling was more towards the top of the rotation, than the middle. His first two years in the bigs, showed the potential the scouts had promised, and in 2011 it seemed to be coming together for him. With a solid season, collecting 198 innings and a FIP of 3.94, Derek looked like he was on the way to being the top of the rotation piece we were expecting.
The season culminated with a masterful Game 4 in the 2011 World Series. Two hits in 8.1 innings, Holland kept the Cardinals off balance all night, bewildering the game’s best hitter, Albert Pujols, and knotting the series at two games a piece. Derek Holland had arrived. And the Rangers believed they had a twenty-five year old southpaw to anchor the rotation. Then again, we all believed we had won Game Six.
2012 had the Rangers hungry, and their hopes hanging on Holland to build on his 2011 season. So much, that in the Spring the two parties had agreed to a five-year, $28 Million extension. If Holland was a resemblance of what he was in 2011, this was the ultimate team friendly deal.
Given the expectations, Holland started off 2012, slowly, to say the least. He posted a 4.18 ERA in five games, with a couple of “okay” showings in April. In May, the results worsened as he posted a 4.25 ERA in six starts. Holland admitted he had been battling a stomach virus for a bit, losing fifteen pounds and undoubtedly affecting his performance. Excuse? Maybe, but it was Summer in Texas, and it’s hard enough to pitch here healthy, never mind with any ailment.
It was soon after this admission, and after one start in June, the Dutch Oven began to feel some pain in his shoulder. He was officially moved to the DL for shoulder soreness. All in all he missed six starts, but managed to collect 175 innings total. Though more importantly, his season performance regressed terribly from the previous year. His ERA ballooned to 4.67. His WHiP was a career low, 1.221, a solid improvement and an indicator that some bad luck may have been to blame, but when you give up thirty-two home-runs, (5th highest in MLB), it’s tough to really say. The season was a disappointment, (for the team and Holland), to say the least. And the question was still looming for Derek – was 2011 the best we were going to get from him? Or was 2012 a regression due to just never being 100% healthy?
2013 would be a bounce back year for goofy impersonator. Although the wins failed to accumulate, he posted his lowest full-season era ever at 3.44, gave up only twenty home-runs, and managed a career high with 213 innings. Derek turned 27 that October, and with two, exceptional full seasons in the last three years, it appeared that he had finally established himself as a solid piece in a contending rotation.
The 2014 season was over before it began for Derek. In a bizarre, and still questioned, incident at home, Derek would tear cartilage in his knee and miss the first four and a half months of the 2014 season. He did come back in August, making six starts, and dazzling on the mound with the best string of performances in his career.
The Rangers coming off an injury riddled 2014, started off Spring Training 2015 much the same as they ended the dreadful 2014 as it was announced that rotation anchor and team Ace Yu Darvish would miss the season with Tommy John Surgery. Holland, after his masterful end to 2014, was the easy pick for Opening Day Starter. He got through the first inning with nine pitches, but never topped 89 mph on his fastball.
He never emerged from the dugout for the second inning.
News broke of a shoulder strain, and Holland would not be healthy for most of the season, making only nine more appearances. The team success was a huge surprise in spite of another disappointing lost season from Derek Holland.
For several years now the question for me has always been Holland’s consistency. I never expected numbers much better than his 2011 year, but give me the innings and ability to fight through a start, (ala Colby Lewis), over an improvement in ERA/WHiP that most would look for in a pitcher. To me, Holland has always been susceptible to the meltdown. That one inning where a warrior, (Colby), may give up four runs and fight through six innings, but Holland turns it into six runs, and can’t get out of the second.
The way Holland would throw a complete game, shut-out, and then turn around and not make it out of the first inning next trip out was baffling. In seven seasons, Holland has managed to be healthy for four, and only good for two of those. That body of work alone easily makes my case and that’s without a thought being given to the off-the-field circus that follows him daily.
2016 sits ahead for the now 29-year-old southpaw from Ohio. The team has massive expectations, much different than the last few years. And again the rotation needs Holland. This is the final guaranteed year of his contract (2017/2018 are both team options) and for the Rangers’ sake, I hope he makes it an easy decision to pick up next years option. A solid Derek Holland could make this a Championship team… For me, I’m not counting on Dutch in 2016. My expectations are as hollow as a pair of wooden shoes.