Deconstructing Derek Holland.
The first time through the Houston lineup for Derek Holland:
3.0 innings, one hit (a Carlos Lee roller through the
right-side hole) – erased by a subsequent double play, no walks, no
strikeouts. Threw 29 pitches (9.7 per
inning), 17 for strikes. Went to one
three-ball count – his first time to work from the stretch – in the Hunter
Pence at-bat that ended in the 4-6-3 double play.
Holland’s second time through
2.2 innings, one hit (a Michael Bourn infield single), no
walks, four strikeouts – in the span of seven batters, and all swinging. Threw 37 pitches (13.9 per inning), a
******** 29 for strikes (in fact, no balls at all in a seven-pitch fifth). One three-ball count, to pinch-hitter Edwin
Maysonet (his first big league plate appearance of the year and eighth of his
career). Holland got Maysonet to fly out to center but
the eight-pitch at-bat precipitated the quick end to his night.
third time through:
0.0 innings (three hitters), no walks, no strikeouts, 10
pitches, six for strikes. Specifically, following
the Maysonet F-8, the second out of the inning with nobody on base: Bourn bunt
single, Kaz Matsui dribbler single up the middle, Lance Berkman home run on a
3-1 slider that Holland
left up. It might have been the only pitch
he left up without meaning to all night, and it was his final pitch.
We often look at how starters fare in certain innings when
measuring workload and stamina, but among what fascinated me about Holland’s start last night,
and how it was gameplanned with Mike Maddux and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, was how he
performed each time through the Astros lineup, which included no players that had
ever faced him. (Humberto Quintero did a
three-game rehab stint with Corpus Christi last July
but Holland was
still three weeks short of his arrival in Frisco.)
First time through (according to MLB
Five four-seam fastballs to Bourn (93-96). Three four-seamers to Matsui (94-96). Two four-seamers to Berkman (94-96). Three four-seamers to Lee (92-95). Three four-seamers (92-93) and two changeups (84-85)
to Pence. Two four-seamers to Miguel
Tejada (92-94). Three four-seamers to
Jeff Keppinger (93-94). Two four-seamers
to Quintero (93-94). Four four-seamers
to Felipe Paulino (92-93).
Summary: 29 pitches – every one of them a four-seam fastball
with the exception of two changeups to Pence, the one batter he faced with a
Second time through:
Three four-seamers to Bourn (92-94). Two four-seamers (93-94) and a slider (remember,
he didn’t show the breaking ball to the lineup the entire first time through,
according to Gameday) to Matsui, who swung through the slider as it dived down
into the dirt – before tipping the third-pitch fastball (94) that
Saltalamacchia held onto for strike three.
Three four-seamers (93-95) and two sliders (82-83) to Berkman, including
a final slider that the Ranger-killer swung through for strike three as it dipped
low and in. Three four-seamers (93-95)
and a slider (84) to Lee. Two
four-seamers (90-94) and a slider (81) to Pence. A changeup (84) and two four-seamers (94-95) to
Tejada. One four-seamer to Keppinger
(92). Four four-seamers (92-95), two
changeups (83-84), and a slider (84) to Quintero. Seven four-seamers (93-95) and a slider (84)
37 pitches in that sequence included seven sliders, shown to six hitters, all
for the first time. His final three
fastballs to Maysonet, which were pitches 63, 65, and 66 of the night – he hadn’t
thrown more than 58 since his lone AAA effort (81 pitches) on April 13, and before
the 58-pitch effort on May 15 he’d thrown a total of 39 pitches over two weeks – each registered at 95
miles per hour. He threw only three
pitches with more velocity all night, one 96 each to Bourn, Matsui, and Berkman
leading off the first inning, two for balls and one for a strike. The three 95’s he offered Maysonet in the
sixth? All for strikes.
Here’s one thing I love about Holland and his ability – his habit – of getting
better: With Low A Clinton, right-handed hitters were better against him than
lefties, not an unusual split for a southpaw pitcher. With High A Bakersfield, Holland evened out the split. With AA Frisco (which was not a 30-inning
stint as the mainstream media likes to point out, but instead 50 when you
include his untouchable run in last summer’s Texas League playoffs), as his secondary
pitches began to play up more against advanced competition, righties fared
worse against Holland than left-handed hitters.
In the big leagues, opponents are hitting .254/.312/.451 against
Holland. But righties?
An anemic .184/.259/.388.
What we saw last night was more evidence of why, despite the
off-season coronation by Baseball America
and Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein and ESPN’s Keith Law and John Sickels
– all of whom I respect a ton, I had Holland ranked as my number one Rangers
prospect, not Neftali Feliz, who all four others had above Holland and, in two cases,
had as baseball’s number two pitching prospect (behind Tampa Bay’s David
I love Feliz. I love
how he’s bounced back from the first adversity of his pro career (a 5.03 ERA
and some shoulder discomfort after five AAA appearances) to throw two outstanding
starts (two runs on five hits and two walks in 11 innings, with 11 strikeouts
and the best pitches-per-inning results of his season).
But while Holland yields a few miles per hour to Feliz on
the gun, Holland’s secondary offerings, his approach, his ability to field the
position and to hold runners (and hey: to switch-bunt!), and his maturity and
tenacity and savvy on the hill are what separate those two for me, at least
From Maddux: “[Holland]
was on the attack the entire time. His
poise, composure and game plan were outstanding. He faced a very veteran team and didn’t back
down once. He belonged out there and he
let them know that.”
I won’t be surprised at all if Feliz is coming on to face
Vlad Guerrero in the eighth inning on August 7, if not July 6, and I couldn’t
be any more excited about the thought of the 21-year-old and 22-year-old who stand
back-to-back on the cover of the 2009 Bound Edition pitching in Rangers red when
my eight-year-old daughter is their age.
But for now, Derek Holland is the first “statement” manifestation
of this organization’s ascendancy to its position of having baseball’s best collection
of high-end young pitchers, an unprecedented perch as far as this franchise goes.
I can’t wait for Wednesday, as this club’s most exciting
rookie pitcher ever takes his poise and composure and game plan to the mound
against the Yankees in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
P.S. Michael Young is on
crutches, following Saturday morning X-rays to determine whether he just
sprained his right ankle on Quintero’s pickoff attempt from behind the plate in
the first inning, or if the ankle is worse. After injuring the ankle, Young singled in
third and scored from second on an Andruw Jones single to left; singled in the
fifth; singled in the seventh; and lined out to shortstop in the ninth.
P.P.S. Breakout lefthander
Michael Kirkman has been promoted from Bakersfield
(4-1, 2.06, 54/18 k/bb in 48 innings) to Frisco.