Derek Holland is a sight for sore eyes.
For the third time in as many appearances, Derek has gone seven innings, with each start displaying an eerily similar stat line:
9/2 vs. KC: 7.0 IP/6 hits/1 run/6 Ks/0 BBs
9/7 vs. SEA: 7.0 IP/6 hits/0 runs/5 Ks/0 BBs
9/12 vs ATL: 7.0 IP/8 hits/1 run/6 Ks/0 BBs
He's surrendered just 2 runs on 20 hits in 21.0 innings of work, with an outstanding 17:0 K/BB ratio. In three starts, Holland (+0.9 fWAR) has leapfrogged every arm on the Rangers staff not named Yu Darvish (+4.2) or Colby Lewis (+1.7) when it comes to Wins Above Replacement, which is both a testament to how brilliant he has been and an indictment on how many inept arms Texas have had on its roster in 2014. (Joakim Soria generated +1.7 fWAR in 2014 -- tied with Cobra for 2nd on the club -- and he hasn't thrown a pitch since mid-July.)
Perhaps more important than anything, though, is that Derek Holland is evidence that in spite of everything else that has gone wrong this season, moving forward the Rangers are not faced with impending doom. These are the types of starts talented major league starting pitchers are capable of. With Holland and Yu Darvish manning the front of a rotation, we're going to like our chances of winning that particular baseball game more often than not. As we glance ahead to 2015, the goal will be to figure out which starters constitute the remaining 60% of the workload.
Colby Lewis, for instance, has grown stronger as the season has worn on. In his last 9 starts he's held his own with a 3.75 ERA, but more impressively he's made it through 6.0 innings in 8 of them. With a 43:12 K/UIBB ratio in 62.1 IP, to boot, Lewis appears more and more likely to receive some sort of one-year contract from the Rangers following the season. Probably in the same $2 million range he collected from the Rangers before 2014.
Since Martín Perez likely won't be ready to return from Tommy John surgery until around the All Star Break next year (and even if he does return, not much should be expected from him), righty Nick Tepesch would seem another obvious candidate to eat up innings. Nick's 2014 hasn't been anywhere near as encouraging as his rookie year in '13, as his putrid 10.8% strikeout rate (compared to 18.7% in '13) has severely regressed, and his 7.8% walk rate (compared to 6.6% in '13) has taken a step back as well. His earned run average (4.47) is marginally improved -- it was 4.87 last year -- but strictly by looking at his peripherals, he has not been the same pitcher in 2014, and it's tough to bank on fringy 5th starters of his ilk.
This winter's free agent class is strong, which is basically to say it's strong at the top. Max Scherzer is a true top-of-the-rotation starter, and Jon Lester and James Shields easily qualify as sharp #2 options. If the Rangers were to add one of those three to team up with Darvish and Holland, it would matter a lot less which other two guys fill out the starting five.
I probably shouldn't be worried about 2015 quite yet, but since 2014 has been so abysmal on so many fronts, I'm not really sure what else I'm supposed to be thinking about.
What I know is, Derek Holland is really good. As Rangers fans, we have a helluva lot to look forward to.