After Derek Holland's start in Houston last week, I wrote: Against the most strikeout-prone lineup in baseball [Houston], Dutch managed a lone punch out, so I don't really know what's going on there but I hope it's nothing more than a little arm fatigue, or something.
Holland followed that performance when, a couple days ago vs. Seattle, he gave up 7 ER on 7 hits -- including a Robinson Cano HR -- walking 5 and striking out 3. It's his 3rd consecutive start that he's allowed at least 5 ER on at least 7 hits while walking at least 2 hitters. That's a lot of at leasts in all the wrong categories. Derek's Game Score of 19 was his worst single game output since May 30th, 2012 when he allowed 8 ER in 1.2 IP, also against against the Mariners. (Seattle went on to win that game 21-8.)
Ostensibly this seems like a foreboding sign for the Rangers, who are targeting their 4th postseason appearance in the last 6 years (and 5th if we count their one-game playoff against Tampa Bay in 2013) and have plans of using Holland as their Game 2 starter in the ALDS.
In his first 4 starts after returning from injury this year, Derek posted a 2.15 ERA (3.41 xFIP) in 29.1 IP (averaging better than 7 IP per start) with a 25/3 K/BB ratio. He looked like the best-case scenario of what we thought we were missing over the last two years, when he was mostly unavailable. However, since then, he's surrendered 17 ER on 26 hits in 17 IP, and has issued as many free passes (9) as he has strikeouts. He turned into left-handed Dave Burba.
We can't mistake what Holland is with what he isn't, and consistent is something he's never truly been. Since he was pitching for the Clinton Lumberkings I've believed in his talent -- and even still I think he's a borderline #2 starter -- though I could be totally blinded by these red and blue goggles I've had a bind with since childhood. I may never know.
What has been proven is Derek's body of work, and in only 866 career innings -- over fragments of 7 seasons -- he has a 4.26 ERA (3.96 xFIP/3.95 SIERA) and has eclipsed 175 IP three times. He's thrown 8 career shutouts and yet has only generated 11.6 fWAR in his career (roughly one Win every 75 IP). I've always fancied him as TORP-caliber, but the overall data simply doesn't support that at this point.
Essentially, like I said in the opening stanza, I don't really know what's going on right now. Has Derek's workload since coming back tired his arm out? Are the peaks and valleys in performance something we should just accept and expect at this point, rather than worrying if another injury is the problem? Are the two mutually exclusive?
Either way, this is a pitcher the Rangers are desperately relying on over its final 13 regular season games. An effective Derek Holland could be the difference in the West -- Texas is currently +2 in the loss column -- and has the ability to take this group to another level in October.