While watching the Texas Rangers play the Toronto Blue Jays this evening, I got excited when starter Matt Harrison struggled because I knew that the beginning of the Derek Holland era was near. Sure enough, Harrison exited the game after the fourth inning, and Holland entered shortly thereafter. I charted Holland's pitches during this outing -- his first in the big leagues.
Though projected as a starter, Holland has begun his big league career as a reliever. He came into the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with two out and the bases loaded to face Adam Lind.
Holland's a power pitcher who works off his fastball. He showed plus velocity and command in this outing. His first MLB pitch was a 94 mph called strike on the outside black. His fastball ranged from 91-96 mph but averaged 94 mph. Holland threw 36 fastballs, 25 of them for strikes (69.4%). The pitch doesn't have much movement on it -- there is a slight tailing action and a couple pitches had some sink -- but generally he relies on his velocity to get hitters out. He broke a couple of bats and only two of his fastballs were hit with any kind of authority.
Holland's slider sat 83-85 mph with late, two-plane break. He used it sparingly, only throwing five but four went for strikes and the fifth was clearly a botched call by the home plate ump. Aaron Hill nearly fell down as he struck out on a Holland slider. The pitch looks very tough on left handers, with good sweeping movement.
There was one pitch that I could not identify, an 89 mph offering that missed outside. The pitch could either have been a changeup with poor location or a fastball that slipped out of his hand.
Holland went 2.1 innings, allowing three hits, no runs, no walks, and striking out two. He threw a total of 42 pitches, 29 of them for strikes (69.0%).
Holland looks a bit like a left handed Tim Lincecum, with a backbend in his delivery and strong leg drive. He has a very simple, free and easy arm action, which allows him to get the ball up to the driveline very early in his delivery. Holland is a good athlete who repeats his delivery quite well. At just 22 years of age, he showed great poise, as he made his debut in a difficult situation and pitched his team out of a jam. Holland showed the potential for two plus pitches as well as the ability to pound the zone. Though there is sure to be a few growing pains along the way, Derek Holland may already be the Rangers' best pitcher.
Lincoln Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.