Coming into the 2011 season the expectations were fairly high for Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland and most had envisioned he would take another step forward into developing into one of the better young starters in the game.  The twenty-four year old left hander has been among the game’s best pitching prospects for a few seasons and was a sleeper among many analysts for this current season.

On the surface it would appear he isn’t progressing at all with a pedestrian 4.68 ERA and 1.53 WHIP but given his age, lack of major league experience, home ballpark and overall numbers I think Derek Holland is coming along rather nicely.  I decided to compare Holland to another young and promising (if not already established) left handed starter in David Price. 

Price is one year older than Holland so I thought it prudent to compare Holland’s current 2011 season to Price’s 2010 season, his first full season and breakout year to see how they stack up.  Price has seemingly had better overall stats than his peripherals would suggest and does pitch in a relative pitcher’s park while Holland has never quite seemed to pitch the way his secondary stats would seem to project.

Although the 2011 season is still rather young and only gives us a small sample size to use for Derek Holland it is still rather interesting to see some of the similarities between both the two south paws.

  ERA xFIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP GB% HR/FB
10-Price 2.72 3.83 8.11 3.41 0.65 .270 43.7 6.5
11-Holland 4.68 3.65 7.24 3.32 0.91 .346 46.4 10.5

 As you can see, very similar numbers overall.  David Price has benefited from a very strong Tampa Bay defensive unit and has also seemed to get rather fortunate with balls in play compared to Holland so far this season.  Overall Derek Holland has pitched quite a bit better than his 4.68 ERA would suggest and actually has a lower mark than David Price’s 2010 season.   

Let’s see how they like to attack hitters.

10-Price FB – 74% (94.6) CB – 15.6% (77.5) CH – 5.5% (84.2) SL – 4.9% (86.5)
11-Holland FB – 60% (93.3) SL – 15.9% (82.8) CH – 15.4 (85.3) CB – 8.6% (75.6)

 Velocity is relatively the same across the board but as you can see Price throws his fastball harder and more often and doesn’t rely much on his secondary offerings, at least not compared to Derek Holland.  I find this odd given Holland can clearly dial up the fastball when he needs to, perhaps the control and command of this pitch isn’t where he needs it to be.

  O-Swing Z-Swing Swing O-Contact Z-Contact Contact SwStrike
10-Price 31.1 66.9 48.5 68.6 84.6 79.3 9.8
11-Holland 28.9 64.9 45.8 68.2 89.4 82.3 8.0

 Again, pretty similar numbers across the board in terms of contact and swing rates.  Price’s stuff is clearly superior at this point as he seems to be able to limit contact, get hitters to fish out of the zone and swing through his offerings better than Holland at similar stages in their careers.  David Price in 2010 was a lot more experienced as a starting pitcher at the major league level than Holland is this year so with a little more seasoning and experience Holland could seemingly take another step forward overall.

David Price has taken a big step forward by commanding his fastball this season and has lowered his BB/9 to a remarkable 1.53.  His fastball hasn’t lost an inch and has been worth a cool 1.27 runs per 100 pitches thrown thus far in 2011 and has continued to be a real catalyst for his increased success thus far. 

He has basically abandoned the slider he threw earlier in his career and curveball from last season for increased fastballs and change-ups with the latter being thrown a career high 10%.  Both pitches show huge dominance when thrown and it seems David Price has gotten himself into a groove and has found his niche on the mound.

David Price has three of his four pitches with positive run values per 100 pitches with only the slider (which he has reduced his dependency on) showing a negative value.  Derek Holland has thrown slightly more curveballs and changeups when compared to last season but a lot of that might have to do with being in the rotation full time this year and needing the extra weapons.

For his career only Holland’s slider and curveball show (slight) positive run values while the oft-used changeup just hasn’t been an effective pitch for him thus far in his young career with a negative 1.83 runs per 100 pitches.  The changeup is probably one of the tougher pitches for a young hurler to properly develop a feel for or maybe Holland struggles enough his fastball velocity pitch to pitch that hitters don’t full respect his heater.

When I watch Derek Holland pitch he can often touch 95/96 MPH in an at-bat but will also dip down below that.  Whether he is mixing in more two-seam fastballs I am not sure but it could be a case of a tall lanky kid struggling with his mechanics and delivery.  He needs to be throwing his fastball with confidence and he needs to be throwing it harder.

Derek Holland will likely never have the relatively repeatable and smooth delivery of a David Price but I think maintaining or increasing his fastball velocity will go a long way to lessening his dependence on and likely increasing the effectiveness of his lackluster (to this point) secondary offerings.  Getting a little better defense and luck with balls in play might also help.

Any way you look at it Derek Holland is still a pitcher with a bright future ahead of him.

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