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« Can Slider-Stricken McGehee Keep His Job? | Main | Fly Ball-Slanted Lewis Should Like Busch III »
Monday
Oct242011

Holland's Breaking Stuff Key in Series-Tying Masterpiece

The Dutchstache may have saved the Rangers' season last night, tossing 8.1 scoreless innings as Texas tied the World Series at two apiece with a 4-0 victory. Derek Holland gave up just two hits -- both to Lance Berkman -- while striking out seven and walking two. The 25-year-old, an above-slot sign in the 25th round of the '06 draft, had the longest scoreless outing by an AL starter in the Fall Classic since Andy Pettitte blanked Atlanta in 8.1 frames back in 1996.

Holland is known for routinely hitting the mid-to-upper-90s with his fastball, but his breaking pitches were paramount in Game Four. The left-hander threw curveballs and sliders a little more than a third of the time against St. Louis. Just 14 of his 39 breaking balls were in the strike zone (36 percent), but Holland got Cardinals hitters to chase 13 out-of-zone curves and sliders (52 percent of his total out-of-zone breaking balls thrown).

St. Louis didn't really go up to the plate hacking wildly at Holland's breaking balls, though. Instead, the Rangers lefty placed his curves and sliders just off the edge of the zone. The pitches were off the plate, but not by much. Check out the location of the breaking pitches that Cardinals hitters swung at last night:

Location of Holland's curveballs and sliders that St. Louis hitters swung at in Game Four

While Holland only threw 14 of his 39 breaking pitches within the strike zone, 27 of his curves and sliders were labeled as "competitive," meaning they were located within 18 inches of the middle of the zone.

The location of Holland's breaking stuff put the Cardinals in a tough spot last night. The pitches were close enough to the zone that hitters risked having strikes called against them if they chose not to swing. But if they did swing, they didn't figure to have much success. Batters rarely put powerful swings on curves and sliders located in the spots that Holland hit in Game Four:

 League average in-play slugging percentage by location on breaking pitches thrown by left-handed pitchers, 2011

St. Louis went a combined 0-for-8 against Holland's breaking stuff, and Holland registered four of his seven Ks on curves and sliders. Now the world knows there's more to him than velocity and a killer lip tickler.

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