By the time Rangers starter Derek Holland's contract extension is through, he might even be able to grow a full-blown 'stache. The 25-year-old lefty agreed to terms on a five-year, $28 million deal with club options for 2017 ($11 million) and 2018 ($11.5 million). Holland's pact is pretty similar to the extensions signed by Yovani Gallardo, Ricky Romero, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Trevor Cahill in recent years.
Holland is coming off a successful first full season in the big league rotation, posting a 113 ERA+ in 198 innings with 7.4 K/9, 3 BB/9 and 1 HR/9. He showed plenty of zip on his fastball and a solid slider, but to emerge as an ace and better handle right-handed hitters, Holland must fine-tune his curveball and changeup.
After sitting around 92 mph the previous two years, Holland gained fastball velocity throughout the 2011 season (going from 93 mph in April to 94.8 mph in September) and averaged 94.1 mph overall. Tampa's David Price was the only lefty to do a better job of lighting up the gun. Holland's heat had a healthy miss rate (17%, compared to the 14-15% average for starters), and few hitters made forceful contact when they did connect. Here's his in-play slugging percentage with the fastball in 2011, and then the league average:
Batters slugged just .362 versus Holland's fastball, placing him between Justin Verlander and Price in the top 10 among AL starters. Lefties had a harder time against Holland's fastball (.290 slugging) than righties (.390), but that righty slugging percentage was still well below the .424 overall average for starters this past year.
Holland's low-80's slider got plenty of misses (36%, versus the 29% average for starters), but the pitch was much more effective against fellow left-handers (.273 slugging percentage) than righties (.388 slugging percentage, above the .353 overall average for starters in 2011). That's not unusual -- sliders typically have a big platoon split. Lefty pitchers held lefties to a .285 slugging percentage on sliders in 2011, but a righties managed a .353 slugging percentage.
Curveballs and changeups are pitches that tend to be more effective against opposite-handed hitters than sliders, but that wasn't the case for Holland. Righties crushed Holland's curve (.582 slugging percentage), particularly on pitches that hugged the corners of the strike zone:
Against the changeup, batters blasted pitches that Holland left down the middle while slugging .490 overall:
By virtue of his fastball, Holland is already a quality starter with room for growth. But with his best secondary offering being a slider with a big platoon split and opposite-handers teeing off on his curve and changeup, Holland fared much better versus lefties (.235/.284/.316) than righties (.272/.339/.426). The Dutchstache is a quality curveball or changeup away from dominating.