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Entries in Derek Holland (7)

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.

Monday
Oct102011

Dutch Oven's Fastball Heating Up

In the minors, Derek Holland ascended from a 25th-round draft-and-follow selection to primo prospect on the basis of a fastball that jumped up to the mid-to-high 90s range. That velocity wasn't really present in 2009 and 2010, when the lefty sat at 92-93 mph, and he began 2011 in the same territory. But the man they call Dutch Oven, who takes on the Tigers this afternoon in Game 2 of the ALCS, has gained speed on his heater all season. Holland has responded by becoming one of the most fastball-centric pitchers in the game.

In April, Holland averaged 93 mph with his fastball and used the pitch a little over 56 percent of the time. Since then, both his fastball velocity and usage have progressively ticked upward:

Holland's fastball velocity and usage by month:

May: 93.6 mph,  65.3% pitch usage

June: 93.9 mph, 64.1% pitch usage

July: 94.3 mph, 64.1% pitch usage

August: 94.9 mph, 69.4% pitch usage

September: 94.8 mph, 70.2% pitch usage

With his fastball sitting near 95 over the last two months of the season (highest among AL starters over that time frame), Holland struck out a batter per inning in 59 frames. His fastball was particularly nasty in September, when he got hitters to miss 27 percent of the time that they swung at the pitch (the MLB average is 15-16 percent). Holland also shifted his fastball location late in the season, preferring to challenge hitters in the upper part of the strike zone:

Holland's fastball location, April-August 2011

Holland's fastball location, September 2011

His fastball isn't sitting as high in the zone, but Holland has taken that fastball-heavy approach into the playoffs. He threw the pitch nearly three-quarters of the time in two ALDS appearances vs. the Rays (one start), sitting at 95 mph and maxing out at a little over 98 mph.

The 25-year-old, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, might only be able to grow what can charitably be described as a playoff caterpillar on his upper lip (follow the Dutchstache on Twitter!) But that won't matter a bit as long as the Dutch Oven keeps cooking with gas.

Monday
Apr112011

Derek Holland Pitching on the Edge

Derek Holland pitched well in his first two starts, posting a 2.25 ERA.  He showed better control than in his first two seasons, but more importantly kept the ball in the park, having yet to allow a home run.  So far, the big change for Derek comes from working better on the edges of the plate. The following heat maps show his pitching against right-handed batters, which he sees much more often.

First, notice the location of Derek's fastball compared to his first two years in the majors (click all images for a larger version):

Derek Holland fastball location vs. RHB, 2009-2010 on the left, first two starts of 2011 on the right.Holland is working inside and on the outer half of the plate, instead of right down the middle.  This actually sets up his off-speed pitches well.  He used to leave his changeup over the plate:

Derek Holland change-up location vs. RHB, 2009-2010 on the left, first two starts of 2011 on the right.He still catches the plate with the change, but more toward the outside edge.  Thrown correctly, this pitch should look like his outside fastball, but coming in slower and lower.  The biggest change, however, probably comes from his slider:

Derek Holland slider location vs. RHB, 2009-2010 on the left, first two starts of 2011 on the right.In the past if the batter was caught by the slider, he could take the pitch and probably end up with a ball call. Now, with him hitting the corner, someone who lays off the slider finds himself down a strike.  Since he tends to work this pitch inside, it serves as a nice contrast to his inside fastball.

Holland improved all three pitches by moving them all toward the edges of the plate.  His challenge now is to keep this up for a full season.