Many times in the past few years I have wanted to reach through the television or jump onto the field and ring Dutch’s neck. The kid has a ton of talent but has failed to consistently show us he could come into his own and settle down. From terrible mustaches to terrible haircuts to Harry Caray and Tim Kurkjian impersonations, the guy is no doubt “entertaining”. But when us Ranger fans enjoy him the most is when he performs ON the field. He has shown flashes in the past. He sat on top of the leader boards along with Cliff Lee in complete games for most of the season two years ago but failed to impress last year despite having the Rangers offense supplying him over 5 runs per game.
This year, something has changed. He has by no means reached his full potential but he is working hard at it. Tuesday night on a cold, miserable, and wet night in Chicago I saw something mirroring a sign of growth and maturity. Derek threw 27 pitches in the first inning but didn’t allow a run. After the 2nd inning (also scoreless), Holland’s pitch count was at 40.
But Holland settled in. At one point Dutch retired nine batters in a row. Overall, he went seven innings while allowing two hits, walking none, and striking out six Cub hitters. Holland was backed with 4 runs of support, matching the total from his previous two starts. (2 run, 15 I.P.) Derek has now gone 7 innings, 8 innings, and 7 innings in his first three starts this year while allowing 17 base runners and striking out 15 batters.
It took Dutch until July 25th to throw a combined 22 innings spread out over three consecutive starts last year. He has already done that this year. Holland went 16-5 in 2011 with a 3.95 ERA and a WAR of 3.6. Derek went 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA and a WAR of 1.7 a year ago. It isn’t impossible to imagine a year where Dutch pitches as good as he did in 2011, if not better. At the very least we could expect a season where his WAR passes 2 and his ERA is in the low 4’s. With the way he has busted out of the gates early in this season, we have been treated to something destined to regress hard. But we may also be watching the maturity of a young and awkward lefty prosper as his results prosper right along with it.
This may be overreaction at the moment. It may be wishful thinking right now. In all honesty, I have NEVER been high on Derek Holland. With that said, I understand the Cliff Lee comparisons, I understand his talent, and I understand you can’t predict baseball.