Through four starts with the White Sox, Derek Holland’s fastball has sat right around 93 mph. There’s nothing wrong with that. Ninety-three miles per hour is a perfectly acceptable velocity to throw in the big leagues. What’s a little curious is where Holland is throwing with that type of velocity (and the rest of his arsenal, for that matter) and the effectiveness he’s found while doing it.
Holland, a left-hander, is trying to bounce back from various injuries in his age-30 season. He’s completed six innings in three of four starts so far this season. His ERA is a sparkling 1.99. (Though it would have been higher had MLB not gone back and ruled Jose Abreu committed an error April 17th against the Yankees. That miscue took five runs off Holland’s sheet.) His K/9 are up at 7.5. His BB/9 (3.6) are up a bit, too.
Holland is working inside to right handers. Repeatedly. Without pause. Often. All the time. That’s the game plan he’s developed. That’s the game plan he’s stuck with. For the most part, it’s worked.
Holland isn’t just throwing the fastball in to righties, either. At 93 it’d be dangerous to work in with just one pitch–especially when that pitch, if it leaks over to the middle of the plate, becomes much more hittable. He’s throwing his slider, curve and change in on the right hander, as well.
In his first start of the year against the Twins, when he hit his spots more often than not, he punched out five over six innings. In his latest start against the Indians, when he hit his spots and got some calls from home plate umpire Dan Belino, he punched out six over six. That April 17th start against the Yankees, when he missed his spots and wasn’t getting a call here or there, he gave up seven runs, albeit two of them earned.
It’s a high-risk, high-reward type approach that takes conviction and repetition to pull off. If Holland’s command stays where it is, it looks like he’ll be able to pull of this hybrid mix of crafty lefty (throwing everything but the kitchen sink) and working inside. If he excels at it and his velocity stays at the workable 93 mph range, it might be fair to wonder if another team would ask the White Sox about trading the courageous left-hander.