Could this be his break out year? Early signs point to yes.
At 26 years of age with 4 years in the Major Leagues behind him, Derek Holland should be entering his prime, and he might be. However, in the seasons prior he has definitely not been trending in that direction. Posting a 4.67 ERA last year, and a career best 3.95 ERA in 2011, he has never been great, so why should this year be different? Early signs are positive, he has a 4-2 record, a sub 3 ERA (sounds better than 2.97), and 64 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. That last statistic could be the most telling since it could suggest an actual change in pitching style rather than results. When ERA goes down without a cause, it is often safe to assume that it will go back up and even out with career expectations, but Derek Holland is striking people out at a career best rate of 8.6 k/9. He is also only giving up 2.3 walks per 9 innings and the two statistics combine for a career best 3.8 strikeouts per walk. As we all know, if you can't get on base, you can't score.
A rate statistic of hits and walks over innings pitched that I'm sure everyone is familiar with is whip. I bring this up because, despite fluctuations in ERA, Derek's whip has gone down every year that he has been in the MLB. This really shows that He is just getting better and better at getting outs, so why are so many runs still scoring? The answer is homeruns. View this chart:
This shows statistics from 2009-2013, top down. His yearly ERA in that time was as follows: 6.12, 4.08, 3.95, 4.67, 2.97(present). Every statistic shown on the chart has trended in the right direction over the course of the last 5 years. That is, all except one. Homeruns/9 have fluctuated and corresponded directly with Holland's ERA. Every year, the direction of the change in the number of homeruns Holland lets up is the same direction his ERA goes. However, with an excellent .5 HR/9, and only 6 % of fly balls leaving the yard (down from 15% in 2012), Holland has started this year in career best fashion.
Holland sporting some questionable facial hair.