Over at FanGraphs, Eno Sarris looks at Derek Holland's bid to crack the Rangers' Opening Day rotation.
Sarris looks in particular at where Holland has room for improvement, and focuses on his fastball:
Coming up through the minor league system, there was talk of Holland having a plus-plus fastball, but so far his linear weights on the pitch have been poor and his velocity has been closer to 92 than the mid-90s he showed.
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It looks like Holland tends to pitch up in the zone, which can lead to more fly balls. Fly balls in Texas are no good.
I think this is the key issue with Holland, an issue that was highlighted by his poor 2009 numbers, despite posting a solid xFIP in 2009.
It is a lot easier to work up in the zone with your fastball when you are throwing 96 mph than when you are throwing 92 mph, and Holland's average fastball velocity in the majors has been 92.4, per FanGraphs. And Holland's problem in the majors has been that, when he doesn't have his good stuff, batters tend to tee off on him and take him deep, as reflected in his above-average career HR/FB ratio.
I don't know what the answer here is, if Holland simply doesn't have the fastball command to overcome the gopher ball tendencies, or if this is something that he'll get better at with time and innings. But it is something to keep an eye on.