Against Oakland Tuesday night, Derek Holland was seemingly improved from his nightmarish start against the Mariners, allowing only three runs through five and a third innings. It prompted Dave Barnett and Tom Grieve to make repeated statements to the tune of "he was just good enough."
Really, though, Holland was very bad again, partly due to a loss in velocity. His fastball never even touched 94 miles per hour, and averaged just over 91. Fortunately, we may have an explanation. After he was pulled, there seemed to be concern over his condition in the dugout. Jeff Wilson confirms the lefty is battling a stomach virus that has caused him to lose 15 pounds in two weeks. That's troubling for the very short term, but it should be quite a bit of relief for Rangers fans. It's better to know there was a good reason for his struggles, and not a potentially long-term reason.
If it's been going on for a couple of weeks, it could also explain his start against Seattle.
Tuesday, Holland was lucky to have had a few well-hit balls just happen to find Texas outfielders. He was lucky to have his defense bail him out a couple of times. He was also lucky to be playing in a cavernous ballpark, against (by far) the American League's worst offense. Without any of that fortune, a performance with just as many walks and home runs as strikeouts, and nearly a quarter of his balls in play registering as line drives, would normally have resulted in way more than three runs allowed, and probably not even reaching the sixth inning
If you want more than just a guess, his Fielding Independent Pitching ERA -- based on the three outcomes he controls -- was a staggering 8.28. it gets even worse if you add in the quality of contact the A's made against him, giving him a tERA of 9.73. That's probably still good enough for Texas to win last night, but it would have been close.
To be fair to Holland on the home runs, though, one of them was from super-powerful Yoenis Cespedes on a curve ball inside and five inches below the strikezone. No one makes contact with that, it's hard to fault a guy for giving up a home run on it.
Especially if he's sick.