No One Should Have Expected Anything More From Derek Holland Than What They Got

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White Sox release Holland and no one should be surprised.
Brian Davidson/Getty Images North America

I don’t want to kick a man while he’s down but Derek Holland’s dismissal was long overdue. Whether or not you even agree with signing him in the offseason falls along institutional fault lines on what you expect from a pitcher. Some teams look for extreme value from free-agent hurlers and others are simply looking for a mop to soak up innings.

It was no secret back in December that the White Sox were chucking their season into the crevice and dumpster diving for bargains. Holland was coming off two injury-riddled seasons and looking for a fresh start. Other teams offered Holland a contract, but by his own admission, he turned down better deals to work with Don Cooper.

Sadly, Holland is immune to Cooper’s magical potion. All appeared well early in the season. Holland logged a 2.17 and 2.56 earned run average in April and May respectively, but June hit and the wheels came off. The southpaw posted a 9.55 ERA in June and the boat kept taking on water as the season rolled along. By the end of August, Holland had not managed to pull his ERA under nine and it only worsened in September.

In fact, the only positive that can be taken away from Holland’s abbreviated tenure with the White Sox is that he remained healthy enough to pitch every fifth day. He made 26 starts and threw 135 innings before he was waived on Tuesday and Holland has not reached those totals since 2013.

Holland’s failure to attract suitors at the trade deadline is no surprise or mystery. There wasn’t much else to expect from him since 2011 but a slackening fastball and sinker that stayed afloat. Opponents feasted on Holland’s sinker with a .377 batting average and .594 slugging percentage. But let’s face it, most batters feasted on Holland’s entire menu of pitches.

Shortly after the southpaw signed with the White Sox, I wrote a searing column on the foolishness of signing Holland. I admit that the tone may have been a little overzealous but I stick by my original premise and the season verified my suspicions.

Holland’s fastball has lost a step over the last few seasons and so has everything else. Was it worth a shot to see if he could tap the fountain of youth again? Perhaps, but if White Sox fans expected a Scott Feldman type trade the White Sox could have signed Scott Feldman instead of the Dutch Oven. The Cubs former lottery ticket is a few years older than Holland but he was almost $4 million cheaper and has produced a much better season.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball ignored Doug Fister and after a foray into the minors with the Angels, he opted out of his contract and swapped coasts joining the Red Sox — and he hasn’t been a disappointment.

There was a gaggle of other pitchers White Sox brass could have pursued and we don’t know for sure whether they did, but in hindsight, it was foolish to ever expect Holland to be a winning lottery ticket. He was merely the frayed end of a heavy mop.

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Matt Enuco
White Sox Insider & former minor league ballplayer | Fan of bunting | Swing hard in case you hit it | Launch angle is silly | Penn G'12