PITCHF/x Scouting Report: Derek Holland

After “sweeping” the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees are on their way to face the Texas Rangers and Derek Holland. As recently as 2009, Holland was ranked #31 by Baseball America’s top 100 prospect. Although he struggled after being called up in 2009, he posted a 1.78 ERA through the PCL in 2010. After being called up in the second half of 2010, the pitcher went on to post a solid 4.02 FIP, followed by a 3.94 FIP last year. Like the rest of the rotation, the 25 year old lefty has been phenomenal through his first 3 starts this year, posting a 3.10 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and only a 5.3 H/9. He’s thrown quality starts against all 3 clubs as well, the White Sox, the Mariners, and the Red Sox. Holland has always had serious top of the rotation potential, and 2012 could be the year that he reaches that potential.

Pitch Repertoire
His pitching arsenal consists of four different pitches. His 94 mph sinker is used a majority of the time, and despite the name, the pitch actually has more rising action than your typical two-seamer, with a big break into left handed hitters. He splits his three breaking pitches up evenly to compliment the sinker. The 85 mph changeup has a nice 9 mph speed differential, a very odd 76 mph curveball that actually looks more like a reverse slider, and an 83 mph slider. His pitch selection overall is 67% sinker, 12% changeup, 11% curveball, and 10% slider.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

The picture above graphs Holland’s release points in 2012 from a catcher’s perspective. The zone from which he throws is very compact, and you can see the majority of the pitches come from 2 feet to the right of the mound and 6 feet above. While he throws the curveball from a higher point and the sinker from a lower point, he does a good job of replicating his 3/4 arm angle. We’ve seen many left handed starters throw from the same arm slot, but many of them will do so closer to the center of the mound, Holland opts to throw far to the right, allowing him to jam lefties. You can see his release point and arm slot on the picture to the right.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

These two graphs plot the break of the different pitches from the release point on the right to homeplate on the left. In the top image, you can see a bird’s eye view of the trajectory. Here we can see how far off the mound Holland releases the pitch and how big of a break into lefties that the sinker and changeup move. The slider also has some break into left handed hitters, but you can barely see the curveball’s very slight break into right handed hitters. In the second graph, you can see a trajectory from the 1st or 3rd base side. Here we see how the sinker actually has the least sinking action of all the pitches, followed by the changeup, and then the two-breaking balls. Although the slider and curveball have about same movement, the curveball gets the most height and thus the most break.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

In this graph, we have the movement of the pitches from a catcher’s point of view. The sinker again sits at 9.35 inches of “rise”, but the action can change from about 13 inches of “rise” to 5 inches. When you look at the horizontal movement of the pitch, it averages 11 inches of movement in to left handed hitters, but also can reach up to 15, which is the most horizontal movement I’ve seen in this series. The changeup does a great job of replicating the horizontal movement of the sinker. The slider averages 3.23 inches of “rise” as well as 3.5 inches of movement into left handed hitters more than the no-spin origin. His curveball has slightly more movement down, averaging 0.67 inches of rise and 0.73 inches of movement into right handed hitters.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

This graph shows the spin angles and velocity of each pitch. The sinker sits at around 130 degrees, typical for your 2-seam fastball. The changeup has a very similar spin angle, and sits at 129 degrees, which is the reason why he can mimic the fastball so well. He’s thrown few sliders this year, but the majority in 2011 sat between 100 to 140 degrees. This wide range of spin angle allows him to get different types of movement out of the pitch, which is why the range of the break is so vast in the graph above. He throws the curveball in the same way, although most of the time the pitch is thrown in the higher 300′s, sitting at a 332 degree angle.

Where He Throws It

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

The graph above plots his pitch location and pitch types against right handed hitters. The sinker was his most used pitch, and despite the movement away from the hitter, he threw the ball in more than I expected. The slider is mostly thrown on the inner half of the strikezone as well, less surprising is that he did the same with the curveball. The changeup was mostly used on the outer half, although he threw the ball down as well. His selection to righties was 69.7% sinker, 11.5% curveball, 9.8% changeup, and 9.0% slider.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

Despite the low sample size to lefties, Holland threw sinkers for strikes, but also wasn’t afraid to jam hitters. This makes more sense with the sinker’s movement into lefties. Despite the movement of the slider and changeup in, both pitches were thrown down and away, as they were in 2011 as well. The curveball was thrown down and away too, and the desiring effect is for the movement away to get a hitter chasing. His selection against lefties in 2011 was 72.6% sinker, 14.8% slider, 6.5% changeup, and 6.1% curveball.

When He Throws It

Derek Holland’s Pitch Selection Against Righties in 2011
Count Sinker (R) Curveball (R) Slider (R) Changeup (R)
3-0 100% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 80.0% 0% 1.9% 17.3%
2-0 85.2% 1.1% 1.1% 12.5%
2-1 68.1% 7.5% 3.8% 20.6%
1-0 59.7% 13.8% 2.4% 24.1%
0-0 67.0% 22.1% 4.0% 6.9%
1-1 56.8% 14.3% 7.3% 21.6%
0-1 65.2% 14.7% 6.3% 13.8%
3-2 75.2% 3.3% 6.6% 14.9%
2-2 68.0% 5.6% 14.2% 12.2%
1-2 56.4% 6.0% 22.6% 15.0%
0-2 64.1% 3.0% 25.8% 7.1%

Here we have Holland’s pitch selection by count. Starting a righty off, he will throw his sinker the most, but also mix in his curveball 22% of the time. As he falls behind in the count the changeup becomes more likely, although the sinker still dominates the selection. As he gains a favorable count, he’ll continue throwing changeups and sinkers, but he’ll also mix in a curveball with 1 strike, and mix in the slider with 2 strikes. Despite throwing it the least of his selection, Holland’s slider was the only pitch to break a 10% whiff rate at 18.6%.

Derek Holland’s Pitch Selection Against Lefties in 2011
Count Sinker (L) Curveball (L) Slider (L) Changeup (L)
3-0 100% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 100% 0% 0% 0%
2-0 95.7% 0% 4.3% 0%
2-1 76.3% 0% 13.2% 10.5%
1-0 75.3% 7.9% 9.0% 7.9%
0-0 81.8% 7.1% 7.6% 3.6%
1-1 62.7% 13.3% 15.7% 8.4%
0-1 67.3% 7.1% 18.6% 7.1%
3-2 78.1% 0% 18.8% 3.1%
2-2 66.7% 9.5% 17.5% 6.3%
1-2 64.2% 0% 25.9% 9.9%
0-2 52.5% 3.4% 32.2% 11.9%

Against lefties, Holland almost always starts out with a sinker. As he falls behind in the count, he will rarely throw anything different as he doesn’t use the changeup much against lefties. As he gains a favorable count, he’ll throw the slider more and more often, although he does mix the curveball in on 1-1 counts. With an 0-2 count, he’ll throw the slider almost a 1/3 of the time. His best pitches to lefties was the slider at a 13.9% whiff rate, and the changeup at a 13.0% whiff rate.


As a sinkerball pitcher, Holland was able to get primarily groundballs in 2011, with a 46.4% groundball rate, 33.6% flyballs, and 20.0% linedrives. The lefties ability to throw the sinker with so much movement and maintain control in 2011 (3.05 BB/9) is a serious gift. His slider is well above average, and enough for him to maintain his plus strikeout numbers. His curveball seems to be a pretty useless pitch though, which is a big problem if he wants to get righties out. Indeed, he’s had a big platoon split in his career, with lefties hitting only .240/.302/.351 off him, and righties hitting .272/.337/.459. Split-wise, he also has problems at the hitter friendly Ranger’s Ballpark, where he has a 5.12 ERA compared to a 4.20 ERA on the road.

Against The Yankees

Holland has 5 starts against the Yankees, and in 28.0 innings he has a remarkably bad 9.00 ERA, 6.1 K/9, and 5.5 BB/9. Yankee hitters hit him at a .336/.422/.647 clip, and the numbers against him are even worse at home where he’s given up 9 earned runs in 8.0 innings. Of course there is one game where Holland did pitch well against New York, and that was Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS where he went 5.2 innings and gave up only 3 hits, 2 walks, and no runs.

Career Numbers Against Derek Holland
Probable Yankee Lineup At Bats Triple Slash
Derek Jeter DH 12 .417/.462/.583
Nick Swisher RF 12 .333/.467/.500
Robinson Cano 2B 15 .333/.333/.733
Alex Rodriguez 3B 8 .250/.571/.375
Mark Teixeira 1B 15 .467/.438/1.067
Curtis Granderson CF 6 .167/.375/.167
Andruw Jones LF 7 .429/.500/.429
Russell Martin C 3 .000/.000/.000
Eduardo Nunez SS 2 .500/.667/2.000


Derek Holland has some amazing horizontal movement on his sinker, and his slider is a definite strikeout pitch. Although he’s able to get away with throwing the sinker so often to lefties because of its movement, he needs to mix his pitches more against righties. He lacks a true weapon against opposite side hitters, and thus he has a terrible platoon split. The Yankees will send 7 right handed hitters to the plate on Monday night, all of whom should be able to hit a guy who’s had little success in his small ballpark. Even Robinson Cano has 15 at bats of success against the guy, so it will certainly be a tough lineup to maneuver around. With the Rangers facing CC Sabathia, the Yankees have the upper hand in the first game of the series.