Why the Rangers Need a Healthy, Dominant Derek Holland in Pennant Chase

Lance ReavesContributor IIIJune 12, 2012

HOUSTON - MAY 19:  Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 19, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The last couple of weeks have not been a great for the Rangers. They have lost some close games, the pitching has been hit hard, and the bats have gone through a collective slump.

There are multiple reasons for this issue. Poor play and a stomach virus are among the most popular.

In addition, the Rangers are also starting to battle the injury bug, with the rotation being hit the hardest. Neftali Feliz was placed on the disabled list on May 21, Derek Holland joined him not long after, and Alexi Ogando injured his groin Sunday.

Not to discount the importance that the other two have to the team, but at this point Holland’s injury seems more concerning regarding the Rangers' future success.

When Roy Oswalt arrives, he will take a spot in the rotation. This allows Feliz and Ogando to return to the bullpen, which is already one of the biggest strengths on the team.

Holland, on the other hand, will return to the rotation where he will be relied on heavily as the No. 2 starter. His health will be essential if the Rangers want to win the division and clinch a third straight pennant.

The lefty has been inconsistent this season, something that has plagued him during his short career in Texas. But, there is good reason to believe he can turn it around. Holland started poorly in 2011 before going 9-1 with a 3.06 ERA in the second half.

Perhaps the most important stat of that 2011 season is that he pitched four complete games, accounting for almost half of the team’s total..

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07:  Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Chicago White Sox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 7, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Despite the depth the Rangers have in the bullpen, they still need pitchers with the ability to go deep into games. Fewer innings during the regular season would mean the bullpen would have more gas in the tank during October. This is something that hurt the Rangers during the last two World Series.

A healthy and strong Derek Holland is also important because of his ability to miss bats. He is averaging almost eight strikeouts per nine innings this season. When the ball is put into play, anything can happen; that is why the strikeout is a pitcher’s best friend.  

Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish and Roy Oswalt provide a solid rotation. If Holland gets things going, there are multiple things that, when combined, separate him from the rest.

First are his aforementioned abilities to pitch deep into games and strike batters out. There is also the fact that he has good experience despite being only 25. Holland has pitched through the grind of a regular season. He has also experienced a lot during the postseason, such as pitching in Yankee Stadium or in a must-win Game 4 of the World Series.  

It’s up to Holland to pitch to his ability. Oswalt was acquired more to add stability than to be the Rangers ace. The sky is the limit for Darvish, but it is probably too soon to expect him to lead the rotation.

Players like Harrison and Lewis have been pretty reliable this season, so the pressure isn’t totally on Holland.

Hopefully for Holland, the shoulder fatigue and virus that has sidelined him is only a minor setback. The Rangers need him. With the pieces that they already have and Holland pitching the way he is capable, the Rangers can be very difficult to beat.