Derek Holland single-handedly beat the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night to bring the Texas Rangers into a 2-2 tie for the 2011 World Series. He threw the game of his life by tossing eight and a third shutout innings in which he struck out seven and allowed only two hits and two walks.
This performance should not come as that great of a surprise even though Holland struggled in the ALCS against the Tigers. His 3.76 xFIP was the second best among Rangers starters, but I was shocked to learn that his 84 game score was the highest in a World Series since Josh Beckett's shutout performance against the Yankees in 2003.
Holland's struggles against the Tigers were due in part because of his reluctance to use his offspeed stuff. During the regular season, Holland had a 13.2 percent usage rate for his slider, a 11.1 percent rate for his curveball and a 9.8 percent rate for his change-up. In the ALCS, he threw his fastball at an 80 percent rate (66.1 percent in regular season), while he threw his change-up at a 1.4 percent rate, his slider at a 6.2 percent rate and his curveball at a 12.4 percent rate.
Holland's best pitch against the Cardinals on Sunday was his fastball (two and four-seam), which averaged 94.4 mph (94.2 mph during regular season). He only recorded two swinging strikes with the pitch (2.8 percent rate), but he did have a 63.9 percent strike rate with the pitch. It was also responsible for allowing him to record 13 ground outs.
However, Holland used his offspeed stuff effectively against the Cardinals to keep middle of the order from sitting dead red on his fastball. He mixed in five change-ups (4.3 percent rate), which he essentially abandoned int he ALCS, all for strikes in addition to throwing 23 curveballs (19.8 percent rate) and 16 sliders (13.8 percent rate). He recorded seven of his nine swinging strikes with those pitches.
Remember, this fantastic performance wasn't the product of Ron Washington giving him a pep talk before the game or whatever narrative the media wants to shove in the people's faces, it was because Holland stayed true to his regular season repertoire and have the ability to throw all of those pitches for strikes.