Derek Holland An Unexpected, Underrated First-Half MVP For Texas Rangers

By Thom Tsang
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, that’s right. The Texas Rangers — you know, the team long known for its offensive prowess — does not have a position player as the team MVP for the first half.

Then again, considering the mess that the starting rotation has been for Ron Washington and co., perhaps it’s not a surprise that the player who has contributed the most to their 54-41 record thus far comes from the pitching department. But here’s the thing — it’s probably not the pitcher that most folks are thinking.

Sure, Yu Darvish has been very good, even All-Star worthy; but he’s not even the best starter on his own team.

That distinction should go to Derek Holland, the lefty who didn’t get to participate in the Midsummer Classic, but without whom the Rangers would almost certainly not be in second place in the AL West as the second half of the season begins on Friday.

Where the Japanese star brings the flash, the home-grown former top prospect brings steady consistency.

No, Holland doesn’t have the flashy double-digit strikeout rate or the pure stuff to compete with Darvish, but there is a sound reason why his ERA is 3.08 compared to the righty’s 3.02. He gets the job done without the dazzling stuff by sticking to the fundamentals: not walking as many batters (2.65 BB/9 vs. Darvish’s 3.09), and not giving up the long ball (0.57 HR/9 vs. 1.13).

Combined with the fact that he’s no slouch In getting folks to whiff either (8.67 K/9, career-high 10.8 swinging strike rate), and you can see why he has more quality starts at 13 (68 percent) vs. Darvish’s 11 (61 percent).

Consistency might be underrated when it comes to talking about MVP pitchers, but with the two pitchers having an identical 8-4 record, it’s difficult not to give Holland the edge right now, especially when he’s finally having that breakout season at 26 that the Rangers had been anticipating for years. The fact that he’s a hard-throwing southpaw is just the icing on the cake.

Oh, and there’s the fact that with Darvish currently shelved, Holland might just be the only reliable pitcher (youngster Martin Perez is also impressing) in the Rangers’ decimated rotation right now.

That will change soon as the Japanese import returns, and he’ll do so as the defacto team ace; but make no mistake — it’s Holland that has provided more innings (125.2 IP vs. 119.1), more value (3.8 fWAR vs. 3.0 fWAR) and is deserving (much like Jordan Zimmermann for the Washington Nationals last season) of as much, if more more of the Texas spotlight that will be on Darvish for the rest of the year.

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