STAT LINE: 30 GS, 171.1 IP, 3.57 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 154 H/68 ER/67 BB/169 SO
Derek Holland wasn’t expected to make the team out of spring training. He signed a minor league contract with the Giants last winter and received a spring training invite. At best, he was looking at possibly getting the fifth starter role. Injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija before opening day changed all that, however.
Instead, Holland became the work-horse of the rotation, despite spending time in the bullpen in July. He pitched the most innings and started the most games.
This says more about the bad luck facing the 2018 starting rotation than Holland, of course. But he ended up being the most consistent arm on the team over the long haul of another injury-plagued year.
His season didn’t start off very promising, though. His worst games of mostly came in the first two months. In April and May, Holland had an ERA of nearly 5.00 and got six of his losses. However, after that he averaged roughly three earned runs per game.
In fact, in all of his appearances, he never allowed more than four. He is the only starting pitcher, aside from Casey Kelly, who this can be said of. Of the six games in which he did allow four runs, the Giants managed to win four of them (which might make him one of the luckiest pitchers on the staff).
In true 2018 fashion, the team was 15-15 in Holland’s starts, though he only had decisions in 16 of those, with a 7-9 win record.
Of his nine losses and 14 no-decisions (of which the team won eight), Holland still pitched admirably, averaging a little over two earned runs per appearance. (Though the ERA is considerably higher, as Holland never pitched more than 6.2 innings in a game the entire season.)
In 12 of the 15 games the team lost after his starts, he received two runs or fewer of support, which makes sense given the offensive woes of the team this year being the headline. This also contributed to his lackluster win-percentage, not that that’s a real thing of importance. But the team should, by rights, have won a few more of his starts. Well, * A * team, not necessarily * THIS * team.
Anyway, as to his bullpen days, in all but one relief appearance he allowed zero earned runs. Of course, that was only over 6.1 IP in five games. So don’t go signing him up for closer just yet. But, he provided consistency there as well and gave the team another option when bullpen arms were shot.
ROLE ON 2018 TEAM: Holland was Old Faithful for the 2018 team. And that, by itself, wouldn’t be very impressive in a season that featured a lack of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and/or Jeff Samardzija for most of the year. Someone had to do it.
That said, Holland proved to be reliably good (not great) for the majority of the season, wherever the Giants needed him. Despite starting the most games of any pitcher for the team, he handled being sent to the bullpen with grace, performing quite well in both positions, allowing the Giants to have options with him that don’t always work with every starting pitcher they try to transition to the bullpen.
ROLE ON 2019 TEAM: Unknown. Holland is a free agent, and though he has expressed interest in returning to the team next season, he will likely be seeking more than a one-year deal and more money than he was making in 2018 ($1.75 mil).
As to whether or not the team will want to pay/commit to more than one year, well that will depend ultimately on who the team hires for the GM position and what their vision for 2019 is.
If they’re just looking to field a team while they execute a rebuild, signing Holland isn’t a terrible idea. He’s a reliable back of the rotation arm and a solid option out of the bullpen. And assuming he can repeat his 2018 success, could be a trade option later in the season.
However, if they decide to go for broke and try to compete in 2019, I don’t know that they need him. Assuming Madison Bumgarner would still be around in this scenario, as well as Andrew Suárez and Dereck Rodríguez, there would presumably be enough in-house arms to compete for the fourth rotation spot and a fifth starter would likely be cheaper than Holland will be in 2019.
Holland had low expectations of him coming into the season and he more than exceeded them. In a rotation that was like the “In Memoriam” section of the Oscars at times, Holland provided some much needed consistency. Was he the best pitcher on the team? No. Was he the worst? Far from it. He struck out the most batters of any pitcher on the team, but he also walked the most. He was solidly middle of the pack in almost everything else. And again, considering what was expected from him and what he produced, that’s pretty impressive.