World Series 2011: Game 7 And The Derek Holland Situation

Wednesday's rain pushed a potential Game 7 back to Friday, which would be Derek Holland's normal turn in the rotation. Should Matt Harrison be skipped?

In five outings between April 16 and May 7 this season, Derek Holland allowed 22 runs in 29 innings, good for a 6.37 ERA. Batters hit .319/.385/.504 off him in these five games, which means that every hitter he faced was roughly equivalent to Matt Holliday.

In five outings between May 22 and June 18 this season, Matt Harrison allowed just five earned runs in 30 innings, good for a 1.47 ERA. Hitters could muster only a .236/.300/.309 line, which means that every hitter he faced was roughly equivalent to Ryan Theriot without all that power.

So there you have it. If there's a Game 7, Harrison should start over Holland. The statistics prove this.

...

What? What do you mean, cherrypicking the numbers? I was just going off of five-game stretches that seemed important to me. Don't see a problem with that. It's what people who are passionately arguing that Derek Holland should start over Matt Harrison in a potential Game 7 are doing. The argument goes that Holland has been better in the playoffs than Harrison, so now that the rain out moved a potential Game 7 back to Holland's normal turn in the rotation, he should start.

That's the same thing. The playoffs are a stretch of five games picked at random. It doesn't have a lot of predictive power.

By law, I'm forced to include this disclaimer:

No, I don't believe that baseball players are robots. Yes, I believe that hot and cold streaks might possibly exist for reasons other than random fluctuation. I also believe that players can get out of whack with their mechanics, or their swings -- problems that can affect performance in a noticeable way.

Which is to say, yes, Derek Holland's masterpiece on Sunday might mean more than the other brilliant starts that he's mixed in with his average and poor starts for the past couple of seasons. But, no, I don't think you, Ron Washington, or even Nolan Ryan can tell the difference.


Year Age ERA G IP HR BB SO BB/9 SO/9
2011 25 3.39 31 185.2 13 57 126 2.8 6.1

 

Year Age ERA G IP HR BB SO BB/9 SO/9
2011 24 3.95 32 198.0 22 67 162 3.0 7.4


The first is Harrison. The second is Holland. They had similar years. Both are left-handed. Their K/BB ratios are similar. Holland allowed more homers, but had more strikeouts. Harrison kept fewer runs from scoring, but if you're an xFIP man, note that the difference between the two was .09.

That's not to say that there aren't reasons to start one over the other. Maybe ...

 

  • You're scared that the strike zone of the home-plate umpire isn't favorable to one pitcher
  • You think that the Cardinals' approach favors one pitcher over the other
  • You think Harrison's early exit means the Cardinals didn't get an extended look at him
  • You're just sick of looking at that thing; dammit, the Cowboys lost already

 

There are hundreds of legitimate reasons to prefer one over the other. Ron Washington will make that decision if there's a Game 7. He's already said he's going with Harrison. But here's a bad reason to prefer one over the other:

 

  • You liked the way Holland threw last time out.

 

That's really why this is even a question. Holland had fantastic success in his last game; Harrison didn't. Other than that, they're eerily similar pitchers. The difference between the two in their last outings might be significant -- maybe the Cardinals just can't pick up Holland. Or it could be that Holland got the call on inside fastballs a couple inches off the plate, whereas Harrison was hosed by a blown call and his own defense.


Jeff Sullivan: Game 7 And The Chris Carpenter Situation

There would be good reasons to start Holland. There would be good reasons to start Harrison. And if Washington does go with Harrison, don't assume he's nuts. Let's just all agree to disagree, and respect the other side's opinion. That, and we can also agree that if the Cardinals do start Jake Westbrook, that would mean the Cardinals are starting Jake Westbook. Which is much more fascinating. I mean, Game 7 of the World Series. Man.

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