Harrison Over Holland?

Ron Washington isn’t going to panic. After a rainout pushed Game 6 to Thursday — and a potential Game 7 to Friday — Washington announced he will not alter his pitching rotation. While it was clear Washington wasn’t going to move Colby Lewis from his slot, Washington could have elected to start Derek Holland over Matt Harrison if the Series goes to seven games. Despite Holland’s masterful start in Game 4, Washington is sticking to his guns and keeping his rotation stable. Will the decision come back to haunt him?

So, who is the better pitcher? Looking at the 2011 numbers, Harrison actually finished with a higher WAR than Holland. While Holland performed well this season, Harrison had somewhat of a breakout season. An increase in his strikeout rate and the ability to limit home runs were the main reasons behind Harrison’s improvement this season. While their advanced pitching stats are close — Harrison’s FIP was 3.52, while Holland’s was 3.94 — Holland barely edged out Harrison in xFIP this season. Looking at strictly the 2011 numbers, it looks like Harrison has a slight edge over Holland.

A look at their post-season stats appears to widen the gap. We’re dealing with extremely small sample sizes here, of course, so weigh these stats to your own liking. Despite the fact that Holland’s last start rated as one of the best post-season starts over the past twenty years, Harrison has been better than Holland this post-season. Holland’s struggles can be attributed to his poor ALCS — in which the Detroit Tigers tagged Holland for seven runs in just 7.1 innings pitched. In his other three appearances this post-season, Holland has only given up one earned run over 14.2 innings pitched.

Harrison hasn’t shown the potential for dominance this post-season, but he had shown some consistency before unraveling in Game 3. While his increased strikeout rate has been nice, Harrison is giving up way too many walks this post-season. Even with those struggles, Harrison edges out Holland in both FIP and xFIP this post-season. Again, we’re looking at extremely small samples here. Still, it seems likely that Ron Washington would consider post-season performance when making this decision.

The other question to consider is whether Washington’s decision should changed based on which pitcher the St. Louis Cardinals start in a potential Game 7. If the Cardinals elect to throw Chris Carpenter, will Washington try and go with his higher upside starter? If the Cardinals elect to throw Kyle Lohse, will Washington be more comfortable knowing Holland can enter the game if Harrison struggles early? Washington seems pretty set in his decision at this time, but it will be interesting to see if he second-guesses himself based on the actions of Tony LaRussa.

So, which pitcher is the right choice? Based on strictly his post-season numbers, Holland appears to give Texas a higher chance for a dominant start, but also a higher chance at a disaster start. Harrison has been pretty average this post-season, and it’s tough to imagine him going out and tossing an 8.1 inning shutout in Game 7.

That’s not to say it won’t happen. The fact is, both pitchers have proven themselves to be pretty talented this season. Holland is probably more well regarded among both scouts and stat-heads, but Harrison emerged as a nice middle-of-the-rotation starter this season. Since both players have similar value, and Washington can always pull Harrison at the first sign of trouble to go with Holland, it’s tough to really criticize Washington’s decision at this time.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

7 Responses to “Harrison Over Holland?”

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  1. Hurtlocker says:

    If it goes to game seven everyone will be eligible I think, the Cards just need to get there.

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  2. winojohn says:

    This is more Wash ‘doing what he do’. You can, and I do, argue endlessly about Ron Washington’s tactics and pregame/ingame decision making skills. Sometimes he is infuriating. Rarely is he brilliant. What you cannot argue with is that every game every player shows up and goes all out. He is able to get the best out of his guys every time. So “we’re sticking with Harrison” is just another way of saying “these are my guys, I trust my guys” like he’s been doing all year. In game 4 he put Holland in a position to succeed and had a much publicised pregame discussion with him. It worked. He expects to get the same type of performance from Harrison, though I suspect the pregame discussion will be much more private.

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  3. ExtraBases says:

    I think Harrison should pitch start if there is a game 7. Holland isn’t accustomed to coming back off of three days rest and doing so after throwing 8.1 innings with over 115 pitches in his previous start could be a bad idea. Harrison has been solid all season and also has been this postseason. Even with Harrison coming off of a rough start against St. Louis earlier this series, I think he should get the ball for a potential game 7. Holland will be available in long relief if Harrison struggles early too.

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  4. davie says:

    i think holland would be on 4 days rest. carpenter would be on 3 days rest

    harrison starts, goes 3 inn 3 ER holland relieves 4 inn w. 0 er. end of convo

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  5. Jim B says:

    Wash also said with the no changes, ” This is what got us here and it works ”

    And extra bases is right. We have so much power to back up both 6,7 game starting pitchers. Holland and CJ in the bull pen, CJ last choice

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