Spoiler Alert: Derek Holland is never going to front the rotation of a major league team with designs on going to the playoffs.
That doesn't mean he's not a good major league pitcher, however. There aren't many guys with the requisite abilities to be the top man on a good staff and every good rotation needs quality guys to round out the back end. It's a backhanded compliment, perhaps, to say Holland looks like a perfect fit in that role, but it certainly isn't a great criticism.
Holland walks too many hitters and keeps the ball too high up in the zone without enough velocity to get away with it to dominate opposing lineups on a frequent basis. If you can't do that, you can't be the best guy on a winning team because someone needs to play the role that C.J. Wilson has played for the Rangers this season. Barring serious injury, Holland should have a nice career in the bigs and that's not nothing.
If that comes to fruition, Monday night's start will be part of the maturation process that allows it to happen. Holland wasn't pumping pitches past the Astros nor was he baffling their modest hitters with a dizzying array of pitches that made them sorry they didn't go into dentistry. He got just three swinging strikes all night and walked three hitters to continue that poor trend, but he danced his way through 7.2 innings without ever letting a big inning unfurl against him.
That's been a problem in the past and it is a problem for a lot of young pitchers who can't find a way to make an early mistake disappear in time to salvage things. They lose focus or command and, all of a sudden, a one-run inning turns into a crooked number and a loss. Holland has been guilty of this throughout his first three seasons and it has always put a damper on otherwise impressive outings.
The issue doesn't even need to be with Holland's pitching. Just look back two starts to his game against the Twins. Holland had some juju working and struck out 10 Twins, but he blew his shot at a win when Michael Cuddyer hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning. There was a bad call by an umpire in the inning and the Rangers couldn't turn a double play, but Holland was the one who couldn't get the third out in the inning. The same was true against the Yankees last week.
Successful pitchers get that third out, even if they get bruised on the way there. Holland hasn't shown much ability to do that in the past, but he did it well on Monday. You're never going to look down your nose at a shutout, but this was almost as good for the long view of Holland as a Rangers starter.