The immediate reaction to the six-run Angels sixth inning that put an end to the Rangers' 12-game winning streak was that Derek Holland is simply an erratic pitcher who had a bad inning and/or night.
There's some evidence to support this theory, especially if you're one who believes that he loses focus on the mound from time to time. The Rangers went up 8-3 in the fifth and Holland rolled through the middle of the Angels lineup in the bottom of that inning. It was the bottom of the Angels lineup that sparked the rally, which suggests Holland's issue was a mental lapse.
Maybe, but the notion is lacking supporting evidence in the way that Holland actually pitched. He kept throwing strikes during the sixth inning, kept up his velocity and the pitches were pretty much in the same location. You'd expect to see something different if his brain was focused on swimsuit models or the latest Harry Potter flick or wherever it is the minds of pitchers go when they suffer from a lack of focus.
In fact, there wasn't all that much about Holland's performance on Wednesday night that looked different from his outing against the Mariners last week. He threw the same kinds of pitches in the same areas at roughly the same speeds. And, strangely enough, that might help explain why things went haywire for him against the Angels.
In 104 pitches on Wednesday night, Holland generated only five swinging strikes. He got the Mariners to swing and miss nine times in 118 at-bats. His pure stuff is good enough to get away with that against weak hitting teams like the Mariners, but teams like the Angels, who aren't exactly a Murderer's Row, will eventually make him pay for letting them hit the ball.
When you look atthe strikezone plots from the last two games, you'll see that Holland spent a lot of time over the middle of the plate both times. To make the next step as a pitcher and shake the erratic label he's earned thus far in his career, Holland is going to have to stop relying on the pure stuff and show that he's able to hit spots that aren't in prime hitting zones.
The most successful pitchers are the ones who leave as little as possible up to the opposition. Holland isn't there yet and he'll need to make changes before he can get there.