Pitcher preview: Derek Holland

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

And the sliders from Mars.

The Rays' "Can you hit a slider?" tour continues with the 26 year old lefty, Derek Holland. Like Matt Garza and Alexi Ogando before him, Holland will attack the Rays with mid-90s fastballs and a put-away slider that he has no qualms about throwing to both righties and lefties. He's having the best year of his career (3.49 ERA, 3.54 FIP), and increased slider usage might be the reason why.

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via www.brooksbaseball.net

Now Holland doesn't lean on it quite as much (16% of the time, mostly when ahead in the count), so I'm not prepared to stick it in the same conversation with Garza's slider or Shields's changeup, but when he does throw it, the results are there: 32% strike%, 23% whiff/throw%, 43% whiff/swing, according to Brooks Baseball.

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

That's not the most impressive slider movement in the world, but it does have a few things going for it. For one, it's slow, averaging around 83 mph, so gravity has more time to work on it. Also, Holland's fastball is very live in terms of its rise and run, so the slider actually has more relative movement than might be thought at first glance.

As you might expect, Holland has posted a significant platoon split this season to go with his higher slider use. He's been okay against righties, with a 3.97 xFIP. He's been death to lefties, with a 2.90 xFIP.

So now the question: which Rays can hit a slider? That's a complex question with a complex answer that I don't know, but I can much more easily show you who's actually hit sliders well this season. Here are the FanGraphs pitch type linear weights for potential Rays hitters, and Ryan Roberts (wSL/C is a rate stat version, wSL is a counting stat version).

David DeJesus L 3.25 0.9
Ben Zobrist S 1.46 3.5
Ryan Roberts R 1.09 1.3
Kelly Johnson L 0.97 1.8
Jose Lobaton S 0.79 0.8
Delmon Young R 0.68 0.1
James Loney L 0.63 1.6
Evan Longoria R 0.47 2.1
Wil Myers R 0.07 0.2
Sam Fuld L -0.37 -0.4
Yunel Escobar R -0.4 -1.4
Luke Scott L -0.87 -1.2
Jose Molina R -0.89 -1.4
Matt Joyce L -0.97 -2
Sean Rodriguez R -1.82 -2
Desmond Jennings R -1.85 -6.8

Keep in mind that some of these numbers are partially the product of the platoon advantage. Zobrist and Lobaton always have it, DDJ and Ryan Roberts often do. So does Joyce, so he really has no excuse. I wouldn't put a ton of weight in the predictive value of these numbers, but they're not just noise. I've always felt that Zobrist was especially good against pitches moving toward him (particularly from low-armslot pitchers).

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