Daily Dose: Holland breaking out?

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Derek Holland entered Sunday at 4-7 with a 5.60 ERA in 82 innings, but hurled a complete-game shutout against the Angels, striking out eight with just one walk and three hits. Holland also had a near-complete game against the Mariners last week, striking out 10, walking one, and allowing two hits in 8.2 innings of one-run ball, so the 22-year-old southpaw may be on the verge of a sustained breakout.
According to Baseball America he was Texas’ second-best prospect behind only Neftali Feliz coming into the season and Holland has a strong 77/30 K/BB ratio in 91 innings. His biggest problem has been serving up 14 homers and keeping the ball in the ballpark could be a career-long struggle in Texas, but he induces quite a few grounders, misses plenty of bats with mid-90s heat, and has ace upside.
While the Rangers break in extremely promising young pitching during a pennant race, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Not only was Matt Palmer demoted to the bullpen last month despite going 8-1 in a dozen starts, he’s being passed over in favor of 22-year-old prospect Trevor Bell with the Angels needing a fill-in starter Wednesday versus the Rays. Palmer was nowhere near as good as his record suggests and has posted a putrid 55/42 K/BB ratio in 91.2 innings overall, but it’s still surprising to see Bell get the nod.
Bell is certainly a quality prospect and the former first-round pick has a 2.70 ERA in 22 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season, but 87 strikeouts in 140 innings and a modest ground-ball rate make him highly unlikely to have that kind of success in the majors. He could have some AL-only value if he sticks around, but Tampa Bay is a very tough first assignment and his upside is limited.
* Junichi Tazawa’s big-league debut involved coming into a 0-0 game in the 14th inning and serving up a walk-off homer to Alex Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium, so replacing John Smoltz in the rotation Tuesday should be a relative piece of cake. Detroit is a favorable first matchup, because the Tigers rank 10th in the league in OPS against right-handers, but Tazawa isn’t a viable mixed-league option yet.
AL Quick Hits: Scott Kazmir failed to make it out of the fifth inning Sunday, giving up seven runs for the fourth time in 10 starts … Roy Halladay picked up his 12th win Sunday by tossing at least eight innings for the 10th time in 22 starts … Jake Westbrook had a setback in his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery and is now unlikely to pitch this season … Michael Cuddyer went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers Sunday, giving him eight long balls since July 1 … Brian Matsutz had a rough second career outing Sunday, getting chased in the third inning … Marco Scutaro went 4-for-5 with a career-high 10th homer Sunday … Brett Cecil won’t make his next start after an MRI revealed two small tears in his left knee, but is hoping to avoid the disabled list … Jarrod Washburn struggled Sunday and has now allowed 11 runs in two Tigers starts … Brett Anderson has allowed just 13 runs in his last eight outings after another Quality Start on Sunday.
NL Quick Hits: Aaron Harang snapped a streak of seven straight losses Sunday by beating Matt Cain … Johan Santana is tied for the NL lead with 13 wins after throwing eight innings of one-run ball Sunday … Milwaukee acquired setup man David Weathers from Cincinnati for a player to be named later … Josh Johnson held the Phillies to one run over seven innings Sunday as the Marlins completed a three-game sweep … Wandy Rodriguez returned from a hamstring injury with seven shutout innings Sunday … Chris Coghlan extended his multi-hit streak to eight games with four knocks Sunday … Tim Stauffer lowered his ERA to 2.90 by allowing one run in five innings Sunday, but fell to 1-4 … Jason Hammel won Sunday despite surrendering 11 hits in five innings … Adam Rosales was 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday while subbing for Scott Rolen (concussion) … Aaron Cook will miss Tuesday’s start with turf toe, but hopes to take his turn Saturday.

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.