ALCS Preview: Derek Holland vs. Max Scherzer

ST PETERSBURG, FL - Pitcher Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game Four of the American League Division Series. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

If Yogi Berra were a prospect maven, he'd probably note that both Derek Holland and Max Scherzer have been good young pitchers for as long as they've been good and young. It seems like both have been around forever, teasing fans with the potential of a breakout season, while producing only solid-not-spectacular seasons thus far. Those solid seasons have helped their teams win, but they certainly aren't the ceilings for either pitcher.

Which pitcher would you rather have going forward? Hell, I don't know. Sounds like something worth looking into! Here's a comparison of the two pitchers in a select few categories:

Minor-league performance
Scherzer used to be the standard hard-throwing, hard-missing prospect, but his career walk rate has gone down every year in the majors. His strikeout rate has too, tough, which might mean the increased control came at a price of relying on his fielders more. Don't see a problem with a flyball pitcher saying, "Here you go, Delmon and Magglio: Run 'em down." Nope.

Holland always had impressive control in the minors, especially considering his relative youth. This is surprising to fans who might remember his first appearance in the World Series last year, when he pitched like someone who was auditioning for a center-field spot on the Royals in a few years.

Major-league performance
Scherzer regressed a bit this year, and as Steve Slowinski notes, he has some substantial platoon splits. He also allows a ton of homers, especially considering that Comerica Park kills lefty power. It's hard to get past his a) stuff, b) build, and c) stuff, though. He looks like the prototype of a pitcher, and he's learning how to hit his spots. The combination is pretty impressive, even if it hasn't resulted in Cy Young votes just yet.

Holland's game logs from this year were hilarious. He led the league in shutouts. But he was also tied with Brian Matusz, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Brian Duensing for games with five or more earned runs given up. He was the definition of an outhouse/penthouse pitcher - a guy with a potential to be awful or dominant like few others in the game.

Of course, right above him on the list is Scherzer. Everyone knows about Holland's Jekyll/Hyde pitching because he actually got the complete-game shutouts. Scherzer was just as spotty, but his highs weren't as high, so his extremes were a little under the radar.

Fun with similarity scores and unique physical features
These two are lumped together because Scherzer has two differently colored eyes, and one of his top comps is Dustin Hermanson, who used to look like this:

3227_medium


A combination of the eyes and that would be in violation of something. MLB rules ... UN sanctions ... something. And if it isn't, a grassroots coalition would make it so. Too disconcerting.

But Scherzer's best comp on the list is Kevin Brown, who isn't perfect because he was an extreme sinkerballer, but it works as a pitcher who didn't become an All-Star until he was in his mid-to-late 20s. With the platoon splits looming large, though, the Hermanson comparison might be even more apt for Scherzer.

Holland's unique physical feature is his mustache.





Which shows amazing confidence. Or obliviousness. Both are good things for a pitcher to have, so this can only improve his stock.

Holland's comps are almost uniformly awful, which is a reminder that similarity scores have always been more of a toy than a tool. If your eyes keep drifting to the Odalis Perez comp, just focus on the Chris Carpenter similarity score, breathe into a paper bag, and we'll get through this together!

Which pitcher would you take for the future? If I'm forced to, I take ... I don't know. Holland, probably. Wait, no, Scherzer. Both. It's rare that a playoff match-up comes up between two young pitchers like this, with such similar gaps between current and prospective future performance. Scherzer and Holland are both among two of the more interesting young players in the game, and not only because they'll affect their teams' World Series chances with how they pitch on Monday.

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