Don’t judge a book by its cover: David Holmberg

David Holmberg 2 by James Moses 2 Dont judge a book by its cover: David Holmberg

David Holmberg has been stellar since May 17. (James Moses)

Louisville left-hander David Holmberg came over to the Reds organization on the third of December in a three team trade involving the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Reds traded away Major League catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays and got back Holmberg in the deal from the DBacks. He made his Reds organizational debut on April 8 as he pitched five innings, allowed two runs and got the loss against Columbus. Not a bad start, but it would lead to a string of frustrating outings.

Over his next three starts, stretching over nearly a month due to a disabled list stint, Holmberg was unable to make it out of the fourth inning in any start. He allowed at least five runs in each of his starts and saw his winless streak rise to four. His ERA rose to 13.50 and he was stuck in a groove that he needed to get out of. He made one more start on May 17 as he pitched four and two-thirds, allowed one run and got a no-decision. His winless streak was up to five straight starts, but his ERA was down to 10.50.

On May 23 he was back on the DL with a left shoulder strain missing nearly a month before being activated to pitch against Gwinnett on June 11.  Taking it easy directly off the DL he pitched four innings, allowed three runs, two earned, and received another no-decision. It was that start that seemed to turn things around for the lefty.

He would take the ball five days later at Louisville Slugger Field against the Durham Bulls and have his then best performance of the season. He threw a season high six innings, allowed zero runs, walked two, and struck out a season high six batters. Everything was different for Holmberg on the mound, except the result. He earned another no-decision and was still winless as a member of the Bats and the Reds organization.

He has made two more starts since facing the Bulls on June 16 and has done much of the same on the mound. He has kept the Bats in the game while on the mound, but is still winless. Sunday night against the division leading Indianapolis Indians, he pitched six and two-thirds, allowed zero runs, on three hits, and struck out four. His second start in which he hasn’t allowed a run and you guessed it, he is still winless. The difference between his first four starts and his last five has been that the Bats have won the game in each of his last five starts.

Holmberg’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) since coming off of the DL on June 11 is 3.55. On a Major League scale that is above average. The point of using FIP in this situation is to show just how good Holmberg has been over his past four starts. FIP by definition measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. In simpler terms it means what a pitcher can control, strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. If we were to include his start against Durham on May 17 before hitting the DL for the second time, his FIP from May 17 to today is 3.43. That would put him closer to the GREAT range on a Major League scale according to FanGraphs.com.

The phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies in this situation with Holmberg. Don’t judge a pitcher by his win-loss record. Holmberg may be 0-4 in the scorebook, but by all means he has been one of the best pitchers in Minor League Baseball over the past month and a half. His luck will begin to change and he will eventually earn that coveted first win of the season, but look deeper and you will see he has been one of the best to take the mound for the Bats in their hot run since the beginning of June.

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