Inbox: Evaluating Holland's early struggles

Reporter Joe Trezza responds to questions from Cardinals' fans

April 18th, 2018

CHICAGO -- With the Cardinals and Cubs postponed for the second time in three days, now is as good a time as any to tackle your most pressing Cards questions.

In this edition of the Inbox, fans inquire about Greg Holland, , and .

It's a fair question, given how ineffective Holland has been since the minute he debuted last week against the Brewers. But the correct answer is probably the simplest: if Holland were injured, he wouldn't be pitching, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny keeps rolling him out there in an attempt to get him right.

Holland's issues appear more mechanical at this point, and maybe even between the ears. More than anything else, he has had particular trouble getting ahead in counts and making pitches down and away to righties. As a fastball-slider right-hander, this is where Holland lives when his pitches are biting effectively. He's fallen behind half of the 16 hitters he's faced over four appearances, and five of the seven he's walked.

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Holland isn't the type of pitcher who is effective when he's wild. He's also not immune to control issues. When Holland has struggled -- notably as a younger pitcher, then in 2015 and for a short stretch last August -- it's been because he lost the strike zone.

I assume you mean in the starting lineup, given Wong is in the third year of a five-year, $25 million contract and coming off a career year. The early results this year haven't been great, and he will be the first to tell you that. He'll still be given a chance to succeed, given his skillset, contract and pedigree.

But Wong's status as a full-time starter, at least in the short-term, is certainly complicated. Perhaps even tenuous. Coming out of Spring Training, Matheny planned to shuffle Wong, and around, hoping to get each of them five (of an assumed seven) starts per week. Martinez's hot start threw a wrench in all that, and 's nice few days earned him an extra start Tuesday.

Matheny is going to have to juggle, now that Martinez is entrenched at first. He's simply too valuable to remove from the lineup. Matt Carpenter has to play as well, essentially leaving one spot each day for Gyorko and Wong to split.

But as Gyorko's early-season injury proved, depth isn't a bad thing to have. Martinez and Carpenter are both playing through minor injuries, making Wong's status as a starter more or less fluid.

Flaherty was electric at times in his only start, when he struck out nine over five innings against the Brewers. The Cardinals' front office sees him as the next man up, and has since spring.

What I don't understand completely is this widespread thirst to see Flaherty in the starting rotation, given the circumstances. At this juncture, Flaherty's presence would indicate something gone awry with the club's established set of starters, either due to injury or ineffectiveness. Flaherty may offer more upside than some members of the Cards' current rotation, but he's also unproven.

By the time the dust settles, I expect Flaherty to have made at least 10 starts this season. Big league teams in 2018 just need rotation depth. The Cardinals used nine starters last season, when teams, on average, used at least 10. That league-wide average was up from nine in 2016, which was up from 7.5 the year before that, which was up from more than six the year before that -- sense a pattern here?

Flaherty will be in St. Louis before long. That said, I don't see him up imminently, barring injury. The Cards' staff is well-rested thanks to this week's schedule issues, and will remain that way with three off-days over the next 13 days. Again, everything can change with one hamstring tweak, as we saw at the end of Spring Training.

Voit was placed on the Minor League disabled list after one game due to an oblique injury.