Since Opening Day 2007, there had been 163 instances of a major league team's starting pitcher allowing six or more runs while failing to make it out of the second inning. In those 163 games, the victimized ballclub won only nine times, which works out to a winning percentage of .058.
And at its lowest point last night, the Rangers' win expectancy had slumped to a meager 1.6 percent after having tumbled around between 5-15 percent for the better part of the evening. Games like that aren't supposed to be won, and perhaps another game like that won't be won for an extended period of time, but, as we've learned to accept, what's supposed to happen and what actually does happen are frequently incongruent.
There's really nothing that I can think to say at this moment about Derek Holland that isn't already captured well by this sequence of game scores from his last seven starts: 23-84-84-23-64-83-25. All legitimate quibbles with the quality of that statistic aside, the violent swings in Holland's performance from one start to the next this season have, for me at least, transitioned from a source of ample frustration into more of a source of amazement. He's been both dominant and terrible regardless of who has been catching him. He's had his dominant moments both at home and on the road, and he's also had his terrible moments both at home and on the road. I don't know whether those fluctations stem from repeatability (or a lack thereof) in his mechanic, or lousy pitch selection, or a dearth of focus and killer instinct; just about the only thing I do know is that his starts of late have been tantamount to a blind roll at the roulette table.
And for everything that went wrong at the outset of last night's game (including Elvis Andrus's well-publicized second-inning error that accelerated Holland's downfall), I have trouble imagining how the rest of the pieces could have fallen into place any better. That was 9.1 innings of one-run baseball spread across five different pitchers (Scott Feldman, Yoshinori Tateyama, Mark Lowe, Mike Adams, and Neftali Feliz), which at least feels a bit more remarkable when you consider that the probability of one of your summoned relievers having a poor outing is elevated as you run more and more pitchers into the game. There was Michael Young, whose stunning ninth-inning blast was, in terms of win probability added (+.489 WPA), the third-clutchest hit of his entire major league career.
And then there was Andrus, the early-game goat turned late-game hero with his aggressive, opportunistic second-to-home baserunning gambit on Josh Hamilton's 11th-inning single. Cleveland never saw it coming. I'm finding that Andrus has quietly turned into something of a lightning rod for the criticism of impatient fans, primarily because of the league-leading error total that has prompted some to rip him apart for lacking concentration and suggest that a "message" needs to be sent, and, yes, it would help the Rangers if he were to cut back on the error totals while retaining his present effectiveness range-wise and double play-wise -- but even though there is validity to that criticism, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly some people can turn on good players.
From 2009-present, Andrus has hit a respectable .270/.336/.336 while grading out across both of the mainstream defensive statistics of the day as one of the five best defensive shortstops in the game (+25 DRS; +15.1 UZR), the best overall baserunner in all of baseball (+18.1 BSR), and one of the 7-8 most valuable shortstops in the game, period ... and he's pulled it all off during his age-20 to -22 seasons. He doesn't turn 23 years old for another three weeks. Look, I get that we want and expect more, that we want Andrus to shore up the remaining deficiencies in his game (at this point, more power and fewer errors) while still retaining his current value-generating properties, and that we want him to be more than just a good to very good shortstop -- but doesn't there come a point where, cliched as it sounds, you just have to love him for who he is in the present?
Andrus is fallible. He can and will get better, but baseball is a game pervaded by imperfection of all kinds. Overreacting in one direction or the other to the performance of a player is fine and all, but doing so without simultaneously keeping the bigger picture in mind is just irresponsible. And I suppose you could say basically the same thing about last night, as well -- love the moment, bask in the glow of the moment, and appreciate the sheer improbability of the moment to its fullest, but don't lose sight of the fact that it was only one game out of 162. The Angels won't, and the Rangers certainly won't.