Unfortunately for last year’s darling John Holdzkom, Sunday’s 18-pitch, eight-strike performance was nothing new this season.
Holdzkom has really struggled to find the zone so far early into this year’s campaign after being the odd man out in the bullpen and being optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis in Spring Training.
Last season, Holdzkom made waves when his good stuff finally meshed with good command to put up dominant numbers with both Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in September. However, this season, the numbers are crooked in the other direction. Of his 161 pitches this season, he has thrown 82 strikes and 79 balls.
Prior to last season, in his professional career Holdzkom had allowed 195 free passes and 207 hits in 232.1 innings.
The issues were not glaring until he reached Indianapolis, however. In Spring Training, Holdzkom worked eight innings and walked three. This is pretty much on par with his totals last season, and not the same as his nine walks in 6.2 innings with Indianapolis.
Another issue for Holdzkom with Indianapolis is that his fastball is all of a sudden hittable. One of the perks from last season is that he would consistently evade solid contact. This season with Indianapolis, he has allowed seven hits in those same amount of innings.
In his seven games, Holdzkom has only had one completely clean inning. He works nearly exclusively with the fastball and doesn’t mix his palm ball in much at all.
In 27.2 innings with Indianapolis last season, Holdzkom allowed 14 hits and 10 walks. While he was far from perfect last season each time out, the regression is still alarming.
While Holdzkom is far from Andy Oliver of last season, he still has a lot of improvement necessary. It was a constant struggle for Oliver to even hit the catcher’s glove and not the backstop at times. However, the numbers are not that far off between the two. The exception is that Holdzkom does only have one wild pitch thus far.
Since Holdzkom is not that far off the strike zone, there is a feeling there that he could get it back with some work. However, you have to wonder how the demotion is working on him mentally.
Injuries are almost a lock on a pitching staff and with some success in his time in Indianapolis, Holdzkom would have likely been an equally large of a lock to be the first man up in the bullpen. With his struggles, you wonder if that could be changing some minds in that regard.