16. Chicago White Sox (15–15, plus-9, LT: 26)
There are all kinds of reasons to love the surprise White Sox right now. Avisail Garcia is absolutely raking, and seeing him playing in an all-Garcia outfield is pretty damn cool. Last season’s often shaky bullpen has been electric this year, ranking second in the majors in ERA and also near the top of the league in strikeout rate.
It would be great if Derek Holland could elicit similar optimism; he’s certainly a feel-good story. Back in 2013, Holland blossomed into one of the best left-handers in the game, firing 213 quality innings for the Rangers. He managed just 203 innings pitched in the next three seasons combined, his performance and his ability to stay on the mound both racked by injured. That makes his microscopic 2.03 ERA (sixth-best in the American League) all the more incredible this season.
Sadly, it’s not going to last. Name a pitching stat that largely depends on luck and other factors largely beyond a pitcher’s control, and Holland’s benefited from that good fortune. His .220 batting average on balls in play allowed sits seventh among AL starters, 73 points below league average. For his career, Holland has allowed home runs on 11.4% of the flyballs hit against him; that number’s at a career-low 6.4% this year, 12th-lowest in the league. Holland’s allowing hard contact more often than ever before in his career, yet opponents are batting just .191 against him overall, seventh-lowest in the AL.
If Holland can simply make it through the season healthy and keep the Sox in games, he’ll have proven to be a bargain pickup, and one of the more enjoyable stories of the season. Just don’t expect the Sandy Koufax impression to last much longer.