Key Stats: Anytime a player starts to use the R word it is cause for concern, but Roy Oswalt isn’t the first starting pitcher over the last decade to contemplate retiring and then have a great season. Of course the two best names that come to mind in this regard are also headliners on the Mitchell Report, so who knows. The safest thing is to always go back to the numbers. In the case of Oswalt, when he did pitch last year he wasn’t great. He had the highest WHIP of his career and the second highest ERA. The good news is though that he was probably pitching hurt for a good chunk of the season. In September and the playoffs, his WHIP was down to 1.17 – lower than his career WHIP of 1.19.
Skeptics Say: Oswalt’s agent did say in September that Oswalt felt rejuvinated, but there are still great concerns. He thought he may have thrown his last pitch last June when his back acted up on him. That’s obviously bad and given that it is the back, there’s a serious likelihood of the injury reoccuring. We have seen with other frail pitchers such as Pedro Martinez that the skills can diminish rapidly once a player is worked into their mid 30s. Oswalt will be 34 years old this coming season.
Peer Comparison: Not saying that last year was a nice promotion for drafting Oswalt, but the 53rd overall starting pitcher? This is a guy that was 15th in 2010. Not 15th among starting pitchers, but 15th overall. True things can certainly go south in a hurry for any starting pitcher let alone a guy this wiry, but let’s not forget what he did before last season just yet. For seven straight seasons Oswalt pitched at least 180 innings before 2011. That speaks to his durability and toughness. I understand the caution in picking Oswalt, but making him the 53rd overall starting pitcher is not caution – it’s panic.
Cockcroft ranked Josh Johnson ahead of Oswalt. Now in fairness, I have Johnson ranked ahead of him too, but are we supposed to believe that Johnson is safer than Oswalt?
Hiroki Kuroda is three years older than Oswalt and clearly had a healthier 2011. That said is he worth taking five spots ahead of Oswalt given the potential for strikeouts and his reputation for not going deep into games as far as his pitch count is concerned.
Then there are the young guys like Max Scherzer. Scherzer hasn’t done anything close to what Oswalt did in his prime and hasn’t exactly caused fantasy owners to think he’s capable of going 200 innings year in and year out.
Team Outlook: The Phillies did not offer Oswalt arbitration. As a Type A free agent it was probably the right decision. Given what was said in the skeptics say column, it’s hard to fathom Oswalt getting money that he could have gotten in arbitration through free agency, but he could still score a better deal in a multi-year contract. The Yankees could be a good fit for Oswalt and would also work from a fantasy standpoint in terms of getting wins with their bullpen and run support.
Projection: By all accounts Oswalt was feeling well toward the end of the season. Let’s trust that he can get back to 180 innings and continue to put together respectable ERA and WHIP numbers. The wins can be adjusted depening on where he ends up.
15 wins 3.48 ERA 1.20 WHIP 148 K in 180 innings