In many ways, Roy Oswalt was an enigma this season, just not to the hitters he faced. Oswalt had a bWAR of -1.0 this season, which is why he ranks 40th on our countdown here, but according to fWAR (which uses FIP for its calculation) he actually was worth a positive 0.9 wins.
This is part of the reason we're not using fWAR in our 2013 player reviews. Pitching bWAR tends to do a better job of explaining how much a player helped or hurt his team in the past while pitching fWAR is often more indicative of future performances. Only in this particular case, I'm not so sure I believe fWAR and the FIP metric used to calculate it.
Here's what fWAR is looking at when it comes to Oswalt's season...
32.1 innings pitched.
Three home runs allowed
In fact, out of all 19 pitchers who threw at least 20 innings for the Rockies in 2013, only Rex Brothers struck out more batters per nine innings, and only Matt Belisle had a better strike out to walk ratio. fWAR sees this and says that the .442 BABIP hitters had against Oswalt led to that 8.63 ERA and .905 OPS against. More importantly, fWAR says that if Oswalt's BABIP would just come back to Earth, he would actually be a very solid pitcher.
There's just one problem with that theory; Roy Oswalt's BABIP is not coming back to Earth. I had the misfortune of seeing Roy Oswalt pitch in person twice this season, once in Boston in June, and again in Colorado in September, and both times hitters were on his pitches like a pack of hyenas on a dead animal carcass.
There comes a point in every pitcher's career where the quality of his pitches falls off enough so that the normal rules of BABIP and FIP no longer apply to him, and unless Oswalt was tipping his pitches, he seems to have reached that point. His 26.7% line drive rate against according to fangraphs (29% according to baseball reference) tells the same story I saw two too many times with my own eyes. Oswalt's pitches are just waiting to be smacked around if the hitter gets the barrel of the bat on the ball.
Back in June, I was actually excited about seeing what Oswalt could bring to this team. At the time, the Rockies were still very much in contention and needed help at the bottom of the rotation. Oswalt, who just finished off 33.1 innings of 2.16 ERA baseball for the Tulsa Drillers, seemed like the perfect guy for that spot.
But almost immediately, he would prove incapable of getting major league hitters out on a consistent basis. In his Rockies debut on June 20th, Oswalt gave up four runs in five innings pitched. The outing was deemed a success by many Rockies fans however (myself included) because Oswalt struck out 11 and walked none.
For the same reason fWAR ranked Oswalt's overall season a net positive above, most fans saw the potential and this start as a positive. However, the strong strikeout to walk ratio while giving up a bunch of runs became a pattern. Oswalt never regained the form of his Astro days and on July 7th, he suffered a leg injury in Arizona after just 1.2 innings pitched that kept him out of action for nearly two months.
It appeared as if his career could be over, but the Rockies brought him back in September to make two starts and three relief appearances. The second stint didn't go any better than the first; Oswalt again appeared as hittable as any pitcher in the majors, and by the time it was over, his ERA ballooned to 8.63 and the Rockies had just a 2-7 record in the games he appeared in.
2013 Rockies Grade: F
Can you really give any other grade to a guy who allowed as many runs as he did in 32 innings?
|2013 - Roy Oswalt||0-6||8.63||1.79||34||9|
As indicated by his five outings in September, it's possible that Roy Oswalt hasn't thrown his last pitch in a Rockies uniform. He never announced his retirement, often spoke highly of his pitches, and would likely jump at the opportunity to pitch again next season if given the chance, and judging by the fact that the Rockies went out of their way to get as many last looks at him as they could during the final few weeks, it's not impossible that they give it to him.
As far as I'm concerned though, if Oswalt throws one pitch for the 2014 Rockies, it's too many.