Roy Oswalt: A lost man in a lost season

The 2013 season will be remember as a wasted season for most here. The Rockies finished last in the NL West, a full 18 games back of the Dodgers and would win just 74 games. It was a season marred with injuries and disappointing development from several prospects. But it didn't start that way. Through the start of May Colorado was in sole possession of 1st place in the NL West, and they had the second best record in the NL. There was talk this could be a Rockies year, if things broke right.

On May 2nd 2013, the Rockies made a somewhat surprising free agent signing. Roy Oswalt, the owner of a nearly 63% career win percentage was going to join the team on a minor league deal. Oswalt had struggled in 2012 with the Rangers, after an ill fated move to the bullpen that saw him post a miserable 5.80 ERA with a .378 BABIP. The move was greeted by the inhabitants of the Row with cautious optimism. While he had been shelled a bit at Arlington Park, Oswalt's peripherals were solid. His FIP was just 3.09, and he struck out 9 batters per 9 innings with just a 1.38 BB/9 rate. At the worst, he would provide some solid veteran innings for the club as they transitioned forward with the young arms that had been stockpiled the last several years. The man also gave us one of the best GIFS I've seen:

Oswalt would enter an extended Spring training at the Rockies Single A level, and move to join AA Tulsa when he had bee stretched out. He would end up starting five games for the Drillers,where he averaged 6 and 2 thirds innings per game, as well as striking out 25 of the 124 batters faced. ( a nice 20% rate). Troy Renck and a few other Post writers at the time noted his fastball was consistently sitting around 92, not the stuff of yester-year but certainly enough to get it done.

As the season progressed, the need for Oswalt to join the staff deepened. Jeff Francis had spent time on the DL amidst several ineffective starts, and Jon Garland was about to be released with a sub 80 ERA+ to his name. Tulo and CarGo had missed time with injury, and the bullpen was starting to show some signs of cracking. The rest of the league was starting to catch up as well, with the Rockies sitting now behind the Giants and D-backs, by less than 2 games. In a poll on PurpleRow on June 6th, the overwhelming majority of folks were ready to see what the former 20 game winner could provide to stop the slide.

The first start came on June 20th, just within the 72 day window the contract allowed for Oswalt to walk away if he had not joined the big league club. The club was going to start a four game stint in the nation's capital with the Nats. It was not the start everyone was looking for. Roy needed 101 pitches to get through five innings, while surrendering four runs along the way. But there were a few bright spots, was the Nats went down 11 times to strikeouts, and 17 of the right hander's 24 first pitches found the strike zone.

In his next start against Boston, things did not go nearly as well. He still hit 20 of 28 first pitches strikes, but the the Red Sox jumped all over him early, scoring all five runs in the first three Innings, The next game against the Dodgers followed a similar path, as he again allowed five runs and struck out five while allowing just one free pass. If not for an injury in his next start against Arizona, his stat line likely would have looked the same there as well. While he had posted some solid peripheral numbers, and the Rockies bats were basically silent (Oswalt would post a Run Support score of 6 for the season), he appeared to be extremely hittable. His BABIP was over .400, and if he wasn't striking a guy out, they were getting on base.

Oswalt would return to action later in September as the Rockies had no chance for a playoff berth, and would continue to be ineffective. He surrendered at least two run in every appearance going forward, until September 29th when he pitched his last inning as a member of the Rockies. It was a scoreless inning of relief against the Dodgers, where he entered in the sixth and threw three first strike pitches and didn't allow a hit.

While there certainly wasn't just one cause for Oswalt's struggles, his inability to force swings and misses outside of the zone would be one big reason. During his career, he had been able to force opponents to miss on the edges, but not in Denver where they connected on 78% of those pitches. His career average had been just 62%. This extra contact was then exacerbated when he was being hit harder than normal as well. The percentage of hits that were hard hit jumped about five percentage points from 2012, and almost 10% more than in 2011. These issues caused him to not be able to work out of jams, as evidenced by a strand rate of just 51%.

At the time of his signing, this move looked to be a solid insurance policy in case of injury or at the very worst some excellent AAA depth. It just added to the sting that Oswalt was unable to stop the Rockies from scuffling more, and in fact helped to make sure that any chance of turning that great start into a wildcard berth would never happen.

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).

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