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Entries in Roy Oswalt (4)


Oswalt's Fastball a Feast-or-Famine Pitch in MLB Return

During his halcyon days with the Astros and Phillies, Roy Oswalt generated impressive velocity by hurling every bit of his 6-foot, 190 pound frame toward home plate with a drop-and-drive delivery. As Oswalt aged and his body betrayed him -- he's got a degenerative disc condition in his back -- those 93s and 94s on the radar gun became 90s and 91s.

Oswalt showed his old zip for the Rockies last night, however, striking out 11 Nationals while making his first major league start since September of 2012. The 35-year-old pounded the strike zone with his fastball, getting most of those Washington whiffs with the pitch. But Oswalt also left plenty of those heaters belt-high, which helps explain why he was tagged for four runs in five innings pitched. Here's more on Oswalt's feast-or-famine fastball:

  • Oswalt practically forgot he had secondary stuff, throwing 80 fastballs out of 101 total pitches. He averaged 92.5 MPH and topped out at 94.3 MPH. Last year, Oswalt averaged 91.3 MPH as a starting pitcher with the Rangers.
  • Nats hitters missed 15 of the 45 fastballs they swung at versus Oswalt (33%), well above the 20% whiff rate that Oswalt managed in 2012 and the 15% MLB average for starting pitchers. Oswalt got ten of his 11 Ks with his fastball, mostly on pitches located on the corners.

Location of Oswalt's Ks with his fastball vs. Nationals

  • He threw 56% of his heaters over the plate, north of the 53% average for MLB starters. He wasn't nibbling, either, challenging hitters to square him up in the middle of the zone. Forty-three of Oswalt's 80 fastballs (54%) were thrown belt-high. Overall, MLB starters throw about 36% of their fastballs to the middle of the zone.

Oswalt's overall fastball location vs. Nationals

  • Oswalt's "here it is, try and hit it" approach did backfire at times, as Washington batters went 8-for-22 (.364) against the pitch. Five of those eight base knocks came on belt-high fastballs.

Oswalt showed enough stuff to earn more MLB starts, enjoying radar gun readings not seen since he was still a 200-inning-a-year horse. But he's not in Tulsa anymore, so he's going to have to show finer touch with his fastball to forge a successful comeback. Throwing belt-high heat at mile-high elevation is a dicey proposition, no matter how much zip you have.


Oswalt's Back, Breaking Stuff and Whiffs

Roy Oswalt has garnered plenty of interest in free agency since word came out that he's seeking a one-year deal. The 34-year-old isn't considering all teams (sorry, Toronto and Cleveland), seemingly having his sights set on Texas, St. Louis or possibly Boston. Depending upon the condition of his troublesome lower back, Oswalt could be could be on the backside of a superb career or primed for a huge comeback season in 2012.

Overall, Oswalt's 2011 campaign was arguably the worst of his career. He was limited to 139 innings, striking out a career-low 15.7% of batters faced and posting a 105 ERA+. It was the first time that the former 23rd-round pick failed to crack two Wins Above Replacement since his 2001 debut. But Oswalt's season can be broken down into two drastically different parts: when his back injury may have limited his pitch selection, and when he returned to health (at least for the time being) late in the year.

Oswalt's back caused him to hit the DL twice in 2011, as he missed nearly three weeks from late April to mid-May and then nearly five weeks from late June to early August. Keep that in mind as you look at Oswalt's miss percentage by month:

MonthMiss Pct.
April 19.2
May 11.2
June 15.8
August 20.8
September 22.6
Avg. for SP 19.8


Oswalt wasn't fooling anyone when his back bothered him, but he started to look like his old self as the season came to a close. The major change for Oswalt in August and September was that he started throwing his breaking stuff more often. Perhaps as a result of his bad back, Oswalt preferred to go to his changeup more in place of his curveball and slider during the first three months of the year:

MonthChangeup Pct.Curveball/Slider Pct.
April 22.3 14.8
May 25.9 15.8
June 16.1 16.6


Considering that his changeup gets swings and misses half as often (13 percent) as his breaking stuff (26 percent), that was a bad trade-off.

The curve and slider made a comeback later in the year, though. He broke out the breaking stuff far more often after returning from his second DL stint in August:

MonthChangeup Pct.Curveball/Slider Pct.
August 14.3 27
September 18.5 23.7


If Oswalt has his full arsenal and can hold up for 150 or so innings in 2012, he should be a great get for the Cardinals, Rangers or Red Sox. If his back limits him to being more of a fastball/changeup pitcher, however, don't expect a big rebound in Ks.


Quick Hitter: Oswalt in the 9th

Since 2008 Roy Oswalt had thrown 91 pitches over 22 plate appearances in the 9th inning. Opposing batters hit only .190 (with 4 hits). During the aforementioned 22 plate appearances he had only thrown 2 pitches with runners in scoring position.