|Oswalt has had Unlikely Career||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on July 08, 2011
When you first look at Roy Oswalt, you'd think that maybe he's a speedy second baseman or shortstop -- given his six-foot, 190-pound frame -- and even that would be a stretch. You definitely wouldn't expect him to be a starting pitcher with a .634 winning percentage and 1,708 career strikeouts.
Oswalt was one of the few hybrid starting pitchers in the game that pitched effectively despite his smaller stature.
However, while his frame carried him through the first 10 years of his career, a recent string of injuries begs the question of whether Oswalt will ever return to form.
Oswalt claimed that he was a liability to the team if he could not pitch at 100 percent. Though the original diagnosis suggested that Oswalt would likely be done for the year, a second opinion from Dallas spine specialist Dr. Drew Dossett could have Oswalt returning sometime in August.
Even if he returns, Oswalt is setting himself up for a similar situation to his first return. He has the mentality of a power pitcher in that he uses his entire body in his delivery, but a weak back would hinder his ability to pitch effectively.
Normally, power pitchers have a bigger frame that allows them to sustain the heavy workload of not only throwing hard but also a ton of innings. Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan and C.C. Sabathia instantly come to mind as pitchers who fit this mold.
While Oswalt did not sport a large frame, he was just as durable as some of the typical power pitchers. Oswalt made at least 30 starts each of the last eight seasons and was among the game's best pitchers during that stretch.
The signs were present that Oswalt was in for a sudden decline, which begs the question of why the Phillies took a gamble on him on last season -- especially since he was owed $16 million this year and an equal mutual option for next season. How long could he possibly keep up this output?
Here's the thing though with Oswalt: Despite the small frame coupled with a power pitcher demeanor, he had never spent any significant time on the DL in the last decade. As a result, the Phillies couldn't rely on any injury history to determine Oswalt's future. The team was forced to take a risk, and that's exactly what it did.
Oswalt's effectiveness waned early last year (6-12 in 20 starts) for the Astros, so it looked like he was done even without the injuries. Though part of his decline dealt with a lack of run support, his fastball lost some velocity and straightened out, causing him to be more hittable.
However, Oswalt proved his doubters wrong by posting a 7-1 record with a 1.74 ERA down the stretch in Philadelphia. At just 33 years old, he appeared to be an anomaly and was poised for his career to takeoff once more.
This season, Cliff Lee joined Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels in forming a quartet of aces that was easily the best starting rotation in the game today.
Suddenly with Oswalt and fifth starter Joe Blanton on the shelf until August at the earliest, the Phillies will rely on Kyle Kendrick and rookie Vance Worley to fill the final two rotation spots. Still, Halladay, Lee and Hamels can carry the staff.
Oswalt's story is looking similar to another power pitcher of small stature: Pedro Martinez. Martinez was dominant for a decade, but he experienced rotator cuff issues with the Mets that lingered for the duration of his career. He reinvented himself as a finesse pitcher, but he was never the same after his string of injuries.Though the future remains uncertain for Oswalt, one thing is true: He turned in a phenomenal career though many considered him too small to be successful.