The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Roy Oswalt: You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

Unless you know something I don’t know regarding Roy Oswalt, it looks like he might not pitch in the Majors anytime soon.  This is unfortunate, because it is quite likely that Oswalt has something left in the tank, provided his back is in decent condition.

But given how pitching is always at a premium, I would be surprised if Oswalt didn’t pitch this year.  Still, it is possible that Oswalt’s career is all but finished.  If that turns out to be the case, how good a pitcher will baseball have lost?

English: Roy Oswalt (pitcher)

Image via Wikipedia

The answer is, one of the best of his generation.

Looking over his career numbers, the first thing that stuck out was his remarkable consistency, especially through the first seven years of his career, from 2001-2007, inclusive.  Aside from the always low ERA’s and the excellent win-loss percentages, I happened to notice that in every one of his first seven seasons his ERA+ (which measures ERA vs. a typical replacement level pitcher, adjusted for league and ballpark factors) was no lower than 125.  So Oswalt was always at least 25% better than a replacement level pitcher.

How rare is that?  The answer stunned me.  I reviewed the careers of nearly 40 of the all-time great pitchers, including many of Oswalt’s contemporaries, and found that exactly three pitchers in history, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove and Johan Santana, had accomplished this amazing feat.

Further, you have to throw out Clemens’ first 20 starts in the Majors in 1984 and Grove’s first 18 starts in 1925 to allow them to qualify.  And Santana was primarily a relief pitcher in his first two years in the Majors, so, as far as I can tell, Roy Oswalt is the first pitcher in baseball history to begin his career as a starter and consistently reach this level of excellence in each of his first seven seasons.

Therefore, it would seem to make sense that one of the best pitchers of not only his generation, but of all-time, would get a shot at returning to the Majors. I would say you can probably count on it happening sooner than later.

Because after all, you can’t keep a good man down.

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4 thoughts on “Roy Oswalt: You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

  1. Thanks for the great post, Bill. If I were the Pirates GM I would have already called him.

    • Apparently, the Pirates would rather take a chance on an inferior (and now injured) A.J. Burnett. How stupid can you get? There’s a reason they’ve been terrible for years.
      Thanks for reading,
      Bill

  2. Wow, that is quite impressive. I did a B-R Play Index search to confirm this. I used every season from the start of the career (no callups) and a minimum of 100 IP per season. Oswalt fits the bill but actually places second behind Three Finger Brown. Ol’ Mordecai started his big league career with eight such seasons.

    • Thanks for confirming my research, Adam. I thought I might miss someone, but seeing that just one other player in history accomplished this is pretty remarkable.
      As always, thanks for reading,
      Bill

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