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Does Marcel Undervalue Roy Oswalt?

It was a tale of two halves for Roy Oswalt in 2008. Before the All-Star break, Oswalt suffered from injuries (strained abductor muscle, hip injury) and a bad case of gopheritis. But in the second half he was one of the top pitchers in baseball. Oswalt was 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA with 18 HRs in 116.1 IP in the first half. But he was 10-2 with a 2.24 ERA with five HRs in 92.1 IP after the break.

Oswalt reversed a three-year trend of declining K/9 rates, posting a 7.12 rate. Additionally, his BB/9 and WHIP rates were nearly identical to his career rates. On the flip side, Oswalt posted the second-highest HR/FB rate of his career at 12.7 percent. The only thing that saved him was that he allowed the fewest fly balls of his career. Oswalt’s 29.2 percent FB% ranked 14th in the majors last season.

What can we expect in 2009? Oswalt’s Marcel projection, which regresses to the mean and uses an age factor, has him failing to reach 200 innings for the first time since his injury-plagued 2003, a 3.65 ERA, which would be the highest mark of his career, and the fewest strikeouts of the last five seasons. This seems a tad pessimistic.

Once Oswalt got over his injury problems, he was a completely different pitcher. The only way his Marcel projection makes sense is if Oswalt battles injuries again throughout the year, certainly a possibility given his injury history. He has endured wrist, groin, foot and hip injuries (among others) throughout his career. But he has also topped 30 starts in six of his seven full seasons in the majors.

His velocity has been unchanged the past few years and he is one of the top groundball pitchers in the majors. Oswalt’s 2008 HR rate seems like an injury-related thing, especially since he allowed 0.49 HR/9 when he was healthy after the break. Oswalt’s upside is as a top-10 pitcher. Because of his injury history, one should downgrade him somewhat. But nowhere near where his Marcel projection rates him.