Oswalt and Strasburg: NL Starters

Roy Oswalt (Yahoo: 87 percent owned, ESPN: 96 percent owned)

Oswalt’s Sunday start wasn’t good, but neither was it a complete disaster. He allowed far too many baserunners against an offense that hasn’t always punished such generosity, which is why there’s a justifiably fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth over what was technically a quality start. Making any sort of grand judgment after one start is foolish — even more so when it’s his first start off the disabled list — but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from Oswalt’s effort against the Giants.

Matt Swartz noted during Oswalt’s start that the righty’s velocity looked low, which was part of the reason the Giants had little trouble squaring him up. Oswalt’s average fastball velocity this season is 91.2 mph, a full tick slower than it was last year, which is somewhat worrisome on its own. If he drops even further form there, he could be in real trouble. While he doesn’t live or die by high velocity, Oswalt isn’t going to thrive with a fastball that tops out at the same speed he averaged last year.

His drop in speed could well be directly related to his time on the disabled list, so it bears watching in his next few outings as he resumes his normal turns through the rotation. Assuming the Phillies stick to their current rotation, Oswalt should make back-to-back starts against the Nationals, who should provide a fair test of Oswalt’s remaining stuff. The decision to start or sit him is yours, but I’d wait until he’s made at least one more start before dropping him outright.

Stephen Strasburg (Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 16 percent owned)

Last summer, as he awaited his call to the majors, everything start Strasburg made was front-page material, and while his rehab starts aren’t generating quite as much publicity, it’s pretty close to the same depth of coverage. His first outing was a good showing; the numbers are pretty much immaterial — ok, getting four of his five outs via strikeouts is pretty nice — it’s the fact that he felt good during and after the start that even borders on relevancy.

While there’s a good chance Strasburg will see some time in the majors in September, make no mistake, it is not a given that he will. Each start will see Strasburg ramp up his pitch count and if at any point he looks like he’s not coping well with the increase, the Nationals aren’t likely to push him through it. The risk is simply too much greater than the reward at this point in the season, which is big reason I feel that adding him now is prematurely speculative. If he makes 3-4 successful rehab starts, and you foresee needing a spot start in September, then perhaps he bears consideration.

Jordan Zimmermann owners should be especially cognizant of Strasburg’s progress through the minors, as there is a non-zero chance that Zimmermann will be shutdown at around the same time that Strasburg is ready to come up. However, with Brad Peacock already performing well in Triple-A, there’s no guarantee that Strasburg will be the one who replaces Zim in the rotation. As Zimmermann’s cap becomes a more pressing, the situation should become clearer, but if you know you’re going to need to replace one Nats pitcher, there’s a good chance another good option will soon become available to you. It just may not be the one you’re expecting.

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Dan enjoys black tea, imperial IPAs, and any competition that can be loosely judged a sport. Follow him on Twitter.

10 Responses to “Oswalt and Strasburg: NL Starters”

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  1. Telo2 says:

    Come on D. Wade you are better than this….This article didn’t tell me anything. Especially about Strasburg. Where are the statistics? It is just repeating things that we already know. I was hoping for some sort of proof that Strasburg will be so good that he is worth a pick up now. This one just didn’t do it for me Wade.

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    • Dan Wade says:

      If you’re looking for proof Strasburg is worth a speculative pick up right now, I recommend visiting a soothsayer, sacrificing a sheep, and hoping for a good liver. There’s just nothing about 1.2 rehab innings that’s going to sell me on a player or push me off him for that matter.

      I’ll revisit Strasburg when his call up is closer, but here’s the best advice that’s out there right now: Watch, wait, and know the proclivities of the other people in your league.

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  2. Chris Bowyer says:

    The Strasburg thing could use some qualification. I nabbed him because a) I had an open DL slot, and b) people in my league go bananas for guys like him, and there’s virtually no chance I’d be able to grab him after 3-4 successful rehab starts.

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    • Dan Wade says:

      The open DL slot is definitely a mitigating circumstance, since there’s virtually no risk involved. I’d rather have Strasburg there than, say, Johan Santana.

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  3. Ree says:

    You added Zimermann but threw the link to Zimmerman. I don’t think the right one pitched a total of 12 innings in 1999.

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    • Dan Wade says:

      Fixed, thanks for the heads up. I’ve played in some deep leagues, but if anyone is still rostering the guy who threw 12 total innings in 1999, your league is too deep!

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  4. thegeniusking says:

    You may also want to consider that the Nats would love, love, love the extra revenue associated with a couple Strasburg home starts at the end of the season, if he’s healthy, is there any reason to hold him back?

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  5. mikey mike says:

    What’s going on with Oswalt and his curveball?

    From one of the best pitches in baseball to something he hardly ever uses.

    I know his changeup has improved, but has he fallen too in love with it.

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  6. UmYeah says:

    Oswalt’s velocity wasn’t really “down” as described in that tweet tbh. It average 91.4 per brook’s baseball’s pitch f/x, topping out at ~93. It may have gone down to 90 once or twice later in the ballgame, but he was pretty consistently at 91-92 through most of his outing. However, he did generally average ~93 earlier in the season when he was pitching reasonably well, so I think that his velocity in his next few starts will tell just how healthy he is.

    The drop in curveball usage I think is more associated with coming to Philly rather than anything mechanical. He was throwing it 16% of the time last year before the trade, but 12.5% after the trade and 9.1% this year. It’s probably due to the discretion of Carlos Ruiz not calling for it and using the changeup a LOT more. This might also have something to do with the Phils pitching staff as Roy Halladay’s improved changeup the past 2 years is widely attributed to the Phils pitching coach, Rich Dubee, teaching him a new grip for it, and so it’s possible he did the same with Oswalt.

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    • tdotsports1 says:

      No offense to Rich Dubee but Roy Halladay has been working on his change-up for about 5+ seasons now, he has just never really gotten comfortable with it in-game until his last couple seasons in TO. Shaun Marcum has one of the great change-ups in baseball and the two of them discussed it a length I am sure.

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