Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics

Roy Oswalt had a great career as a pitcher. Despite being undersized compared to most starting pitchers of his era, Oswalt posted great season after great season, first for the Houston Astros and then with the Philadelphia Phillies before unremarkable turns for the Texas Rangers and the Colorado Rockies.

History should smile fondly upon Oswalt because he certainly feels underappreciated during his time in the big leagues. Playing in Houston for the bulk of your time will certainly do that, as Jeff Bagwell can attest. Count Roy Oswalt as another overlook superstar from the Astros’ Golden Years.

It is easy to forget that Houston wasn’t always the home to baseball’s worst team. For a long stretch, the Astros were quite good. They featured Hall of Famers like Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. Craig Biggio also compiled counting stats on those great Astros clubs. Hard to believe Houston reached their first (and only) World Series in 2005, going down in four straight games to the Chicago White Sox in Fall Classic that I can assure you actually happened on this plane of existence.

Though that Astros club helicoptered Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens in to spice up the proceedings, it was Oswalt who led the charge against the Cardinals in the League Championship series, taking MVP honors for his series-clinching performance in Game Six in addition to a great outing in Game Two.

But the Astros quickly slipped back into also-ran status as the great players of their glory years retired. Oswalt ended up moving to the Phillies, forming their super rotation that won so many games in 2011 but could not outlast the Cardinals in the playoffs. It was in this 2011 season that Oswalt began showing his age, hitting the DL for the longest stint of his career, a back injury that first surfaced a few years prior.

Two aborted comeback attempts and now his career is finished. One of the very best careers from the first decade of this century, believe it or not.

From 2000-2010, most WAR by starting pitchers

Rk Player WAR GS W L IP ERA+
1 Roy Halladay 53.7 300 160 79 2134.0 137
2 Randy Johnson 51.4 281 143 78 1885.1 137
3 Johan Santana 50.4 263 133 69 1908.2 142
4 Roy Oswalt 48.9 303 150 83 2015.0 135
5 Curt Schilling 46.4 221 117 63 1569.1 132
6 Tim Hudson 46.0 323 154 85 2152.0 127
7 Pedro Martinez 45.6 227 112 50 1468.0 152
8 Mark Buehrle 45.0 334 148 110 2271.1 120
9 CC Sabathia 43.1 322 157 88 2127.0 123
10 Javier Vazquez 41.6 353 138 126 2320.1 110
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/12/2014.

Hall of Fame expert Jay Jaffe suggests it will be tough for Oswalt to get his foot in the door at Cooperstown, thanks to the strength of the other pitchers on the ballot at the time and his lack of round number bona fides. But as Jaffe explains in the beginning of his piece, for an overlooked & undersized kid from Mississippi, just making it to the big leagues and carving out a 13-year career is reason enough to hold his head high (the $100 million of career earnings doesn’t hurt, either.)

So farewell, Roy Oswalt. You spent your essentially your entire career pitching for a team nobody likes. You were really quite good but never won a Cy Young and only made the All Star team three times. That’s weird but the future should treat you much more fairly than the present ever did. The present is a bunch of jerks, if we’re being honest.

Comments (4)

  1. I think baseball players suffer more than any other sport by the way in which they go out
    In other team sports a former star can still contribute but be hidden in some way
    Michael Jordan could still put up 18 a night for the Wizards but was really just a shell of his former self

    There is no hiding in baseball whether you are throwing junk or swinging and missing
    Just looking at the list the perception of guys like Oswalt, Doc and Santana will have been shaped by their inglorious endings (I’m assuming on Santana here)
    Not that the majority of baseball fans will feel that way about them but there is still a bit of a stink attached and it can cloud a little just how unbelievable these guys were in their pomp

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