Over/under 7.5 wins for Oswalt?
I'll take the over
Roy Oswalt wanted to pitch in Texas. He wanted it enough that he watched as the season started and decided not to sign anywhere, preferring to see if injuries would make him more valuable as the season progressed. And when the Texas Rangers suffered the first of three injuries to their starting pitchers, club officials jumped at the chance to sign Oswalt, a veteran with a history of back trouble.
The Rangers don't need Oswalt to pitch like an ace. They simply need him to pitch enough innings and keep them in games. Despite a month-long offensive lull, the Rangers still have one of the top lineups in the league and appear ready to snap out of their hitting slumber. That's going to give Oswalt a chance to win games, even if he isn't dominant.
How many games? I'll say eight. It's a risky number, I concede. To win eight games, Oswalt must stay healthy. His balky back must hold up through four months. But the fact that he didn't pitch to start the season should help with that. He should be rested and have a little more in the tank to help him make 16 to 18 starts the rest of this season.
But winning games isn't just about a pitcher shutting down an opposing lineup. It's about an offense cashing in opportunities and winning some games even when the pitcher isn't at his best. Ask Yu Darvish. At times, the rookie sensation has mowed down hitters and needed minimal run support. But other times, his wobbly command has forced his teammates to try to pick him up. And he'll admit a few of his wins came thanks to that offense.
I think it will be the same with Oswalt. He has got the stuff to succeed for Texas. And he hasn't been in the American League in his career, which I think is more of an advantage than disadvantage (yes, he's got to face a DH instead of the pitcher now, but most of these hitters don't know him).
He had a 3.69 ERA last season in 23 starts and yet won only nine games. If he puts up an ERA similar to that and stays healthy, he'll get at least eight wins. Don't forget: Oswalt has something to prove. He wants to show he can pitch well and stay on the mound. That's a big motivator.
He should pitch well and be a solid addition to help this injured rotation.
Give me the under
It's tough to be too optimistic about Roy Oswalt after following his recent work on the farm.
You don't want to overreact to what amounts to Oswalt's spring training, but his numbers from four starts in the Rangers' minor league system aren't pretty. Oswalt has a 5.87 ERA in 15 1/3 innings for the Round Rock Express and Frisco RoughRiders, allowing Triple-A and Double-A opponents to hit .308 against him.
That's not reason to panic, but it's pretty far-fetched to believe that the 34-year-old Oswalt will morph from mediocre in the minors to All-Star form in the majors.
Granted, the focus for Oswalt since signing with the Rangers has been building up his arm strength and endurance while chipping off the rust from sitting out the first two months of the season.
There has been some good news for Oswalt. For starters, he's healthy, with no signs of the back pain that gave him problems last season. And his last performance was his most impressive, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out five in a 100-pitch, six-inning outing against Triple-A Oklahoma City.
It just seems to be a bit much to expect Oswalt to produce at a 15-win pace right away, particularly while adjusting to facing American League lineups.
The hope should be that Oswalt can keep the Rangers in games right now and steadily build toward peaking in the postseason.
I see Oswalt with something like a 6-4 record for the rest of the regular season. Not spectacular, but not bad.
Oswalt's time with the Rangers will be remembered for his performance in the postseason, good or bad.