Take the Lynn, Leave the Oswalt

by on March 27, 2012 · 6 comments

It’s not personal.  It’s business.  The St. Louis Cardinals do not need Roy Oswalt right now.  They may need him sometime down the road, but they really don’t need him right at this very moment.  Some people would have you believe otherwise, but it’s always easier when spending other people’s money.  Consider the pitchers that the Cardinals used in starts on a team that reached the 90 win plateau.

Basically, the starts provided by Jackson, McClellan, Batista, and Dickson are being replaced by Adam Wainwright this season.  Carpenter’s injury does not come complete with a solid timetable for his return, but let us assume that he won’t be available until July 1st as a practical worst case scenario.  Oswalt is already on record stating that he is content to hold out until the midway point of the season before signing with a team.  Even if he accelerates his schedule, it is unlikely that he would be ready to pitch at 100% effectiveness without something that resembles spring training for him.

Is it worth spending $5-7M for a pitcher that may plug a hole that will likely be open only a month or so?

Nope.  No way.  Not a chance.  It would be reckless to simply assume that the version of Roy Oswalt currently available is substantially better than the current options the Cardinals have.  The current version finished 2011 with a 3.69 ERA, a 105 ERA+, a 1.338 WHIP, 9.9 H/9, 6.0 SO/9, and a 2.82 SO/BB ratio.  He also turned in a .321 BAbip, and his splits vs RH hitters and LH hitters were arguably about even.  Keep in mind that the WHIP and hits per 9 innings were career highs for a season while the 6.0 strikeouts per 9 innings was a career low.  Maybe he just needed a good offseason to rest, but how much does he really have left?  Look closely at his monthly splits from last season.

  • April/March (5 starts) – 3.33 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, 7.0 SO/9, 3.00 SO/BB. .250 BAbip
  • May (3 starts) – 1.50 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 4.0 SO/9, 2.67 SO/BB, .358 BAbip
  • June (5 starts) – 5.81 ERA, 1.519 WHIP, 4.4 SO/9, 1.63 SO/BB, .315 BAbip
  • August (4 starts) – 3.71 ERA, 1.613 WHIP, 6.8 SO/9, 4.00 SO/BB, .407 BAbip
  • Sept/Oct (6 starts) – 3.51 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, 6.8 SO/9, 3.10 SO/BB, .285 BAbip

Timely reminder: Oswalt is a ground ball pitcher, and he benefited greatly the last few years from having one of the best defenses in baseball behind him.  I’d argue that the trio of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino was quite possibly the best middle defense combination in all of baseball.  The middle defenders for the Cardinals just might be the antithesis of J-Roll, ChUtley, and the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  There is no combination of Tyler Greene, Skip Schumaker, Rafael Furcal, Daniel Descalso, Erik Komatsu, Shane Robinson, Adron Chambers, and Jon Jay that comes even close (unless you allow 4 of them to play 3 positions, and even then…).  Just how much would Oswalt’s numbers suffer?  Maybe someone is motivated enough to do a scientific study involving timing batted balls and a 10×10 box.  I am not that man.

I’ll just unscientifically guesstimate that Oswalt would probably not be able to keep his BAbip below .300 even if he is at 100% for 2/3 or 1/2 of a season in St. Louis.  Maybe he can keep his WHIP below 1.200, but I doubt that as well, although I wouldn’t expect it to push up against the 1.300 mark.  Still, the point here is that Oswalt represents a likely upgrade over the likes of Kyle McClellan and Brandon Dickson, but he may not be all that much better than Lance Lynn (if at all).

Lynn started 2 games last season, and the Cardinals went 1-1 in those 2 starts.  If you told Mike Matheny that he could have a .500 record in games started by Lance Lynn until Chris Carpenter returns, would he take it?  Bet on it.  Sure, Lynn’s numbers are skewed by relatively short relief appearances, but he still turned in a 3.12 ERA, 1.038 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, and 10.4 SO/9.  Even if his ERA goes up a run, and his WHIP jumps to 1.250, would you take it?  I would, and I would take it in a heartbeat.  His BAbip last season was .275, and he absolutely owned right handed hitters (.187/.238/.267/.504).  Of course, his line against lefties wasn’t too shabby, either (.229/.327/.396/.723).  Considering that the division just lost a couple of big left-handed boppers in Prince Fielder and Carlos Pena, and Lynn seems to look viable on paper.  While his postseason work consists of a relatively small sample size, it is still worth noting that he pitched 5 1/3 innings against the division rival Brewers and surrendered exactly 0 runs in 5 appearances.  It’s not that I’m pointing to that as a harbinger of the future, but it shows that the moment is not too big for Lance Lynn.  Once again, I believe it’s time to “Give Lance a Chance!”

TIDBIT:  Just a friendly reminder that the NL Central may be a bit more crowded but weaker at the top than last year.  Why panic now, if the Cardinals didn’t panic in the face of the Wainwright news last year?

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for more nonsense about BAbip!




Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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