We know Roy Oswalt makes the Phillies better. That’s a no-brainer. But how much better? Better enough to send them surging past the Braves and into the postseason? To answer that question, let’s look at some Random Royness:
- Oswalt in Citizens Bank Park: Oswalt has thrived in Citizens Bank Park, going 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA in four starts while giving up only one home run there in 27 innings, and that against a Phillies lineup that has been stacked for several years. In short: Oswalt loves pitching in Philly, so this will be a great fit.
- Oswalt against the Braves: As the Mets slowly fall away, the NL East is turning into a two-horse race: Phillies vs. Braves. Philly has dug itself a bit of a hole in recent weeks, but they’re on a roll right now. Still, the road to the division title goes through Atlanta, with six games against the Braves in the final two weeks of the season, including the final three games of the year. Against the Braves, however, Oswalt is not so good: 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA in seven starts. For him to be an asset rather than a liability against Atlanta down the stretch, that will have to change.
- Oswalt in the Playoffs: Say the Phillies do get into the postseason, via either the division crown or the wild card. What then? Well then you have a pretty decent Oswalt: He’s 4-0 in eight starts with a 3.66 ERA. That’s skewed a bit too by the fact that he got beat up pretty bad in his one World Series start against the White Sox in 2005. But of course we’re still dealing with a small sample size, the last data point of which was five years ago. The point here, I think, is that Oswalt has playoff experience and that can only help him and the Phillies.
OK, I’ll admit it: the reason I started in on this exercise is because I’m a shameless Braves fan who wanted an excuse to write about Oswalt’s struggles against Atlanta. But that doesn’t seem very relevant to me right now. All I’m seeing is that an already good team, on the upswing, just picked up a stud pitcher with playoff experience who does really well in his new park.
Maybe we can’t quantify what that does for the Phillies, but what it does is very, very good.
The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.
So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.
I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.
Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.
All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?
Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.
Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.
Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.