Don’t misinterpret this headline – no judgment is being passed on Roy Oswalt’s ability after one late July start. I mean, it’s not as if Roy Number Two a) pitched well in his debut Friday, b) hit his spots, or c) threw effective breaking pitches, but the mediocre first impression he left is not indicative of the The Real Roy Oswalt.
THAT is not the Oswalt you’re gonna get. So there’s no need for overreaction and even less of a need for worries.
There’s your “good” news. The bad news is that Oswalt looked completely unpoised in his six innings of work – letting his emotions show almost on-cue following every hanging breaking ball.
Now, emotions can be refreshing at times. Bill Simmons wrote a bunch of words last night about how boring players create an air of apathy (he didn’t write those exact words, but mentioned how it’s hard to identify with J.D. Drew because he carries a pokerface wherever he goes.)
Very, very rarely, however, are profanity and frustrated body language beneficial on the mound.
Once upon a time, Cole Hamels got flustered easily. The best way to describe Hamels’ prior tendencies after a poor play in the field would be “visibly upset.” This is how Oswalt appeared after Roger Bernadina’s double, Adam Dunn’s hit by pitch, and Josh Willingham’s two-run double.
On Bernadina’s double, Oswalt blatantly said “f–k, motherf—er,” almost immediately after Comcast SportsNet’s director called for a close-up on him. He made sure to add a “f–k, son of a b—h” before delivering his next pitch.
There are many reasons a pitcher can struggle on a given night, but poise, a solid mindset, and the ability to execute each play a massive role in subsequent outcomes. It is ironic that Oswalt’s blood pressure increased so much Friday night, because the pitcher he was traded for, J.A. Happ, is an absolute corpse on the mound. Nothing phases him.
(But, uh…yeah, I’ll still take Oswalt’s talent.)
Rarely is a pitcher effective once the floodgates of frustration open. Carlos Zambrano has showed us time and time and time again. The Hamels of old showed us, too, and Brett Myers before him. Friday was an off-night for Oswalt, but there was no-coming-back-for-him once he let his irritation build and surface.
An adjective like “fiery” is not something we can read about on paper from references in Houston. Oswalt may be an extremely fiery guy. That is something we’ll see for ourselves and be able to better determine after a few more starts. Maybe he is just so high strung that emotions and expletives fly no matter what the situation.
Or, hey, maybe he just can’t execute against the Nationals. On May 31, Oswalt pitched only 2.2 innings versus the Nats before his repeated arguing with home plate umpire Bill Hohn led to an ejection. Oswalt couldn’t hit his spots that day against Washington, nor could he on Friday.
The good news is: you don’t have to worry about his performance. This was merely an ill-timed off-night for Oswalt.
The bad news is, New Roy needs work on his pokerface.