The Lesser of Two Evils

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Roy Oswalt and Scott Feldman are very comparable.  In fact, they don’t appear to have much in common at all.

Oswalt is an two-time 20-game winner in the twilight of an accomplished 12-year career, during which he earned 2005 NLCS MVP for leading the Houston Astros to their first-ever World Series.  Feldman is in the eighth season of a significantly less distinguished 39-44 career, in which the only true “highlight” was managing to somehow “earn” 17 wins in 2009 while posting a bloated 4.08 ERA.

Oswalt is a scrappy bulldog from the backwoods of rural Mississippi who barely measures six feet tall standing on his tiptoes.  His preferred mode of transportation is a tractor.  Feldman is a lanky beachcomber (born in Hawaii and raised in California) who towers over most of his teammates at 6’7”.  He’d likely be much more comfortable on a surfboard than anything manufactured by John Deere. 

But this season, Oswalt and Feldman have much more in common than not.

Both have been starters for most of their respective careers, but now spend a significant portion of their time in the bullpen or making emergency starts.  And both have made their displeasure about this known to anyone and everyone, from the Rangers front office and coaching staff all the way down to beat writers.  Of course, they both have also performed so poorly for most of this season that their displeasure with these unaccustomed roles is entirely unwarranted.

Oswalt has logged much fewer innings in 2012 than Feldman, mainly because he didn’t join the team until late June.  During that time, Oswalt has pitched 56.1 innings with an ERA of 6.07, a WHIP of 1.54 and a -0.5 WAR.  Feldman has pitched more than twice as many innings (122) as Oswalt, but has been similarly ineffective, posting a 5.16 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP and a -0.2 WAR.

It’s possible that both Oswalt and Feldman end up on this team’s postseason roster, but which of the two should be the one the Rangers turn to for long relief in October?  Ideally, the answer would be “neither,” but reality dictates that’s unfortunately not a likely scenario.  The numbers appear to give Feldman a slight edge.  He’s pitched much more than Oswalt this year with marginally less crappy results.

However, it would be unwise not to take the postseason history of each into consideration.  Oswalt has logged 72.1 career playoff innings over four different trips to the postseason, compared to just 13.2 for Feldman – all in 2011.  Oswalt’s playoff performance has been dominant at times, highlighted by his aforementioned NLCS MVP in 2005.  Feldman’s performance in last year’s ALDS and ALCS were solid, but he was dreadful during the World Series, giving up six walks and five earned runs in five innings of Fall Classic action.

So while neither Oswalt or Feldman are ideal options for long relief this postseason, Oswalt’s body of work – especially in October – would seem to make him the lesser of two evils.  We can only hope they both pitch better during the playoffs than they have during the regular season this year. 

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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