Jun 22, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Roy Oswalt (44) pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
The former Houston Astros ace pounded the strike zone with superb command in his first start as a Texas Ranger.
Roy Oswalt's debut was better than any Rangers fan could have rationally hoped for. After not having pitched in a Major League game since October of last year, Oswalt's performance was sharp as could be, earning him his first win of the season.
Physically, Oswalt looked great. He threw 110 pitches on a hot Texas night and his fastball remained solidly at 91-93mph throughout the game. Oswalt was able to command every one of his pitches and worked both sides of the plate like he hadn't missed a beat.
His final line was 6 2/3 innings pitched, allowing one earned run on nine hits with six strikeouts and only one walk. But those numbers don't quite do his start justice.
Looking inside the numbers, Rangers fans (and management) should be very, very pleased with Oswalt's outing. Of his 110 pitches, a ridiculous 81 were strikes. The ideal benchmark is a 2:1 strike to ball ratio, 66.6% strikes. Oswalt was well above that with a 73.6 strike percentage.
And even more ridiculous was the fact that Oswalt got ahead of 14 Colorado hitters 0-2. He only fell behind 2-0 to one batter and only had two 3-ball counts. Getting ahead of batters is the single-most important goal for pitchers. Doing so keeps hitters off balance and almost guarantees success on the mound.
Command and endurance are probably the two biggest concerns one might have for a pitcher coming back from an extended absence such as Oswalt's. In other words, rust. But Oswalt definitely hushed those worries Friday night and looked as if he was right in mid-season form.
Fans shouldn't expect Oswalt to have numbers quite these good for every start, but if he continues to throw strikes at a high rate and can pitch deep into ball games, he'll definitely have continued success going forward.
Oswalt may prove to be the shot in the arm our injury-plagued pitching staff desperately needs. He's a proven veteran pitcher with postseason experience. If he continues to pitch at or around this level, the Rangers may not need to go shopping around the trade deadline. Or at the very least, won't have to be big spenders.