Is Oswalt Worth It?

Yesterday, Roy Oswalt signed a 5-year, $73 million deal with the Houston Astros, which averages out to $14.6 million per year. That’s quite a contract, and the obvious question is: “how much is Roy Oswalt worth?” Last year, I developed a method for valuing players based on player contributions to winning and what those wins translate into in terms of team revenue. It’s a method that I detail in my book, which will be out in March. Whenever I see a contract like this signed, I pull up the numbers to see what I’ve predicted he’s worth. In 2005, my model predicts that Oswalt was worth $14.9 million dollars, which is pretty darn close to his new annual salary. That made him eighth most valuable player in baseball that year, and only $50,000 less than Roger Clemens, who threw 30 fewer innings.

Oswalt has been consistent over the past three seasons, so I think it’s reasonable to expect him to continue at his current level of performance over the next few years. The bad news for the Astros is that they didn’t get a bargain. The good news is you get what you pay for, and Oswalt is pretty darn good.

12 Responses “Is Oswalt Worth It?”

  1. Mac says:

    I have to point this out:

    Similar Pitchers through Age 27
    Compare Stats

    1. Tim Hudson (960)
    2. Mike Mussina (946)
    3. John Candelaria (939)
    4. Jack McDowell (937)
    5. Kevin Appier (935)
    6. Doug Drabek (934)
    7. Lefty Williams (933)
    8. Matt Morris (930)
    9. Kevin Millwood (928)
    10. Bob Welch (926)

    Short righthanded pitcher with declining strikeout rate…

  2. Frank says:

    Oswalt’s WHIP has been consistent but he has upward trends in both FIP and home run frequency. I’ll buy that he’s worth $14m or so now, but I’m skeptical he’ll be worth that much in the last years of the contract.

  3. Charlie says:

    You should see what ARod will be worth after this season!

  4. NKW says:

    Charlie: Whatever the number, remember he’s worth $10m/year to the Rangers to play for any of 29 other teams.

  5. Mike says:

    Inflation, too, plays into this – not US dollar inflation, but baseball inflation… which historically has been more than double the normal dollar inflation, if I remember correctly. So 14.6 million in 2006 dollars might essentially be 13.0 million in 2010 dollars.

  6. JC says:

    It’s certainly a gamble to sign any player to a 5-year contract. Oswalt has been pretty good though, although the comparison to Tim Hudson is a scary thought.

    Another factor to consider is the growth in revenues in MLB, which is something my estimate doesn’t take into account. So, $14 million in 2010 may be about on target even if he declines.

  7. David Gassko says:

    Whoever made the comment about inflation is right. MLB inflation has historically been roughlmy stable at 10 percent a year. So the average salary five years from now will be 1.6 times greater than the average salary today. So if an average pitcher today is worth $7 million, five years from now, that’ll be $11.25 million. If Oswalt is worth 2.5 wins above average today, he only has to be worth 1 win aboive average in the last year of his contract.

  8. Pablo says:

    I dont understand how your list has any relevance to short right handed pitchers?

    1. Tim Hudson (960) – Yes he is shorter, but
    2. Mike Mussina (946) – 6’2
    3. John Candelaria (939) – 6’7
    4. Jack McDowell (937) – 6’5
    5. Kevin Appier (935) – 6’2
    6. Doug Drabek (934) – 6’1
    7. Lefty Williams (933) – LHP
    8. Matt Morris (930) – 6’5
    9. Kevin Millwood (928) – 6’4
    10. Bob Welch (926) – 6’3

    All of those pitchers have different builds as well.
    True, they might have had declining strikeout rates, but still how are they that similar?

    I agree that Oswalt could be the next Tim Hudson, but I think its too early to label him as having a declining strikeout rate. Keep in mind he was on the 15 day dl this year, which cost him 3 starts. With those he could have easily had another 20 K’s, meaning he would be right on pace for the same number of K’s that he has last year.

  9. Frank says:

    The key is strikeout RATE not strikeout total. For the last three years, Oswalt has K/IP as follows:

    2004–206/237 = 7.8 K per 9 IP
    2005–184/241.7 = 6.9 K per 9 IP
    2006–127/177 = 6.5 K per 9 IP

    THT has a similar stat, K/G, which shows a decline of 8.1, 7.0, and 6.8 over the 2004-2006 seasons, respectively.

    Bottom line: Oswalt has been injured but he’s striking out batters at slightly lower rate than last year and a substantially lower rate than 2004.

  10. Mac Thomason says:

    That was more or less referring to Hudson, Pablo. I’m a Braves fan like JC and we’ve watched nearly two years of Hudson now and let’s just say we’re not impressed. When we got him, I thought that the declining strikeout rate was due to injury and that he’d be fine. No such luck. So I’m concerned about any pitcher who has Hudson show up as his most comparable player.

  11. flournoy says:

    Not to mention Drabek, McDowell, and Appier on the same list.

  12. Mike says:

    Hudson was never a true strikeout pitcher. Oswalt looked like he would be, until a couple of seasons ago. With 2 less seasons under his belt, Oswalt has racked up 140 less strikeouts in 450 less innings than Hudson. Oswalt is not comparable to Hudson. Oswalt is somewhere between Hudson and David Cone (a smallish power pitcher), as far as type-of-pitcher. Funny thing is, though . . . as the strikeout per nine ratio gap widens on him, he continues to win and to keep his ERA in right about the same place every year. He’s no knuckle-baller; only a knuckle-baller or a finesse pitcher is guaranteed another year of healthy, productive pitching. They’re all a gamble.