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What's eatin' Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman?

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Richard Justice asks a pretty valid question in his most recent blog post: Can Roy and Lance still be elite players? Richard cites declining power stats for Lance and a rising ERA for Roy as proof of their possible demise. Of course, there are better stats to evaluate these two players.

Taking a deeper look at Lance, we can see that a lot of his numbers are similar to what he was able to do in 2007. His batting average and BABIP are similar which probably is not a coincidence. Strikingly alike are his Isolated Slugging (Slugging % - Batting Average) numbers of .232 and .233 in 2007 and 2009 respectively. He's been able to maintain that high level of pure extra base hitting production by smacking doubles at a higher clip this season than in 2007- his homer totals will most likely fall short in no small part because he'll have played in twenty or so fewer games.

Patience has been key to Berkman's value- drawing more walks than in years past and posting an above 1 BB/K ratio. He is swinging at a lower percentage of pitches in the strike zone than at any other time in his career, and making contact overall at a slightly higher clip than in the past three seasons.

One part of Berkman's game that has seen a steep decline in 2009 has been his ability to punish opposing pitchers when they throw fastballs. Fangraphs does a nice job of quantifying how many runs above average a batter is when he faces a particular pitch. I realize that the season isn't over yet, but with 15 or so games left, it's not as if this number is going to change all that much. That being said here is Lance's wFB (runs above average when throwing his fastball) numbers since 2006:

Season wFB
2006 34.9
2007 27.1
2008 25.9
2009 10.0

 

Compared to his performances against the other pitches, Lance has always been fairly consistent in how he does against fastballs. Could his relative struggles this season be due in part to his less aggressive, more selective approach at the plate this season?

Like Berkman, Roy Oswalt has had to withstand injury this season, to the tune of making a total of only thirty starts. Once a strong suit of his, Oswalt has been unable to induce groundballs like in the past, which has definitely been a factor in his lesser degree of success in 2009.

Batters have similar contact and swing %s against Roy this season as compared to the recent past, which was a surprise to me probably because I guessed he would have lost a little on his fast ball this year. That hasn't been the case, but Oswalt is throwing his fastball less and his slider and changeup a bit more.

This season has pretty clearly been Roy's worst, but it's not as if his stats are varying all that much than in years past. A rising BABIP has led to a higher BAA and ERA. Looking beyond these baseball card metrics, tERA and FIP (think ERA substitutes) indicate that Roy has actually been better this season than last season.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the futures of these two are in doubt. Will Lance play beyond his current contract? Is this the offseason that Roy gets dealt? After frustrating seasons for each, question marks abound for our two stars.