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Run Support Face-Off: Clemens vs. Oswalt

"These are really good games, fun to pitch in and fun to battle in, but I wish they'd come out on our side a little more often."

---Roger Clemens after his fifth 1-0 loss of the 2005 season, August 23, 2005.

After Roy Oswalt's 2-1 loss last Sunday, the subject of the Astros' run support for Oswalt this season was the talk of the Houston sport media.  A few frustrated comments by Oswalt helped focus the spotlight on Roy's run support from the hitters.  I'm staying away from the quote-fest.  Instead, I wanted to compare Oswalt's run support so far with Roger Clemens' run support at the same point in time during the Astros' 2005 season.  

Except for perhaps Nolan Ryan's 1987 season, Roger Clemens' 2005 campaign, when he posted a spectacular 1.87 ERA, was probably the Astros' most famed season of poor run support.  The Astros' inability to score runs for Clemens in 2005 became running joke.  Nine times the Astros scored zero runs for Clemens.  15 times the Astros scored 2 or fewer runs for Clemens. 20 times the Astros scored 3 runs or less for Clemens.

So, Roy, you think you've got it bad.  Let's take the challenge and see if the meagerness of your run support so far measures up to Roger Clemens at the same point during the 2005 season.  So, I will look at the first eight starts of the two pitchers in their respective seasons.

First Eight Starts (2005 and 2010)

Clemens vs. Oswalt

Run Support: Roy 2.24; Roger 1.88

ERA: Roy 2.62; Roger 1.11

W/L Record: Roy 2-5; Roger 3-1

 Avg. Innings/Start: Roy 6.8; Roger 7.0

So, it turns out that Roger Clemens had worse run support through 8 games than Roy has had so far.  Roger's run support was miniscule in part due to an unbelievable three consecutive 1-0 losses during those first eight games.


One of the reasons that Roy has the worst run support is that, as the No. 1 starter in the rotation, he is scheduled more often against the other team's ace.  So, let's look at the starting pitchers who faced Roy and Roger during their first eight games. 

(Opposing Pitcher & ERA at the time)

Oswalt Matchups

Lincecum 0.00

Halliday 0.56R

Gorzellany 1.93

Arroyo 6.37

Kennedy 3.56

Stauffer 0.56

Lincecum 1.76

Average Opposing ERA 2.10

Clemens Matchups

Ramon Ortiz 1.60

Ishii 3.29

Hudson 0.82

Mulder 3.20

Maddux 4.20

Redman 3.05

A.J. Burnett 3.70

Tomko 4.36

Average Opposing ERA 3.21

As we suspected, Roy Oswalt has matched up with the better opposing pitchers.  In fact, the pitchers who opposed Roy Oswalt had an average ERA of 2.10, which is even lower than Roy's 2.62 ERA.  That makes Roy's losing W/L record more understandable.  Clemens was the No. 3 pitcher in that great 2005 rotation; and, as a result, he was less likely to match up with the opposing team's ace.  The average ERA for his opponents, 3.21, was quite good, but was higher than Clemens' sparkling 1.11 ERA. The question is why those opposing pitchers performed so well against Clemens, holding the Astros' batters to less than 2 runs per game during the initial eight starts.  That question was the subject of much discussion in 2005.  One prevalent theory is that opposing pitchers showed their best game because they were jazzed up to face the future hall of famer.  But who really knows? 

Although Roy Oswalt has the lowest run support in the current Astros' rotation, his run support is only slightly worse than what Wandy, Bud, and Felipe have gotten.  Run Support so far: Norris 2.47; Paulino 2.43; Rodriguez 2.88.  Paulino has had three games with only 1 run from his hitters. Wandy and Bud each have had 2 games with zero run support.