What to Expect from Brett Oberholtzer in 2015?


Jose de Jesus Ortiz released a tweet earlier today about the projected Astros rotation, and the 1-4 spots are apparently locked in for now. He also mentioned that the Astros should acquire another arm for the rotation. When I read that I wondered what Brett Oberholtzer has done to earn the number 4 slot in the rotation.

The Astros might want to acquire another arm for this rotation. Keuchel Feldman McHugh Oberholtzer Foltynewicz, Peacock, White or Wojo

A Recap of 2014

In 2014, Brett Oberholtzer went 5-13/ 4.39 ERA/ 1.378 WHIP/ 94 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. While the win/loss record might look like a disaster, his ERA tells a different story. He was given only 3.1 runs of support per game pitched, when the league average is 4.1 runs per game. He had 13 quality starts, (going 6 innings giving up 3 runs or less) out of 24 games started which is 54%.

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Oberholtzer had 4 unlucky starts in which he earned a quality appearance, but the Astros didn’t score any runs for him. In fact, the Astros only gave him an 2.13 run support while he was in the game. The Astros offense gave the team 3.17 run support for the 9 innings plus that Oberholtzer pitched.

So what led to the poor record? His ground ball to fly ratio is 0.65 (196 ground-balls to 302 fly balls). His home-run to fly ball ratio was 5.8 % which is not that bad, allowing 0.75 homers per 9 innings. He gave up about 7 hits per start while walking 1.71 batters each game. He lasted less that 5 innings in 5 starts. Oberholtzer had 5.89 strikeouts per 9 innings. His best month of 2014 was May when he went 2-1/ 3.32 ERA/ 19 innings/ 13 strikeouts.

What to Expect in 2015

Below are projections from two different websites. As you can see, the ZiPs projections do not include wins or losses. These projections both show an increase in workload and strikeouts, as well as an increase in ERA closer to 5. While these numbers don’t jump out ace pitcher, this is a good number from a number 4 or 5 pitcher.

Comparison Player

While I’m not saying that Brett Oberholtzer will remotely resemble the Hall of Fame career of Tom Glavine, he had similar numbers to the Cooperstown resident in his first two years. In his rookie year, Oberholtzer actually had better numbers than Glavine. If Oberholtzer did not suffer an injury, he might have pitched more innings in 2014. The main reason I picked Glavine was to show how some pitchers take 3 years to develop.   

One interesting contrast between Oberholtzer and Glavine is that they threw about the same amount of fastballs by percentage (54% versus 55%). Glavine, however, relied more on the change-up (38% to 24%), while Oberholtzer relies more on curve ball (19% to 3%). Glavine also used a slider 3% of the time.

Before the comments start flowing in, I’m not saying Oberholtzer will end up having Glavine’s career.  But maybe a Mike Hampton type career is more in the cards for Oberholtzer. Going back to the Michael Bourn trade, I feel like the main player the Astros were after was Oberholtzer just because he was left-handed, and they have given him the chance to start.

My Projection: 8-10/ 4.40 ERA/ 115 K

Prospect Warning

All Astros starters need to be warned, namely Scott Feldman, Oberholtzer, and Michael Foltynewicz, the next wave of talent is about to arrive in Houston. Top prospects Mark Appel and Vincent Velasquez are waiting in the green room to get the call.  

Oberholtzer needs to pitch well in spring training. It appears that he is locked in as the number 4 guy right now, so he needs to work this spring on pitching and building up stamina, versus pitching like he’s trying to make the team. He’s got to watch out for the big innings, and has to find a way to pitch deeper into games. The Astros offense should be improved this year, and should give him more run support.

When Appel is ready, he will get the call. Oberholtzer has to pitch well enough to stay in the rotation. I believe that Scott Feldman will be traded at some point in 2015. Oberholtzer is still young enough to see success, just like Tom Glavine had success after a slow start to his career. He will look a lot better as a 5th starter if the Astros sign/acquire a front line starter.

Early in the off-season, my colleague Jason Burke wrote that Brett Oberholtzer is Undervalued.

What do you expect from “Obie” this year?

Next: Mark Appel is not Far Away From Joing Astros