With today's announcement that Brett Myers will be the Astros opening day starter, the discussion inevitably turns towards the man who will not be starting it. Roy Oswalt, now former-Astro, started eight straight opening day games, running back to 2003.
Even with top-draw Roger Clemens in town the nod went to Oswalt in the season opener. But how did Oswalt fare over the years?
In 2003 he held the Rockies to 2 runs in a 10-4 rout, 2004 he was beaten by the Giants and Kirk Reuter 5-4, 2005 it was the Cardinals who tattooed him for 6 runs, 2006 he outduelled Dontrelle Willis 1-0, 2007 he got the better of the Pirates, but Brad Lidge blew the save, 2008 Jake Peavy bested him in a 3-0 pitcher's duel, 2009 Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs inflicted a 4-2 defeat, and last year it was Tim Lincecum and the Giants again.
Does this prove anything? It was a bit of a mixed bag and it proves that, Kirk Reuter aside, the other teams usually fielded an ace worthy of matching the dominance of Oswalt.
As many have pointed out, it is basically a formality, since the only two candidates were Wandy Rodriguez and Myers, and with the former suffering from "mild" tendinitis there was only one real option.
Still the three games with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park could be an ugly series for the Astros, and then they have to head to Cincinnati to face the Reds before heading home. It is not quite another recipe for an 0-8 start but I would take two wins out of six and be thankful for them.
Still, the Astros managed to get the better of the Phillies in a four-game sweep of them last August, stirring the recalcitrant Philly from their slumber. After the Astros left town with four wins under their belt, the Phillies powered to a 27-8 finish.
But maybe the outlook is not as gloomy for the start to the 2011 season as I've been making it out to be. The Phillies and Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Oswalt will be a tough three, but the Astros' own quartet is underrated in many quarters, and Wallace, Johnson and Towles are working very hard to prove people wrong.
Spring Training is a hard time to accurately gauge players, and true evaluations can only come once we wrap up April.