When does the Major League leader in losses by a pitcher generate major buzz amongst the teams looking to add pitching at the trade deadline?
When that pitcher has a 3.08 ERA, 112 strikeouts in 120 innings pitched and just threw a one hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, in which he allowed only a two-out first inning single before holding the team hitless the rest of the way.
Or, to put it another way, when that pitcher's name is Roy Oswalt.
There is little doubt at this point that Oswalt will be traded. That the Houston Astros are going nowhere in 2010 is an understatement, and it might, frankly, be irresponsible for the team to hold on to Oswalt when there are so many holes to fill in the roster.
In that sense, all Oswalt has done with his one-hitter today is sweeten the pot for the Astros. Any lingering doubts about Oswalt regarding his 2010 record, his health and consistency the last couple of seasons, or even his age, may have been answered today.
A dominant force in the early part of the last decade, Oswalt finished in the top five in Cy Young voting in the National League five times in six years from 2001 to 2006. He is a three time All Star and he has led the league in winning percentage once, wins once and ERA once.
Despite his 6-10 record this season, Oswalt's .640 winning percentage is the fifth best amongst active qualifying pitchers and ranks 36th all time.
But Oswalt hasn't been his usual self in the last couple of years. After winning 10 or more games and posting a winning percentage over .600 in each of his first eight seasons, Oswalt fell to 8-6 last season.
Worse yet, Oswalt posted a career worst 4.12 ERA in 2009, besting by over half a run his previous career worst of 3.54.
But all of that is easy to forget on this day. For all intents and purposes, Oswalt is back. And for the Astros, he could not have returned soon enough.
They must have liked what they saw.
The good news for the Astros is that Oswalt is no longer a player that teams are going to think they can get on the cheap. This recent performance will be all the evidence they need that any team looking to acquire Oswalt had better be ready to dangle legitimate A-list prospects in return.
One must wonder whether the Philadelphia Phillies are even in the Oswalt hunt at this point. With the minor league system relatively depleted (despite all efforts by Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. to the contrary), the Phils would likely have to give up major league level players to get Oswalt.
One option might be shipping one of the starting outfielders to the Astros for Oswalt and then calling up Domonic Brown, but it is difficult to imagine the Astros being interested in Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino or Raul Ibanez.
At the same time, though, with the New York Mets in the picture, the Phillies may not be able to afford to not be in the picture. If the Mets somehow swung Roy Oswalt to join Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, well, the season would likely be over for the Phils.
On the other hand, Oswalt has been linked to a veritable gaggle of teams, including the Rangers, Twins, Nationals (speaking of scary for the Phillies), Angels, Tigers, and Cardinals, so it may not be time to panic just yet.
Nevertheless, it is an interesting conundrum that just got a little more interesting on Thursday, and all because a 5-10 pitcher for the Astros threw a one-hit shutout today.
Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com .