May 24 is the Bartolo Colon’s 41st birthday, barely middle aged for a man but ancient for a pitcher. Colon has thrown over 41,000 pitches just in regular season major league games. Add to that the playoffs, off-seasons, springs, and amateur game where Colon has repeated the most stressful motion in sports. Colon’s body is not in great shape, and he is fighting age, but in spite of that he was an all star and sixth in the Cy Young voting in his age 40 season last year. However, as a New York Met, Colon has struggled mightily through two months. With another year on his contract, the Mets may be worrying about what the source of Colon’s problems are.
Transitioning from the American League to the National League should have been a boon to the Mets’ aging starter. With the pitcher in every lineup, Colon has an advantage he has not been able to utilize since he was with the Montreal Expos twelve years ago. Instead, all of the big right-hander’s numbers have taken a dive. Colon’s ERA, hits per nine innings, and home runs allowed are all the highest they have been since he returned from a year out of the majors in 2010.
The jump in Colon’s home run rate is due to two things. One is that he is giving up slightly more fly balls than he has in ten years. The more troublesome note, however, is that a greater percentage of those fly balls are leaving the park, with his home run to fly ball ratio almost double what it was last season. Opponents are taking a slightly more aggressive approach to Colon this year, but not enough to explain his home run rate.
Some of that may be attributable to bad luck, as Colon is essentially throwing the same way as last year and getting about the same amount of contact and swings and misses. All of last season, Bartolo Colon only gave up 14 home runs. He is already at nine this year, in less than one third of those innings. Citi Field is even less homer prone than the Coliseum in Oakland, so the home run rate may level off as the year progresses.
One of the more positive indicators of Colon’s ability this year is that he is the National League leader in strikeout to walk ratio, one of the best measures of a pitcher’s success. His walk rate is the best of his career, and he is striking out more than a full batter per nine better than last season. It is safe to say that Colon’s stuff, which is really based more on craft than anything, is as good as in any of the past couple seasons.
Keeping the ball on the ground more will help Colon keep the ball in the park, but no matter what he can probably expect that home run rate to drop. As a result, Colon should bounce back to form, ERA wise. His win-loss record, on the other hand, is still going to be dependent on the very questionable offense of the Mets. Colon is looking to get back on track for his birthday weekend Friday night against the Diamondbacks.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball