Anatomy of a player: Bartolo Colonby Josh Kalk
February 05, 2008
Now that the Johan Santana sweepstakes are done and most among the thin group of free agent pitchers have signed, teams still looking for pitching probably are grasping at straws. Recently, Bartolo Colon's name has been linked to several teams including the Royals and Rangers. Colon, who has been pitching in winter ball with mixed results, has struggled the previous two years and hasn't managed either 30 starts or 200 innings in those years combined.
Much has been made of Colon's weight and now, many question if he still can hold up over a season as a 35-year-old. Obviously, this is the most important question teams have to ask when they are pondering whether to sign him. While I don't have particular insight on that, I do want to focus on the second most important question: Does he still have the stuff that made him the 2005 Cy Young?
At first glance, things don't look too good for Colon, who had a 6.34 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP, and a .320 batting average against. But, if you dig a little deeper, those stats are a bit deceiving. Colon's FIP was more than 1.5 lower than his ERA, at 4.81. This was in large part due to his horrendous batting average on balls in play of .364. Some pitchers trend toward a high BABIP, but that isn't the case for Colon who has been right around league average most of his career. Couple that with a weak LOB percentage and you get an ERA over six.
So his FIP wasn't too bad, but what about his other peripherals? Colon's K/9 was 6.83, just a tad under his career mark of 7.03. More importantly, it was a huge bounce back from his 2005 campaign, in which he struck out fewer than five per nine innings. This puts Colon back right near league average. His walk rate rose a bit to 2.63 BB/9, but that is still a good amount lower than league average. These are more encouraging tidbits, but with the addition of PITCHf/x data we can go one step further.
Colon's repertoire includes a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball (sinker), a slider and an occasional change-up. His sinker is his bread and butter pitch and he throws that more than the rest of his pitches combined. It tops out in the low 90s, which is a hair better than most but it also doesn't "sink" as much as others (6.88 inches compared to 4.71 inches for league average).
What really sets Colon's sinker apart is the large horizontal movement he gets with the pitch. Compared to a pitch thrown without spin, Colon's sinker moves 8.85 inches in toward a right-handed batter. That is more than an inch better than the league average of 7.62. Colon's four-seamer checks in even better. Last year his average fastball was thrown at 94.75 mph. Many pitchers would kill for a fastball like that. While his slider and change are pretty average pitches, it seems to me that Colon still does have the physical ability to pitch in the big leagues.
The projections (Bill James, CHONE and Marcel) seem to be pretty much in agreement that Colon should be good for a FIP of around 4.50 with only a slight drop in K/9 and his BB/9 staying about the same. The projections, though, are all over the map for Colon's ERA, varying from 4.24 (James) to 5.05 (Marcel) and on his innings pitched, from 70 (James) to 126 (CHONE). Colon's Marcel ERA is inflated by a predicted .333 BABIP, which I feel is too high.
I am going to channel my inner Derek Carty and predict a 4.40 ERA and 120 innings for Colon, which certainly would be useful for many teams. That said, Colon's durability is still a huge question, and if I were a team looking to contend I certainly would not want to be counting on him for a stretch run, much less for the playoffs.
Still, for a team like Kansas City or Texas, he could be an ideal pickup. He should come pretty cheaply and be willing to sign a short-term deal. This could make him a hot item near the trading deadline if he has a good first half.
<< Return to Article