Colon vs. The Jays: Bringin’ The Heat


No one makes mountains out of molehills quite like baseball fans, so you can be sure that I’m going to write entirely too much about Bartolo Colon‘s start against the Blue Jays. However, instead of writing one big post and stuffing it all in there, I’m going to break it up into a few smaller posts this morning just so there’s no information overload and the discussion can remain focused. First up, Colon’s velocity…

When Spring Training ended and the Yankees headed north for the regular season, we heard many reasons why Freddy Garcia had beaten Colon in the (supposed) fifth starter’s competition despite their drastically different showings in camp. Garcia was a safer bet in terms of innings given his work with the White Sox last year, his repertoire was better suited for starting, and Colon wasn’t holding his velocity over multiple innings. Well, as the graph above shows, Colon held his velocity and then some last night.

In his first three outings, all in relief, Bartolo had thrown no more than 69 pitches. In fact, his pitches totals declined: 69 on April 3rd, 62 on April 8th, and then 54 on April 14th. And yet his fastest pitch against Toronto, a 94.0 mph four-seamer to J.P. Arencibia, came on his 82th pitch of the night. It’s clear from the graph there was no significant drop-off in velocity as the game progressed, with all the hard stuff comfortably humming in at or above 90. For a guy that’s a month shy of his 38th birthday with major shoulder injuries in the past, that’s damn impressive.

We have to remember that Colon isn’t in typical April form however. He did pitch in winter ball, so he’s (theoretically) closer to mid-season form than some of his peers. As you watched that game though, it was obvious that Colon is still the guy he’s always been, a power pitcher that challenges hitters with his fastball. That’s pretty much the last thing we could say about Garcia, who’s the polar opposite at this point. Bartolo threw just 14 offspeed pitches last night, instead burying the Jays with 39 four-seamers and 36 two-seamers. It was pitching in it’s purest form: here it is, try to hit it. And they couldn’t.

Now the question becomes this: how long will it last? There’s not a person around that could give you that answer, but the Yankees will milk it for all it’s worth. Colon seemed genuinely thankfully to be back in the big leagues after the game, going as far as saying that he thought his career was over in 2009. Is he old with a pitching arm held together by duct tape? Yeah. Is he out-of-shape? Yeah, that too. Is he one of the five best starting pitchers in the organization right now? You bet your ass he is. It’s completely unreasonable to expect a repeat performance of last night’s effort in the future, but hey, Colon has surprised us all by getting this far.

Velocity graph via Brooks Baseball.

Categories : Pitching
  • Mike Myers

    Top 5? Try second best on our team right now….sadly.

    Yes, I based that on one start.

  • Rockdog

    Colon is just one more example of the unpredictability of baseball — one of the things that I love so much about it.

    • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Once again proving that modern statistical analysis and the search for market inefficiencies are fruitless endeavors that cannot make baseball a predictable game wholly understandable in numerical terms or block out what is most compelling about the sport – its relentless capacity to surprise.

      Balls hit birds.

      • V

        Fruitless endeavors?

        No one is trying to predict -exactly- what -will- happen. Analyzing statistics and trying to predict baseball are an attempt to determine what is -likely- to happen, with the 0.00000001 percentile possibility for any player being an instantaneous transformation into an .000/.000/.000 hitter and the 99.99999999 percentile possibility being an instaneous transformation into a 1.000/1.000/4.000 hitter, most projections are interested in the 50th percentile.

        Meaning, if projections were perfected, there’d be a 50% chance of a player beating or falling short of a given projection, and a 0% chance of a player hitting it exactly.

        • V

          And I don’t think that’s any less fruitful than analyzing stocks for projections of future performance or valuing future cash flows as a present value liability (for example, pension plans, which I may or may not be doing at the moment ;-)).

        • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Sarcasm. I literally quoted the language used in the proposal, made public, for that book Short Hops, that “took on” Moneyball. I thought the “balls hit birds” part would make that clear, my bad.

          • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Sorry to be so curt, I’m really busy but just wanted to clarify that.

          • V

            My bad, my internet sarcasm detector is on the fritz…

            :internet handshake:

  • Frank

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to expect Colon/Garcia to pitch well, assuming of course they remain healthy. These guys are veterans who know how to pitch. I’m much more concerned about Hughes, Nova (who I personally don’t believe is long for this rotation), and certainly Burnett, who is just a complete mess.

    • Jim S

      Burnett has not been even remotely a “complete mess” this year.

      • Frank

        Then you haven’t watched him pitch.

        • Big Apple

          apparantly you haven’t either. burnett is pitching a lot better than last year, when he was, in fact…a complete mess.

  • http://washingtonplantation.com Tom in Georgia

    When is Garcia’s next start? With all these off days, I’ve gotten even more confused than normal.

  • I Voted for Kodos

    It may be unlikely to last, but it was an absolute pleasure to watch him throw that 2-seamer last night. The movement he was getting was amazing.

  • SteveD

    I was a bit concerned about the pitch count. I know he was still throwing heat but as stated his pitch count had dropped in his previous outings. Am I reading too much into this?

    • jsbrendog

      if he is gonna stay in the rotation he needs to build up endurance and the only way is to keep going. with a lead like that why not let him go and see?

  • A.D.

    Is he out-of-shape?

    Round is a shape

    • SteveD

      Thats funny. But damn the Fat Man was dealing last night.

    • Big Apple

      i don’t care what physical shape colon is in…if he can bring the goods and throw strikes – so be it.

      that assumes others in the rotation will step it up. imagine colon pitching in Texas in August…he may not last one pitch.

      • DCBX

        Nah. Imagine the movement he will get when he is sweating chicharron grease all over the ball. :)

  • Matt J

    Who remmebers the Red Sox running retreads like Brad Penny and John Smoltz out to the hill early one season? How did that work out? Not so much. You gotta think the Yanks are trying to buy time till July, and then find out if they can promote one of the Killer Bs or go get a fire-sale starter from somrwhere else. This season (like a lot of others for the Yanks) will be decided on the values in the pitching trade market in the second half.

    • kenthadley

      Agree. We need either a 1964 Mel Stottlemyre to come out of Scranton (Warren, Brackman?), or we are going to wave bye bye to Montero in July.

    • A.D.

      Yeah they’re band-aids not permanent solutions. But better they do a good job of buying time

      • jsbrendog

        colon is more of a full arm cast

    • jsbrendog

      aaron small. shawn chacon.

    • Big Apple

      nearly every team either has to let not ready for prime time prospect or has beens take the hill.

      the risk that retreads carry is no different than prospects. as long as the contracts are cheap and short term.

      • Ted Nelson

        Good point. For some teams it can make sense to take the prospect with the higher future upside, but the Yankees have to toe the line between winning now and winning later too.

    • Ted Nelson

      While the Yankees do need to continue to evaluate their options going forward and those guys aren’t exactly risk-free, I don’t think it’s wise to point to that particular Red Sox team. That’s one example. If I pointed to one example of re-treads holding a rotation together–say the Rangers last season or individual performers like Livan Hernandez, Bruce Chen, RA Dickey, etc–it wouldn’t prove that Garcia and Colon will succeed. Pointing to two guys who failed doesn’t mean they’ll fail. Also, Smoltz was 42 and Penny was only 31… not totally comparable anyway.

  • jsbrendog

    i called this in spring training. comeback player of the year.

  • breich315

    I’ll try to comment again now that I registered :)

    Can these graphs be separated by pitch type? Would be helpful to see how the four-seamer, two-seamer, and other pitches change in velocity over the course of the game.

  • http://riveraveblues.com/2010/02/2010-preseason-top-30-prospects-21281/#comment-779224 LET SBGL BACK ON BRACKMAN’S DEBUT

    i absolutely loved watching bartolo today. was so confident and so successful. it was truly a joy to watch a guy resurrect his career like that

    • Rockdog

      I totally agree. It seems like he is really enjoying it too (keeping the spikes). I realize that anything we get out of him is gravy, I’m just hoping the gravy train runs for a few stops (mmmm …. gravy).

    • Ted Nelson

      Agreed. Different sort of thing, but I also enjoyed watching Casey Janssen. Tough to like a guy on the other team, but he seemed legitimately psyched to be a big leaguer and also showed some signs of nervousness. He was pumping himself up on the mound and taking deep breaths. Sort of irrational, but it was a look at the human side of it all to me.

  • Arnoldh

    I think we should call him “Burrito Colon” rather than the fat man.

    • SteveD

      Works for me. I guess the fat man is a bit demeaning.