One thing has been clear since Spring Training: Bartolo Colon is going to live and die with his fastball. Luckily for him it’s come back to life at age-38 and after some major shoulder troubles, sitting comfortably in the low-90’s and topping out as high as 96 against the Blue Jays a week ago. It’s actually two fastballs, the straight four-seamer that’s more pure velocity and the darting two-seamer that’s all about movement. To say Colon uses those two pitches heavily would be an understatement. He’s thrown the four-seamer more than 45% of the time and the two-seamer more than 41% of the time in his 33 innings of work. That means he’s throwing one or two non-fastballs per inning, give or take.
The table above, courtesy of Texas Leaguers, shows the full breakdown of his pitches, including strike rates and swing-and-miss rates, the whole nine. I guess what really caught my attention are the whiff rates of his change and slider. He’s thrown 24 changeups (all but five to lefties, so almost four out of every five) and batters have swung and missed at six of them. When you’re that fastball heavy, taking a little something off will definitely result in some funny hacks. The slider, meanwhile, has been thrown primarily to righties (25 of 38, almost exactly two-thirds), and they’ve come up empty on one out of every ten swings. Those are some gaudy percentages.
Unlike Ivan Nova, who’s still young and developing, the Yankees shouldn’t screw around with Colon. He is what he is and it’s working, so don’t change it unnecessarily. Could he stand to mix in a few more changeups against lefties and sliders against righties? Sure, but it’s not broke right now, so don’t fix it. He is leading the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio after all. Perhaps that’s stage two of the Bartolo revival. Once the league adjusts to the heat, he’ll break out the offspeed stuff in earnest. That would be sweet.