Where have you gone, Bartolo Colon?

Triple-A Scranton to play all home games on the road in 2012
Yankees put a waiver claim on Carlos Peña
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

When Joe Girardi yanked Bartolo Colon from last night’s game, he did so shortly after the right-hander had racked up inning 130 for the season. Somehow, the Yanks’ big gamble has paid off. Colon, making just $900,000 this year, has made 20 starts for the Yanks, has won eight games and was a stud throughout May and into June. The wheels though might be coming loose.

Colon’s outing last night was one I’d characterize as good enough. Usually, allowing three runs to another team over six innings would be enough to allow the Yanks’ offense to take over. Colon threw a few bad sliders to Brandon Allen and Eric Sogard, but before the 7th, he had been effective even if not efficient. His final line — 6.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5 K — isn’t pretty, particularly against the A’s, but that’s also due to Boone Logan‘s failures.

For Colon, though, his outing was his second straight in which he struggled, and since coming off the disabled list with a hamstring injury, he hasn’t been nearly as good as he once was. Before he hurt himself covering first, he appeared in 13 games and made 10 starts, eight of which were quality starts. In 78.1 innings, he had a 3.10 ERA/3.44 FIP and allowed 66 hits, 18 walks and nine home runs while striking out 72. Opponents hit .227/.272/.375 with a .268 BABIP, and he averaged just over 14 pitches per inning.

His last ten starts have not been nearly as effective. Since his return, he sports a 4.61 ERA/4.48 FIP in 52.2 innings and has allowed 65 hits and eight home runs while walking 14 and striking out just 40. Just four of his ten outings have been quality starts. Opponents have hit .302/.352/.507 off of him with a .339 BABIP, and he is now averaging over 17 pitches per inning.

Clearly, something has changed for Big Bart since his early season success. Colon, who hasn’t reached this lofty level of innings since 2005 and threw over the winter as well, denies being tired, but his approach has changed. Prior to his injury, 86 percent of his pitches were fastballs. Of those, 48 percent were four-seamers and 38 percent were two-seamers. Since his return, 55.7 percent of pitches were four-seamers while just 24 percent were two-seamers. Sliders and change-ups now account for over 20 percent of his pitch selection.

To make matters worse, his pitches haven’t been moving as much. His fastballs and sliders have seen less vertical movement over the past ten starts, and his slider has seen more horizontal movement than before. It has become a bit flatter, and as Allen’s monster shot showed last night, Major League hitters have no problems with flat, fat 83 mph sliders. That ball reached the upper deck above right field.

Today, Joe Girardi expressed his concern about Colon’s disappearing two-seamer. The skipper said to Jack Curry that the two-seam fastball has “been a very important pitch for him and we need to get it going.” That much, at least, is obvious.

In an ideal world, the Yankees would figure out a way to give Colon some extended rest over the next few weeks because they will need him at his best for the playoffs. If A.J. Burnett were pitching even adequately, the club could afford to tinker with the rotation, but unless they’re willing to give Hector Noesi or Adam Warren a spot start or two, Colon will get the ball every few days. Even as it gets late in the season, it’s too early, meanwhile, to say that the wheels have come off completely for Colon, but he’s not the pitcher — both stuff- and results-wise — that he was earlier this year.

Triple-A Scranton to play all home games on the road in 2012
Yankees put a waiver claim on Carlos Peña
  • MikeD

    When Colon was a few years younger and good (think of his Cy Young season) he would go through stretches where his pitches weren’t quite working. There is no reason to assume that an older Colon won’t also have stretches where one of his key pitches if off.

    His velocity is fine. They know it’s his two-seamer that’s not working. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he finds it again and has a strong finish. A skipped start, though, might not be a bad thing. Oh, no. More AJ starts!

    • Mike HC

      I’m with you and Ben. There is not enough evidence to call him dead or assume he will just find his two seamer again. And rest may not be the answer, maybe it has more to do with getting in a rhythm again after coming off the DL. I think you just gotta keep giving him the ball every 5 days and see where you end up at the end of the year.

  • JD

    We have to hope this is just dead arm but the concern is real.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Bartolo Colon is just an ordinary pitcher without the movement on his two seamer. He needs that movement. They need to sit him down for one start to let him rest and get to work with Rothschild. He hasn’t pitched this much in 5 years. With the rain this weekend we can skip him.

    • David, Jr.

      That is the best shot. Rest, work with Rothschild, and then come out and throw the thing and keep throwing it. It was very hard to hit.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    He’s running out of gas. Plain and simple. He hasn’t pitched this much since 2005. Look for him to end up in the bullpen come playoff time.

    • dontchaknow


    • Foghorn Leghorn

      Oh, I think Bartolo has still got a lot of gas in him…its just not the variety that helps him toss 8 IP of good ball anymore!

      • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

        That is an incredible observation.

        • Oscar Gamble’s Fro

          Not really. There isn’t a Colon on the planet that doesn’t have gas.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    even if Colon gave up 10+ runs in his remaining starts this signing has still been a whopping success…i cringed when they signed him, but Bartolo stood up and shut up a lot of naysayers…and he’s still pitching decent enough to be a #3 starter on the majority of the MLB clubs.

    • Jorge

      I was at the stadium that first game when they brought him in out of the bullpen and he didn’t look like much. I was shaking my head just at the sight of him coming out of the bullpen. No matter how this ends, we’ve come a long way indeed.

      I’m all for giving him a bit of a rest in order to get the last bullets out of him come crunch time.

  • Will

    He’s still a huge bargain and already did more than the Yankees could have hoped for. It was unrealistic to expect him to pitch dominantly all year. He’s a huge reason why this season has been a huge success so far. We should have a Bart Appreciation thread on RAB one day. Go Bart! go Yankees!

  • jsbrendog

    So, even so, comeback player of the year. Has to be, right? Yeah, i called it


    • Greg

      Looking at who got injured I think Jacoby Ellsbury has that hands down.

      • http://twitter.com/Carlosologist_7 Carlosologist

        We all knew Ellsbury was gonna be fine. Colon was coming off five years off ineffectiveness and injuries. Colon should win Comeback Player of the Year. If there was Breakout Player of the Year, then Ellsbury would win it.

  • Engelbert

    As much as it pains me to say it, I believe they should rest Colon for a week, give him one more start, then set him up for long relief duty for the rest of the season, using him in enough situations where he can go 4+ innings (backing up AJ), then bringing him back up in the ALCS if necessary. If (more like when) AJ keeps shitting the bed, shit-can his ass and use some of the young guns from AAA to fill in his starts, which in turn can be used for roughly Barts “turn” in the rotation, keeping him fresh and ready to go.

  • MikeD

    If they’re going to have him skip a start because he’s tired, there should be some evidence that he’s tired. There is not. His fastball velocity, for example, would decrease as he wasn’t able to generate the power from his legs or to have sufficient arm speed. There are clear indications in mechanics and delivery when a pitcher is tired. Colon is showing none of these.

    What is is showing is a loss of movement on his two-seamer, forcing him to throw more sliders and other pitches. When he is on, he throws tons of fastballs, when he’s off, he goes to more breaking pitchers. What we’re seeing from Bartolo is no different than the younger Bartolo. Let’s hope he can get his two-seamer back. Seems unlikely it’s age related, or that he’s “tired.” Remember, he started pitching like this AFTER he had several weeks off when he should have been the most rested he’s been all season.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    When was the last time that he pitched in August?

  • Rookie

    The Yankees chose to use him every fifth day (more or less) and get as much out of him as they could instead of babying him and doing everything they could to maximize the odds that he would still have the magic mojo going in the postseason. I didn’t think that was wise and said so. We’ll never know if he might have kept it going through the postseason if he’d been babied or whether he would have lost it anyway no matter how he’d been used.

    Be that as it may, I agree with you, Ben, that extra rest is in order — the more the better — and that everything from this point should be about maximizing the odds that he’s back to his early season form by the post season with no regard whatsoever to what he does for the team between then and now.

    And whether he ever regains his early season form or not, Will is right. He and Cashman deserve kudos for what he’s contributed to the team to date — whether he ever records another out for the Yankees or not.