Archive for Bartolo Colon

Jun
26

Pitching Probables

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Pitching’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? Seems like we haven’t worried about anything besides it since day one aside from a few spots of sputtering offense. That, we know’ll improve. But this whole pitching thing has been crazy since forever. Good for writers. Bad for the team. And for fans. I wish we could have ace pitching and a crappy backup catcher to complain about. Wait….

Anyway, it’s looking like, for the first time in a while, the Yankees may eventually have more starters than they have rotation spots. This is a blissful change from the norm, where it usually seems like the question du jour is ‘who the hell is going to pitch tomorrow?’ On the bright side, it’s nice to have so many alternatives. On the downside, the decision isn’t an easy one. We’re not choosing between Justin Verlander and Aaron Cook here. To put it lightly, there’s going to be a pretty serious bottleneck if all the injured Yankees starters come back healthy. Which ones are more likely to stay in the rotation?

Phil Hughes – 90%

We see you too, Phil. (Photo by dbphoto on flickr. Licensed under creative commons. )

Since going down with mysterious arm weakness on April 16th, Hughes has been in and out of the public consciousness. While he’s basically guaranteed to scoop back up his rotation spot when he returns from the DL, the concern should be that both fans have the team have no idea what kind of Phil Hughes is going to come back. Remember that Hughes didn’t even start off the season right: his velocity never where it was supposed to be, even in Spring Training, and none of his three starts were passable. While It’s nice to see that his fastball is above 90 in his first two rehab starts, no one’s exactly sounded thrilled by what he’s showing so far. Throwing seventy pitches in 3 innings is closer to the kind of stuff he showed in late 2010, with an inability get guys out and each batter hitting approximately 203984039 foul balls – and that not the best pitcher Phil can be. My personal concern is not if he will get his spot back, because that seems obvious, but rather how long he can keep it, and what he can do to maximize his own effectiveness. Everyone knows that Hughes has all-star stuff, it’s just a matter of finding it again, and it’s impossible to say whether he will. If Hughes’ dead arm makes it hard for him to reacquire the stuff he had in early 2010, it’s hard to say where he’ll project long term. A 4/5 starter would be a possibility, or maybe even a disappointing move to the bullpen, continuing the Yankees’ general weirdness (in lieu of other words) with developing pitching.

Bartolo Colon – 85%

Who can say enough about Big Bad Bartolo? Fans (and probably the team) came into the year expecting absolutely nothing from Colon, who’d had a mysterious stem cell treatment on his arm during 2010 and hadn’t pitched all during the season. Here was a guy who the Indians wouldn’t sign due to his, err, quite obviously poor conditioning routine. Said routine (or lack thereof) has done absolutely nothing to hinder the fact that Colon was, up until his hamstring injury, the second-most effective pitcher on the staff and probably the one the Yankees were getting the most bang for their buck from. He was even good enough to get the steroid whispers started, which seems to be a compliment nowadays. It’s nice that the injury is in his leg and not his arm, and he seems to be on track for a relatively speedy return. His rehab has gone well and he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday, which would line up him to be back in the rotation over Brian Gordon if they use the off day (also Monday) to skip him. His injury wasn’t am related and he’s, uh, surprisingly agile on the mound, so here’s hoping we get the same Bartolo back that left. Because I don’t think I need to say this, but that Bartolo was really, really good. I blame that two-seamer. Am I allowed to say that pitch is sexy? If there was such thing as a sexy pitch, Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer would qualify.

Freddy Garcia – 50%

Here’s where it gets tricky. Out of the three rotation spots, the only one truly in question is the fifth starter, and it probably comes down the chief or the supernova. Personally, I would prefer to see Ivan Nova (I’ve always been a Nova supporter), but honestly, my gut is that it will be Freddy. Why? First of all, his stats appear a bit better (3.30 ERA/4.14 FIP, vs Nova’s 4.13 ERA/4.13 FIP), and second of all, the pitching plan has always seemed to be put the prospects in the bullpen first (Hughes, Noesi, Nova). While Freddy, like Colon, has exceeded most expectations of him, both his problem and his success can be very easily summarized: he is junkballing people to death. It’s certainly entertaining to watch batters be frustrated by his slow (87 MPH fastball), slower (80 MPH splitter), and slowest (70 MPH curveball) routine, but two utter takedowns by the Boston offense has shown that it’s not likely to work on a power team. That being said, Garcia’s proved he’s capable at least, and his veteran presence shoring up the back of the rotation may be the tipping point in the decision on the fifth starter.

Ivan Nova – 45%

Nova’s results this year have been, to say the least, interesting. What usually happens is that someone on the internet writes a scathing report of how bad he is and how he needs to be kicked out of the rotation, and then he goes out there and just tears up whatever team in question he’s facing. Nova’s biggest weakness is his inability to miss bats: his swinging strike percentage last year was 6.4%, with this year’s being a mere 4.8%, while he’s on pace for only only about 5 strikeouts per nine innings, just below his average from last year. While both years are a pretty small sample, the evidence is clear pretty clear that he’s no David Robertson. He makes up for this with decent ground ball rate (55%) that’s improved from last year’s few starts (51%). The reasons I think Nova should be in the rotation are as follows: first off, he’s young, and has showed improvement from last year to this year and continues to improve, even against high-powered offenses such as the Rangers and the Reds, and secondly, he clearly has the stuff to start in the bigs, and stashing him in the pen or demoting him won’t improve that stuff. The problem is, his stuff certainly would work better out of the pen than Garcia’s, given his slick little fastball-curveball combination and the jump we’d see in his speed if he was only throwing 20 pitches a night. Like I said earlier, though, putting young pitchers in the bullpen is an extremely frustrating part of this team: don’t do it to poor Nova.

Brian Gordon – 5%

Unless Brian Gordon goes out there and throws a perfect game, there’s little possibility that we’ll see him in the big league rotation after people start coming off the DL. While he was serviceable in his first start and has a really great story, there’s an obvious reason why he spent so much time being a minor leaguer. While Gordon is decent filler material while the Yankees deal with their injuries, he doesn’t appear to have the stuff he needs to keep his big league job with this team, at least. He’ll most likely be the first one to go – probably cut, given the excess of pitchers in Scranton and Trenton, but possibly demoted. Either way, Gordon’s been a placeholder for Colon until he gets back, and while he’s fine for a couple of spot starts, there’s really no way this guy is going to take a rotation spot over any of the options listed.

For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Yankees have too many pitchers fighting for a spot. What this comes down too, really, is Garcia vs. Nova, and it’s not an easy one to pick when you take all the factors into the debate. That being said, I personally think this is still a better problem to have than worrying about who the heck is gonna pitch tomorrow. Go Nova!

Categories : Pitching
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Update (5:08pm): Via Brian Heyman, Joe Girardi said that Colon with throw 50 pitches in a simulated game on Monday. That conveniently lines him up to start next Saturday, which would be the Brian Gordon’s next scheduled turn if they use Monday’s off day to skip him.

Original Post (4:15pm): Via Pete Caldera, Bartolo Colon threw 31 pitches off a mound in Tampa today, the first time throwing off something other than flat ground since injuring his hamstring a little more than a week ago. No word on what’s next, but I imagine he’ll take a day or two off before trying it out again. Remember, it’s not so much how he feels while throwing, but how the hamstring reacts the next day. Hopefully it goes well and he can rejoin the rotation before the All-Star break.

Categories : Asides, Injuries
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Derek Jeter, Bartolo Colon, and Eric Chavez are continuing to progress in the rehab for their various injuries down in Tampa. Jeter threw for the third straight day but has not been cleared to start running, which is what really matters when it comes to his calf issue. He’s expected to increase his workouts in the coming days. Colon was able to run sprints in the outfield for the first time since injuring his hamstring, and he has continued to play long toss as well. He’s scheduled for a bullpen session tomorrow. Chavez ran the bases for the first time today, going from home to first about a half-dozen times today. He’s been hitting for a while now, but this is the first time he’s run on anything more than a treadmill. Great news for all three but especially for Colon and Chavez, who have started testing their leg/foot injuries.

Categories : Asides, Injuries
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Updated (12:35 p.m.): Got some injury updates, courtesy of Ben Shpigel and George King

  • Derek Jeter is in Tampa and has started “functional exercises.” He’s scheduled to resume baseball activities later this week, and Joe Girardi told reporters that the team hopes to have him when he’s eligible to come off the disabled list next Wednesday. It’s unclear if he’ll play in a minor league rehab game (or two) before then.
  • Eric Chavez took batting practice on the field and also fielded some ground balls in Tampa yesterday. His running is still limited to a treadmill though. He’s not eligible to come off the disabled list until July 5th.
  • Rafael Soriano has reported to Tampa after spending “considerable time” with a physical therapist in New York. Last we heard, he hadn’t been cleared to begin a throwing program, but the hope was that he’d be able to this week. Just going to Tampa is a good sign, though he isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list until after the All-Star break.
  • Bartolo Colon has not yet been cleared to start a throwing program, Joe Girardi said to reporters yesterday. If Colon is to come back from his injured hamstring after the 15-day minimum, he will have to start throwing today or tomorrow. With this delay, he will likely miss some extra time. Scratch that. According to the AP (via Bryan Hoch, Colon started a throwing program today. He should be back near or at the minimum 15 days if his hamstring holds up OK.
Categories : Injuries
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Jun
18

The year of magical pitching

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You could almost taste it. Cliff Lee was going to sign, Andy was going to come back, Hughes would take a step forward, the bullpen would stay healthy and the Yankees would have one of the most dominant pitching staffs in baseball and march towards a 100-win season. It sounds idealistic in retrospect, but at certain junctures this winter it didn’t seem all that far off. Of course, it didn’t quite play out that way. Cliff Lee signed up for the inferior transit system and culture of Philadelphia, Andy retired, and Hughes got hurt and took half of the bullpen with him. And then something funny happened. Brian Cashman made a bunch of little moves, earning screams from the haters, and a lot of them actually worked. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but in 2011 the new market inefficiency has been whatever Cashman says it is.

In the bullpen, Cashman picked up Luis Ayala on a minor-league deal, and while Ayala did make a brief trip to the disabled list in April he’s pitched very well out of the pen. He’s given the Yankees 22.2 innings, giving up 19 hits, 8 walks and striking out 18. He’s getting groundballs at a very nice rate, almost 50%, and he has an ERA of 1.25. Even though his BABIP is relatively normal he has a super-high strand rate and a lower HR/FB ratio, which means his xFIP of 3.77 is likely more predictive of his future performance than his ERA. Regardless, he’s been a useful cog for the team so far nonetheless. The other surprising reliever has been Cory Wade, profiled extensively by Mike here. As Mike noted, he has obvious limitations but he’s a very nice minor league depth move at this time of the year. He’s found his way to the major league roster and he’s pitched perfectly so far, allowing no hits over 3 innings and striking out 3.

In the rotation the hot story right now is Brian Gordon, who pitched 5.1 innings of two run ball against Texas on Thursday, walking three and striking out three. Some wanted Hector Noesi to take this spot, but the organization didn’t feel that he was able to provide the necessary length for a starter given that he has been pitching in relief. Others wanted one of David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell or Adam Warren didn’t get the opportunity to start the major league level. In a piece reviewing Gordon’s performance at Baseball Prospectus, Jay Jaffe quoted his fellow Pinstriped Bible author Steven Goldman as getting quite upset about this, saying, “The only possible message is that they will never be good enough, that the Yankees are so deeply suspicious of their own prospects that they would rather take someone else’s trash over their own treasure.” Yet as Jaffe so aptly noted, this isn’t the only possible message the organization is sending the young bucks:

The glass-half-full take on Gordon’s addition is that at no cost, Cashman alertly added another arm to the organizational larder at a time when the Yankees have two starters and two key relievers on the disabled list, with zero guarantee that Colon, Phil Hughes, and Rafael Soriano will be effective and bulletproof the rest of the way

The other two scrap heap rotation pickups are obvious. The first is Freddy Garcia. Despite the fact that he always seems on the verge of getting lit up, Freddy Garcia has been an entirely serviceable fifth starter for the Yankees this year. He has a strikeout rate of 6.38/9 and a walk rate of 3.25/9 to go along with his ERA of 3.63. He doesn’t get a lot of fly balls, and so he lives and dies by his ability to command the ball well and command it low in the zone. He’s managed to throw 72 innings for the Yankees so far this year, and he threw 157 for the White Sox last year, so Sweaty Freddy may be able to keep chugging along all summer long.

And of course there’s Bartolo Colon, arguably the best pitcher on the Yankees until he got hurt. That isn’t meant as disrespect to staff ace CC Sabathia, but it’s remarkable how similar their lines have been. Sabathia has a 3.28 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 3.50 xFIP, a 2.89 K/BB ratio and a 47.3 GB%, whereas Colon has a 3.10 ERA, a 3.34 FIP, a 2.99 xFIP, a 4.00 K/BB ratio and a 47.3 GB%. Colon has struck out more than a batter per nine innings more than Sabathia, but Sabathia has an obvious edge on innings over Colon. But whether or not he compares favorably to Sabathia only demonstrates how spectacular Colon has been on the year. For $900,000 the Yankees have gotten some of the best pitching in baseball this year. To say that he’s exceeded expectations is an understatement. He’s been the $2 scratch-off ticket that wins you a cool grand.

After an offseason that saw the Yankees throw yet another gigantic contract at yet another highly regarded free agent, only to see him go elsewhere, Brian Cashman has shown a remarkable ability to create and preserve depth in the rotation and the bullpen by picking up starters on the cheap and snatching other extraneous pitchers off the lower rungs of the depth charts of other teams. 2011 is a season in which a lot could have gone wrong so far. At times it feels like this team is walking a high wire. But it’s also a season in which a lot of what Brian Cashman has touched has turned to gold. It’s true that you don’t count on these things lasting forever. Is Cory Wade really a shutdown reliever? Is Brian Gordon anything but an organizational arm capable of filling in for a few starts? Will Sweaty Freddy’s stream of junkballs really baffle hitters for another hundred and forty innings? It doesn’t seem likely, and that’s why it’s good to hear that the front office isn’t resting on its laurels and counting on the current crew to take them into October. But it shouldn’t obscure the fact that the contributions of the cast-offs have proven vital to this team’s early season success.

Categories : Pitching
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Any time a team loses its number two starter, it’s going to hurt. Most teams simply don’t have the depth to replace a pitcher of that caliber, and the same is true of the Yankees. They lost Bartolo Colon for at least two weeks when he strained his hamstring covering first base on Sunday, though it could easily be more given the nature of his injury and his less than ideal physical condition. My hope is that he can start one of the first five games after the All-Star break, though I tend to set expectations low. Now, excuse me as I put on my blind optimism hat for a second, but is it possible that Colon’s stint on the disabled list could actually be a good thing?

Of course it’s going to completely stink in the short term because Bartolo was legitimately pitching like an ace. His 3.34 FIP and 1.6 fWAR puts him in the company of guys like Jamie Shields (3.50 FIP, 1.7 fWAR), Tim Hudson (3.41 FIP, 1.4 fWAR), Chad Billingsley (3.40 FIP, 1.4 fWAR), and Ricky Nolasco (3.55 FIP, 1.4 fWAR), four guys any of us would happily take in the Yankees’ rotation. However, Colon has also thrown 78.1 IP this year, and the only reason it’s that low is because he started the year in the bullpen. Since officially moving into the rotation on April 15th, his 67 IP are right up there with noted workhorses like Mark Buehrle (67.2 IP), Ted Lilly (66.1 IP), and Dan Haren 68.2 IP). Point being, Colon’s thrown a ton of innings lately.

All that work is why this DL stint could be a blessing in disguise for the Yankees. Those 78.1 IP this season are already more than Colon threw in 2010 (0 IP), 2009 (62.1 IP), 2008 (39.1 IP), and 2006 (56.1 IP), and he’s just 21 IP shy of his 2007 total. It’s been a while since Bartolo has endured this kind of workload, and who really knows how that stem cell treated shoulder will hold up. Simply put, a few weeks of rest at this point of the season could be just what this 38-year-old needs to remain healthy and effective down the stretch, when the Yankees are really going to need him.

This isn’t just about Colon either. His absence will afford the Yankees the opportunity to give some of their younger arms a taste of the big leagues, even if it’s just Hector Noesi experiencing life as a Major League starter for the first time. It’s better to let him start that learning process now than in August and September, when the margin for error is smaller just based on the number of games left on schedule. Heck, if Noesi pitches well, it could also boost his trade value and make him that much more desirable to other teams in a midseason trade should the Yankees decide to go that way. The same holds true for David Phelps or Adam Warren.

There’s always a chance that Bartolo comes back from the injury and simply doesn’t pitch as well as he had been. If fact, there’s probably a better chance of that happening than him coming back and dominating again. This level of performance is just so improbable, but he’s been defying the odds all season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to do so after this little vacation. It’s hard to spin injuries into a positive, and if Colon’s bum hamstring has any benefit to the team, keeping him fresh for the stretch drive is it.

Categories : Injuries, Pitching
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Update (3:26pm): It’s a strained left hamstring, his landing leg. That’s bad, Bartolo’s probably headed to the disabled list even if it’s just a minor strain.

Original Post (3:02pm): Bartolo Colon left this afternoon’s game with an apparent leg injury after covering first base in the seventh inning. David Robertson replaced him on the mound. Out of shape pitchers and wet grass don’t mix well. Stay tuned for updates.

Categories : Asides, Injuries
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The Yankees announced that they’re going to take advantage of today’s off day by flip-flopping CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Sabathia will now start Sunday on regular rest while Colon goes Monday on six day’s rest (two extra days). Colon’s 38-year-old arm has been pitching every five days for about four weeks now, so it’ll be good to give him a little breather. Plus he’s pitched better on extra rest this year anyway. Joe Girardi indicated that Sabathia will get an extra day or two between starts at some point in the future. Counting today, the Yankees have three off days in the next week-and-a-half, so there could be more shuffling ahead.

Categories : Asides, Pitching
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May
23

Bartolo’s Big Test

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(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Through six starts and three long relief appearances, the Bartolo Colon experiment has been a rousing success for the Yankees. The big guy has a 3.16 ERA to go along with a 3.52 FIP, and a 2.88 xFIP suggests that he’s been a little unlucky when it comes to the long ball. Of the six homers he’s allowed, two qualify as “Just Enough” shots according to Hit Tracker, which means they cleared the fence by less than ten vertical feet. That’s nothing. Colon has been throwing legit mid-90′s heat and is striking out nearly one man per inning while walking fewer than two per nine (8.42 K/9, 1.93 BB/9). We really can’t say enough about how good or surprising he’s been.

Tonight’s series opener against the Blue Jays is going to be perhaps the most telling start of Colon’s brief Yankees’ career, at least to date. Why? Because for the first time this year, a team will get a second look at him as a starter. Yes, Bartolo has already pitched twice against the Red Sox, but the first appearance was in relief while the second was a starter. That’s not quite the same thing. The Jays will be the first team to get a second look at Colon the starter, so now adjustments come into the play.

In his first start against Toronto (April 20th), Colon powered through 6.2 innings by throwing fastball after fastball. Just 14 of his 85 pitches were offspeed while the other 75 pitches were broken into 39 four-seamers and 36 two-seamers (PitchFX data). He only left the game because he’d reached his pitch count in just his first start. That fastball-heavy approach is the norm for Bartolo as we now know, and the Jays are surely aware of it as well.  Toronto has been one of the league’s better teams against the ol’ number one, so do the Yankees and Colon change up the game plan and mix in more sliders and changeups?

I don’t get a vote nor should I, but I’m in the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” camp. Let the Blue Jays first show that they’ve adjusted to the fastball-heavy plan before deviating from it. Why switch to Plan B when you aren’t even sure that Plan A is outdated yet? I definitely wouldn’t recommend going after Jose Bautista with the high heat again, but the other eight guys in the lineup? Go for it. Adam Lind is out with a back problem, so the only lefty power source they have is the recently called up Eric Thames (no relation to Marcus). Colon has shredded right-handed batters all year long, so stick with the heat and then adjust if necessary.

The Yankees have already gotten more out of Colon than I think they ever imagined, but in the back of our minds we all know that the next pitch could be the last. Yeah, that’s true for everyone, but Bartolo’s at greater risk given all his recent (and major) arm trouble. Tonight we’ll get our first real look at how he handles a lineup after they’ve seen him and had some time to refine the game plan a little bit.

Categories : Pitching
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Earlier tonight, Mike reported on the stem cell procedure Bartolo Colon underwent to restore his throwing arm. Now it seems that MLB is questioning the surgery and the doctor who conducted it. Joseph R. Purita, Colon’s surgeon, has used HGH in the past, and MLB wants to make sure he didn’t employ the banned substance in Colon’s surgery.

Serge Kovaleski of The Times reported:

Purita said he flew to the Dominican Republic and performed the procedures for free, doing it at the behest of a medical technology company based in Massachusetts that he has done business with for several years. Purita, who has used human growth hormone in such treatments, said in an interview that that he had not done so in Colon’s case. The use of human growth hormone is banned by baseball. “This is not hocus-pocus,” Purita said in an interview here. “This is the future of sports medicine, in particular. Here it is that I got a guy back playing baseball and throwing pitches at 95 miles an hour.”

Purita said that he has treated at least two dozen professional athletes over the years, mostly baseball and football players, and that he has never given any of them H.G.H. “I just won’t give it to these guys,” Purita said. “I don’t need the stigma and that kind of reputation.”

For the last few years, baseball and other sports, while fighting to limit the use of performance-enhancing drugs, have been faced with a new and murky challenge: players getting sophisticated blood treatments, often from doctors whose practices involve the regular use of H.G.H.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, said Wednesday that he had not known of Colon’s medical treatment when the club signed him. Cashman said Colon’s agent, aware that The New York Times was working on an article about the procedure and Purita’s role, had notified him recently of the procedure. Cashman said he had, in response, informed Major League Baseball. “The Yankees did notify us and we are looking into it,” said Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball has said it has no reason to suspect Colon or his surgeon of any wrong-doing, but they are investigating as a matter of due diligence. I would expect nothing to come of this, and I’m not sure they can do much anyway. Colon was out of organized baseball when he underwent the procedure last year. As long as he complies with the MLB drug policy now, there is no foul here.

Categories : STEROIDS!
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