Bartolo Colon: Ready For One More “BIG” Season in Oakland
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Sunday January 13th, 2013
Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist, Oakland A’s Correspondent and Website Founder): Follow @Jhacohen
Bartolo Colon (or Fatolo as he is known in inner-baseball circles), is set to make his major league return in April, 2013. Back in August, 2012 Colon received a 50-game suspension for the use of a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED). This suspension came a week after Melky Cabrera received his 50-game ban. With only 5 games left in his suspension, Colon will be back in early-April (health permitting). But as much as fans discuss his performance on the field, Colon’s weight always seems to be the center of attention. Generously listed at 5’11″ and 265 lbs. on the Baseball Reference site, Colon won’t be winning modelling contests anytime soon. Billy Beane said it best in Moneyball, when he made it clear to his scouts that the team wasn’t trying to sell jeans. They were trying to win ballgames. Regardless of his weight and appearance, as long as Bartolo Colon can get the job done, I say hand him the ball every 5th game. Babe Ruth wasn’t a small guy, but he sure got the job done. Colon may not have the talent possessed by Ruth, but he can still be effective on most given nights. When baseball has 1-2 pitchers falling to Tommy John surgery on a weekly basis, there is something to be said for a pitcher that can go out there and give his team a good chance of winning. That is the Bartolo Colon that the A’s are hoping for in 2013. With a $3 Million salary this year and approximately $2 Million in incentives to be earned, Colon has all the incentives in place to give the A’s the workhorse they need this upcoming season.
When considering Bartolo Colon, the first thing one needs to do is throw age out the window. His birthdate is listed as May 24, 1973. Thus Colon is set to turn 40 this season. 40 in Dominican years is more likely 44-45 in North American years. Let’s just say that birth records and birth certificates coming out of the Dominican Republic are not always considered the most accurate. But regardless, if Colon can hold up this season, the A’s wouldn’t care if he was pushing 50. Most pitchers do not even make it to 35 Years Of Age on a Major League mound, so in that regard Colon has already cheated Father Time. Every game, every inning from herein is simply gravy. Colon won the A.L. CY Young Award in 2005 with the Angels. Sure he won 21 games, but being named top pitcher with a 3.48 ERA makes me scratch my head. I guess it was a different time back then, where all the stats were not analyzed at the pace that they are today. But that’s a discussion for another time. Since his monster season with the Angels, Colon has been floating through baseball. He won a total of 14 games between 2006 and 2009 (4 seasons), while missing the 2010 campaign. Colon did manage to make 26 starts for the 2011 Yankees and 24 starts for the A’s last season, showing that he was apparently a fine wine: only getting better with age.
After undergoing some form of stem cell treatment in the Dominican during his time with the Yankees and then the PED suspension last year, it has become evident that Bartolo is using any and all means possible to “get healthy” and succeed on the field. Remember though, it’s only cheating if you get caught. Colon did not receive any discipline action relating to the stem cell treatments and he has almost completed his PED suspension from last season. The man deserves his chance to show what he can do. It is interesting to consider how Colon is being viewed, as opposed to say Melky Cabrera. In 2012, Cabrera went from the All-Star game MVP and possible NL Batting champion to baseball scapegoat. The Giants banished him from the playoffs, even though he was eligible to return. When free agency arrived, the team did not even try to re-sign him. For a team that needs offense badly, it was a clear statement on how they viewed Cabrera’s actions in relation to the team. So while Cabrera was banished to Canada, signing with the Jays for a reasonable 2 YRS/$16 Million, Colon was welcomed back by the A’s with open arms. I would argue that the Giants needed Cabrera more than the A’s needed Colon. Perhaps Oakland is a more forgiving town. Or just maybe, the price of pitching is at such a dangerously high level in baseball that the A’s swallowed their morals and purchased the most economic pitcher on the market for them.
I had the pleasure last season of watching many of Bartolo Colon’s starts for Oakland. More often that not, he was pretty damn good. Overall, he finished the season with a 10-9 record, 3.43 ERA, and 1.208 WHIP. Colon pitched 152.1 Innings, with 91 SO and only 23 BB. He has become the crafty veteran, getting the ground balls and not allowing too many free passes. The modern-day Rick Reuschel? Or perhaps a Jack Morris, the pitcher that just knows how to win. Consider some of Colon’s numbers. From his 24 starts last year, he made it to at least the 5th inning in 21 starts. Even better, in 12 of those starts he pitched at least 7 innings. And in 7 starts, he pitched at least 8 Innings. That is what we call people a workhorse. An innings eater. In half of his 2012 starts, Colon went at least 7 Innings- that is a rarity in today’s game. That has value. Extreme pitching value.
In 15 starts, Colon gave up 2 runs or less. Sure, he had some clunkers along the way as well. He had 5 games where he gave up 5 or more runs. That’s the charm of Bartolo Colon. He will give up 7 runs in one game and then pitch 2 shutouts to follow. It is very difficult to get a Major League Pitcher that can pitch quality games every night out. Colon may not be able to do that at this stage of his career, but last year did prove some important points. He should be able to go at least 7 Innings on most nights. He may put up the occasional stinker, but most of the times he will keep his team close. Billy Beane is not a dumb man. He signed Bartolo Colon for a reason. Beane’s job is to win ballgames for the Oakland A’s. At $3 Million and incentives, the potential gain far outweighed the risk with the Colon signing.
If you regularly read my work, you will know that I love reading home/road splits. Taking a look at Colon’s, the numbers actually do not say much. In 14 home starts in 2012, Colon had a 5-6 record, 3.54 ERA and 1.090 WHIP. In 10 road starts, Colon had a 5-3 record with a 3.27 ERA and 1.374 WHIP. Translation? He was actually pretty consistent, regardless of which park he pitched in. While Oakland is known as a pitcher’s haven, Colon did quite well for himself on the road. Thus he was not a product of the Oakland Coliseum.
The A’s have a lot of momentum going into this season. As the defending A.L. West champs, they will be the team to be beat. They have a strong returning lineup, headed by future MVP candidate Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Chris Carter, Coco Crisp and future All-Star catcher Derek Norris. The bullpen is steady, led by closer Grant Balfour. The rotation has interesting pieces, including Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson. Colon will face some competition for the 4th and 5th spots, as A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily try to make their marks. But as long as he is healthy, Colon figures to have a rotation spot locked up upon his return.
The man clearly has made mistakes. Many players have. Melky Cabrera will be a Toronto Blue Jay this season. Mark McGwire made a successful return to baseball as the hitting coach for the Cardinals and now is set to join Don Mattingly‘s coaching squad with the Dodgers. Heck, even Sammy Sosa has a pinterest page, where he showcases his fashionable wardrobe as he lounges around the house. Baseball is a game of forgive and forget. Fortunately for Bartolo Colon, he gets to make amends with the team that he hurt at the time of his suspension. For the contending Oakland A’s, the last thing that they needed was to lose one of their top pitchers in a pennant race. After losing Brandon McCarthy last season to injury (and then Free Agency), the loss of Colon could have crippled the team’s playoff chances. But like the Giants, the team banded together and played just as well, if not better after losing a player to a PED suspension. But unlike the San Francisco Giants, the A’s were prepared to forgive and forget Bartolo Colon.
Hopefully, the new Colon will reward the time with one last big season. At his age (40+), he can only have so much juice left in the tank. He is not a knuckleball pitcher and given his weight issues, he is not likely the most durable and dependable pitcher that the team can count on. But the team does not need a decade of Bartolo Colon. They need only one more season. Baseball is a funny game, as player’s seem to just lose “it” suddenly one day. They don’t when it will come, but when they are done- they are done. Colon could have left baseball many years ago. He has earned over $72 Million in lifetime earnings, so he likely doesn’t need to pitch for the money. Perhaps he just loves the game. Or wants to prove that he can just do it. Regardless of his motives, the A’s do not need for Colon to look good in his uniform for jersey sales. They just want to win ballgames. For a young team that was able to break through to the playoffs last season, the team needs to now take the next step. For all his 15 seasons in baseball, Bartolo Colon has never pitched in a World Series game. Perhaps it is time for both Colon and Beane to achieve their dreams and reach the Fall Classic together. I’m sure that would work well for the writers that are preparing the sequel to Moneyball. After all, Hollywood loves a good storybook ending.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
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Posted on January 13, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged @Jhacohen on twitter, A.J. Griffin, AL Cy Young Award Winner, AL West, babe ruth, bartolo colon, baseball, billy beane, brandon mccarthy, brett anderson, chris carter, dan straily, derek norris, don mattingly, george kottaras, grant balfour, jack morris, jarrod parker, jonathan hacohen, josh reddick, mark mcgwire, melky cabrera, mlb, new york yankees, oakland a's, oakland athletics, ped, rick reuschel, sammy sosa, san francisco giants, tommy john, tommy milone, toronto blue jays, yoenis cespdes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.