Bartolo Colon has been in the Major Leagues a long time. He is the only player left in the league to play for the Montreal Expos and the Anaheim Angels (not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim!), and won his only career Cy Young in 2005, three years before Clayton Kershaw made his debut. This week, he pitched against the Baltimore Orioles. In his first career start against the Orioles in 1998, B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick were in the lineup.
Throughout his 18 seasons, Colon has always had impeccable control, but what he is doing this season is otherworldly. Colon has thrown 40.1 innings this season, and has walked exactly one batter — Ryan Zimmerman drew a free pass in the bottom of the sixth inning on Opening Day. Since issuing that solitary free pass five starts ago, Colon has gone 34.2 innings without a single walk. Colon would need to continue on at the same pace for seven more starts to match Bill Fischer‘s 84.1 inning streak from 1963, but with his 34.00 K/BB ratio, it is probably a safe bet that he will blow Phil Hughes‘s record of 11.63, set just last year, out of the water.
Seriously though, who would have expected Colon to be in the Majors let alone dominating in 2015 after he went a combined 14-21 from 2006 to 2009 and sat out the entire season with 2010 with a shoulder injury. It is just a testament to his ability to reinvent himself as a pitcher as he ages.
Colon has done some ridiculous things on the mound this year, and he has barely had to throw more than his fastball. Colon has thrown a four-seam or two-seam fastball a whopping 84.7% of the time this season.
Just one thing coming here, folks.
Although to be fair to him, there isn’t much reason to throw anything else when you can make a baseball do this.
All poor Caleb Joseph can do is swing feebly at something that resembles a screwball.
What Colon is doing with the baseball this season is simply incredible. He doesn’t throw all that hard anymore — his 90.2 mph average fastball velocity ranks 78th out of 111 qualified pitchers — but the movement and location of his fastballs have made him nearly unhittable. Colon also changes speeds effectively and moves the ball around the zone. He has thrown 533 pitches this season, with 379 going for strikes.
Pitching is a fine art, and there is a reason “painting” is a term used to describe exactly what Bartolo Colon is doing this season. He is covering the entire strike zone, and even if his fastball has lost more than a few ticks since his debut in 1997.
Here is Colon’s pitch chart for the 2015 season.
Colon covers the whole zone, and it is the side to side movement within the strike zone that allows him to be effective despite having underwhelming velocity.
One more thing stands out to me when looking at what Bartolo Colon has done so far this season. Colon has ended 22 plate appearances with just one pitch this season and has allowed only a tiny .190 batting average when the first pitch is put in play. That tells you something. Hitters are stepping into the box to face Colon looking to hack because they know a fastball located somewhere in the strike zone is coming, but he still gets them out.
Colon’s mastery was on full display in Tuesday night’s win over the Orioles. Colon was sitting at only 85-86 mph with his fastball, but Orioles hitters did not seem comfortable because of his ability to change speed and move his pitches around in the zone. He struck out nine over 7.2 innings. His one mistake was allowing a home run to Manny Machado in the seventh inning. Machado lit into an elevated fastball, showing exactly what can happen when Colon misses his spot. If that’s not happening though, Colon is not going to get hit very hard this season.
As the season goes on, look for Colon to increase the amount of sliders and changeups he sprinkles in.
Yup, that’s the league’s leading hitter Adam Jones looking silly when he expected another Colon fastball.
At nearly 42 years of age, Bartolo Colon has finally mastered the art of pitching — change speed, change location, and throw strikes. Greg Maddux showed us how to do it for years, and now Bartolo Colon is putting on a show. Personally, I hope it continues for another year or two, just so I can enjoy more moments like this.