Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bartolo Colon Is Always In Control

Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP

With Matt Harvey sidelined for the 2014 season, the Mets needed to add a quality arm to the starting rotation.  Today they got their man, as the team signed veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon to a two-year, $20 million contract.

Colon has been an excellent pitcher for a decade and a half.  He has a 189-128 record in the major leagues with a 3.94 ERA and 1,950 strikeouts in just under 2,600 innings.  Colon is a three-time All-Star who has four top-six Cy Young Award finishes on his résumé.  He has also had five years with 18 or more wins, including this past season, when he went 18-6 for the AL West champion Oakland A's.  Just seven pitchers have ever won as many as 18 games in a season for the Mets and only Tom Seaver (six times), Dwight Gooden (three times) and Jerry Koosman (two times) have ever accomplished the feat more than once as a Met.

It's true that Bartolo Colon will be 41 next May.  It's also true that last season was the first time since 2005 that Colon made as many as 30 starts in a season.  But when Colon is on the mound, he gives his team something that very few pitchers can provide.  He hardly ever walks a batter.  Ever.  And over the past two seasons, his pinpoint control has put him in a special class.

In 2012, Colon made 24 starts for the A's.  He walked 23 batters.  In 2013, Colon took the hill 30 times, walking just 29 batters.  That's two straight seasons in which Colon has had more starts than walks.  How rare is it for a pitcher to do that in consecutive years?  Well, the last pitcher to do it was Greg Maddux in 2007 (34 starts, 25 walks) and 2008 (33 starts, 30 walks) and he's up for Hall of Fame consideration next month.

There has never been a Mets pitcher who has posted back-to-back seasons with more starts than walks.  In fact, since the Mets came into existence in 1962, only three pitchers have ever completed a season of 20 starts or more with fewer walks than starts.  Those pitchers are Ed Lynch (1985), Bret Saberhagen (1994) and Rick Reed (1998, 2001).

Bartolo Colon brings a lot of experience and talent to the mound.  He also brings a lot of control.  Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler combined to walk 141 batters in 73 starts, an average of almost two walks per start.  Colon has averaged less than one walk per start over the last two years.

Control is contagious.  Or at least that's what the Mets hope for now that Bartolo Colon is on the staff.  His fellow moundsmen will certainly benefit from having a teammate who's always in complete control.

No comments: