Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bartolo Colon: The 40-Year-Old Surgeon

Bartolo Colon can afford to smile.  He now has 200 wins and a place in Mets history.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

On Friday, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon earned his 200th career victory by pitching eight innings of one-run ball against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.  Colon needed to sweat out a three-run rally by the Phillies in their last at-bat, but the bullpen eventually recorded the third out before allowing a fourth run to score to give Colon the milestone win.

Colon's 200th win was also his 11th victory for the Mets in 2014.  And in earning his 11th win of the year, he became just the third Mets pitcher to record as many as 11 victories in a season after his birth certificate turned 40.  See the chart below for the exclusive club joined by Colon.

Tom Glavine 15 2006 40 32 .682 198.0 202 84 62 131 3.82 4.30 .267 .325 .421 .746
Tom Glavine 13 2007 41 34 .619 200.1 219 99 64 89 4.45 4.86 .281 .338 .438 .776
Orel Hershiser 13 1999 40 32 .520 179.0 175 91 77 89 4.58 4.63 .260 .342 .401 .742
Bartolo Colon 11 2014 41 23 .550 154.1 159 68 20 117 3.97 3.50 .261 .287 .401 .688
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2014.

A 40-year-old (or older) starting pitcher has posted an 11-win season for the Mets four times, with Tom Glavine accomplishing the feat twice, and Orel Hershiser and Colon turning the trick once.  But what separates Colon from Glavine and Hershiser is that Colon has won his 11 games (and counting) for a Mets team that has been struggling all season to get to .500.  Meanwhile, both Glavine and Hershiser won their games for Mets teams that qualified for the postseason.  Glavine won 15 games in 2006 for the NL East champions, while Hershiser notched 13 wins for a Mets team that fell two wins short of a World Series berth.  Glavine's 2007 squad failed to crash the postseason party, but the Mets still won 88 games that year.

Colon also has far better control than his 40-year-old brethren, as Glavine averaged nearly two walks per start in his two 11-plus win seasons and Hershiser walked nearly two-and-a-half batters per appearance.  This year, Colon has issued 20 free passes in 23 starts, an average of less than one walk per start.  Because of his surgical precision on the mound, opposing batters have a .287 on-base percentage and .688 OPS against Colon, as opposed to Glavine and Hershiser, who would've traded in their AARP cards just to have the opportunity to lower their OBP and OPS to .300 and .700, respectively, in their 11-plus win seasons.

In addition, Colon's 3.50 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is by far the best of the three forty-something hurlers, dwarfing the 4.30 FIP posted by Glavine in 2006.  Colon's FIP as a 41-year-old in 2014 in just slightly higher than the 3.45 career FIP posted by former Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander.  It should also be noted that Verlander is ten years Colon's junior.  By contrast, the FIP posted by Glavine and Hershiser in their 11-plus win campaigns rivals that of former Met Kris Benson, who had a 4.54 FIP in his career (4.46 as a Met).

When Tom Glavine and Orel Hershiser had their high-win seasons for the Mets, both pitchers were beginning to show signs of wear, as they were allowing more opposing hitters to reach base than they had earlier in their careers.  However, they were constantly being bailed out - and therefore were afforded more opportunities to earn wins - by their explosive hitters.  The 1999 squad had John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura, to name a few, while the 2006 and 2007 teams scored aplenty with Jose Reyes, David Wright and the two Carloses (Beltran and Delgado) supplying the firepower.  Bartolo Colon's offense consists of Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and a subpar Wright.  In other words, Colon has had to truly earn his wins.

Bartolo Colon is signed for one more season - his age 42 season.  Should he remain in the Mets starting rotation in 2015 (not exactly a lock because of trade talks and the expected return of Matt Harvey), he stands to become the first 42-year-old in franchise history to earn a minimum of 11 wins.  Considering what he's done in 2014, and the fact that he's not showing any signs of his age, who's to say he can't be productive for another season?  We'll just have to wait and see if that productive season comes in a Mets uniform.

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