Repeating History: The Cautionary Tale of Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon has become synonymous with two things now that his career is winding down. The first is Being a veteran presence to young players and a starting pitcher who can still get guys out at the highest level. The second and probably most prevalent things synonymous with Colon is his 2012 suspension due to Performance Enhancing Drugs. Colon was in the midst of a strong season last year before the suspension pitching to a 10-9 record with a 3.43 ERA in 152.1 innings pitched. Pretty good numbers for a player who did not pitch the last forty or so games of the season. If Colon pitched those last eight starts (assuming he would have been healthy) it’s not out of the question to think he would have thrown over 200 innings at around that same ERA.

May 31, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) throws out Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn (32, not pictured) during the second inning at O.Co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

This season Colon is on pace to out-pitch those numbers. So far in Colon’s healthy 2013: 5-2, 3.82 ERA, 61.1 IP. While the ERA is a little inflated the numbers show that Colon was a little lucky last year and his ERA should have been higher. The real numbers lie outside of those stats. So far in 2013 Colon has 39 strike outs compared to just 4 walks (that comes out to a 9.75 K/BB ratio [strikeouts/walks]), 1.125 WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched), and he has already pitched a shut out this year. Colon seemingly continues to succeed without faltering. Why bring this up?

Last year A’s fans around this time were saying the same things about Colon that they are saying this year. “Colon is timeless.” “Colon continues to succeed at a high level.” These comments and more were thrown around the Coliseum raising Colon’s fandom to new levels. Why is this cause for concern?

If last year taught us anything about Colon it is to be careful reading into his numbers and assuming he is clean. That may not be a fair assumption, including the innocent until proven guilty plea, but there is something to be said about a 40 year old player throwing up some of the best numbers of his career. Yes, Colon does throw the same pitch a lot and he has lost some velocity since last season. Yes, Colon might just be a really good pitcher with extraordinary command.

Bartolo Colon is a good pitcher. He has been one for a very long time. However, it seemed last year he has become a player who will do anything to prolong a good career in the Major Leagues. The A’s will need to be cautious about Colon going forward and secretly should hope Brett Anderson comes back from his injured ankle soon or the Green and Gold could find themselves using up their pitching depth again for a playoff run.

Topics: Bartolo Colon, Oakland A's

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