“Bartolo Colon looks old.”
These were the words spoken by Shooty Babitt, an analyst on the pre and post game TV broadcast for the Oakland Athletics, and a scout for the New York Mets. On Tuesday night, as Colon labored through four innings, Babitt, who had made his comments before the game had started, was looking spot on.
Colon cruised through a one, two, three first inning, but immediately found himself in trouble in the second frame.
The right-hander started off the inning with an uncharacteristic walk before serving up a pair of doubles as the the Houston Astros grabbed an early 2-0 advantage. That was all the Astros would get in the second, but it would take Colon 47 pitches to work through the first two innings.
To begin the third, Colon allowed an infield single after he failed to cover first base on a ground ball to Brandon Moss. The right-hander appeared to be momentarily stunned by Robbie Grossman‘s exploding bat, as it splintered around the infield. The Astros made it 4-0 on a sacrifice fly, and then 5-0 as Chris Carter clubbed a double to left.
Colon allowed yet another double to lead off the fourth, and the Astros added a crucial fifth run on a double play. On the night, Colon finished with a line of four innings, five runs, seven hits, one walk and three strike outs.
That is coming off a 2.2 inning, five run outing against the Cincinnati Reds last week. In 2013, Colon has now thrown 154.1 inning, which is exactly two innings more than he threw last year in a suspension-shortened season.
In 2011, he threw 164 innings, but before that he hadn’t topped 99.1 innings since 2005 when he won the Cy Young. After winning the award that year, the Dominican Republic native told the Associated Press: “I stopped being a village boy, thinking that I can throw any stone, any rock, through a wall.”
There are still glimpses of that village boy, like when Colon playfully tosses the ball into the air in between pitches. Nonetheless, eight years later, Colon is still doing an incredible job following his own advice.
The 40-year-old right-hander has already won 14 games in 2013, which is more than any player in Oakland history at that age. That feat hasn’t been matched by any MLB player since Jamie Moyer pulled it off back in 2008.
The Athletics must be wondering, though, just what to expect from Colon moving forward. There’s not really a blue print for a pitcher having this kind of success at this age, especially a pitcher who has been linked to performance enhancers and whose declining fastball velocity suggests that either a shoulder or arm injury could be part of the equation.
I’m guessing that Colon will pull out of this mini tail spin. He might not return to his Cy Young form, but there’s no reason to think Colon won’t make the necessary adjustments that he’s proven so good at making over the years.
Before his two most recent outings, Colon has spun off a streak of 15 straight quality starts: six innings and three runs or fewer. From here on out, that’s just what the Athletics should be looking for, and what Colon has been so good at delivering.