When the New York Mets signed Bartolo Colon in the offseason, he was meant to be an innings-eater who would provide a number of quality starts in place of Matt Harvey, who is out for the year after Tommy John surgery. But if Colon’s first two outings are any indication, he could become the ace of the staff in 2014.
In his latest start against the Atlanta Braves, he was as efficient as a pitcher could be. He gave up six hits in seven innings with zero earned runs. The Mets would sign up for that start every fifth day. The fact that Colon was able to go seven innings is extremely important, especially with the Mets bullpen in shambles.
Probably the most impressive element in his last start has nothing to do with statistics. It was how easy he made it look. It appeared that Colon threw two pitches the entire night — the fastball and the changeup. According to fangraphs.com, Colon has thrown a fastball 92.7 percent of the time in his two starts with the Mets. That’s seven percentage points higher than his 2013 season with the Oakland A’s.
Colon used to be a pitcher who could hit the upper 90s with his fastball. Now that he’s 40 years old, he sits in the low 90s. But Colon has adapted. As he has aged, he now understands the importance of placement and the change of speeds. The Mets know what they’re going to get from Colon. He’s going to throw strikes and he’s not going to walk anybody.
In his last two years with the A’s, he had sub-3.50 ERAs in both seasons. That was in the AL West, where he had to pitch against the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels, not to mention the rest of the American League. Now that Colon is in the National League, where offenses aren’t as potent, he could have an even better season than last year. He went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA last year and was a Cy Young candidate.
Let’s look at the rest of the staff. Yes, Dillon Gee was the Opening Day starter, but he can’t be a No. 1 guy. He’s an effective pitcher, but he doesn’t have the stuff to be a dominant ace of a staff. Zack Wheeler certainly has the stuff to be the ace, but he is still young, and he still has some developing to do. Jonathon Niese can’t stay healthy, and Jenrry Mejia has all the talent in the world, but he hasn’t proven that he can put it together for the entire season.
When looking at the ace of the pitching rotation, ask yourself this question. In a one-game playoff, who would you want on the mound for that game? I want the veteran pitcher who has been there before. I want the guy who will pitch six or seven effective innings before handing it over to the bullpen. That’s Colon. Don’t get me wrong, Wheeler will get there in time, but this year, Colon needs to be the ace.