It’s always hard to tell how much a player in his 40s has left in his tank. When the New York Mets signed pitcher Bartolo Colon to a two-year, $20 million contract during the offseason, they were gambling that Colon still had at least that many good years left in him. Early in 2014, the soon-to-be 41-year-old is showing his age.
In eight starts, Colon is 2-5 with a 5.84 ERA. He leads the league in earned runs and hits allowed. His fastball velocity hasn’t suffered a noticeable drop, and that’s good considering how many different varieties of fastballs he throws. But whether it’s the two-seamer, four-seamer, the cutter, runner, riser or sinker, Colon has been throwing them over the heart of the plate.
Bartolo is known as a strike thrower, which is great, as long as he throws quality strikes. He’s also known as a guy who throws upwards of 85 percent fastballs during a game, way more than any other starting pitcher. He even uses a fastball as his change-of-pace — a two-seamer that he takes a little off of. These two factors add up to a lot of contact and a 40 percent fly ball rate, which has hurt him in hitters’ parks like Coors Field and Yankee Stadium.
Breaking down his performances start-by-start, Colon has had five outings in which he’s allowed three runs or fewer. In four of those outings, he went seven innings. In three outings, he gave up six earned runs or more (two of those were in the aforementioned hitters’ parks, the other in Anaheim). So, Colon hasn’t been awful, but when he’s been bad, he’s been very bad.
His numbers so far this year pale in comparison to those he put up last year. Bartolo was 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA. But if you look closely, Colon got off to a slow start in 2013 as well. His ERA was as high as 4.57 on May 9. He was terrific from then on, posting a 2.11 ERA until the end of the season.
But can the Mets count on a 41-year-old to bounce back again in 2014? Looking at Colon’s career numbers, last year seems to be a statistical outlier. His career ERA is 3.98. His ERA in 2011 was 4.00 after missing 2010 with elbow and shoulder injuries. His ERA improved to 3.43 in 2012 before plunging in 2013. But his age makes him difficult to predict.
If Colon can perform as well as he did in 2011 and 2012, while tossing 170 innings or so, the Mets would still take it. New York needs a stable presence in a young rotation who they can count on 32 times a year.