When the New York Mets signed Bartolo Colon to a two-year, $20 million contract this offseason, it seemed like a prudent acquisition. In many ways, signing the 41-year-old starting pitcher to a comparatively reasonable deal was the very savvy, Moneyball-esque free-agent move many Mets’ fans had been waiting for Sandy Alderson to make.
— Ben Berkon (@BenBerkon) December 11, 2013
But Colon has been a bit more vulnerable in 2014 than over his past three seasons. The right-hander has pitched to the tune of a 5.65 ERA (versus a 4.42 FIP) and park-adjusted 60 ERA+ in his first six starts in orange and blue. By comparison, Colon combined for a far superior 3.32 ERA (versus a 3.60 FIP) and a 119 ERA+ from 2011 to 2013.
Yet, perhaps the most worrisome signs of the Dominican native’s cold start have been the rate and distance of his home runs allowed. Colon has served up seven home runs—or 1.7 home runs per nine innings—with an average “true” distance of 406.1 feet, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.
The chart below illustrates Colon’s 2014 home run metrics compared to his 2011 to 2013 seasons:
|Year||HRs Allowed||Avg. True Dist. (Ft.)||Avg. Speed Off Bat (MPH)||Avg. Standard Dist. (Ft.)|
Opposing hitters aren’t just hitting home runs harder against Colon (about 2.5 MPH more in 2014 than in 2013), however, but also, a lot further. The 17-year veteran has witnessed the average “true” distance of his home runs allowed travel 15.3 feet further this season as compared to his past three-year average.
And even though you wouldn’t know it from Colon’s microscopic 1.0 walks per nine innings ratio, the control artist has actually left too many pitches inside the zone in 2014, too.
Before we as Mets’ fans completely raise statistical pitchforks and torches to Colon’s 2014 season, the right-hander does have plenty of time to turn things around. That being said, with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and even Jacob deGrom readying in the minor leagues, the Mets might not be able to give Colon a leash beyond midseason to prove himself.
And if that’s the case, it’s quite possible Bartolo Colon will be the rotation casualty—especially if Sandy Alderson realizes that the team’s collective park-adjusted 83 wRC+ ranks 28th in the major leagues needs help.