The Unlikeliest of Aces


Pitchers like Bartolo Colon don’t emerge as staff aces.  Guys like him are typical brought to teams who are in a deep rebuilding phase, and their sole purpose is to “eat” innings.  I’ll pause for the obligatory jokes about Colon eating…

Thing is, that is exactly why the A’s brought Colon into the fold before the 2012 season.  They weren’t expected to compete, and Colon figured to help protect their young arms.  Little did we know that the team would suddenly skyrocket into contention.  Colon of course missed the final 6 weeks or so of the season after his PED suspension.

Jul 31, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) tosses the ball between pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fifth inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

While he was there, he was solid, but not spectacular.  And he wasn’t expected to be anything but an average pitcher who could throw a ton of innings.  His leadership, despite the suspension, paid dividends for the A’s and carried them through to the postseason.

Many presumed that after the suspension, the A’s would want nothing to do with him, but much to everyone’s surprise they jumped at the chance to bring him back for the 2013 season with a modest raise and expected him to anchor the back end of the rotation once again.  Colon looked eminently hittable during Spring Training, but stepped up his game in a big way once the bell rang for the regular season.  It started to become clear, after many questions about what to expect post-suspension, that Colon had reinvented himself at the age of 40 and was dominating hitters in ways that hadn’t been seen since his Cy Young season in 2005.  Throwing almost exclusively fastballs, Colon kept hitters off balance with changing of speeds and impeccable control.  Save for a brief blip during the dog days, Colon did this for the entire 2013 season.

Colon threw 190.1 innings, and posted a 2.65 ERA which was good for second in the American League.  He won 18 games, and while wins are not the standard by which pitchers should be measured, if you win 18 games you must be doing something right.  His peripheral numbers were impressive as well, he posted a 4.03 K/BB ratio which didn’t crack the MLB top ten, but is still quite good.  His BABIP of .294 and FIP of 3.23 indicate that he really was just about as good as his numbers showed.

He started Game 1 of the ALDS, and while the A’s lost the game and he got knocked around a bit in the first inning, he recovered nicely and gave the team a chance to win.  He was passed over for the Game 5 start in favor of the young phenom Sonny Gray, but Colon did everything in his power in 2013 to reestablish himself as a top pitcher in baseball.

The question remains of sustainability, considering he is going to be 41 next season.  He didn’t show much in the way of slowing down, and while he may not replicate his 2013, he can still be a highly useful pitcher in 2014.  He figures to get another raise, and I would bet the A’s will be the ones to give it to him.