Age before beauty, I suppose. The first pitcher in our 2014 Mets Season in Review series is that ancient mariner Bartolo Colon.
One of New York’s major free agent imports this season, Colon defied Father Time and became a rock in the rotation.
Sep 11, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) delivers a pitch in the 1st inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
How He Fared in 2014:
Originally meant to be a yearlong stopgap while Matt Harvey rehabbed his right elbow, Colon led the Mets in wins and starts, going 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA in 31 starts. That ERA stat does not paint the full picture: Bartolo posted one of the best seasons any 41-year-old pitcher has ever had. Per nine innings, he walked just 1.334 (seventh-best for a 41-year-old) and struck out 6.717 (fifth), collected 151 Ks (fifth), and posted a 5.033 strikeout-to-walk ratio (second). Forget 41-year-olds; that’s a good season for anyone.
Even more than the times he was truly dominant (he even flirted with perfection July 23 in Seattle), Colon’s most impressive outings came when he was able to roll with the punches. Three times he gave up more than 10 hits but still put together a quality start. The most hits he gave up this season were 12 against Miami on September 16. He allowed one run and lasted into the eighth inning, and the Mets won 9-1. Colon may have lost velocity as the years marched on, but by becoming a control artist – he only walked two or more seven times – he enabled himself to scatter hit after hit and still give New York the chance to win.
This season marked the first time since 2002 that Bartolo pitched in the National League, and part of an NL pitcher’s responsibility includes stepping up to the plate. Colon did that in 2014, and so much more. He never looked comfortable in the box, he held the bat while running to first base, and his swings produced wind tunnels not seen since the Giants roamed Candlestick Park. But Bartolo Colon was about as entertaining as a hitting pitcher can be; he even worked to improve his bunting. And the one time he slashed an extra-base hit, he sparked this absolutely inspired call from Kevin Burkhardt.
Areas to Improve On:
I would suggest he work on his hitting, but what fun would it be to see Colon transform into a “competent” National League hitting pitcher? He also could do to try and limit those scattered hits; while he produced quality starts in three 10+ hit starts, he gave up six or more runs in three other such starts. Other than that, for a man who turns 42 around Memorial Day, the best thing to do is make sure he’s ready to pitch on his 42nd birthday.
Jul 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) bunts in the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Projected Role in 2015:
Starting pitcher. This could change if the rotation starts crowding up – a.k.a. Noah Syndergaard’s arrival – but Mets fans should have no problem seeing Colon as a member of the starting staff in April. He’s a fun guy, he’s great with the younger players, and he knows how to pitch even when pitching is the last thing on his mind (he won that day, by the way). New York should be proud to be one of Bartolo Colon’s final stops as a major leaguer, if not his very last one.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors:
Jun 24, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) reacts as he heads to the dugout after the top of the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Athletics 10-1. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
As part of the two-year, $20 million deal he signed in the offseason, Colon is owed $11 million in 2015, which as of now makes him the third-highest player on the Mets. His age will make him difficult to trade for anyone of value, although he could be moved as part of a package with a younger pitching prospect; a sort of one for now, one for later deal. With a New York rotation that will soon become a logjam, and with a pitcher who has exactly six relief appearances in his nearly 20 years in the major leagues, the question is not whether Bartolo Colon will be shopped around but how soon.