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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
What's made Bartolo Colón so good?

By Michael Bonzagni

It is amazing that Oakland Athletics starter Bartolo Colón has been as effective as he has been this year.

Colón was named to his third All-Star team this season, and is currently third in the AL with a 2.50 ERA. On Wednesday afternoon, Colón is scheduled to face the Reds, who will look to jump on his 90-MPH fastball.

Let’s take a closer look at what has made Colón so good this season.

Colón has thrown a strike on 69 percent of pitches, the second-highest rate in the AL behind David Price. As a result, Colón has walked less than four percent of batters faced, second-lowest among qualified pitchers in the league, again behind Price. Colón’s WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) is a career-best 1.12, which is on pace to be the best WHIP by a starter at least 39 years old since Jamie Moyer posted a 1.10 WHIP with the Phillies in 2010.

The fastball
Colón has thrown his fastball 85 percent of the time, nearly 11 percentage points higher than the next-closest qualified pitcher (Shelby Miller, 74%). Colón throws his fastball more often than most relievers do; Only seven other pitchers have thrown their fastball more often than Colón has this season (min. 100 pitches).

Limiting extra bases
Colón has allowed a .277 average in at-bats ending with his fastball, which is actually worse than the Major League average for qualified starters of .273 in at-bats ending with fastballs or sinkers.

But where Colón has shined this year is limiting hitters to singles. Isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) measures the average number of extra bases a hitter gains per at-bat.

Colón’s opponent isolated power in at-bats ending in his fastball is just .107 this year, third best in the AL among qualified starters with their fastballs or sinkers.

Reds may feast
Since July 1, Reds batters have hit a line drive on 23 percent of the fastballs or sinkers they have put in play, the third-best rate in the National League during that span. They have slugged .457 in those at-bats, second in the National League.

The Reds will be a good test for Colón, who likely won’t hesitate to challenge them with his fastball.