Saturday, December 14, 2013
Mets should enjoy their one-trick pony
By Tommy Rancel
The New York Mets have spent wisely on useful veterans this offseason. After formally introducing Curtis Granderson at the winter meetings earlier this week, the club officially signed his former teammate Bartolo Colon to a two-year deal worth $20 million as he passed his physical -- with Colon, not necessarily a sure thing considering his past injuries and, umm, weight issues. The average annual value of $10 million may seem like a lot for a 40-year-old who has been suspended for PED usage, but given the AAV of pitchers with similar, if not less production and track record, it appears to be a fair deal for both sides.
Colon returns to the National League East more than a decade after his half-season with the Montreal Expos. Although he was plenty good with the Oakland A's last season, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, there's room to believe he might be even better should his pipeline to the fountain of youth continue. Trading the designated hitter for opposing pitchers should help artificially boost his below-average strikeout rate while aiding in maintaining his near non-existent walk total. He has faced 1405 batters over the last two seasons and walked just 49 unintentionally. In regards to batted balls, he will continue to pitch in a pitcher-friendly home park and will do so in front of what should be an above-average defensive outfield that includes Granderson, Chris Young and Juan Lagares.
Colon's game plan is simple. Everything is predicated off well-located fastballs. Despite his advanced age, and diminished velocity, he is one of the heaviest (no pun intended) users of fastballs in the league. Since 2011, he has thrown the most heaters of any starter (minimum 450 innings). In fact, it is not even close. Colon has thrown nearly 86 percent fastballs over the last three seasons with Gio Gonzalez in second at just under 70 percent.
While Colon may seem like a one-trick pony, he actually uses the fastball as multiple different pitches. Take for example his work against Adrian Beltre in 2013. As division rivals, the duo locked horns 13 times. The results are irrelevant (.077/.077/.154 for those that care) but the process is evident. Of the 43 pitches Colon threw to Beltre, 34 were fastballs. The velocity range was 86 mph on the low end and 94 mph on the high end of the spectrum. The most impressive part was the varied location. Colon threw up and in on the hands as frequently as he threw down and away. The constant changing of speeds and shifting of eye levels makes illustrates how one pitch can look like a complete arsenal the opposing batter.
The risk in signing a pitcher working on his fifth decade on the planet to a multi-year contract is implied. But Colon is an outlier. Over the last two seasons, he has made 54 starts, averaging over six innings per start with an ERA around 3.00. For a Mets' staff that has an average birth year in the late 1980s, the ability to consistently go deep in the games is noteworthy. There is also value in young hurlers soaking up some tips of the trade from a guy who has thrown around 50,000 pitches at the top level. Even if you want to tack on an arbitrary half run for each additional birthday candle, Colon should pay off over the length of the deal, The Mets have added a good major league pitcher at a price that is more than reasonable.
Tommy Rancel writes for The Process Report and contributes to GammonsDaily.com.