If you’re following the arc of Bartolo Colon as an Atlanta Brave, you’re not overly encouraged. His first three starts saw him yield eight earned runs in 17 innings. That was an ERA of 4.24, which wasn’t utterly awful. His past three starts have seen 15 earned runs in 16 innings, which is an ERA of 8.44, which is utterly awful.
He worked Wednesday against the Mets, one of his many former teams, and was lucky to last four innings. Over the first three, he retired seven batters and was touched for seven hits. Being the Mets, they aided and abetted their old pal by getting caught off base twice, meaning that four of their first nine outs came via double plays off fly balls.
(The Braves’ relief, such as it was, was even worse that their starter. Josh Collmenter: One inning, five hits, four earned runs. Eric O’Flaherty: Two-thirds of an inning, three hits, four earned runs. Matt Wisler: One and one-third innings, four hits, three earned runs. Once again, O’Flaherty seems all but done. Once again, Wisler has been demoted to Gwinnett.)
Back to Colon. He’s 43. He weighs 300 pounds, give or take. He throws his two-seamer, the pitch he delivers most often, at 88.1 mph. (This according to Brooks Baseball.) That’s slower than Jacob deGrom, who started Wednesday’s game for the Mets, throws his changeup. Colon hasn’t been able to knock the bat out of anyone’s hands for a decade. He pitches, as the description has it, to contact.
If the contact isn’t emphatic or the ball is hit at people, Colon can subsist. If not, he’s in trouble. Here’s how Wednesday’s game began: Michael Conforto double to center; Asdrubal Cabera double to left; Jay Bruce walk; Neil Walker double to right. Being the Mets, they banked two runs off three extra-base hits and a walk. (With runners on second and third, Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes popped to short, and Walker strayed off second.) Still, Colon’s team trailed 2-nil before it came to bat, which isn’t what any team wants.
Between innings, Howie Rose — the Mets’ excellent radio play-by-play man — said of Colon: “He had games like this with us. He’d get hit hard and you’d look up in the seventh inning and he’d still be out there.” The Braves would take that. Indeed, that’s what they were hoping to get when they paid $12.5 million for his services. Innings being eaten and all that.
They haven’t gotten it lately — only one quality start in his past five — which isn’t to say they won’t. The world is full of people who’ve said, “Bartolo Colon has nothing left,” and he’s still a well-paid starting pitcher. (Last year he was an All-Star.) I wouldn’t write him off just yet. But there comes a time for every player when what once worked stops working, and Bartolo Colon is the oldest player in the major leagues.