Ryan Zimmerman has a batting average of .338, placing him third among MLB hitters. When Bartolo Colon pitches for the Atlanta Braves, he turns every opposing hitter — 1 through 9, pitchers included — into Ryan Zimmerman. Opponents are hitting, yep, .338 against him.
This also happens when Colon pitches: The Braves lose. Since May 1, they’re 2-6 in his starts; they’re 5-8 on the season. In three of the victories, they’ve scored nine or more runs. In games not started by Colon, the Braves have played .500 ball.
Oh, and one other numerical nugget: Colon has participated in 13 games; his Baseball-Reference WAR value is minus-1.9. That’s the worst in the majors by any player, not just pitchers.
When Colon was placed on the disabled list for shifting (first an oblique, then his back) and suspicious ailments, Brian Snitker promised him one more start. The manager said he felt he owed him that much. It’s unclear why Snitker owes Colon anything, but never mind.
The start came Wednesday night against the lowest-scoring team in baseball. Colon lasted four innings. He yielded six earned runs, generating 11 baserunners (eight hits, three walks) against 12 outs. His ERA rose from 7.78 to 8.14. Among pitchers who’ve worked at least 60 innings, the second-worst ERA belongs to Bronson Arroyo — at 7.35.
To accommodate Colon, the Braves switched to a six-man rotation. Those things never work, and we’ve surely seen the first and last turn of this one. The Braves aren’t mathematical dunces: They know that, if they were to stick with this six-pack, Sean Newcomb would start nine of the next 60 games, as opposed to 10. (Meaning part of the Braves’ reasoning for playing Rent-A-Geezer– that the old guys weren’t blocking any young players — is null and void.) They also know they’d be punting away 10 of those 60 games.
To move Colon to the bullpen would likewise be folly. He doesn’t fit the profile of a 21st Century reliever, not even a last-guy-on-the-roster Long Man. According to Baseball Savant, his average fastball this season has been delivered at 90.29 mph. He has thrown 692 fastballs as a Brave; he has gotten 21 swing-and-misses. Opponents are hitting .374 against his heater, such as it is.
The Braves were surely hoping Colon could show a little something in San Diego and maybe entice some team — maybe his former employer, the Mets having seen yet another starting pitcher (Robert Gsellman) hit the DL — to do a reverse Brandon Phillips deal and absorb $500K of the $6.25 million Colon is owed. But even the Mets can’t be this desperate.
There’s really only one recourse — pay the man (in full) to go away. He’s 44. He has nothing left. He’s taking up a roster space, which isn’t fair to Snitker or the 24 other Braves. He was an All-Star last year, but he has become the worst pitcher, by some distance, in the major leagues. The experiment has failed. Move on.