I honestly don't get tired of the ruse Bartolo Colon plays when at the plate and wanting to get a good look at the pitcher he's facing, no matter how many times I've seen it this year. I still delight in the impassive "I am not from this place, I am just hanging out here for the moment" non-stance he takes. He looks like he's waiting for the bus so he and his trusty pet bat can go on an adventure. Because once that first one goes by, you know what's coming next: the adventure bit. While the anticipation is of a different variety than a hitter's count pitch to Yoenis Cespedes, there is an element of glee that separates the anticipation of Colon's upcoming Ruthian hack from pretty much any other hitter in the game.
Tonight in the fourth inning, after spotting Braves youngster Shelby Miller two strikes looking, he took a big rip at a 94 MPH fastball and sent it on a clothesline clean into center field, knocking in a run in the process. It was his career-high eighth hit of the year, and his fourth RBI (which is nearly half of his career total of nine). From this point on, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt.
Nor was the bliss of this moment. The cognitive dissonance of seeing a man of Colon's stature go from seemingly killing time to springing like a big, round panther who is wearing pajamas continues to be wonderfully jarring and somehow surprising every time.
And perhaps that's not a bad way of looking at Colon's year: he's been reliably surprising. Logging 31 straight scoreless innings over four starts and a relief cameo in the middle of a pennant race has offered the bullpen much-needed breathers at just the right time. This when the rest of the staff has recently consistently struggled to get through six innings. Jacob deGrom's win against the Nats Thursday was the only time a starter not named Colon went seven innings during the veteran's streak.
Colon did it on the hill tonight the way he's been doing it for a while now: working quickly and efficiently and getting hitters to swing, which the Braves did on 48 of his 94 pitches in this one. When he's working well, as he has during the streak, he's pounding the zone with low 90s fastballs (72 of them tonight) while guiding them into just the right spot.
When he's not quite on, as he wasn't with the change-up which ended his shutout streak—a floater up and out over the plate which Jace Peterson belted for an RBI triple—he is quite hittable. He does give up a relatively high number of hard-hit balls; Fangraphs counts 29.3% of his balls in play as such. Colon has also been incendiary at times, having given up at least six runs in six of his 28 starts this year, and at least seven runs four times.
It really is worth noting that his recent streak has come in starts against Philadelphia (twice), Miami, and Atlanta. His beginning of the year hot streak (2.90 ERA through May 5) also came against the same bottom-feeders outside of his Opening Day win in Washington.
Given the evidence, it seems like Colon would do well as a longman on a postseason roster...assuming Matt Harvey and the rest of the young staff are able to make their starts. Colon may be the Vlad Guerrero of pitching; he just goes out and throws the ball. It feels like you could just throw him in any situation with a few minutes notice and he would find the plate—he is second in the major leagues with a 3.0 BB%, a whopping 0.4% better than third place-holder Max Scherzer. That helps him to an above-average WHIP (1.24) and a league-average xFIP (3.89), which are peripherals that are significantly better than fellow candidate Jon Niese. Throw in the temperament / veteran influence differential, and it becomes clearer who the Mets should turn to if they need someone to eat innings.
The promise of Logan Verrett is a more intriguing option which needs further exploration, but Colon's been eating away steadily all year long. If the Mets keep feeding him, Colon may still have some entertaining surprises yet in store.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Kevin Plawecki, +28.2% WPA; Bartolo Colon, +20.2% WPA (+17.2% pitching, +3.0% hitting)
Big losers: Michael Conforto, -11.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Plawecki's two-run double in the fourth, +26.1% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Jace Peterson's RBI triple in the seventh, -9.9% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +24.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +25.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Bartolo Colon!