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Bartolo Colon brought steadiness, joy to Mets in 2016

The 43-year-old continued to prove that anything is truly possible.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

When the Mets signed Bartolo Colon for two years and $20 million before the 2014 season, nobody could have predicted how much Mets fans would fall in love with him. Already well-liked for his laid back personality and his incredible pitching abilities with his advanced age and body type, Colon, who had previously spent the grand majority of his career in the American League with the DH, became a favorite of Mets fans and baseball fans alike for his futile hitting exploits. His wild, violent swings that would often knock his helmet off became viral internet sensations quickly.

On the mound, though, Colon was solid doing what he was paid to do in first two years. He won 15 games for the Mets in 2014 and 13 in 2015, while pitching over 190 innings in both seasons. His ERA was below average both seasons—4.09 in 2014 and 4.16 in 2015—but he under-performed his FIP posted over 2 fWAR in both years, in part because of his very low walk rate. He was a reliable innings-eater and valuable veteran presence on a team with a lot of young pitchers with innings limits. His pitching in relief was key during the Mets’ 2015 postseason run.

Colon re-signed with the Mets for $7.2 million for the 2016 season. He was expected to be the team’s fifth starter and potentially moved to the bullpen once Zack Wheeler returned. That wound up not going as planned, though. With Matt Harvey pitching ineffectively and Wheeler not progressing in his rehab as planned, Colon was all of a sudden much more important to the team than expected.

Colon put together a solid first half in which he managed a 3.28 ERA, 4.09 FIP, and 4.05 xFIP. That was highlighted by a tremendous month of June, in which he posted a 1.67 ERA. The strong first half earned Colon an election to the All-Star Game in July. He was one of four Mets selected to the game, along with Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia, and Noah Syndergaard.

Of course, that was not all that happened for the jolly 43-year-old in the first half of 2016. On May 3 against the Braves, Colon earned the 220th win of his career, passing Pedro Martinez for the most all-time among Dominican-born pitchers. That was merely a footnote, though, to what happened just days later in his next start.

Facing the Padres in San Diego on May 7, Colon stepped to the plate in the second inning against James Shields. After watching the first two pitches go by, Colon swung at the third pitch, and the result was one of the most monumental moments in the history of baseball and all of sports.

It was Colon’s first career home run, and with it, he became the oldest player in major league history to hit his first home run. This inspiring moment turned out to be one of the highlights of the 2016 Mets season and was the first of multiple offensive feats for Colon in 2016. On August 15, Colon had another first, drawing his first career walk.

Colon had the most career plate appearances without walking before drawing that base on balls in his 281st. A few weeks later, Colon notched his second career two-hit game against the Phillies on August 27. His final season batting line was .083/.098/.167. While he had those few great moments and posted a career-high .083 ISO, his -37 wRC+ was actually a step down from his -21 from 2015.

Colon continued to pitch well into the second half, as his role on the team grew even more significant as the season went along. When Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom went down with injuries, Colon became the team’s de facto number two starter behind Noah Syndergaard. His dependable, consistent performance through September became invaluable down the stretch and was one of the main reasons the Mets were able to stay in the Wild Card race and eventually win the first Wild Card spot.

Colon finished the 2016 season with a 15-8 record, going along with a 3.43 ERA, 3.99 FIP, and a 4.17 xFIP in 191.2 innings. His ERA was the best mark of his Mets career, and this was the third consecutive season in which he crossed the 190-inning threshold. His 2.9 fWAR tied his 2014 mark for his best in orange and blue.

That said, Colon did take a step back with his strikeouts and walks. He posted his lowest strikeout rate—6.01 K/9, 16.2 percent—since 2013 with the Athletics, and his highest walk rate—1.50 BB/9, 4.1 percent—since his stint with the Yankees in 2011. Given his age and his reliance on his control, this is a somewhat concerning development as he goes into his age-44 season.

Colon is a free agent this offseason. The Mets are expected to have all of their starting pitchers, including Zack Wheeler, ready for the 2016 season. They also have Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo capable of starting, coming off of their successful trials as starters for the Mets this year. Given that, it is not certain if the Mets will re-sign Colon again, but they have indicated that they would like to bring him back next season. Wherever he winds up, Colon is certain to bring happiness, amusement, and steady starting pitching to whatever team can sign him.