Despite what people may say, they didn’t know things would go like this for Bartolo Colon.
Oh, sure, it was reasonable to predict a decline. It’s always reasonable to predict that a pitcher, who will turn 44 in that particular season, will struggle more than he had in previous years. But Colon had bucked Father Time for so long that even if there was a decline, you could expect a 4.25-4.50 FIP with a slightly higher xFIP. With any luck, his ERA would be around 3.80-4.00 and he’ll toss 190+ innings for you. All told, it was reasonable to expect another 2+ fWAR season – something he had done for six consecutive seasons.
But that won’t happen. Not for the Braves and likely, not for Colon. On Thursday afternoon, they cut the bigger-than-life figure, severing ties with one of the few bold signings of the John Coppolella era. Colon had made 13 starts for the Braves with a 8.14 ERA over 63 innings. The Braves had won just five of those starts and he had surrendered four or more runs in eight of his 13 tries, including his final two. That doesn’t include May 30, when shoddy defense led to seven-of-nine runs being unearned. His last two starts were separated by a 17-day rest for Colon and his sore oblique – or more accurately, his hurt pride.
To be sure, Colon gave it his all. His all was just not good enough. He went from a guy who lived in the strike-zone to a guy having to work his way back from being behind-the-batter – something that’s just not possible for a pitcher without plus-stuff and Colon hasn’t had plus-stuff since the George W. Bush administration. What he had with the Mets – and what the Braves were hopeful he was bringing to Atlanta – was pinpoint control and guile. They only got the latter from Colon. His Zone%, which focuses specifically on the strike-zone regardless of what the umpire decides is a strike, dropped nearly 6%. That may not seem like a lot at first blush, but for a pitcher who had to throw strikes on the regular to get batters out, it may have been the difference between having a regular gig in the majors and not.
To be fair, Colon pitched better than his 8.14 ERA. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all were about three runs lower. But that provides little solace when your walk-rate climbs 2.5% and your strikeout rate falls 2%. Colon had to be the Colon he once was to be effective. He no longer had that and while he was dinged up by some super unlucky metrics (.360 BABIP, 48.2% LOB%), he wasn’t the guy the Braves thought they were getting.
So, we say adios to Bartolo Colon. He never hit a homerun for the Braves, much to everyone’s disappointment. In fact, he was hitless in 15 trips to the plate with eight strikeouts and zero sacrifices. He had just two games where his Game Score was over 50 – his first and third outings. That’s…about the end of good things to say about Colon’s tenure with the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves could trade Colon, but I don’t see it happening. His career could be over, but there’s always the Mets. They loved him and have a need for pitching after all.
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Atlanta will stick with his four-man bench and replace Colon with another pitcher, left-hander Rex Brothers. A former closer for the Colorado Rockies back in 2013, injuries and poor play ended his time in Colorado relatively soon after. He carries a career 3.68 FIP/3.66 xFIP largely as a result of iffy control during his time in Colorado.
Brothers is a fastball/slider pitcher who flashed mid-90’s heat during his good years, but a few ticks slower after his struggles began. When he’s on, he can get strikes early in the count with his heater before bringing the slider, which has more of a 12/6 break than a typical slider. He has to live down in the zone to be successful.
Splits-wise, Brothers was extremely tough on lefthanders during his best years and moderately good against them in his lesser seasons. Righties showed more power against him and he carries about an 25 point difference in opposing wOBA between the two. The one thing that has really bothered him even against lefties is the walks. He actually gave slightly more free passes to left-handed hitters than righties, but the increased strikeout numbers and fewer homers when he had the platoon advantage did give him a 3.31 FIP against them. It’s closer to 4.00 against righties. Either way, he hasn’t shown the ability to be a left-hand specialist.
He did dominate in 14 innings mostly spent at Double-A this season. He had recently been promoted to Triple-A and tossed 4.1 scoreless innings there without a walk, which is always a good sign.
He’s definitely worth a look, but let’s not kid ourselves. He’s 29 years-old and at his best, was still a 3.29 FIP/3.43 xFIP guy. We’ll know quickly if the heater is back and if his location is improved. If it’s not, don’t expect Brothers to stick around as long as Colon did.