TYA has done its share of statistical analysis of Bartolo Colon so far, but I wanted to take a look at what some other sources around the blogosphere are saying about Colon’s surprising start to the season. Paul Swydan at Fangraphs took a good look at Colon so far and seemed to come away impressed overall, but with some reservations.
Among the positives, Swydan notes Colon’s strong fastball velocity, which is roughly at the level of where it was when he was at his peak. His average fastball velocity for 2011 has been around 91 mph, and this figure is skewed somewhat because it lumps in Colon’s 4-seam fastball with his 2-seamer. I would imagine that the average 4-seam velocity is probably around 93, based on Colon topping out around 96 in the late innings of his last start. Another velocity-related observation shows that Colon’s secondary offerings are a little slower while his fastball velocity has remained the same, giving him more separation between the pitches. Such separation could make these pitches more effective, though I’m not sure they have realy been used enough to say for certain whether that is the case.
The statistical case for Colon’s continued success is somewhat ambiguous. Colon’s BABIP of .300 on the season is not at all lucky, and may even be a little higher than the league average. This is indicative that Colon is not getting exceptionally lucky on balls in play, and consequently, regression in that area is not expected to occur. Swydan also observes that Colon’s O-Swing% (percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone) and swinging strike percentage are fairly low, despite Colon’s successful k-rate, which indicates that he is not getting many swings and misses.
Despite the lack of swings and misses, Colon has been able to generate strikeouts looking through great movement on his 2-seamer (look at this strikeout of Adam Dunn), solid velocity on his 4-seamer, and good placement of his pitches. He has also been able to generate weak contact with the 2-seamer, which has shown nasty movement. One area of concern to watch going forward is the use of his secondary offerings. Colon threw 90 fastballs (of 99 pitches) in his last start, and one wonders if the infrequent use of offspeed offerings will come back to hurt Colon. It is possible that Colon may run into trouble by throwing mostly fastballs, but the fact that he has two separate fastballs (with different velocity and movement) could help continue his success.
Colon’s statistical profile bodes well for his future success this season, but let’s hope that the physical profile does as well. Remember, Colon did not pitch in pro ball in 2010, so while his arm is feeling fresh now, we will have to see if he tires out over the course of a long season. Nonetheless, it has been exciting to watch Colon’s revival, and I hope the great starts keep coming.
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