So it’s become pretty clear that post-DL Bartolo Colon isn’t quite the same pitcher he was pre-hamstring pull. This is not meant to be an indictment or a complaint about the way he’s pitched; I think most would agree he’s still given the Yankees way more than anyone could have expected. However, though he’s been able to continue to mostly limit the damage, he’s struggled to give the team length.
The most likely answer for this seems to be fatigue, as many expected that Bartolo having thrown more innings than he has since 2005 would catch up to him at some point. To the untrained eye there doesn’t appear to be anything mechanically wrong; for whatever reason he’s just not working as efficiently as he’d been — as I noted in last night’s game recap, he’s only gotten into the 7th inning three times in the 9 starts he’s made since he’s been back, and has a 4.27 ERA in his last 46.1 innings. While that’s reasonable production for a back-end starter, it’s certainly not the Colon who had a 2.96 ERA over 67 innings in his first 10 starts of the year and routinely made it through seven innings, either.
Given how much more hittable Colon has been since returning (.300/.357/.489 compared to .227/.272/.375 pre-DL), I wanted to see if there was anything in the pitchFX data (courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com) that might tell us why Colon’s results have faltered:
- Post-DL, Colon’s been throwing more four-seamers and a lot fewer two-seamers. This is somewhat curious considering how effective the two-seamer’s been for him all season, particularly in racking up called strikes.
- In concert with the dip in two-seam usage is a rise in slider usage. Of course, as we know, pitchFX data is far from infallible, and it’s possible there are two-seamers that have been misclassified as sliders and vice versa, but I can only go off the data that’s made available.
- The average speeds on both fastballs and his slider are identical pre- and post-, so it’s not a velocity issue.
- His strike, swing and foul percentages are both slightly up on both fastballs, and he’s also getting slightly fewer swings-and-misses on his fastballs, both of which lead me to believe he’s probably leaving a few too many fastballs over the plate.
- Location-wise, the biggest eye-opener is the lack of rise on his four-seamer — prior to the DL his four-seamer had a V-break of 9.68 inches; post-DL he’s lost nearly an inch-and-a-half of vertical break at 8.24 inches. Fatigue-related? Maybe. For what it’s worth, the MLB average V-break for righties on a four-seamer is 8.75 inches, which means Bart is a good half inch below that, and so this also falls in line with the conclusion in the previous bullet point.
- For the most part, the results data — strike, swing, whiff, foul and in play % — have remained constant for his fastballs and slider in spite of some slight upticks. However, the changeup, though he rarely throws it, has essentially been useless for Colon, only going for a strike 41% of the time, and as a result batters went from swinging and missing nearly 1/5 of the time to only 5%. But again, the change is such a small part of his arsenal that nothing conclusive can be drawn from the data shifts.
For additional reference, here’s a look at Colon’s pitch locations pre- and post-DL:
It’s pretty hard to eke out any discernible differences with so many plotted pitches, but it looks like Colon’s thrown fewer two-seamers to the inside of the plate against righthanders, and replaced some of them with inside sliders.
Ultimately, it appears as though Colon’s decreased use of his two-seamer combined with an increased reliability on a four-seamer that’s not rising as much as it previously had been are at least partially responsible for why the opposition is now hitting like Michael Cuddyer (.845 OPS) instead of Gordon Beckham (.644 OPS) against him.
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