Bartolo Colon: The Run-Scoring Machine

On his FanGraphs player page, Bartolo Colon is listed at 5’11” and 285 pounds, or roughly the size of a soda machine, I’d guess. On the one hand, that’s five pounds less than CC Sabathia, so they could sit on opposite ends of a teeter-totter and have a jolly good time, as opposed to Bartolo Colon on one end and Dustin Pedroia on the other, which would look like this: / . On the other hand, CC Sabathia is eight inches taller, so Bartolo Colon’s BMI would be 39.7 to CC Sabathia’s 32.7. It’s not exactly the case that they would make the number 10 if they were standing next to each other. It would be more like this number: 00.

Bartolo Colon is not a very good hitter. In his career, Bartolo Colon has 12 hits in 158 at-bats, for a batting average of .076. Half of those hits came in one season, the glorious 2002 season when Bartolo Colon was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the Montreal Expos still existed, Twitter had not yet been invented, and young Bartolo Colon hit a magnificent .133. On August 9th of 2002, Bartolo Colon had an epic day at the dish. Playing for the Montreal Expos (RIP), Colon come up to the plate in the top of the second inning with one out and nobody on. He was facing Ruben Quevedo, who pitched four big leagues seasons with a career ERA of 6.15. Ruben Quevedo, it should be noted, is listed at 6’1” and 257 pounds. Bartolo Colon probably wasn’t his full-figured 285 pounds back in 2002, but he could have been pushing 250, so there was likely 500 pounds of player squaring off in this at-bat. Colon came out on top, singling a ball into short left field. Brad Wilkerson followed with a walk, moving Colon to second (he eschewed the steal attempt). A rally was starting! Unfortunately, it ended quickly, with a pop-out by Jose Macias and a ground out to the right side by Jose Vidro, which was a preview of about 400 similar Jose Vidro at-bats with the Mariners during the last two years of his career.

In the third inning, Colon was at it again. With two outs and runners on second-and-third, Colon singled up the middle, driving in two runs (40% of his career RBI). Brad Wilkerson followed with a double and Colon made it all the way to third base (“Oxygen! We’re gonna need some oxygen here!”). Jose Macias then doubled him in and Colon had not only driven in two runs on the day, but also scored a run (25% of his career total). The excitement was almost too much for Colon. In his next two at-bats, he struck out swinging, but he had already made his mark with the bat that day.

Bartolo Colon does not have a discerning eye at the plate. He has come to bat 173 times in his career and has yet to take a walk. He’s a free swinger. He likes to take his hacks. Most of the time, he does not make contact, as his 51.4% strikeout rate can attest to. Even though he’s yet to walk in his big league career, Colon has earned first base by sacrificing his body on a hit by pitch. It was back in 2002, the peak of his hitting career, in a game against the Florida Marlins on July 28th. The pitcher was Julian Tavarez, who hit 15 batters that year, just 2 fewer than the league leader, Chan Ho Park. It was in the bottom of the 4th inning, with the Expos leading, 2-1. Colon came to the plate with two outs and runners on first-and-second and took one for the team on an 0-1 pitch, loading the bases for Brad Wilkerson. Unfortunately, Wilkerson grounded out to end the inning, so Colon’s bodily sacrifice went for naught.

Despite the 285 pounds of full-bodied force behind his swing, Bartolo Colon has not been much of a power hitter in his big league career. In fact, of his 12 career hits, just one went for extra bases. That extra base hit came in 2014, which brings me to my point. And here it is: last year, Bartolo Colon had 2 hits in 62 at-bats, struck out 33 times, never walked or was hit by a pitch, and scored 3 runs. How is this possible? How can a 285-pound player who has just 2 hits and no walks in the entire season manage to score 3 runs? I had to find out how Bartolo Colon accomplished this feat.

Colon’s first hit of the 2014 season came on June 18th. Coming into the game, Colon was 0 for his last 43, undoubtedly bitten by the BABIP bug. With the Mets losing 1-0 to the Cardinals, Bartolo Colon led off the top of the 6th inning with a double to deep left field off Lance Lynn. The next batter, Eric Young, Jr., doubled to deep right-center field and Colon chugged on home with his first run scored of the season and the second of his 17-year career. In his two other plate appearances, Colon laid down successful sacrifice bunts, making him 1 for 1 on the day with a run scored. That’s a batting average of 1.000 for those scoring at home.

In his next start, June 24th versus the A’s, Colon kept his hot hitting going. He laid down another successful sacrifice in his first at-bat, then singled to left field in his second at-bat of the game, making him officially 2 for his last 2. The man was hot! Unfortunately, his teammates let him down and he was unable to come around to score.

On July 5th, Colon utilized his speed to score his second run of the season. With no outs and Ruben Tejada on first, Colon tapped a weak grounder to third base, but Adrian Beltre’s throw to second was off the mark and Colon made it to first on the error. Curtis Granderson followed with a double to deep left field, scoring Tejada from second and allowing Colon to get to third base. Daniel Murphy followed with a single to left field, but Colon was obviously still catching his breath after going first to third on Granderson’s double, so he stayed on third and the bases were loaded (true story). David Wright then flew out to center field. In his younger days when he was full of passion and desire, Bartolo Colon may have tried to score. He’s older and wiser now, though, and chose to remain on third base, comfortable and cozy. When Bobby Abreu singled to right, Colon had no choice but to run home, as there were runners on all the bases behind him. And thus, Bartolo Colon had scored his second run of the season.

It would take another two months for Bartolo Colon to get a chance to score again. On September 5th versus the Reds, Colon came to the plate against Alfredo Simon with no outs and Wilmer Flores on second. Colon hit a ball to the shortstop, who appeared to tag Flores for the out. Upon further review (an instant replay challenge by Mets’ manager Terry Collins), it was ruled that the shortstop missed the tag and Flores was ruled safe at third, with Colon standing contentedly at first. Juan Lagares followed with a grounder to third, getting Flores thrown out at home but allowing Colon to meander down to second. After a strikeout from Matt den Dekker, David Wright hit a ground ball single into right field. Colon came motoring into third, eagerly looking at the third base coach for the windmill sending him home, but getting the hands-in-the-air stop sign instead. The bases were juiced for Lucas Duda. The count ran full and with two men already out, that meant Bartolo Colon would be running on the pitch, giving him a much better chance to score from third on a single, should there be one. Instead, Duda took ball four and Colon slowed to a trot, walking home with his third run scored of the season.

In 2014, Bartolo Colon had 2 hits, 0 walks, 0 HBP, and reached on error one time . . . and scored three runs. It was mighty impressive. Compare him to Mike Trout, who had 173 hits, 83 walks, 10 HBP, and reached on error 7 times, for a total of 273 times on base of his own accord, and only scored 115 runs.

When it comes to runs scored as a percentage of times on base, Mike Trout, good sir, you are no Bartolo Colon.

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Bobby Mueller has been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan as far back as the 1979 World Series Championship team ("We R Fam-A-Lee!"). He suffered through the 1980s, then got a reprieve in the early 1990s, only to be crushed by Francisco Cabrera in 1992. After a 20-year stretch of losing seasons, things are looking up for Bobby’s Pirates. His blog can be found at www.baseballonthebrain.com and he tweets at www.twitter.com/bballonthebrain.

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tz
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tz

Wow. Colon scored just 1 fewer runs than Jose Molina, in less than 1/3 the plate appearances:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/TBR/2014.shtml