The Braves went into full #Barves mode Tuesday night. The infield forgot how to catch and throw the ball. Even starting pitcher Bartolo Colon caught the bug. Then he threw it away.
After the meltdown was over, the Bravos had allowed nine runs in one inning to the Angels and Colon looked more and more like a pumpkin. Not talking about his physique, either.
It looked as though midnight was fast approaching on his career.
The 44-year-old Colon committed two of Atlanta’s six misplays in the field in that disastrous third inning. They were a big reason why he retired just one of the 12 batters he faced in the frame before being lifted.
— Victor Rojas (@VictorRojas) May 31, 2017
Just two of the runs he allowed over 2 1/3 innings were earned, but that stat can’t paper over his inability to pitch around poor defense. He allowed a missile of a home run to Albert Pujols, No. 599 of Pujols’ career, after an error by second baseman Jace Peterson. He allowed seven hits overall. His ERA is 6.99 after 11 starts; that’s more than double his ERA with the Mets last year. His record is 2-6 after Atlanta’s 9-3 defeat in Anaheim.
A few more of Big Sexy’s unsightly stats: 77 hits, 10 home runs and 15 walks allowed in 55 1/3 innings. For most pitchers, that walk total would be stellar; for Colon, it’s almost half the 32 passes he issued in 191 2/3 innings last year for New York.
So what’s going on?
He hasn’t lost his fastball; his average velocity is the same as it was in 2016 (87.9 mph, per Fangraphs). The homer to Pujols might offer a slight clue:
Meat — 88, middle, middle.
Colon has been essentially a one-pitch pitcher for years, but he has made it work with movement and smarts. When too many fastballs move into the happy zone, lots of crooked numbers follow.
His fly-balls-as-home-runs percentage is the highest it has been in eight years. His extra-base-hit percentage, per Baseball-reference.com, is at a career high. Other peripherals (home run rate, ground ball rate, line drive rate, hard-hit rate) are roughly in line with those of recent years, so those first two percentages really stand out.
The Braves signed Colon to a one-year, $12.5 million contract last offseason to eat innings and give their younger pitchers more time to develop in the minors. He’s making it very difficult for management to stay that course.
And if he does find himself without a job this summer, how many teams will risk even a pro-rated share of the minimum salary in the hope he can figure it out? Will time have finally run out for him?