Bartolo Colon Just Joined the 3,000 Innings Pitched Club
When soon-to-be 43 year-old Bartolo Colon took the mound on Tuesday night for the New York Mets, he needed just two outs against the Cincinnati Reds to reach the 3,000 innings pitched mark for his career.
Looking his best on photo day. #BigSexy pic.twitter.com/A65WYRNxce
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 1, 2016
Colon, affectionately referred to as “Big Sexy,” went five innings, putting him at 3,004 1/3 career innings pitched, a milestone he was able to reach by being an innings-eater for much of his career. Since Colon debuted all the way back in 1997, he has thrown the fourth most innings through this point of the 2016 season.
Nine of these innings came during his first start of the 1998 season, in which he pitched a complete game shutout and struck out 10 in the process.
He looked a little different back then.
This shutout was one of many appearances -- he now has 480 games under his belt -- that helped him become the 136th pitcher to achieve the 3,000 innings pitched feat.
Let’s take a look at where his career thus far stacks up to the other 135 pitchers in his new club.
Colon’s Rank Among the 3,000 IP Bunch
Colon didn't get the win on Tuesday, so his career win total remains at 219, which is tied for 76th among those with at least 3,000 innings pitched and keeps him tied with Pedro Martinez for the second most among Dominican born pitchers.
Colon immediately began racking up wins, recording 135 from 1998 (his first full season in the majors) to 2005, a total that was bested by only one pitcher, Randy Johnson.
Big Sexy was limited to 573 2/3 innings pitched over the next 6 seasons, recording just 32 wins, but rebounded in a major way in the following three seasons, tallying 47 wins from 2013-2015, which is the fifth most during this time.
Wins can be a fickle stat and don’t mean much for a pitcher’s performance, so let’s move on.
But before we do, let’s break to watch how Colon has kept us entertained even when not on the mound.
Just received an email with the subject line: "Bartolo GIFs." In related news, I love my job. pic.twitter.com/OaTWjWBMxb
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) December 16, 2015
OK, we’re back.
Colon has never been a dominant strikeout pitcher -- his career strikeout percentage is 17.8 percent -- but his 2,258 career strikeouts are 42nd best among his 3,000 innings-pitched-peers, and his 6.76 strikeouts per nine innings is even more impressive, ranking 14th best.
Perhaps more impressive is the way Colon transformed his game as he got older.
No Free Passes
His walks per nine innings pitched (BB/9) over his first eight seasons was 3.4. Colon was able to cut this number exactly in half over his next 10 seasons (2005-2015), lowering his BB/9 to 1.7.
This huge improvement hasn’t been enough for him to crack even the top-60 for BB/9 among pitchers with 3,000 innings pitched (his 2.57 career marks ranks 70th), but in more recent comparisons, he stacks up among the best.
From 2011 to 2015, and among pitchers with at least 900 innings pitched during this time, Colon’s 146 walks are the fewest…by 30. This has helped lead to a 4.32 strikeout to walk ratio across this five season stretch, which is only bested by five pitchers -- Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Max Scherzer, Dan Haren, and Madison Bumgarner. Any of those guys ring a bell?
Despite some impressive accomplishments, things haven’t always been rosy for Colon. He owns a career 3.96 ERA, which is ninth worst among those with 3,000 innings pitched or more, and his 4.07 career xFIP is even higher.
Unfortunately, there isn’t xFIP data available for the majority of the pitchers who have thrown at least 3,000 innings, but among the 19 where it is available, Colon’s mark ranks 8th worst.
They do have data for FIP for all 136 pitchers, and Colon's 4.04 career FIP ranks 11th worst.
However, we know the type of pitcher Colon is -- a guy who will give you plenty of innings, limit the amount of free bases hitters get, but still give up a fair amount of runs.
And for the past five seasons, this has been good enough to fall in the category of either “solid starter” or “good player” based on his Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, which is more than you can ask for out of a back of the rotation guy.
Perhaps more importantly, Colon knows the type of pitcher he is, and he’s using it to his advantage, while clearly having fun on the mound and still making plays.
There’s too much to say about Colon to fit in one post, and I didn’t even go into the infamous trade he was a part of in 2002 that sent him to the Montreal Expos.
What I can say is that Colon’s career has been a remarkable one, and the game of baseball will sorely miss him whenever he decides to hang up his cleats.
Hopefully that’s not anytime soon so he can create more moments like this: