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Bartolo, the Twins, and a Guy Named Phil

The year was 1973 and the Dominican Public had already become a breeding ground for baseball players. With the country producing multiple success stories, yet another chapter being written was hardly a far-fetched idea. Fast forward to May 24, 2018 however, and baseball fans have been blessed with 45 years of Bartolo Colon.
Image courtesy of © Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Stated multiple times during his brief tenure with the Minnesota Twins a season ago, Colon noted that he had told his late mother he would pitch until age 45. Despite that seeming somewhat unlikely at points throughout this offseason, the now-Texas Ranges hurler has posted 56 1/3 IP and has reached his 45th birthday.

Of course Colon isn’t the pitcher he was when he debuted at the age of 24 in 1997. He doesn’t have the scintillating fastball, and he’s put on a few pounds since then. Even looking back to the middle of his career, a run with the Angels in which he was hucking 93 mph cheddar, Colon’s days of overpowering hitters are long gone. What’s most impressive about the rotund thrower of baseballs is just how good he continues to be at reinventing himself.

This season with the Rangers, Colon’s fastball has averaged 90 mph. Despite throwing at a lower velocity, he’s slightly boosted his swinging strike and chase rates. Colon has generally been good at avoiding both hard contact and the longball, both of which have plagued him some this season. He’s throwing his sinker more often than at any point in his career, and his fastball is at a career low usage rate. What’s maybe most important is that Colon isn’t hurting himself.

With over one-third of the season in the books, Colon owns the league’s best BB/9 rate at 0.8 and also the best K/BB rate at 7.20. It’s a formula that works, and one that another recently jettisoned Twin hung his hat on as well.

If Bartolo Colon is a portrait of longevity, Phil Hughes may end up going down as somewhat the opposite. Nearing his 32nd birthday, the former Twins starter could be looking at the beginning of the end. Thanks to a shoulder injury that forced him to undergo thoracic outlet surgery, a procedure with poor recovery rates across the sport, Hughes never was the same pitcher that Terry Ryan rewarded with an extension back in 2014.

It is in 2014 and 2018 though, that Hughes and Colon find themselves intertwined. During his first season with Minnesota, Hughes burst onto the scene as a legitimate Cy Young contender. He would end up finishing seventh in the voting, his first time ever receiving a tally. With a 3.52 ERA and a 16-10 win/loss record for Ron Gardenhire’s squad, the 28-year-old looked incredible.

The secondary numbers, as with Colon in 2018, are what set Hughes apart. He completed the year walking just 0.7 batters per nine innings, and his 11.63 K/BB ratio is currently an all-time major league record. Although Hughes didn’t use a blistering fastball (albeit with a bit more bite than that of Colon’s current offering), he too worked on the premise that he was best suited for success by limiting self-inflicted damage.

Should you have decided to stick with me this long, I’d like to be fair and offer up that there may be no bigger point to this piece. Both Colon and Hughes’ exploits in these highlighted situations are minor data points in a sea of much larger careers. What I think we see here however, is what a great storyteller the game of baseball can be. Although neither Colon nor Hughes may ever be remembered among the most elite arms in the game, they’ve each given us as baseball fans plenty to be in awe of.

For one pitcher, the game isn’t going to be done until he decides that there’s been enough. For the other, the operating table may have been the final blow to an otherwise promising career. No matter how the dust settles or the sun sets, Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes have provided us with story lines like those that the sport is built upon. To Big Sexy himself, Happy Birthday. To Phil Hughes, thanks for that magical summer.

  • mikelink45, DocBauer, nclahammer and 1 other like this

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10 Comments

I feel badly for Hughes, not only as a Twins fan for what it looked lime we found...right time and p,ace in his career, shades of Povano truth be told..,but he really seems like a good guy.

Tip of the cap to Colon and what he's accomplished in his career. Not everyone was happy about the Twins bringing him on board last season, but you can't argue he was fun and that he didn't give the team a lift.

With the rotation we have, giving credit to Lynn for his past and 2 of his last 3 starts being good, and with Santana and May comjng back and some interesting arms at Rochester, there wasn't room for Colon on this team. But I have to be honest, I kind of miss him.
    • Blake, MN_ExPat and Doctor Wu like this

I miss Colon too. Not saying that I think the Twins should have brought him back --- too many other andpotentially better arms in the mix --- but I did enjoy seeing him in a Twins uniform last year. Colorful players like him are one reason why I still love baseball.

    • DocBauer, Ben Noble and MN_ExPat like this

Colon for the Twins last year: 5.18 ERA on 5.31 FIP. (Lance Lynn 2018 FIP = 4.95 for reference). He gave up 4 runs or more in 6 of his 15 starts. He just wasn't very good.

 

If the Twins had signed him that would be criminal. He is not good, he gets by on the fan support and the name recognition. His last start bombed (six runs on four HR). His FIP is 5.20 but his ERA is 3.51. He's gotten lucky so far and the wheels are falling off.

 

Sick of hearing how great he is. He's old, he's not good.

He might not be good, but my hat's off to anyone who is still pitching in the big leagues in their mid-40's. Bravo sir, Bravo.

    • Blake, Sconnie, DocBauer and 2 others like this

No one says you have to like him, or his numbers. The last few years they haven't' been even eyebrow raising overall. I look at Big Sexy and he makes me think of that TV show/movie or video game I loved so much back in my mispent youth (it's the nostalgia of it).  

 

Yes, I still mutter under my breath about how he "stole" the Cy Young from Johan, and yes I cringed every time he took the mound for the Twins... but in the end, he was just "fun" to watch. The complete game shutout he threw last year... my son and I will still talk about that and say, "did we really just see that?" and then laugh our heads off. It was awesome.

 

In the end, to me (and hopefully a few others) it's players (Colon and Hughes) and stories like this that make baseball what it is meant to be.

 

Thanks Ted.

Colon is enduring. Good for him. He found a team with a weak rotation and is pitching his heart out.

 

Phil Hughes can probably do the same. He is guaranteed a pretty high salary and, unless he wants to retie, he has nothing to lose by going to the bullpen. Vis velocity is not there to be an elite closer, but stranger things do happen. He has two years that he can leapfrog around to teams, if he choose, including stints in the minors. His almighty question is, can he see himself still pitching past 2020 and what does he need to do to get a major league contract after that season.

Bartolo Colon is 242 - 178 with a 4.04 ERA and 47.2 WAR - all he has to dois pitch until he is 50 to have a chance at 300 wins.I will not bet against him.

 

Phil Hughes is 88 - 79 with 4.49 ERA and WAR of 10.9.Like a lot of pitchers he has lost his potential to injuries. 

 

    • Vanimal46 likes this
Colon is giving up a homerun every 4 innings. His ERA will significantly climb if he gives up more hits or walks... i do hope he gets those last 4 wins he needs to be the winningest Dominican pitcher.

 

Colon is giving up a homerun every 4 innings. His ERA will significantly climb if he gives up more hits or walks... i do hope he gets those last 4 wins he needs to be the winningest Dominican pitcher.

Don't worry about the Dominican record, I believe Cy Young is worried and may have to be resurrected to protect his 511!

Photo
IndianaTwin
May 25 2018 06:10 PM

When I read the article title and it began, "The year was 1973...," I thought I was going to get this:

 

 

 

 


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