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Article: Colon Highlights Twins Greatest Asset


On July 7, the Minnesota Twins announced that they had signed Bartolo Colon to a minor league deal. He had been DFAd by the Atlanta Braves after signing a one-year, $12.5 million deal this past offseason. Through 13 starts, he had been nothing short of horrid, and even the non-contending Braves had no place for him on their roster. The Twins needed arms however and Colon had one.In a surprising move, Minnesota ended up being the team to give Colon another chance. By July 7, Paul Molitor’s squad had already run out ten different starters. The team was competing, but there was a revolving door on the mound. Needing more than a second wave of starting depth, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were virtually without options. Bartolo was a surprising choice, but he made some sense.

 

Despite being 44, Colon was just a year removed from an all-star appearance with the New York Mets. He posted a 3.43 ERA and had a solid 3.99 FIP. Long gone were the days of blowing the ball by hitters, but he remained a control artist who limited walks. On his signing, I wondered if what the Twins offered him didn’t present a chance for something very good to materialize as a result of improved receiving behind the plate, and an exceptional defense in the field. At this point, I think it’s fair to say it has worked out swimmingly.

 

Now through eight starts for the Twins Colon owns a 4.04 ERA and has posted three quality starts. He’s still not striking anyone out, but he’s shaved a full walk off his free pass rate since coming to Minnesota. The most critical change he’s made however is how well he’s attacked the strike zone.

 

As Colon has gotten older, he’s eaten innings by pounding the strike zone. While still throwing 90 mph, he’s gotten by through changing speeds, looks, and pitches all while staying in the zone. That is something he had gotten away from in Atlanta, and it was at a point where framing didn’t much matter. Since joining the Twins, he’s once again the number one starter in baseball when it comes to percentage of pitches in the zone. Combining that with an above average defender and framer behind the plate he’s seen an incredible boost to his overall numbers.

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Behind him, Colon has gotten even more help. With the Braves, the longtime vet posted a 5.07 FIP and has actually been worse in Minnesota, owning a 5.64 FIP. That increase has been mitigated however by the extremely solid defensive prowess the Twins possess. As things stand in 2017, Atlanta owns a -34 DRS score which ranks 28th in all of baseball. Minnesota on the other hand, has +20 DRS coming in at the seventh best mark in the sport. While there are weak spots defensively, having a center fielder who has posted 24 DRS patrolling the outfield is hardly a bad thing.

 

The numbers continue to point towards Minnesota being a great answer for Colon when taking a deeper dive. Despite still allowing an OPS of .881 to opposing hitters as a Twin, Colon is allowing just a .299 BABIP as opposed to a .360 mark with his previous team. He’s actually generating about 7% fewer ground balls with the Twins, but his strand rate has jumped from 48.2% all the way to 88.1%. Simply put, baserunners who were once piling up runs are now either not reaching, or simply being a footnote in an otherwise low-stress inning.

 

There’s no denying that, long term, Father Time is undefeated and Bartolo Colon is nearing the end of his journey. Whether this season, the next, or soon thereafter, Colon will need to hang up his cleats. The Twins needed a steadying presence in their starting rotation, and the Dominican native has been that and more. Instead of being another so-so addition to the rising number of starting pitchers for the club, he’s been a predictable, better-than-expected starter every fifth day.

 

Whether or not the Twins make the postseason isn’t going to rest on Colon’s shoulders. It is certain though, that without him, their chances dwindle substantially. At 44 years old, Bartolo Colon has continued to show the importance of throwing strikes, and that much alone has given new life to a season that had appeared to be on life support.

 

If players talk, and it's a good assumption that they do, Colon will have plenty to sell regarding the allure of the Minnesota Twins. For an organization that will need to add a few arms over the winter, the draw to Target Field has gotten a whole lot stronger.

 

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If this article had been titiled "...biggest asset" things might have gotten juvenile for a minute.  :)

 

Colon has done well, because he knows what he's doing.  He is able to hit his spots.  Consistently.  Sure, because of the lack of stuff it is going to result in a lot of hard contact.  That's why Abner Doubleday put 7 guys behind him.  

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