A weird thing happened last night concerning Bartolo Colon.
It was not the fact that the reality might be setting in for someone who last pitched over 100 innings six years ago.
It was not that the Oakland Athletics bombed him because they didn’t, though the line of five runs and nine hits is never what anyone is hoping for.
It was the pitch selection of the evening that was bizarre. For most of the year, Colon thrived on the two-seam fastball as a pitch to compliment a four-seam fastball but last night that pitch rarely appeared.
Look up "Bartolo Colon, two-seam fastball" and here is first the result that appear:
1 – New York Times – 5/30 – Colon makes quick work of Athletics.
You might remember that game if you stayed up late because that was the night Colon threw a four-hitter. During that game, he threw 34 two-seam fastballs, which is about an average amount based on the breakdown from each start listed below.
In his first start against Toronto on April 20, Colon threw 36 two-seamers and the average velocity was 90.2. Next was a start against the White Sox that featured 35 at an average speed of 91.8.
Colon remained in the rotation in May and began the month with a no-decision in Detroit. The Tigers saw 47 two-seam fastballs, averaging 91.1 mph.
In Texas was where Colon’s first hiccup occurred on a night he allowed a similar line of five runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. During that weekend that saw Ivan Nova pitch into the eighth and Derek Jeter hit a home run, Colon threw 18 two-seam fastballs that averaged 90.4.
Colon rebounded slightly but took a tough loss to the Red Sox on May 13 while throwing 33 for an average of 91.3 mph. In Baltimore five days later, Colon scattered three hits in eight shutout innings, using that pitch 27 times and averaging 90.8.
Five days later was the second hiccup against the Blue Jays. He gave up six runs and seven hits in six innings while throwing the two-seam fastball 19 times at an average of 91.3.
Then the aforementioned start in Oakland. That night in his first complete game since July 5, 2006, he threw that pitch 34 times for an average of 90.4 and here are what they were saying about him (quotes from AP recap and NY Times story)
"He’s really exceeding our expectations," Mark Teixeira said. "He’s been huge for us. If we didn’t have him in our rotation, we’d be scrambling right now."
On the final day of that road trip in Anaheim, Colon won his second straight start by throwing the pitch 49 times at an average of 91.5 in 5 1/3 innings.
Next was the hamstring injury on June 11. In bad weather, Colon had a two-hit shutout going for 6 2/3 innings aided by 37 two-seamers that averaged 91.
Colon returned July 2 against the Mets and had another shutout going. That pitch was thrown 30 times at an average of 90.8 while he allowed five hits.
Then the downward trend began. It began July 7 against Tampa Bay, though his five runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings went slightly unnoticed because of Derek Jeter’s chase for 3,000 hits.
That night he threw the pitch 21 times, averaged 90.7.
Next was the first start of the second half in Toronto. It was difficult to gauge because Colon just got two outs while allowing three earned runs and six hits. In a 16-7 loss, he threw the pitch 16 times for an average of 90.3 mph.
After those two hiccups, Colon pitched decently in a tough 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on July 19 and here’s the interesting part. If you thought the 21 to the Rays 12 days prior was odd, how do you feel about the eight he threw for an average of 90.9?
Next up was a no-decision against Oakland on July 24. Colon allowed and eight hits in six innings while increasing his usage of the pitch to 21 times, one fewer than the slider. The pitch averaged 90.9.
July concluded with a respectable showing against the Orioles of two runs and five hits in five innings. It also featured a return to first half numbers in two-seam usage as he threw it 33 times for an average of 91.4.
Then came August and it began with a start in Boston where Colon could not get past the fifth. The pitch was thrown 24 times and averaged 93.
Six days later, he faced the Angels and did not get a decision as he allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. The two-seam was thrown 32 times at an average of 91.
Last week, he pitched in Kansas City. He allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings while throwing the pitch 30 times at 91.5.
Last night, that was not the case. It wasn’t that way because for some reason Colon threw that pitch just twice and was beaten on his slider with the long solo home run to rookie Brandon Allen.
At times, there are various reasons why a pitcher would abandon a pitch. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel right coming out of the hands, other times it doesn’t feel right in the bullpen before a game.
Based on Colon’s brief and somewhat vague comments, those were not factors. What factored into abandoning it was that the Royals hit a pair of home runs off the pitch last week.
The next logical question is confidence in the pitch. Colon stated that he believes in it but if he believes it why reduce the times throwing it from 30 to two.
Is it saving those pitches for future use or is it a slight acknowledgement of not having pitched this much since 2005?
Those answers will be revealed at a later date, much like the answers to the question of how long can this last when Colon was getting fastball after fastball for outs.