Baseball Magazine

The Immortal Bartolo Colon

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

The immortal Bartolo Colon45 year old Bartolo Colon almost threw a perfect game last night against the World Champion Houston Astros.  “Big Sexy” finished with 7 strikeouts and gave up one hit in 7 2/3 of work.  It’s amazing that any MLB pitcher does that given the talent and information batters have today at that level let alone a 45 year old, 285 lb. guy. 

There are many things you could point to in order to explain his success but I think one stands out.  It’s also a topic I wrote about way back in 2011 in a post called “Perfect Hitting Speed.”  The graphic I created for that post is to the right.

When Colon entered the big leagues back in 1997 as a 24 year old, he was a flame thrower who topped out in the upper 90’s.  Not astounding by today’s standards since every team now seems to have a couple pitchers who hit those numbers but back then he was among just a handful of guys who threw that hard.  Upper 90’s clearly put Colon in the “Above” range which was why he was so effective.  With that velocity, he was able to just reach back and throw the ball by hitters.  Not any more.

Today, Colon will top out in the low-90’s which now puts him towards the bottom of the “perfect hitting speed” range in the Major Leagues.  If he humped up and threw as hard as he could, he may hit 94-ish which, again, keeps him right in “perfect hitting speed” range.

Bartolo Colon has been able to stay so long in the game because of his ability to reinvent himself as a pitcher.  He recognized that he can no longer get his velocity above “perfect hitting speed” and so he was smart enough to realize that he was better off dialing it down a notch or two in order to drop below “perfect hitting speed.”  Right now, his range of his fastball velocity runs from about 82-93mph.  

This should be a great lesson for all pitchers.  If your max velocity falls in the low to middle range of “perfect hitting speed” at your level then it does not benefit you much to hump up for more velocity.  Doing so increases the stress on your body and still won’t push you into the “above” range to get batters out.  Those in the low to mid range are better off going down a notch to fall beneath “perfect hitting speed.”  It doesn’t have to be with all your pitches either.  Moving in and out of that range frequently, like Colon, never allows batters to time you effectively.  Add to that good location and movement (especially when in “perfect hitting speed” range) and you can win at any level.

Colon has done all that which is why he is still effective at the Major League level.  It started with understanding and fully accepting himself as he currently is instead of the type of pitcher he was or still wishes he could be.

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