The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
"Big Sexy" Making a Pitch for 22nd MLB Season

One would expect a 45-year-old major-league player to have already started his retirement.  Especially a pitcher who has logged 21 major-league years in his career, as well as another four in the minors.

Not Bartolo Colon though.  He has made it known he is interested in returning to the diamond for the 2019 major-league campaign.  Last season he appeared in 28 games for the hapless Texas Rangers.  Although he wasn’t particularly effective for the AL West Division’s last-place team, he was neverthelessl a workhorse for the club, having started 24 games and logged 146.1 innings, second most on the team in both categories.  He was one of 22 starting pitchers used by the Rangers last year.

Colon acquired the nickname “Big Sexy” a few years ago partly because of his portly build at 5’ 11” and 285 lbs.  In an era of well-chiseled athletes, one might mistake him for a guy in a softball beer league instead of a pitcher in the starting rotation.  In any case, the colorful character gets a lot of support from fans when he’s on the mound, and he looks like he’s having fun facing the game’s best hitters.

Since 1900, only 22 major-league pitchers have started as many games (552) as Colon, with all but five of them enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  He has accumulated 247 wins during his career, more than 12 pitchers currently with a bronze plaque in the Hall.  He was a Cy Young Award winner in 2005 with the Los Angeles Angels and has finished in the top six on three other occasions.

However, Colon is not so sexy from an analytics standpoint.  Last year his numbers included a bloated 5.87 ERA and 1.346 WHIP, while his ERA+ was a paltry 84 (100 is average).

So, why would a big-league team sign Colon for next year?

True, he doesn’t fit the profile of current starting pitchers that most teams are pursuing.  Despite his age, he gives struggling teams like the Rangers outings they can count on every five days.  He’s able to get outs without relying on a blazing fastball.  He’s a gritty pitcher who doesn’t give up a lot of walks.  Plus, he’s cost-effective.  In a time when the average veteran starting pitcher makes $6-10 million per year, Colon only cost the Rangers $1.75 million last year.

From a sentimental standpoint, he’s good for the sport.  For example, he received a lot of fanfare in a game against Seattle in May, when he was hit in the belly by a hard line drive measured at 101 MPH.  Fortunately he had the “padding” in his gut to protect him from serious injury, and he managed to throw the runner out and ultimately won the game.  A disastrous hitter at the plate, he slammed his first and only career home run two years ago, resulting in a raucous celebration by his Mets teammates.

Only nine other major-league pitchers since 1960 were still active at age 45.  They include names like Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Randy Johnson, as well as productive long-timers like Tommy John and Jamie Moyer.

Colon’s career will likely fall short of getting him inducted into the Hall of Fame, but that’s not his goal right now.  He just wants to log another season, even if it is his 12th different major-league team.

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