The best vantage point from which to truly appreciate how Bartolo Colon pitches is behind home plate. Focus on the ball, as a batter would, even though it temporarily disappears behind Colon’s head as he prepares to throw.
Of course, the pitch is going to be a fastball anyway — no one in baseball throws as many of them as he does — and at a pedestrian velocity, so there is still a chance for the batter to get a good swing at it. Yet when the ball suddenly reappears after it leaves Colon’s hand, there is a good chance it will remain a little mystifying.
When you swing at one of Colon’s pitches, said A. J. Ellis, the veteran Philadelphia catcher, “your eyes immediately go to the scoreboard because you don’t know if it was a fastball or changeup.”
Either way, Ellis said, he is often left asking himself, “What the heck is going on?”
Actually, that is what a lot of people who follow baseball are asking these days, because nothing involving Colon makes any sense anymore. I wondered how Colon perceived his own skills, so as a native Spanish speaker I asked him over several weeks about his approach.
He is, after all, 43, making him the oldest active player in the major leagues. He is listed at 285 pounds, although who knows how much he really weighs? His right arm has now logged over 3,100 innings in a career that has lasted nearly two decades, and he has not missed a start this season. His fastball averages an unimposing 88 miles per hour, and he throws it nearly 90 percent of the time, meaning hitters should know it is coming.
Yet in a 2016 Mets rotation turned upside down by injuries to young, glamorous pitchers like Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, it is Colon who was named an All-Star this season, who has posted a solid 3.42 earned run average and who has notched 14 victories, with one more big start looming before the regular season ends.