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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Mike on Sunday, January 25, 2004

Colon Cancer Gets Roy-al Treatment?

Let's take a look two current aces, Bartolo Colon and Roy Halladay. Both are highly desirable properties amongst teams, are in their primes, and both were recently signed to pricey multi-year contracts. Colon accepted a 4 year deal worth $51 million from the Angels while Halladay resigned with the Blue Jays for 4 years and $42 million.

Per year, their contracts look like this (in millions):

.................Colon..........Halladay
2004.............9.................6
2005.............8...............10.5
2006............12..............12.7
2007............14..............12.8

It seems that the Angels were desperate enough for starting pitching that they were willing to pay $10 million more for Colon than the going rate for a reigning Cy Young award winner. Colon is now a 7 year veteran in the league and as a free agent was able to find the highest possible offer while Halladay is younger and was willing to sacrifice some money now to get a contract that gives him a little insurance on his future. The issue isn't Roy or the Jays, they're both on the level here, the problem is Anaheim’s irrational lust for Bartolo Colon. Let's remember exactly who Bartolo Colon is for a moment, he was the flame throwing wonder youth for an offensively driven Cleveland team in the late 90s. As with a lot of young power pitchers there was a lot of hype around him, most of which has never really gone away despite his lack of improvement over the years. Sometimes the awe of seeing a pitcher throw a ball harder than most everyone else in the league blinds teams to the reality that even with better tools the flame thrower is really nothing more than an above average pitcher with a little flair. Anyways, let’s look at some of Colon’s numbers the last three seasons:

................IP..........K..........BB..........ERA
2000......188.0......212........98..........3.88
2001......222.1......201........90..........4.09
2002......233.1......149........70..........2.93
2003......242.0......173........67..........3.87

Wait a second; he doesn't strike people out anymore? Nope. Colon finished 7th in the American League in strikeouts in 2003 but he wasn't even in the top 10 in K/9IP. Noteable pitchers with more K/9IP (because you wouldn't expect it) were Tim Wakefield, Kelvim Escobar, and Ted Lilly. His strikeout rate has been in decline since the 2000 season and the last two years have been the two lowest of his career. He's been developing much better control over the last four seasons but he isn't fooling batters at the rate in which he was in his prime so the improvement in command hasn't accomplished anything other than reducing the damageing effect of his decline in strikeouts.

Part of the problem may be his fastball; while it reaches the upper 90mph range it is effectively dead straight. Other pitchers with this same problem? Billy Koch and Ugueth Urbina. All that velocity isn't as effective as it would seem when the ball follows a straight path to the plate. Under the same principle Pedro Martinez is still almost as effective as he was when he could throw in the high 90s regularly. While he only throws in the low 90mph range now he has a fastball with a great deal of movement and as a result is as difficult to hit as a faster moving pitch. But Colon hasn't lost any of his velocity, he still throws as hard as he used to which probably means that batters and teams have figured him out to some degree. If this is the case, staying in the American League where teams are more familiar with him will probably produce seasons similar to 2001 and 2003 and less like 2002 when he had a stellar first half.

Now for the cheaper, younger, more Cy Young award winning Halladay's last three years:

................IP..........K..........BB..........ERA
2001......105.1.......96.........25..........3.16
2002......239.1......168........62..........2.93
2003......266.0......204........32..........3.25

For $10 million less over the next 4 years Toronto will have an ace with excellent command who can throw 230+ innings with as many strikeouts as Colon.

Personally, I think Roy peaked this year, but at age 26 there's no reason for him to decline anytime in the near future. Barring injury he should be able to produce numbers like those of his last two years for the duration of his contract. Bartolo is 4 years older, has never really lived up to expectations, and has been declining in some areas for the last 3 seasons.

Alright, Anaheim overpaid for guy who isn’t as good as what they’re going to be paying him, fine. Let’s look at this from a different angle though. Did Anaheim really have any choice but to sign Colon? No. Their rotation last year was terrible, Jarred Washburn and John Lackey were the only starting pitchers who finished the season with an ERA below 5.00. While undeserving, this team won the World Series in 2002 and still possesses many of the core players from that championship team. They needed to save face and prevent a slide and the additions of Colon and Kelvin Escobar (Kelvin might have been the better aquisition) were moves designed at getting full value for their money but rather to keep the team from sliding too far from its peak form. Good moves aren’t made out of desperation and these were desperate but they're certainly not going to hurt them.

Ugueth Urbina Upset

It looks like Ugueth Urbina hasn't received an offer for the big time closer money that he thinks he's worth. I hope he enjoys sitting at home until the 4th of July because I dont' think any teams are willing to give him the $6-7 million per year that he seems to feel he's worth. He certainly had an excellent second half of 2003 with the Marlins but that won't be enough to justify a multiyear contract. He missed almost all of the 2000 season because of injuries and is not known for being a very durable player. Most teams simply aren't willing to give a good relief pitcher Keith Foulke money for multiple years in this economic climate when that player has injury issues. In the end I'm sure there will be one team desperate enough to sign him, there always is, but until then Ugueth is just going to have to sit and wait.

Tony Womack and the Red Sox
Tony Womack signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox on Saturday. He has no bat and he can't play defense so the only reason I can think why the Sox signed him was for his baserunning speed.

Pitchers and catchers report in 17 days.


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