It was a frightful beating that gave rise to Deadspin's ongoing search for the meaning of Bartolo Colon—the 38-year-old Yankees starter got knocked out of the first inning against the Blue Jays, surrendering 8 runs (3 earned), an outing so bad it raised questions about the pitcher's very purpose in this world. Questions about all of us.
Since then, our effort to make sense of Bartolo Colon had never had to grapple with anything quite so horrific. But on September 22, against the Tampa Bay Rays—while the Colon watch was paused for personal business—the portly northpaw tiptoed to the edge of the pit: 3 ugly innings, 7 runs, 5 earned runs, a hit batsman, a home run, and a triple, starting the Yankees on their way to a 15-8 loss. Maybe Colon truly was failure personified.
As he did in July, Colon returned to the mound at the next opportunity. Last night, with the Yankees long since assured of a division title, he again faced the Rays—a team desperately fighting for the wild-card playoff spot. The result? 5.1 innings, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 SO. He left in the sixth inning with the lead, only to have the bullpen cough it up. No decision.
Overall, since his seemingly defining ordeal in Toronto, Colon has started 13 games and thrown 1,214 pitches. The Yankees have gone 6-7 in his starts, while he's only gone 2-5. His ERA has been 4.64. But he has 56 strikeouts against only 16 walks, for a 3.5:1 ratio that would be seventh-best in the league if extended over a full season.
And his opponents' batting average on balls in play, which is notoriously subject to random variation, has been .322, up from .292 in the earlier part of the season. The league average this year is .294. Could Colon's performance be a matter of statistical noise?
For the entire regular season, Colon's ERA is 4.00, which is better than league average and a tiny bit better than his career 4.09 mark. His ERA+ is 111, a tiny bit worse than his career mark of 112. The significance of Bartolo Colon, it would seem, is that he is Bartolo Colon. And he is moving on to the playoffs.