Last week, Dave Cameron wrote about the Free Talent All-Stars; players who did not require much return either in personnel or salary to acquire, and how they were performing. Most of these players garnered the moniker “low risk/high reward” because teams are giving up very little for them; perhaps these players will experience a career renaissance and produce at a very high level. I also conducted a study of low risk pitchers in the last issue of SABR’s statistical newsletter, By the Numbers.
This offseason, two particular low risk pitchers seemed to stand out from the pack: Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Both had lousy 2007 seasons which, when coupled with their expensive contracts, made their performances look even worse. Both, however, had caveats to their struggles. Colon’s numbers were a bit deceiving and Garcia was pitching with a significant injury.
Colon signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox while Garcia is still awaiting his shot at auditioning for several interested teams.
Back in February, Josh Kalk pointed out how Colon’s 2007 statistics were more on the deceiving side, noting that his FIP was over 1.5 points lower than his ERA; he also had a ridiculously low LOB% compared to the rest of his career.
In just two starts for the Red Sox this season, Colon has gone 12 innings, surrendering 11 hits and three walks, while striking out 8 batters. He has won both games and has an FIP of 2.68. Though much too early to proclaim Colon has “found it” he has definitely looked much more in tune than the last couple of years. So what happened in 2006 and 2007?
Well, from 1998-2005 his LOB% was 70.8 or higher; in 2006 it was 66.1% and in 2007 it fell to 63.5%. In that same eight year span his BABIP topped out at .313; in 2006 it was .319 and in 2007 it rose to .364. In 2006 he also gave up 14.9% HR/FB, the highest percentage of his career.
Last year he actually reduced his BB/9 from 2.63 to 1.76 and still managed to post a 1.62 WHIP, meaning he got hit around. As evidenced by his decrease in line drives and vast increase in BABIP it seems Colon was very unlucky last year. Perhaps not unlucky to the point that, in a perfect world, he would have gone 13-3 with a 3.00 ERA but unlucky because his 6.34 ERA did not nearly tell enough of the story.
Colon may not be the dominant force he was at the beginning of his career but he doesn’t need to be to produce at the level at which this Red Sox team expects him to.
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