Big Sexy is proving he’s not a big joke with the Twins

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 04: Bartolo Colon
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 04: Bartolo Colon /

Many fans thought that the Minnesota Twins’ signing of Bartolo Colon was a pathetic attempt of improving the starting rotation. The 20-year veteran is proving them wrong.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical when the Minnesota Twins signed Bartolo Colón aka “Big Sexy” to a minor league deal almost a month ago. Starting the season with the Atlanta Braves, the veteran had an eight-plus ERA in 13 starts before his release. A sign that the fountain of youth may had run dry for Colón.

Basically, I saw it as a deal with no benefit for the Twins. I mean, what’s the point of adding a  44-year old pitcher that has performed worse than Kyle Gibson? That just sounds insane, especially when it comes to a team that has already witnessed enough bad pitching from the back end of the rotation. There’s no need for more.

Yet, times have changed. Big Sexy has proven myself and others wrong.

Colón has given the Twins all they could ask for. He’s went further into the ball game in each of his four starts, while allowing no more than four runs. Last Friday, he allowed four runs in a complete game, becoming the oldest player to throw a complete game in the AL since Nolan Ryan in 1992. The stellar performance gave him his first win with Minnesota, bringing his ERA down to 5.18 since joining the team.

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While his stats are modest, that’s all you need from a back-of-the-rotation arm. Someone that can go out there, eat some innings, and give the team a chance. So far, Colón has been able to do just that, limiting damage to a minimum.

Yes, he’s 44 and the Twins’ playoff chances are seemingly going downhill, but there’s much value that Colón brings to this team. Following Friday night’s game, Brian Dozier couldn’t have said it any better in an interview with Fox Sports North.

"“It just goes to show you. I hope a lot of the young guys were watching. Pump the zone with strikes and let your defense play behind you. I faced Bartolo, five, six years ago when he was pumping 96 and stuff and that’s a different ball game. But, even today, you saw, just fill up the zone with heaters and let the defense play and that’s a veteran pitcher for you.”"

There’s two things I gather from Dozier’s assessment.

One, Colón throws strikes. In fact, he has the lowest walk rate at 1.9 percent than any Twins pitcher with a minimum of 100 batters faced, according to Aaron Gleeman. As Dozier stated, he let’s the defense play behind him.

This is something that young pitchers like José Berríos and Adalberto Mejía and even veterans like Gibson need to take notice of. There have been far too many times when Twins pitchers have tried to make batters swing out of the strike zone. Almost as if they are afraid to make a mistake in the zone at times. In the process, they’ve fallen behind batters, leading to destructive walks or hits.

When you have dirty stuff like Berríos, you can get away with making some pitches out of the zone for strikes as long as hitters don’t pick up on a tendency to do so. Yet, hitting the corners with dirty stuff can be just as effective, if not more. Of course, a hitter is more likely to hit a ball in the zone than vice versa, but chances of them making solid contact isn’t great. This means a likely put out by the defense, which is much better than a walk or base hit.

Two, Colón makes adjustments. If you think about it, this is what’s made his career last as long as it has. Once a power pitcher hitting the high 90s consistently on the radar gun, the right-hander has turned into a finesse pitcher. He’s made himself effective by throwing his fastball with less velocity, partly due to age, albeit with more movement and accuracy.

Someone like Joe Mauer would be wise to look at how Colón has transformed his game over the years. As a contact hitter who looks to drive the ball to the opposite field, Mauer has stubbornly kept to his old ways. In the last couple of years, it’s noticeably killed his production as other teams have adjusted to his playing style mainly by shifting their defense. In turn, if Mauer could humble himself by adjusting his playing style as Colón did, it could benefit him.

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Another more applicable example would be reliever Ryan Pressly, who is in the midst of a trying year. As someone with a high 90s fastball, maybe taking a little velocity off the ball would help bring some movement to his fastball. The added movement could go a long way in improving his pitching.

Essentially, Twins players have a lot they can learn from a player like Colón. At the same time, he’s giving the team a much-needed lift in the starting rotation. With this in mind, he’s proven to be a far more effective veteran pitcher for this team than anyone could have thought.

While the deal may have felt like a big joke at first, the decision to bring Colón to Minnesota couldn’t look more sexier than it does right now.

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