A’s sign Colon, Media Worries

As was suggested earlier, Bartolo Colon has signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics worth nearly $2-million and could include a signing bonus. Word broke late last night that Colon had signed with a team, but he did not want to disclose which one until he passed his physical. Apparently, he has passed it.

A lot of concern has surrounded Colon who underwent a controversial shoulder procedure last offseason that used stem cells to rebuild his tattered shoulder. After missing all of the 2010 season, Colon signed with the Yankees and proceeded to pitch 164.1 innings in his best season since winning the Cy Young Award with the Angels in 2005. He struck out 19.5% of the batters he faced while exhibiting his trademark control, walking just 5.8%. He finished the year with a 2.9 fWAR and a 3.57 xFIP.

The focus of much of the media’s concern over Colon’s health has been on his stretch run where he posted a 5.25 ERA in the last two months of the year. I believe, however, that those concerns are overblown. Colon’s numbers did drop off slightly, although his 3.98 xFIP in August and September would suggest that the high ERA was more the result of bad luck than a drop off in effectiveness.

Colon pitched to a 3.34 xFIP in the first four months and a 3.98 xFIP in the last two; yes, there’s a difference there, but is it enough to really worry about?

Take a look at Colon’s Pitch F/X data for 2011, split into the first four months and the last two.

First, from April to the end of July:

Next from August to the end of the season:

As you can see, there was not enough of a drop in velocity to truly be worried about the health of his shoulder. The only slight difference is in his four-seam fastball which lost less than one mile-per-hour in average velocity. He also lost some swing-and-miss on his four-seamer as the season went on, but that could have been more a result of overuse (57.1% in the last two months versus 50.2% in the first four) than ineffectiveness. No other number sticks out in his Pitch F/X data as being particularly alarming.

On a one-year deal, the A’s have picked up a useful piece that could bring back some trade value in July if the team finds itself far out of contention.

*Pitch F/X data gleamed from Texas Leaguers.