The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2024 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
Bartolo Colon could throw strikes. At the outset of his 21-year major league career, Colon blew 100-mph fastballs by hitters, and within a couple years showed off top-of-the-rotation form. Over a decade and more than half a dozen teams later, following a controversial arm surgery, Colon’s ability to locate his sinker to both sides of the plate with precision gained him greater renown. In one 2012 start, he threw 38 consecutive strikes.
Indeed, it was the second act of his career — or was it the third, or even the fourth? — during which Colon became an unlikely cult favorite. The Dominican-born righty had listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds while in the minors, but his biggest contract extension had a weight clause centered at 225 pounds. After suffering a torn rotator cuff at the tail end of his Cy Young Award-winning 2005 season, he spent nearly half a decade knocking around before undergoing experimental injections of fat and stem cells into his shoulder and elbow, and by the time he reemerged in his late 30s, he was officially listed at 285 pounds. His everyman build made him more relatable, but it camouflaged an exceptional athleticism. “Big Sexy” — the nickname given to him by teammate Noah Syndergaard, and later the title of his 2020 autobiography — could field his position with enough flair to execute a behind-the-back throw. He could high-kick like a Rockette, and do splits like a ballerina. “One of the stereotypes of Bartolo is because he has an atypical body type for a pitcher, he is not in shape,” said Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro in 2004. “But this guy is amazingly strong. He’s like [former Houston Oiler running back] Earl Campbell from the waist down. He is a strong, strong man, and that core strength is what it’s all about.”
Colon made two All-Star appearances on either side of his wilderness years; in fact, his third appearance came after he was suspended 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. But unlike most players who run afoul of the game’s Joint Drug Agreement, he avoided most of the animosity that accompanies such suspensions, and quickly worked his way back into baseball’s good graces. Indeed, during his three-year stint with the Mets (2014–16) he was particularly beloved by teammates and fans. He radiated joy, and delighted in entertaining to the point that he asked the Mets’ equipment manager to fit him with an oversized helmet that would fall off when he took his mighty hacks “so I could make the fans laugh some more,” he wrote.
About that hitting: Colon was unusually terrible with the bat, so bad that his infrequent foul balls even generated cheers. But in perhaps the peak moment of the Bartolo Boom, he hit his first major league home run in 2016, just a few weeks shy of his 43rd birthday. The moment became a social media sensation, a story for the ages.
Colon pitched until well past his 45th birthday, by which time he had accumulated more wins than any Latin American pitcher in major league history. But despite his 247 wins and 2,535 strikeouts, neither his ERA nor his WAR and JAWS are Hall of Fame-caliber. Still, it’s no stretch to suggest he’s more popular than some Hall of Famers, even among his contemporaries, and that he has carved out a unique and enduring place in the baseball world.
2024 BBWAA Candidate: Bartolo Colon
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Bartolo Colon was born on May 24, 1973, in the northern coastal town of Altamira, Dominican Republic, the third of six children of Miguel Valerio Colon and Adriana Morales De Colon. He grew up in a three-room house that had no electricity, plumbing, or phone in a hillside village called El Copey, “which has one main road and dozens of squat houses under zinc roofs and coconut trees,” according to a 2015 New York Times profile by Dan Barry.
Miguel owned a grocery store where he sold rice, beans, and sugar as well as avocados, coffee, and cacao, which he grew in a field behind the house. From the time Bartolo was eight years old, he attended school in the morning, then joined his father in the field. “We picked beans in the fields and fruit from the trees, usually for at least 10 hours a day, six days a week,” Colon told the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike DiGiovanna in 2004. “Some days, we’d start at 4 a.m., and some days we didn’t stop until midnight… I definitely think that work helped me.”
As a youngster, Colon was capable of pulping up to 1,000 crates of coffee beans per day. The hand-cranked pulping machines built up his arm strength, and he practiced his accuracy by throwing rocks to knock mangos and coconuts from trees. While transporting the beans on his pet donkey Pancho — I swear I’m not making this up — he would stop by a neighborhood baseball field and play a few innings with other children, using balls made of cloth. “The only way you would be able to play was to escape from my dad,” Colon told Barry, “because the main thing was working.”
Colon dropped out of school after the sixth grade to continue working the fields — both the coffee ones and the baseball ones. He didn’t begin playing organized baseball until he was 14, but just a year later, he threw so hard that some youth league opponents refused to take the field against him. While the Dodgers, Royals and even Cleveland all brought him to their Dominican academies, they sent him home because they believed he was too short. Nonetheless, his exploits drew the attention of Cleveland scouts Virgilio Perez and Winston Llenas, the latter a former major leaguer. “Llenas recalls that while the young prospect did not have a typical pitcher’s physique, he possessed obvious talent and a commitment to hard work, a trait that Colon once said he learned from the likes of Pancho,” wrote Barry.
Colon signed with Cleveland for $3,000 in 1993; the organization believed he was 18 years old, not 20. He gave $500 to Perez and Llenas, kept $400, and turned the rest over to his parents; his father used the money to buy land that became very valuable. After a season in the Dominican Summer League, he came stateside in 1994, and posted a 3.14 ERA and struck out 84 in 66 innings for Burlington in the Appalachian League. He was lights-out at High-A Kinston in 1995, posting a 1.96 ERA with 152 strikeouts in 128.2 innings before a bone bruise in his elbow shut him down for the final month of the season. He was the league’s Pitcher of the Year and, via Baseball America, its no. 1 prospect, with the publication calling him “the hardest thrower in the Carolina League… with exceptional control for a power pitcher. Not only does he not walk batters, but he can spot his fastball in the strike zone almost at will.” Wrote Orioles scout Moe Drabowsky in his report, “Best FB I’ve seen.”
BA ranked him 15th on their Top 100 Prospects List for 1996, but Colon continued to have arm troubles; in fact, he missed eight weeks with “a strained [sic] ligament in his right forearm” — possibly a UCL injury (ligaments get sprained, not strained), limiting him to just 77 inning split between Double-A Canton-Akron (where he posted a 1.74 ERA) and Triple-A Buffalo. He was 14th on BA’s list for 1997 nonetheless, with the publication writing, “Colon has an explosive 94-96 mph fastball, a hard breaking ball and good feel for his changeup. All three are plus pitches, and when healthy he can overpower hitters.”
The 24-year-old Colon made Cleveland’s rotation out of spring training in 1997, and debuted on April 4 against the Angels in Anaheim, with a five-inning, four-run showing in the season’s third game. He notched his first strikeout against Jim Edmonds in the first inning but gave up two runs in that frame as well, then surrendered a two-run homer to Gary Disarcina in the second, but after that, he pitched three scoreless innings. He spent the season shuttling back and forth to Buffalo, generally scuffling at the major league level; when he notched his first win, on June 7 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, his seven-inning, four-run outing lowered his ERA to 6.75. Less than two weeks later, on June 20, he threw a no-hitter for Buffalo. At the major league level, Colon finished the season 4-7 with a 5.65 ERA and 4.90 FIP in 94 innings via 17 starts and two relief appearances. While he regularly hit 100 mph on the Jacobs Field speed gun, his 4.3 walks per nine was especially problematic. He was a bystander while the team won its second pennant in three seasons before losing to the Marlins in an epic World Series.
One year to the day after his debut, Colon returned to Anaheim and dominated the Angels, throwing a four-hit, 10-strikeout complete-game shutout. He added another four-hit shutout agains the Pirates on June 8, part of a five-start stretch over which he allowed just four runs in 40 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.46 and earning him a spot on the AL All-Star team.
Though he took his lumps in the second half, Colon finished 14-9 with a 3.71 ERA (128 ERA+) in 204 innings. His 4.4 WAR began a streak of four straight seasons in the 4.4–4.9 range. In his first taste of postseason action, he threw 5.2 innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox in Fenway in Game 4 of the Division Series. He departed down 1-0 but David Justice’s two-run double helped Cleveland close out the series. Colon followed up with a four-hit, one-run complete game against the 114-win Yankees at Jacobs Field in Game 3 of the ALCS, putting Cleveland up two games to one. He didn’t get another turn, however, as the Yankees ousted starters Dwight Gooden, Chad Ogea, and Charles Nagy early while taking the next three games.
In March 1999, Colon signed a four-year, $9.25 million extension with a $6 million option and $250,000 buyout for 2003. The contract included an incentive clause concerning his weight, awarding him $12,500 for weighing 225 pounds or less during four weigh-in dates per year. Performance-wise, better offensive support offset a rising home run rate to help Colon place fourth in the 1999 AL Cy Young race on the basis of an 18-5, 3.95 ERA (126 ERA+) performance that helped Cleveland win its fifth straight AL Central title. In a Division Series-opening win against the Red Sox, he punched out 11 while allowing two runs over eight innings. Unfortunately, while pitching on three days of rest for Game 4, he was chased after allowing the first five batters of the second inning to reach base, and charged with seven runs in one-plus innings in a 23-7 loss. Boston won in five.
An oblique strain sent Colon to what was then the disabled list for nearly four weeks in 2000, but he recovered to strike out a career high 212 in 188 innings (a 26.3% rate) while going 15-8 with a 3.88 ERA (127 ERA+) and 4.9 WAR, which ranked fifth in the league. He made a strong firsthand impression on this future scribe on September 19, 2000 at Yankee Stadium, fanning 13 in a one-hit shutout. Aside from Justice reaching safely twice, via a first-inning error by left fielder Russell Branyan on a line drive and then a sixth-inning walk, no Yankee had gotten on base until Luis Polonia singled with one out in the eighth. Twenty-three years later, that’s still the deepest I’ve seen a pitcher take a no-hitter in person.
Colon struck out 201 hitters in 2001 but his ERA rose to 4.09 (110 ERA+); still, over 222.1 innings that was worth 4.6 WAR. He again started Game 1 of the Division Series, this time delivering eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts against the 116-win Mariners. In Game 4, he shut the Mariners out through six innings but faltered in the seventh, no thanks to his own throwing error when he tried to pick off John Olerud at second base but threw the ball into center field. The Mariners won that game and the series.
Picking up a tip from the Braves’ Greg Maddux during a spring training while he was still with Cleveland, Colon adjusted the grip on his sinker, gaining better control and the ability to add and subtract velocity. He went 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA through his first 16 starts in 2002 for a team that was running third in the AL Central, below .500 and looking to retool. Meanwhile over in the NL East, the Montreal Expos — who had been targeted for contraction the previous fall after their fourth season in a row with at least 94 losses, and who were now wards of Major League Baseball — were second in the division, 6.5 games out of first and five games back in the Wild Card race. Desperate to put the Expos in the postseason, GM Omar Minaya went for it, trading first baseman Lee Stevens and prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore to Cleveland in exchange for Colon and righty Tim Drew.
Colon continued to pitch well, going 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA to reach 20 wins for the first time, and totaling 7.1 WAR between the two teams, sixth in the majors. Even so, the Expos went 26-33 from the point of the trade to the end of August, and finished 83-79. Lee, Phillips, and Sizemore would all go on to major league stardom (Phillips only after being traded to the Reds in 2006). After the season, Minaya picked up Colon’s option, but in January dealt him and a prospect to the White Sox in a three-way deal that also included the Yankees. Montreal received Orlando Hernandez, who would miss the season with injuries before being non-tendered, plus righty Rocky Biddle and first baseman Jeff Liefer, who would both deliver negative WAR to Montreal. Ouch.
Colon slipped to 15-13 with the White Sox but set career highs with 242 innings and nine complete games, posting a 3.87 ERA (120 ERA+) and 5.1 WAR, a strong season from which to launch his free agency. While the White Sox reportedly offered three years and $36 million to retain him, the Angels offered four years and $51 million. Their 2002 championship run had captivated him. “I watched most of that World Series on TV,” he said through an interpreter at his introductory press conference. “I couldn’t watch the last few innings because it made me too nervous. I was for the Angels.”
Though Colon allowed just one earned run in 14 innings while winning his first two starts as an Angel, he struggled with his command and became more homer-prone, serving up 38 (1.6 per nine) in 208.1 innings en route to a 5.01 ERA (89 ERA+); with 5.9 runs per game of offensive support, he still went 18-12. Focusing more on his command than his velocity, and somehow pitching through back pain all season in 2005, he trimmed his walk rate from 7.9% to 4.8%, cut his home rate to 1.1 per nine and went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA (122 ERA+) in 222.2 innings. He made his second All-Star team and beat out Mariano Rivera (1.38 ERA, 43 saves) and Johan Santana (16-7, 2.87 ERA) in a Cy Young vote that drove statheads batty for its emphasis on won-loss records instead of run prevention; Santana’s 7.2 WAR dwarfed the 4.0 WARs of both Colon and Rivera. Had Santana won, he’d have claimed three straight (including 2006), which might have been enough to punch his ticket to Cooperstown in spite of his short career, or at least keep him from going one-and-done on the 2018 BBWAA ballot.
Colon’s win set off a weeklong celebration in Altamira. “People stopping by and honking their horns… It’s been really, really crazy, crazy, crazy,” he said through a translator in the immediate aftermath of his win. In that same press conference, he explained his evolution from power pitcher to craftsman:
“If I can get an out with one or two pitches and use my sinker or my cutter, I’m better off… I stopped being a village boy, thinking that I can throw any stone, any rock through a wall, and started thinking about being a guy that could last longer, to take some off my fastball and not to depend only on throwing hard.”
Unfortunately, by the time he said that, Colon’s career had taken a turn for the worse. He had left Game 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees after just one inning due to a partially torn rotator cuff. Between that injury and a 2007 lat strain, he made just 29 appearances totaling 155.2 innings in ’06-07, with a 5.90 ERA. He couldn’t get more than a minor league deal upon reaching free agency, and was limited to seven starts with the Red Sox while missing time due to oblique and back injuries, and pitching through bone spurs in his elbow. Sent to the bullpen in mid-September, he instead left for the Dominican Republic to handle “personal matters” and decided not to return. He was suspended without pay and placed on the restricted list. After the season, he paid out of his own pocket to have Dr. James Andrews remove three bone chips from his elbow.
A one-year, $1 million deal with the White Sox for 2009 didn’t go much better. Colon pitched to a 4.23 ERA through 11 starts before being sidelined by right knee inflammation. Sent to Triple-A Charlotte on a rehab assignment, he went missing, with manager Ozzie Guillen suggesting that the recent death of pop star Michael Jackson might be affecting him. “I worry about Colon because Colon was a big-time Michael Jackson fan,” Guillen told reporters. “He might [watch] the TV and cry all day long. Maybe he is in L.A. at his funeral, because I can’t find him… He might be depressed a little bit.”
Colon did eventually turn up for his rehab assignment, but after one more start for the White Sox he was sidelined by elbow inflammation and released in mid-September when it was clear he couldn’t help the team. He didn’t pitch at all in 2010, instead undergoing a controversial, cutting-edge medical procedure in which fat and stem cells from his bone marrow were injected into his shoulder and elbow in an effort to repair his torn rotator cuff and damaged ligaments. The procedure was performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph R. Purita, the proprietor of a regenerative medicine clinic in Boca Raton. While Purita normally used human growth hormone in such treatments, he claimed not to have done so for Colon, since HGH was banned by MLB.
Acting on a recommendation from Tony Peña, who saw him throw 93 mph in the Dominican Winter League, the Yankees signed the going-on-38-year-old Colon to a minor league deal not knowing the details of the surgery. He made the team out of spring training, and joined the rotation in mid-April after Phil Hughes landed on the DL with a tired arm. By mid-May, Colon was pitching well enough, reaching 95-96 mph with his fastball on occasion, for the New York Times to investigate his experimental surgery. “This is not just about what we did,” Dr. Purita told the Times‘ Serge F. Kovaleski. “We gave him the means, but he has the focus and desire, the killer instinct. He worked his tail off to get back in the game. That is something stem cells cannot fix.”
“The doctor feels that it definitely gave him a jump start to his improvement, although for me, personally, I don’t think Bartolo was focused on baseball mentally or physically for the last few years,” said Colon’s agent, Mitch Frankel. “I believe the problem was that and not his pitching. And I think once he made that determination, you can see the success.”
Colon threw a four-hit shutout against the A’s on May 30. While he soon missed three weeks due to a hamstring strain, and struggled late in the season, he came up big for a rotation that lacked depth. He ranked fourth in the majors in strikeouts looking (75) behind Lee, David Price, and Justin Verlander while finishing 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA (107 ERA+) in 164.1 innings and impressing teammates with his work ethic and good nature.
A free agent at season’s end, Colon signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the A’s, who had gone 74-88 and traded former All-Stars Trevor Cahill and Gio González. The grizzled veteran fronting a young rotation, Colon went 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for the A’s. His April 18 outing against the Angels was the one where he threw 38 consecutive strikes, and 82 of 108 pitches for strikes over the course of eight shutout innings.
On August 22, Colon was suspended 50 games for testing positive for elevated testosterone. Dr. Purita reiterated he had not given Colon anything illegal, and hadn’t been in direct contact with the pitcher since the 2010 procedure. This was Colon making a bad decision on his own. “I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A’s,” he said in a statement. “I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program.”
The A’s went on to win the division without Colon, who missed the final 40 games of the regular season as well as the team’s five-game Division Series loss. Surprisingly, the team re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million-plus-incentives contract, and were rewarded with Colon’s best season of his comeback phase (18-6, 2.65 ERA, 190.1 IP). His three shutouts matched his career high and tied for the league lead, his ERA ranked second, his 5.6 WAR — his highest since 2002 — fifth; he would later place sixth in the Cy Young voting. The A’s won the AL West again, and Colon started opposite the Tigers’ Max Scherzer in the Division Series opener, but wound up on the short end by allowing three runs in six innings. He didn’t get a chance to start again, as manager Bob Melvin chose to go with Game 2 starter Sonny Gray (who had thrown eight shutout innings in Game 2 opposite Verlander) for Game 5, which Detroit won nonetheless.
With a recommendation from general manager Billy Beane — who didn’t foresee a role for Colon on the A’s for 2014 — the going-on-41-year-old righty signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets, for whom he could reprise his role in mentoring a young rotation. Colon totaled 397 innings over the course of the deal, albeit with just a 4.13 ERA (87 ERA+), but he struck out over five hitters for every one he walked. His relentlessness in pounding the strike zone, his work ethic, and his ability to provide bulk innings were a boon to the staff, and he quickly won over fans, becoming a cult favorite. On August 8, 2014, he beat the Phillies for his 200th career win.
The 2014 Mets won just 79 games, but the ’15 Mets — with Matt Harvey back from Tommy John surgery, Jacob deGrom in his first full season, and Syndergaard up from the minors in May — won 90 games and the NL East. It was Syndergaard who gave Colon his enduring nickname. “I don’t think I’m sexy but if the fans like the name, I like it too,” wrote Colon in Big Sexy. Later the younger pitcher would make t-shirts with his likeness to share with his family and of course with his subject. Meanwhile, Colon wowed the fans with stuff like this behind-the-back throw from September 5, 2015.
In the postseason, Colon was limited to bullpen duty, but he pitched well, allowing two earned runs in 8.2 innings as the Mets beat the Dodgers in the Division Series and the Cubs in the NLCS before falling to the Royals in the World Series. Colon notched the win with 1.1 innings of shutout relief in the NLCS-clinching Game 4 but took the loss in the World Series opener, for which he pitched 2.1 innings beginning in the 12th; the winning run was unearned, the result of a throwing error by David Wright. In Big Sexy, Colon described his inning-ending, 10-pitch strikeout of Salvador Perez to (temporarily) preserve a one-run lead in Game 4 and delight the Citi Field fans as his biggest thrill of that season.
While other teams reportedly made better offers to Colon once he reached free agency, he chose to return to the Mets on a one-year, $7.25 million deal. “Loves fans, teammates, organization,” tweeted Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Improbably, he became an All-Star again at age 43, and turned in his best season as a Met, going 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA (117 ERA+) in 191.2 innings.
The biggest highlight of Colon’s season came not on the mound but at the plate. An utterly terrible hitter, Colon had hit .093/.100/.102 (-44 OPS+) in 237 plate appearances through 2015, with two doubles, 113 strikeouts and not a single walk or homer. Still, the sight of him trying to bat was enough for commissioner Rob Manfred to reject bringing the designated hitter to the NL. “Not having National League pitchers hit would deprive us of the entertainment Bartolo Colon has given us this year,” he told reporters in 2015. Colon was 0-for-9 to start the 2016 season when he stepped into the box against the Padres’ James Shields at Petco Park on May 7 and the impossible happened, to use Mets announcer Gary Cohen’s words.
“This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball!” exclaimed Cohen. It was historic, in that at 42 years and 349 days, Colon was the oldest player to hit his first major league homer. The fans drank it in. Topps issued a limited-edition commemorative baseball card in honor of the event. In Brooklyn, my pregnant wife and I gave our in-utero daughter the “nom de womb” Bartola in his honor, and when my wife’s Sports Illustrated colleagues threw a surprise baby shower a couple months later, we received a “Baby Bartola!” sign that endures to this day. The name Bartola also made its way into the grandparenting-themed columns and audiobook by my mother-in-law.
The Mets qualified for the NL Wild Card Game, but lost to the Giants and Madison Bumgarner despite a stellar Syndergaard start, and with that, Colon hit free agency again. He signed a one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Braves, and made a strong debut against his old team, throwing six innings of two-hit, one-run ball at Citi Field. After that, the magic became harder to summon, as he allowed more than three runs in nine of his next 12 starts, his ERA ballooning to 8.14 before the Braves released him in late June. While the Mets — who were missing both Syndergaard and Harvey due to injuries — expressed interest in a reunion, Colon instead signed with the Twins. He was better there (5.18 ERA in 80 innings), which isn’t to say that he was good.
With his sights set on Juan Marichal’s total of 243 wins, the most by any Dominican-born pitcher, the soon-to-be-45-year-old Colon accepted an incentive-based minor league deal with the rebuilding Rangers. He pitched reasonably well to start the season, posting a 3.55 ERA (but a 4.99 FIP) through the end of May. His fourth win of the year, no. 244 for his career, came against the Royals on June 18, 2018. On June 30, with his next win, Colon tied Nicaragua-born Dennis Martinez for the most by a pitcher born in Latin America, but he went all of July without surpassing him to claim the record. Finally, it came on August 7 against the Mariners.
Colon made just two more starts and notched one more win before being slowed by back problems. He totaled just six innings in September. That was the end for him at the major league level, but hardly the end of the road. He pitched in the Dominican Winter League that year. In February 2020, he signed with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League, but didn’t pitch because the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He did join them for 2021, going 6-2 with a 4.55 ERA in 61 innings.
On September 17, 2023, Colon officially retired as a member of the Mets. “This was the fan base that accepted me the most and supported me the most,” he said. “That’s why I’m most comfortable here.”
Even in retirement, Colon is still out there, pitching somewhere. In October he was drafted by the Karachi (Pakistan) Monarchs of the four-team Baseball United League, a new league that also includes teams in Mumbai, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. At 50 years old, on November 24 he pitched three innings in an All-Star Game that also featured former major leaguers Robinson Canó, Pablo Sandoval, Didi Gregorius, and Andrelton Simmons. Colon fanned Alejandro De Aza for the first strikeout in league history.
Bartolo Bartolo Bartolo.
Congrats Big Sexy for making history yet again ?? pic.twitter.com/EjVU0UV3tA
— Baseball United (@BaseballUnited) November 28, 2023
Colon finished his career with 247 wins, the ninth-highest total of any pitcher who debuted in 1984 or later, and higher than Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez (219), John Smoltz (213), and Roy Halladay (203). Though he certainly had his dominant days on the mound, that win total is more the product of his stamina and offensive support (about 8% above league average) than it is exceptional run prevention skill. Indeed, Colon’s 4.12 ERA is 0.22 runs per nine higher than the highest pitcher in the Hall, Jack Morris (3.90), and his 106 ERA+ is lower than all but three Hall of Famers, namely Morris (105), Catfish Hunter (104), and Rube Marquard (103).
Similarly, while Colon ranked among his league’s top 10 in WAR seven times (including 2002, when he was traded in midseason), his 46.2 career WAR is tied for 137th among starting pitchers, ahead of just eight out of the 65 non-Negro Leagues starters in the Hall. He’s 130th in S-JAWS, ahead of just nine Hall of Famers. By the methodology I used in my recent update of the cases of Andy Pettitte and Mark Buehrle, Colon’s JAWS ranks in the eighth percentile, while his S-JAWS is in the 13th percentile, both well below the aforementioned lefties on this ballot. Add to that the PED suspension and I don’t think there’s much to debate about his Hall case.
That doesn’t take away from the fun that we had watching Colon pitch — and hit, and field — throughout his career and especially in his latter-day incarnation. He brought a lot of joy to baseball, and he’ll be remembered most fondly.