To put it mildly, Bartolo Colon has shocked me, and most Yankees fans, this season. Colon currently holds a record of 8-7 with a 3.54 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, 107 strikeouts, and 34 walks in 124.2 innings pitched.
The problem is, Colon wasn't supposed to throw more than 100 innings this year. Before the season started, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi both stated that Colon had not thrown enough innings in recent years to not end up fatigued at the end of a full ML season. They stuck him in the bullpen, but he pitched his way into the rotation.
That's where it got tricky. Colon began to throw gem after gem after gem, including a complete game shut-out against the Oakland Athletics (who he faces tonight) in May.
After that game, Colon's average inning total per start decreased. Having previously averaged a total of 6.9 innings per start, Colon's average decreased to an average of 5.6, not including his 2/3 of an inning start vs. the Blue Jays. Including that start, the average would be 5.1 innings per start.
The Yankees have not used Colon wisely, and it could come back to hurt them. Colon did not need to go all nine innings in that complete game, the Yankees bullpen could have easily shut down the A's for a couple of innings with a five-run lead.
The Yankees currently have a six man rotation, including a starter, that if not fatigued already, should be very soon.Bartolo Colon is an essential piece of the Yankees post-season puzzle, which makes it that much more of a problem if he gets fatigued. There is no way of knowing for sure if he has yet, but keep an eye on that innings count.
The options for the Yankees are simple, but in no specific order:
1. Keep Colon in the rotation, hope he continues to pitch without trouble, makes it to the post season, pitches well in the post season without trouble, and let him go after the season.
2. Keep Burnett in the rotation, move Colon to the bullpen until the playoffs. This would keep Colon's innings count low, and give Burnett the opportunity to fix himself in the rotation.
3. Keep Colon in the rotation for now, and if the fatigue does hit, move him to the bullpen for the playoffs.
4. Move Colon to the bullpen now and for the playoffs.
5. Trade A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon to the Cubs for Carlos Zambrano and Starlin Castro. (Sorry, this is a joke, I had to.)
The luxury is that the Yankees do not have to worry about Colon being healthy for next season. The Yankees can simply let him move on after the season, and plug a prospect into that rotation spot. This should definitely be considered when picking between those options.
While the discussion has been all about A.J., the eyes should all be on Bart. I certainly hope he can make it the rest of the way without trouble, but I'm not holding my breath. Starting tonight, I hope the Hamburgler proves me wrong.