Bartolo Colon: Is it performance enhancing drugs or just dumb luck?

Bartolo Colon has had a very storied career thus far; he is well know for being part of one of the most lopsided trades in history, his 2005 Cy Young campaign, his controversial stem cell transplant that aided his return to the Majors, and last years 50 game suspension for use of testosterone boosters.

The last point might be the most memorable of all for some.  With Bud Selig dragging out this biogenesis thing to aid his never-ending campaign of publicly humiliating ARod, recently, PED talks have once again reared their ugly heads.  While discussing this with a friend last night, he was shocked to hear how defensive I was over some of the players mentioned in the scandal, which lead us to talking about Bartolo Colon, and how his success could be attributed to this alleged scandal.  I laughed out loud.

I quickly ran over to Fangraphs to cite some of his more intricate statistics to help explain his success, but what I found was much more than a good ground ball rate and a few balls that didn’t quite leave Oakland’s big back yard.   I will break down the numbers by comparison:


If you’re familiar with some these statistics, it is true this article isn’t anything that groundbreaking for you .  But if you find yourself questioning what FIP is, check back to my blog in the near future for a breakdown of the most important pitching and hitting statistics not shown on the back of baseball cards.  But in the meantime, back to Colon…

The first thing we can gather from this chart is that; Colon has never been as good as he seems.  He was always been had something masking his more mainstream stats in one area or another, even when he won the Cy Young.  The thing about this year?  He has more than just Oakland Colosseum masking his ERA; he also has pure dumb luck.  If Colon indeed is back to taking some kind of PED, it’s not helping him much, because he’s striking out a measly 5 batters per nine, and his fastball velocity isn’t any better than it was with the Yankees or anywhere else he’s pitched since 2005.  His ground ball rate is strong, as normal, and that can attribute to much of his staggering LOB% of 80% for a guy allowing a hit an inning, but we’ve got to attribute quite a bit of it to just plain old luck.  A look in comparison shows that this luck masks his ERA by 0.53, on top of the 0.74 ERA that pitching in a place like Oakland Colsseum alone absorbs… or so you’d think.  The truth?

Colon has pitched better on the road this year.  While he has 10 more innings at home this year, his road xFIP in 58.1 innings? 3.56  Home in 68.1?  4.32.

So PED’s?  Nah.  Colon has simply been given a gift from the baseball Gods.


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