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June 6, 2014

Pebble Hunting

Bartolo Colon Approaches First Base

by Sam Miller

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When Bartolo Colon and his teammates staged a mini-media strike this spring over a columnist’s fat jokes about him, your first response might have been: “But he’s pretty fat.” Truth is the ultimate defense for libel, if not bullying, and there’s something about an elite athlete (or whatever we want to call somebody who is elite in an athletic pursuit) who is strangely proportioned that invites attention.

But the strike was justified, and the jokes were not. Here’s the thing about Colon: He does so, so much to entertain us, to make us happy, to make us laugh, to have fun at his own expense, to challenge our preconceptions about the way the game needs to be played, to be beloved both by those who know him and those of us who don’t. You can write forever about Bartolo Colon without stooping to cheap fat jokes. There’s his hitting ability, his swing, his single-minded fastballing, his incredible career trajectory. He undergoes mysterious surgeries, he consumes illicit drugs, he’s absolutely terrified of on-camera interviews, he’s 1,000 years old. You can make GIFs of him twerking, or GIFs of him jiggling his belly (which is not itself a fat joke but an appreciation of his body consciousness), or GIFs of him making funny faces while attempting to bunt. You can do this. Cheap fat jokes aren’t so much mean as they are bad writing.

Here’s something else you might write about: After Colon grounded out two starts ago, and he pealed off toward the dugout before reaching first base, the Mets television announcers had this discussion:

Gary Cohen: Has he made it to first base yet this year?
Ron Darling: I don’t think he’s made it all the way there. But he’s close. He’s making it about 78 feet and then once he gets there he takes a little tail to the right and then shuts it down.

We know that Bartolo Colon hasn’t made it to first base safely this year, but can it be that he hasn’t actually touched the base as an offensive player even once? That can’t be, right? Thirty-three of Colon’s plate appearances exist online; in 13 of those he put the ball in play. Thirteen chances to touch first base. Going in reverse chronological order:

May 28, second at-bat

Did he touch: No.
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: ~77 feet down the line
Did he drop his bat: No
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: N/A

Note: This is the at-bat that preceded the Cohen/Darling conversation. Here’s an alternate view of Colon running down the line, which I’m including just because it shows the standard Colon Face after he puts the ball in play: It’s not just that he smiles; it’s that he smiles multiple times, like the absurdity of this whole thing comes in waves. I think I can count three distinct smiles here, interrupted by Colon going about his business.

May 28, first at-bat

Did he touch: No.
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: ~83 feet down the line
Did he drop his bat: No
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: N/A

More Cohen/Darling:

Cohen: What’s the thing with not dropping the bat? Does he not want to bend down and pick it up? The bat boy will pick it up for him.
Darling: He’s a clean freak.

May 17, second at-bat

Did he touch: Yes
If yes, how long did it take: 7.38 seconds (estimated, no clean look)
How close did he get: N/A
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: Nine

Delightfully, the camera actually cuts to the infielders throwing the ball around and then cuts back to Colon touching the base. Also, delightfully, he seems to have jogged all the way just so he could give Tyler Moore a pat. Tyler Moore! Like those guys are pals or something. I bet they’ve never even met. Tyler Moore.

May 17, first at-bat


Did he touch: No
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: ~87 feet down the line
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: Two

May 1

Did he touch: Yes
If yes, how long did it take: 6.61 seconds
How close did he get: N/A
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: Eight

April 24

Did he touch: Yes
If yes, how long did it take: 6.43 seconds
How close did he get: N/A
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: Two

GUM INTERLUDE

WHAT THE HECK BARTOLO

April 8

Did he touch: Probably
If yes, how long did it take: 6.3 seconds (estimated)
How close did he get: N/A
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: Two

April 2

Did he touch: Yes
If yes, how long did it take: 6.47 seconds
How close did he get: N/A
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: Unclear, but looks like one or two. The bat shattered.

August 2013

Did he touch: No
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: ~65 feet down the line
Did he drop his bat: No
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: N/A

July 2013

Did he touch: No
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: ~77 feet down the line
Did he drop his bat: No
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: N/A

June 2013

This was a deep fly ball, which the camera followed instead of following Bartolo Colon, so the slow replay is the best we’ve got:

Did he touch: No
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: ~75 feet down the line, based on how many steps he took and his typical stride to first base.
Did he drop his bat: No
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: N/A

Bob Uecker, noting that Colon hadn’t dropped the bat, suggests that he was afraid of Yuniesky Betancourt, playing at first base.

Lone 2012 ball in play

Did he touch: Yes
If yes, how long did it take: N/A
How close did he get: N/A
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: One

This is Bartolo actually running. We don’t have a camera on him, so we don’t know how long it took him, but based on the time it took him to leave the frame, and the number of steps he had taken, I’d put a 5.30 on him. I’d guess that the median time of BP readers and authors is about the same. After this play, and I swear this isn't a joke and I swear I'm not making it up, the A's trainer and manager had to come out and spend two minutes examining and nursing Colon.

Lone 2011 ball in play

Did he touch: We’ll never know.
If yes, how long did it take: It is only for the gods to see.
How close did he get: On the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true.
Did he drop his bat: Yes
If he did, how many steps did he take before doing so: One

We’ve learned a lot here today. We’ve learned that Bartolo Colon doesn’t often make it to first, but that he is not strictly opposed to first. In the 10 plays that we can rule on conclusively, excluding the one time he actually reached base, he touched first four times. It’s likely he touched base in one of the two mystery plays, and in the final one we just can’t say. His average time to first is about 6.72 seconds, or about the time it takes to type one factoid about what can be accomplished in 6.72 seconds. We’ve also learned that he does drop his bat, sometimes, and he doesn’t drop his bat, often. We’ve learned roughly how fast he can run when he has to run, and we’ve learned, in great detail, what it looks like when he runs. It looks a bit like a fat guy running. But that’s not something we would dwell on.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Bartolo Colon

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Dire Straits

Zeno's paradox lives!

Jun 06, 2014 07:53 AM
rating: 2
 
JasonPennini

Thoroughly enjoyed this

Jun 06, 2014 08:37 AM
rating: 1
 
devine

THIS is what I pay for. Quality entertainment, Sam.

Jun 06, 2014 11:16 AM
rating: 3
 
mlherr

I enjoy Bartolo Colon. I never saw him in a batting situation with the Athletics, but it was a kick watching him. He really enjoys playing.

Jun 06, 2014 14:12 PM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

I'd argue that in the August 2013 clip, Colon only made it roughly 50 feet. He gets two steps past the start of the runner's lane, which is 45 feet down the line.

Jun 06, 2014 17:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

Solid deduction

Jun 06, 2014 18:38 PM
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

He not only dropped the bat in July 2013, he almost lawn darted it.

Jun 07, 2014 01:34 AM
 
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