Top 100 Indians: #42 Bartolo Colón

Bartolo Colon - USA TODAY Sports

Next on our Top 100 Indians countdown is a pitcher that not only pitched several postseason gems, but was the key part of one of the best trades in franchise history.

Bartolo Colon

Starting Pitcher, 1997-2002

Height: 5'11" Weight: 265 lbs

Throws: Right; Bats: Right

How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent Signing, June 26, 1993

Left Via: Trade, June 27, 2002: Traded to the Montreal Expos with Tim Drew for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens

Bartolo Colón grew up in Altamira, Dominican Republic, a town in the northern part of the country. Altamira is not a hotbed of MLB talent, as Colón was the first (and still) only native of the town to make the majors. Possibly that was why he didn't sign with an MLB club until he was 20 years old (usually the top prospects from the Dominican sign at 16 or 17). But after signing with the Indians in June or 1993, the 5'11" right-hander quickly rocketed up the system. His first year in the United States was spent in Burlington, Cleveland's affiliate in Advanced Rookie ball, and he dominated hitters, allowing just 46 hits in 66 innings. He jumped to Kinston in 1995 and despite missing some time with a bone bruise, was named the top prospect in the Carolina League. Baseball America that winter named Colon the #15 prospect in all of baseball, and with the Indians now competitive, just about every trade discussion the Indians entered into would eventually turn to either Colón or Jaret Wright, who was a year behind Bartolo at the time.

Unfortunately he was delayed in 1996 with arm injuries again, missing two months with a strained elbow ligament, though he ended his season in AAA Buffalo pitching out of the bullpen, perhaps to give the Indians a major-league option if needed. As it turned out, he didn't get the call to Cleveland, and instead pitched in Winter Ball in his native country and was named the Player of the Year in the DWL. The Indians added him to the 40-man roster after the season, as he had just completed his fourth season as a pro.

With Dennis Martinez leaving, there was an open rotation spot, and Colon won it in Spring Training. He made his MLB debut on April 4 against the Anaheim Angels and didn't pitch that badly, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings. But in his next game, he couldn't get out of the first inning, allowing 6 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks to the powerful Seattle Mariners. He was optioned down to Buffalo after the game, probably because the Indians needed another arm after Colon's short outing. He was recalled again on the 26th, optioned down again after his start on May 10th, and didn't return to the big leagues until June 10th. He spent five stints with the Indians, making 17 starts, the fourth-most on the staff. In that season the Indians flailed about for starting pitching, with 14 different pitches making starts for the club. But although Colon certainly had talent, he wasn't included on the postseason roster

1998 was a different story. This time he not only stuck in the rotation, he was the Indians' best starter. He started his season with complete game, 10 strikeout performance against the Angels, and would earn his first of three All-Star appearances that July. In the postseason, Colon was by far the best starter on the staff. In Game 4 of the ALDS he pitched 5.2 innings, allowing just one run and keeping the Indians in the game. The Indians would later come back to win that game and face the 114-win Yankees in the ALCS. In Game 3 Colon pitched one of the best postseason games in franchise history, twirling a complete game and allowing just one run on four hits. Had the Indians been able to force a Game 7, Colon would have started it, and to this day I think the Indians would have faced the San Diego Padres instead of the Yankees in the World Series had that happened.

In 1999 Colon again was the ace of the staff, posting a 126 ERA+ and striking out 161 batters in 205 innings. He would finish fourth in AL Cy Young balloting. He pitched very well in Game 1 of the ALDS, going 8 strong innings as the Indians would eke out a 3-2 victory over the Red Sox. After the Indians won Game 2 rather easily, it seemed that Colon's next start would be against the Yankees in the ALCS. But after losing Game 3, Mike Hargrove panicked and sent Colon out on three day's rest to pitch Game 4. That decision might have cost him his job, as Colon was rocked and the Red Sox obliterated the Indians 23-7. Boston would win Game 5 the next day (with Nagy also pitching on three days' rest) to complete the shocking comeback.

Colon in 2000 was again the ace of the staff, but he was only one of three starters (Dave Burba and Chuck Finley being the others) to throw 100 innings or more. Colon did his part, including throwing a one-hit, 14-strikeout, shutout against the Yankees in New York, but a great offense couldn't make up for a dysfunctional back end of the rotation, so the Indians missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

That winter Manny Ramirez left for Boston, and the Indians reinvented themselves for one last run a title. bringing in Juan Gonzalez (on a one-year deal) and Ellis Burks to try to fill the gap that Ramirez left. And it worked, because although Colon (or the rest of the rotation for that matter) didn't have a great year, the offense carried them to another AL Central title. Colón dominated the 116-win Mariners in Game 1, throwing 8 shutout innings. In Game 4 he continued his shutout streak through the first six innings, but gave up three runs in the 7th inning, an inning that turned out to be the turning point of the series, as the Mariners would take Game 5 in Seattle to win the series.

That winter the Indians saw the departures of (among others) Kenny Lofton (free agent), Juan Gonzalez (free agent), and Roberto Alomar (trade), and this time the patches didn't work. The Indians, after a quick start, fell out of the race early, and by June it was obvious that the run was over. There wasn't anything left in the farm system, the payroll was maxed out, and the Indians were going to have to rebuild. Colon was signed through the 2003 season, but he was by the Indians' biggest trade chip, and GM Mark Shapiro decided not to wait until July to deal him. On June 27, 2002, the Indians made what turned out to be one of the best trades in franchise history, dealing Colon and Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos for Lee Stevens (who was salary relief) and three prospects, each of whom would make at least one All-Star team: Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore.

The Indians happened to be in the right place at the right time, because the Expos were contending with no guarantee that they'd even exist in a couple years. So GM Omar Minaya was willing to deal two of the 30 best prospects in baseball (plus Sizemore) to the Indians in order to perhaps go out with a bang in Montreal. As it turned out, the Expos would spend a couple more season in limbo before moving to Washington DC in 2005, and the new Washington Nationals would spend the rest of the decade trying to recover from the trade. Because although the Expos dealt Colon to the White Sox after the 2002 season, the return they got wasn't remotely close to what the gave up to get him in the first place. Although Bartolo pitched well in Montreal (finishing the season with a combined 147 ERA+), the Expos got a 36-year-old Orlando Hernandez (who didn't pitch an inning for Montreal), Rocky Biddle, and Jeff Liefer. So in effect Montreal made two disastrous Colon trades in the span of six months.

Colon would spend one season with the White Sox, then entered free agency. He signed a four-year, $51M contract with the Anaheim Angels, which was big bucks for that time, and although he "won" a Cy Young Award in 2004 over both Mariano Rivera and Johan Santana, by the end of his contract he was a mess. Colon had thrown over 200 innings seven times in eight seasons from 1998-2005, but he only threw a combined 155.2 innings with the Angels between 2006 and 2007, posting a hideous 6.34 ERA in 2007. He pitched with the Red Sox in 2008 and the White Sox in 2009 but couldn't sign with a team at all in 2010.

But in 2011 he caught in the Yankees, threw 164.1 decent innings, and that got him a contract with the Oakland A's in 2012. But in August, as the A's were mounting a furious playoff charge, Colon was suspended 50 games for testing positive for PED. He served the suspension and returned to the A's this season, and he's pitching as well at age 40 as he did in 202. He's certainly not the same pitcher he was while with the Indians, not being able to throw the ball by hitters now like he did when he was younger, but instead has become a control pitcher par excllence, only walking 16 batters in 135.2 innings this season. Assuming there's no more surprises from MLB, Colon isn't close to being finished at age 40.

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm ERA GS CG IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1997 24 CLE 5.65 17 1 94.0 107 59 12 45 66 83 10.2 1.1 4.3 6.3 1.47
1998 25 CLE 3.71 31 6 204.0 205 84 15 79 158 128 9.0 0.7 3.5 7.0 2.00
1999 26 CLE 3.95 32 1 205.0 185 90 24 76 161 126 8.1 1.1 3.3 7.1 2.12
2000 27 CLE 3.88 30 2 188.0 163 81 21 98 212 127 7.8 1.0 4.7 10.1 2.16
2001 28 CLE 4.09 34 1 222.1 220 101 26 90 201 110 8.9 1.1 3.6 8.1 2.23
2002 29 CLE 2.55 16 4 116.1 104 33 11 31 75 172 8.0 0.9 2.4 5.8 2.42
CLE (6 yrs) 3.92 160 15 1029.2 984 448 109 419 873 121 8.6 1.0 3.7 7.6 2.08
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/25/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL All-Star: 1998
  • AL Cy Young: 1999-4th
  • AL WAR Pitchers: 5th, 2000-4.8; 7th, 1999-4.4; 7th, 2001-4.5; 9th, 1998-4.4
  • AL ERA: 5th, 2000-3.88; 7th, 1999-3.95; 10th, 1998-3.71
  • AL Wins: 2nd, 1999-18; 9th, 2000-15
  • AL W/L Percentage: 2nd, 1999-.783; 9th, 2000-.652
  • AL WHIP: 4th, 1999-1.273
  • AL Hits/9 IP: 3rd, 2000-7.803; 4th, 1999-8.122
  • AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 2nd, 2000-10.149; 6th, 2001-8.136
  • AL Innings: 9th, 2001-223.1
  • AL Strikeouts: 2nd, 2000-212; 5th, 2001-201
  • AL Games Started: 3rd, 2001-34
  • AL Complete Games: 4th, 2002-4; 5th, 1998-6
  • AL Shutouts: 2nd, 2002-2; 4th, 2000-1; 5th, 1998-2; 6th, 1999-1
  • AL Home Runs: 8th, 2001-26
  • AL Bases on Balls: 3rd, 2001-90; 4th, 2000-98
  • AL Home Runs/9: 3rd, 1998-0.662; 9th, 2000-1.005
  • AL Losses: 8th, 2001-12
  • AL Adjusted Era+: 4th, 2000-127; 7th, 1999-125; 8th, 1998-128
  • AL Win Probability Added: 7th, 2000-3.0
  • AL Putouts as P: 4th, 1999-20
  • AL Errors as P: 2nd, 1997-5

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 17th WAR Pitchers (22.6)
  • t-23rd Wins (75)
  • 7th W/L Percentage (.625)
  • 34th Hits/9 IP (8.601)
  • 5th Strikeouts/9 IP (7.631)
  • 35th Innings Pitched (1029.2)
  • 12th Strikeouts (873)
  • t-22nd Games Started (160)
  • t-45th Complete Games (6)
  • 15th Home Runs (109)
  • 27th Bases on Balls (419)
  • 36th Hits (984)
  • 16th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.084)
  • t-49th Losses (45)
  • 29th Earned Runs (448)
  • 42nd Wild Pitches (24)
  • t-42nd Hit By Pitch (21)
  • 11th ERA+ (121)
  • 9th WPA (9.8)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-9th W/L Percentage (.783, 1999)
  • t-37th W/L Percentage (.714, 2002)
  • 3rd Strikeouts/9 IP (10.149, 2000)
  • 28th Strikeouts/9 IP (8.136, 2001)
  • 19th Strikeouts (212, 2000)
  • 21st Strikeouts (201, 2001)
  • t-31st Home Runs (26, 2001)
  • t-47th Home Runs (24, 1999)
  • 10th ERA+ (172, 2002)
  • t-50th WPA (3.0, 2000)

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