(Can a brotha get a stem cell injection? Courtesy of The AP)
I strongly stress the "might" in that title, because if the playoffs started tomorrow I think it goes without saying that Colon would be included in whatever 4 pitchers Joe decides to go with. Right now he's better than A.J. and healthier than Freddy Garcia, and his body of work over the course of this year provides a convincing case that he would give the Yankees a better chance to win against their likely opponents in the AL playoffs.
But it is also a fair statement to say that Colon has not been the same pitcher in July and August that he was from April to June. Since his July 2nd return from his DL stint, a game in which he tossed 6 shutout innings against the Mets, Bart has seen his ERA climb almost a full run from 2.88 to 3.72. His monthly ERA and FIP numbers have been higher in July than earlier in the year, and their highest of the season in August (5.73 ERA/5.97 FIP in 22 August IP). This has been in conjunction with a dramatic increase in baserunners allowed (WHIP in the 1.5s in July-August vs. low 1.00s from April-June) and a sharp decrease in K/9 (season-low 5.73 in August).
All this points back to the workload question that everyone knew would hang over Bartolo for the whole season. His 131 IP are more than he had thrown in the last 3 seasons combined, and those additional innings seem to be starting to take their toll on Bart. Earlier in the season he thrived on his 2-seam fastball, using its zip and pinpoint location to rock guys to sleep. He was very effective with the pitch and was able to work quickly through lineups and go deeper into games. Now that pitch appears to be losing some of its luster, it's getting hit more and Bartolo isn't able to navigate through lineups as smoothly. As a result, he's throwing more pitches, isn't able to work efficiently into the later innings of games, and he admitted last night that he went away from the 2-seamer to the 4-seamer because of how much the 2-seamer had gotten smacked around recently.
Last night was the perfect example of the difference between early-season Bart and present day Bart. He was good but not great through 6 innings, giving up 3 runs to the weak Oakland offense, the same offense he threw 7 innings of 2-run ball against in July and the same offense he threw 9 innings of shutout ball against in May. When he came out for the 7th, he was tired and didn't have the same life on his pitches and he ended up allowing 2 more runs before Joe yanked him.
A couple months ago, the 7th inning against the Oakland A's would have been easy street for Bartolo and we would have killed Joe for taking him out. Last night, that same 7th inning was probably too much to ask for from Bart and it would be easy to kill Joe for leaving him in. It's understandable that Bartolo would be slowing down with the workload he's had this year, and I'm not going to criticize the guy for it, but it is something that needs to be recognized and addressed by the Yankees and managed properly by Joe moving forward.