Bartolo Colon and the importance of outfield defense

Maggie Wiggin, Contributor

Good defense is always an advantage for any pitcher, but it’s practically a necessity when Bartolo Colon is on the mound.

Colon is known for pounding the strike zone, throwing over 68 percent of his pitches for strikes in the last three years. Batters make a lot of contact against him, and put a lot of balls in play, so the onus is on the defense behind him to turn them in to outs.


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As a fly-ball pitcher, he is particularly dependent on strong outfield defense. In his two years in Oakland, he had the good fortune to pitch in front of an outfield that ranked in the top 10 in both defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating (UZR).

This bodes well for his chances of success with the Mets, if the team commits to an outfield of Chris Young, Juan Lagares, and Curtis Granderson on a regular basis, which could very well be the best defensive outfield in baseball in 2014. Additionally, Citi Field’s park factors are similar to those of Oakland Coliseum, which will limit his home run rate.

Swapping out any one of these strong defenders for below-average outfielders Eric Young Jr. and/or Lucas Duda would have a negative impact on Colon’s performance; as well as on the outcomes for Dillon Gee, who puts up a similar fly-ball rate.

To maximize the return on one of their biggest offseason investments, the Mets need to give Colon the tools he needs to succeed. Additionally, if they plan to trade him (or Gee, for that matter) at the trade deadline or during the next offseason, bolstering his numbers with good defense could help the Mets net a larger return. They have the resources available to give Colon this boost and it’s in the team’s best interest to make it happen.




66 comments
Jake Hunter
Jake Hunter

Lugares should NOT be the starting center fielder. The bottom line is he has no upside offensively. That's great he can play defense but at this level you need to hit if your going to be a starting outfielder.

Eric Young on the other hand does have offensive upside. Sure he didn't have a great average last year but he give the lineup an element of speed. Also if terry Collins is thinking about batting the pitcher 8th, Eric Young would fit perfectly in the 9 whole with Chris Young leading off. Eric Young also gives you a good small ball player who will get the runner over, cause havoc on the bases, and play with high energy that is fun to watch. I don't think Lugares can be that guy. Having Ruben Tejada and Lugares in the same lineup is pretty much two free outs. That would be the weakest combo to have in a lineup as there is in the mlb. If you want to play Lugares every 5th day when Colon pitches, I think that's reasonable. But starting him day in and day out would be a MISTAKE! Give Eric Young his shot

Jake Hunter
Jake Hunter

Lugares should NOT be the starting center fielder. The bottom line is he has no upside offensively. That's great he can play defense but at this level you need to hit if your going to be a starting outfielder.

Eric Young on the other hand does have offensive upside. Sure he didn't have a great average last year but he give the lineup an element of speed. Also if terry Collins is thinking about batting the pitcher 8th, Eric Young would fit perfectly in the 9 whole with Chris Young leading off. Eric Young also gives you a good small ball player who will get the runner over, cause havoc on the bases, and play with high energy that is fun to watch. I don't think Lugares can be that guy. Having Ruben Tejada and Lugares in the same lineup is pretty much two free outs. That would be the weakest combo to have in a lineup as there is in the mlb. If you want to play Lugares every 5th day when Colon pitches, I think that's reasonable. But starting him day in and day out would be a MISTAKE! Give Eric Young his shot to play Lugares every 5th day when Colon pitches, I think that's reasonable. But starting him day in and day out would be a MISTAKE! Give Eric Young his shot

Brian Descovich
Brian Descovich

Second to worst slugging % in the NL, but by all means focus on outfield defense.   

This fan base is in denial.    I like Lagares's defense too, but if you can't hit - you can't be a starting OF in the major leagues.  


 Lagares, EYoung, and Duda don't hit enough to even warrant breaking camp with the big league club.

Doubleday
Doubleday

... And speaking of line-up projections, I love the new batting order of Maggie talking baseball, and Matt writing about Mr. Met's Twitter presence.

Doubleday
Doubleday

Here is what I like - Chris Young already has an entire season under his belt of playing outfield defense behind Bartolo Colon.

metswest
metswest

More Maggie, less Cerrone.

hashburry
hashburry

I thought Boyz 2 Men was the biggest off season investment.

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

I think we need Maggie to have a sit down with Terry and explain this to him in the simplest terms possible.

Kevin Hurd
Kevin Hurd

I can't believe people are still referring to Lucas Duda as an outfielder.

Peter Weintraub
Peter Weintraub

I don't get where the notion of Eric Young Jr. being a poor defender comes from. Last year, he was a runner-up in the Gold Glove voting among Left Fielders, and he didn't look weak, either from a statistical or personal point-of-view. 


Now, Duda, on the other hand, is a completely different story...

rubiconx0
rubiconx0

just wondering if The Mets might take a chance and sign Brett Wallace who was just released by the Astros, he's not great but might be another option and alternative at 1B to our two studs Davis and Duda?

eric88
eric88

How will we score?

adam
adam

I'm fine with a Lageres/EY/Cy platoon in CF/LF. Lucas Duda stinks.

rico
rico

You need good D to give young pitchers confidence (and a chance)


I don't think you have to worry about Duda in right and EY is a decent fielder. 


I'm more concerned with a PRO shortstop and a real hitter at 1st.


Gotta score runs to win games. I see a lot of 4-1 losses this year



Grove Peate
Grove Peate

That below average outfielder was in the running for a gold glove last year....Lageras...Chris Young and Grandy were not.Lagares had the most assists for the games he played....but EYjr did ignite this club when he came here.He also won a SB title too boot.

Zach Ripple
Zach Ripple

I'm beginning to come around to EY starting primarily over Lagares. While I think he should also get decent playing time, EY is a better offensive weapon and is no slouch on defense. He was the best defensive left fielder in baseball last year. Despite only playing about half a season's worth in left field, he had the third-most putouts, fourth-most assists and was tops in range factor. I'm sorry, but if he improves even minimally with the bat, he is going to become one of the most valuable leadoff men in the game.

likeike
likeike

I think fans tend to overlook defense as an important component of winning games.  Outs and runs are literally the two most valuable commodities in the game of baseball.  Lagares turns doubles into outs... he turns extra bases into outs... he prevents advances on the base paths. 


The argument on the blogs (and the booth) is that you need a leadoff hitter.  EYJ posted a .310 OBP last year (the most games he's play in a single season).  In what world is that OBP worthy of a leadoff hitter?  What makes anyone think he can significantly improve that?  He's 28, which right around when players start peaking. EYJ's value is strictly in his base stealing ability.  His best OBP year is equal to Duda's best OBP year (same among of games played).


*People who hate sabrmetrics please stop reading*

EYJ: 148 games 0.8 WAR

Juan: 121 games 2.9 WAR


I really don't think there is much of an argument.  Leadoff hitter is over rated. EJY can get steals off the bench as well. 


mets2891
mets2891

We better have a good defensive outfield since the Mets obviously don't give a rats a** about infield defense.

James Godfrey
James Godfrey

I'm actually excited to see a full season of EY. He's never really been given a solid shot as a regular player. He was pinned down in Colorado and it got to the point where a change of scenery was a good thing.

His minor league #'s suggest that he's going to be able to get on base. I just think he needs more consistent at bats, which started for him last year with the Mets. I hope that continues.

As for his defense, I don't get it...This blog writer writes that he's a subpar defensive OF, but she failed to mention that he was a finalist for the Gold Glove last season in LF. While I think it's fair to say that he's not the defensive OF that the other 3 guys are, he's far from sub par.

What this discussion really comes down to is who will hit leadoff? The best option for that just happens to be EY. I know his OBP needs to improve, but the same is said for the other options. And I do think he's going to get better.

Still, there's going to be a platoon going out there. We're probably going to see CY sit some against sold RH pitchers. We'll see Grandy sit some against solid LH pitchers. CY, Lagares, and Grandy will play quite a bit in Colon's starts, maybe Gee as well. But these guys will all play....

Derek Gaines
Derek Gaines

Not sure I would call EY a below average outfielder considering he was a gold glove finalist last year

Kevin Bishopp
Kevin Bishopp

Good defense makes any pitcher better, not just Colon or Gee. I'd value Lagares' defense over EY's potential offense which might not be much better, even if his presence in the lineup creates a possibly more productive lineup than one wit Lagares in it.

Christopher Masiello
Christopher Masiello

I totally agree. Combining a very good fly ball pitcher with a large outfield and some excellent fielders makes for an actual "PLAN" as opposed to "the plan".

Throw strikes and catch the ones that they hit - interesting concept.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

Very well said.

Considering the offense would be neglible between EYJ and Lagares, the outfield has to be Lagares, Grandy and CYoung.

Coq de Pierre
Coq de Pierre

@Peter Weintraub He's an OK outfielder. He seems prone to bad jumps, bad routes, and has trouble going back on balls.


He makes some diving catches, but more than a few of those stem from poor process (an early mistake) and good recovery (speed).

Doubleday
Doubleday

@Victor Triguero  How can he be the quarterback AND run any route?  You are mixing your metaphors, and for the record - this is BASEBALL.

metstastic
metstastic

You need to score runs to give young pitchers confidence.

likeike
likeike

@Grove Peate  Gold Glove award is a popularity contest LITERALLY voted by the managers and coaches.  Also... igniting the team?  What does that even mean?  Can you quantify that. 

oleosmirf
oleosmirf

@likeike A .310 OBP is not very good, but it's still much better than Lagares and his .281 which is why it's not a slam dunk decision.


Young might not have been very good at the plate he was far better than Lagares and give that Lagares has never been a top prospect, there is no expectation that he will get much better.


I'm not saying Lagares shouldn't start, but Young is a much better hitter right now and has the speed to go with it.

nolrog
nolrog

@mets2891 Weren't they talking about playing Duda in the OF as well?  And there's been a lot of discussion about Lagares not starting.  Seems that they don't care much about OF D either.

nolrog
nolrog

@Derek Gaines Gold Glove finalist?  Seriously?  The gold glove is a total joke.  Rafael Palmiero won one and he barely played the field.  Let's not use gold glove as evidence of anything.

imissshea
imissshea

@Derek Gaines Wow! I was going to write "how deep will I have to dig before someone brings up the EY, Jr. Gold Glove situation?" And here it was, the very first comment I saw! Gold Gloves are MEANINGLESS!!!

metstastic
metstastic

That sounds like Duda but not EY.

Grove Peate
Grove Peate

So far this spring EY has had one ball go over his head.Lagares three with one badly mispladed...DenDecker 5..Chris Young didn't get to one and fell down on another...Grandy two over and one in front that he should have caught.I live down here and go to camp everyday.

Now as a pure leadoff hitter.Hit .313 /.387 obp with a 10 % walk rate with the Mets last year.He was 3rd behind Coo and Fowler last year in leading off a game or inning.168 times.Batting 8th .250.The NL avg for an 8 hitter was .240.

Blame Collins if you want but EYjr is a leadoff hitter and a far better outfielder then given credit fore.They don't give style points for making catches just outs .

Grove Peate
Grove Peate

When he led off in a game or an inning he hit nearly .300 with an OBA of .350.Stole bases...played up to gold glove defense....ignited some excitement to the other players that the front office was improving the team.Even Murphy stop swinging at first pitches when he was on base and improved his base runing.Lagares didn't have to cover for Duda anymore.They played better ball period.

metstastic
metstastic

So now you are saying EY is popular.

marcbklyn
marcbklyn

@oleosmirf But, he's not anywhere near the bottom like Duda (46th), who outranks just Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown on that chart. He ranked 19 out of 48, ahead of many including Bryce Harper. He is not a below average left fielder. It is nonsense throw EY in with Duda.

likeike
likeike

@oleosmirf @likeike  EYJ is a much better hitter?  He's a marginally better in average, OBP, he's worse than LG in slugging. The numbers are available for everyone to see this.  EYJ has had years to prove he's not very good.  LG is entering his 2nd season. Arguably more upside with LG.

adam
adam

Umm. Do we remember it was a blown call that kept the no hitter in tact?

sayhey24
sayhey24

The problem with CY is that he can only hit lefties. The fact that he was an all star a few years ago was more predicated on the fact that he had a great first half that year. The years before and after that he was not very good overall outside of empty power numbers and he has trended downward since 2010. No GM would have let him go if they were confident that he could produce offensively, considering his defensive skills. As such, I think the best solution to maximize our offensive potential in the OF would be some sort of platoon situation. I can't conceive one that will work well though.

vimets
vimets

Defensively Chris Young is a very good center fielder, but I don't think his defense is better then Largares.

adam
adam

@chasesimms My bad. I just hate that us Mets fans hang are hat on "NO-Hitter" like we won the WS. It ruined Johan' s career!

72tilltc
72tilltc

@sylow59 Some baseball people know more than fans and some fans know more than baseball managers and front office. Arte Howe Terry if you want to bow to every moron go ahead. It ismnt all or none. Marge Schott IsaiahThomas Rich Kotite to name a few. I wasnt kidding Terry Sandy and the Wilpons are as stupid as they come . They hired Arte They signed Ankiel etc They think Terry is bright!

Christopher Masiello
Christopher Masiello

@Victor Triguero @Steven MatregranoWhy are we arguing if CY or Lagares are better? They are CLEARLY the 2nd and 3rd best outfielders overall and the 2 best defenders.

Give one Center and the other Left and super-sub EYjr. DONE!

Having EYjr on the bench gives you way more flexibility. You can pinch run/hit him at any point in the game. Then, he can go in as an OF or 2B. This still let's them keep Murphy in the game by shifting him to 1st.

What can you do with CY or Lagares on your bench? Replacement outfielder - not much else.

72tilltc
72tilltc

@Steven Matregrano By your stupid theory that baseball people know more then fans consider this.  EY was released by a gm of a good team he stinks and a GM and Manager think so. Your reliance on idiot Terry and dumber Sandy is stupid!