Is Patrick Corbin finally back?
When Washington signed Patrick Corbin to a six-year deal worth $144 million in 2019, expectations were high for the lefty. He was coming off of a career year and his signing meant the end of the Bryce Harper era.
In his first year in the Nation’s Capital, Corbin was exceptional, going 14-7, with a 3.25 ERA, 238 strikeouts, and a 3.49 FIP. Corbin teamed up with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to form arguably the best trio in the National League.
Thanks in part to Corbin, Washington earned a Wild Card spot, sending them on one of the wildest playoff runs in recent memory. In the playoffs, he became the team’s best reliever, throwing three shutout innings of relief in Game Seven of the World Series.
Corbin almost lived up to the entire contract in year one, helping the Washington Nationals finally get over the hump. Sadly, since then he has struggled, making his contract look worse and worse. During the 2020 season Corbin was continually shelled, finishing the season 2-7, with a 4.66 ERA, 60 strikeouts, and a 4.17 FIP.
The lefty was doomed by control issues which led to an excessive number of walks. In the past, Corbin relied on establishing his fastball early, because it helped set up his slider. But Corbin was unable to do so, continually falling behind in counts. As a result, Corbin would be forced to throw something over the plate, which was usually taken for a ride. When he did throw his slider, opposing batters started laying off it more and more.
Corbin’s struggles followed him into the 2021 season. Through Corbin’s first two starts, he allowed 15 runs across 6.1 innings, striking out six and walking eight. However, since the start of May, Corbin has looked like his old self. In three starts this month, he is 2-0, with a 2.70 ERA, and 15 strikeouts.
In his most recent start against the Phillies, the veteran only allowed one run across seven innings. He also struck out a season-high nine and walked none.
Nick Pollack of PitcherList tweeted out an interesting chart that suggests Corbin is on the upswing.
Most notably, Corbin was able to generate an increased amount of swings and misses on his slider. That pitch is his bread and butter, which used to rack up plenty of strikeouts. It is reassuring to see opponents starting to chase after it once again.
Since the start of the 2020 season, Corbin has experienced a drop in his velocity, most notably on his changeup and slider. Throughout his nine-year career, Corbin rarely throws his changeup, only an average of 7.4% of the time. However, in 2019, it averaged 81.8 mph, but it fell to 77.8 mph in 2020. Against the Phillies, his changeup was averaging 84.3 mph.
Corbin’s slider is his second most utilized pitch, being thrown 32% of the time throughout his career. In 2019, it averaged 81.7 mph but decreased to 79.2 mph in 2020. This season, it has dropped even further, now averaging 78.6 mph. But in his most recent start, his slider averaged 80.8 mph.
The uptick in velocity bodes well for the veteran moving forward. His pitches have extra movement, his command has improved greatly, and Corbin has been able to keep opponents off-guard. Corbin will need to continue this pace and will be tested tonight against a veteran Chicago Cubs lineup.