The Nationals made it official today, naming Patrick Corbin as their Opening Day starter for March 30 against the Atlanta Braves.
I have many thoughts on this. The prevailing thought is that I feel this is a big missed opportunity for the Nationals. They are in the midst, really the beginning, of a rebuild but also have two young arms in their rotation that will be key contributors for their future. With the turning of the page of the franchise and the well-named stars we grew to know and love all gone, it would have been a great opportunity to symbolically pass the torch to either Josiah Gray or MacKenzie Gore and give them the honor of starting on Opening Day. And it would not even be as if they didn't deserve it either, as both Gray and Gore have had strong performances starting games during Spring Training.
If it were me, I absolutely would have given the ball to Josiah Gray on Opening Day. I know he struggled last year, but his performance this spring has all Nats fans buzzing. In 12.1 innings, he pitched to a 0.73 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. Exceptional numbers for the young righty who is looking to get back on track and settle in this season. His last appearance was his best of the spring and has him looking ready for the season to start.
Nevertheless, the Nationals opted to give the ball to Patrick Corbin. It is not entirely a surprise, as Corbin is making quite a lot of money and is the longest tenured member (who is healthy) of the Nationals rotation, a notion that is quite jarring when you think about it. To his credit, Patrick Corbin hasn't had a bad Spring Training either. Through 14 innings this spring, Corbin pitched to a 3.86 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. If those are anywhere close to the numbers we get from Corbin this season, I think all Nationals fans would be ecstatic, especially after the past three years of MLB worst marks from the southpaw.
For me personally, I am very much in the wait-and-see camp when it comes to Patrick Corbin. The analytics scream that he is more 2020-2022 Patrick Corbin than 2018-2019 Patrick Corbin, and obviously recent history tells us the same. There have been tweaks and modifications, but Corbin has a long way to go to get back to his former self. The Nationals are just hoping they can salvage some value from the remainder of the contract. At least we'll always have his performance in the 2019 playoffs.
The Nationals got a few strong performances out of their starting rotation to finish the spring, so on a more positive note, there is hope that this rotation will at least be better than last season. Here are the full lines for each starter's last appearance:
- Patrick Corbin - 6 IP, 5 Hits, 1 Run, 0 Walks, 5 Strikeouts
- Josiah Gray - 6 IP, 4 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Walks, 5 Strikeouts
- MacKenzie Gore - 6 IP, 2 Hits, 0 Runs, 1 Walk, 8 Strikeouts
- Trevor Williams - 6 IP, 4 Hits, 1 Run, 2 Walks, 5 Strikeouts
- Chad Kuhl* - 5 IP, 4 Hits, 1 Run, 1 Walk, 5 Strikeouts
*not yet declared to be on the Opening Day roster
All statistics retrieved from Major League Baseball.