As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Patrick Corbin, who in his first year in D.C. made exactly the kind of impact the club hoped he would.
PLAYER REVIEW: PATRICK CORBIN
Age on opening day 2020: 30
How acquired: Signed as free agent, December 2018
MLB service time: 7 years, 105 days
2019 salary: $12.5 million (plus $2.5 million signing bonus)
Contract status: Signed for $19 million in 2020, $24 million in 2021, $23 million in 2022, $24 million in 2023, $35 million in 2024 ($10 million deferred)
2019 stats: 14-7, 3.25 ERA, 33 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 202 IP, 169 H, 81 R, 73 ER, 24 HR, 70 BB, 238 SO, 3 HBP, 1.183 WHIP, 141 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, 4.8 fWAR, 4.0 bWAR
2019 postseason stats: 2-3, 5.79 ERA, 8 G, 3 GS, 23 1/3 IP, 21 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 2 HR, 12 BB, 36 SO, 1 HBP, 1.414 WHIP
Quotable: “The makeup is great. The personality is great. The competitiveness is there. Now pitchers are pitchers. There’s always that inherent risk of a pitcher breaking down or getting hurt. But I thought this was a risk well taken. We love the makeup and the competitiveness, and we do think the needle is moving north.” - General manager Mike Rizzo, at Corbin’s introductory news conference, Dec. 7, 2018
2019 analysis: In signing Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract last winter, the Nationals believed they were getting not merely a solid No. 3 starter but another ace who could join forces with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and give them one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the majors. Based on the first-year results, they weren’t wrong.
Corbin may not have quite matched the performance of his rotation mates, but he was among the most consistently effective starters in the league. His 24 quality starts led the National League. He took the ball every fifth day, never dealing with injuries. He authored the only complete game on the Nats staff this season.
And though his postseason numbers as a whole don’t look great, Corbin truly made a difference in helping the Nationals win their first title because of his willingness to do whatever manager Davey Martinez asked of him. He wound up making only three starts (one in each round of the playoffs) but made five relief appearances, including his critical three innings of scoreless ball in Game 7 of the World Series. That outing alone helped justify his contract, not that it needed to be justified, given his overall performance.
2020 outlook: With Strasburg’s future in D.C. uncertain at the moment, and Scherzer turning 36 and coming off the first injury-plagued season of his career, Corbin’s value to the Nationals is only going to rise. He’s one of the few sure things they’ve got in their rotation right now. Which means it’s up to the lefty to prove this season was no outlier but rather the new norm for him. There’s ample reason to believe that’s true.
For starters, his slider legitimately is elite. Opponents hit just .158 off that pitch this season, which is identical to his career mark, even as he throws it more regularly. On top of that, his fastball has become more effective over the last two seasons. Opponents hit just .254 off his four-seamer the last two seasons, .310 prior to that. They hit .274 off his sinker the last two seasons, .305 prior to that.
Over the long haul, Corbin may have to start perfecting another off-speed pitch, most likely his changeup. His slider is so good that he’s able to be effective as essentially a two-pitch pitcher. But if he can develop a little more trust in his changeup (which opponents hit .370 against this year), he’ll have yet another viable option to confuse hitters and allow himself to became an even more complete pitcher.