PLAYER REVIEW: PATRICK CORBIN
Age on opening day 2021: 31
How acquired: Signed as free agent, December 2018
MLB service time: 8 years, 105 days
2020 salary: $19 million (prorated $7,453,703)
Contract status: Signed for $24 million in 2021, $23 million in 2022, $24 million in 2023, $35 million in 2024 ($10 million deferred)
2020 stats: 2-7, 4.66 ERA, 11 GS, 0 CG, 65 2/3 IP, 85 H, 35 R, 34 ER, 10 HR, 18 BB, 60 SO, 0 HBP, 1.569 WHIP, 99 ERA+, 4.17 FIP, 1.2 fWAR, 1.8 bWAR
Quotable: “Maybe all year the ball just wasn’t coming out as it normally does. Not really sure why that was. I just want to go into next year, hopefully a normal season where you are able to build up, get your arm strength there and be ready to make 33 starts.” – Corbin
2020 analysis: Corbin’s first season with the Nationals went about as swimmingly as they could have envisioned, capped off by his dominant relief performance in Game 7 of the World Series. The left-hander’s second year in town was an entirely different story.
With Stephen Strasburg essentially nonexistent in 2020 due to his wrist injury, Corbin took on added responsibility as the Nats’ No. 2 starter behind Max Scherzer. The good news: He made 11 starts and earned “quality start” distinction in six of them. The bad news: The Nationals won only two of those starts, none after Aug. 10.
Some of that was a lack of run support. Corbin was on the mound for four 3-2 losses, plus a 2-1 loss. But he never did look dominant, and the most telling evidence of that was the fact he posted the highest WHIP among all qualifying major league starters.
How did Corbin get hit so hard? Opponents pounded his fastball, batting .392 and slugging .594 off the pitch. (Last season, those numbers were .267 and .446, respectively.) In perhaps a related development, Corbin’s average fastball velocity was down to 90.2 mph from 91.8 mph in 2019.
His slider remained effective, and that’s always going to be his go-to pitch, one of the best in baseball. But as always, Corbin’s breaking ball only works when it’s paired with a fastball that keeps hitters honest. Opponents hit that fastball so well, they didn’t need to worry about the slider.
2021 outlook: With four years remaining on his $140 million contract, Corbin isn’t going anywhere. And with Scherzer turning 36 and Strasburg coming back from wrist surgery, the Nationals will again be counting on their high-priced lefty to not only stay healthy but to return to the elite form he displayed in 2019.
The hope is that a full offseason and full spring training will help him regain his lost fastball velocity. If that doesn’t happen, he’s going to face a real challenge to reinvent himself on the fly. At 31, he should still have plenty of life in his arm.
If he can command his fastball, avoid too much hard contact and perhaps incorporate his changeup a little bit more, Corbin has the ability to remain a top-flight starter and help the Nationals rotation return to its rightful place as one of the sport’s best.