When you think of the worst contracts in baseball, a few come to mind right away. Eric Hosmer, David Price, Stephen Strasburg and Robinson Cano to name a few. Another that should pop into your mind is Strasburg’s teammate, Patrick Corbin. Not only is Corbin’s contract getting progressively worse for the Washington Nationals, so is his play. Let’s break it down and see what went wrong.
Prior to the 2019 season, Corbin signed a backloaded 6 year/$140 million contract with the Washington Nationals, coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The contract started out at $12.5M in year 1 and by year 6, Corbin would make $35M… $35M for a 34 year old whose best achievement so far has been 5th place in Cy Young voting in 2018, followed by an 11th place finish in 2019.
Now I know what you all are thinking. “Wait! Patrick Corbin helped the Nationals win a World Series so it was worth it!” Wrong. While he was an integral piece of the World Series run, that does not mean this contract is good. Since 2019, Corbin’s performance has taken a steep nosedive and things don’t look good for the near future.
To be fair, Corbin was very solid in 2019. He posted a 3.25 ERA across 202 innings, a 3.49 FIP and accumulated 4.7 fWAR over the season. Corbin was the pitcher the Nationals needed to win a World Series. However, after that season, things started to go very wrong for Corbin. Since the end of the 2019 season in just three years, Corbins K% has dropped 10%, BB% increased 1%, and AVG against has gone up .090 points. Corbin currently leads the league in losses, earned runs, and hits allowed amongst qualified pitchers this year.
While only increasing 1% over three years, Corbin ranks 3rd worst amongst qualified pitchers in BB/9 at 3.98, the highest rate in his career. Along with that, Corbin also ranks dead last amongst qualified pitchers in BABIP with a .369. Is he getting unlucky? Yes but he also isn’t putting himself in a great position to be lucky. While not the end all be all statistic of pitching, Corbin is also dead last in ERA this year at 6.96.
So what’s going wrong?
The Nationals roster from 2019 compared to 2022 does not bode well for providing support when Corbin takes the mound so this must be taken into consideration as well. However, there are a few changes that might be leading to the downfall of Patrick Corbin and the biggest one is inconsistency. Inconsistency in his mechanics.
Patrick Corbin is a fastball/slider combo guy who relies on swing and misses to get strikeouts. In 2019, the average vertical release point for Corbin’s fastball was 6.36 feet and the vertical release point for his slider was 6.26 feet. So far in 2022, Corbin’s fastball comes out at 6.45 feet and his slider at 6.37. Corbin’s slider is currently coming out at the same height as his fastball in 2019. Generally in terms of mechanics, the lower the release point for sliders (since they move east/west), the more effective the pitch should be. The more over a top a pitcher becomes when they try to throw a pitch that moves side to side, it doesn’t work out well.
Not only are these pitches coming out differently than they used to, they aren’t being thrown as much. In 2019, Corbin had a slider usage % of 37.3% with a K% of 68%. In 2022, that has dropped to 32% usage with a K% of 40%. Corbin has gone away from what got him the contract in the first place and this change is drastically costing him his performance. There are many things to take into consideration but the biggest red flag to me when looking at Corbin’s struggles are simply his mechanics.
For both Corbin and the Nationals’ sake, I hope that the pitching coaches can notice these changes and make the necessary adjustments to the mechanics in order to get the most out of Patrick Corbin in what he has left in his contract.