In 2019, that trio in the photo were keys to winning a World Series for the Washington Nationals. Now, two seasons removed, those pitchers have been looking like three guys who have lost their way. Their current contracts are costing the team nearly $90 million in payroll just in 2021. In total, their investment by the team is $595 million in just their current contracts. That does not include Strasburg’s previous deal of $111 million that pushes the money over $700 million. The current obligation pays Patrick Corbin through 2024,Stephen Strasburg through 2026, while Max Scherzer is in his final year of his $210 million deal.
The calls are coming early for the Nats to trade Max Scherzer, and even though it looks ominous for the Nationals, it is just 10 games into the season.
Can you believe this? 10 games into the season and Fred Zinkie forgets the Nats won the World Series from a 19-31 record. Fred, do you remember that? It was just 1 year and 6 months ago. https://t.co/feliWD8sc5
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats) April 16, 2021
On Opening Day, Scherzer gave up a homer on the first pitch of the season, and three more solo home runs after that. Maybe that was a sign of what to expect. Strasburg was actually good in his first start, but his second start was painful to watch as he surrendered 8 runs.
“I’ve had bad [games] like this before in my career,” Strasburg said Tuesday night. “It’s a long season. It’s April. We’ve had kind of a very strange start to the season. Whatever you guys [in the media] want the narrative to be, that’s your call. I’m just going to give it everything I’ve got every start.”
So there you have your answer from Strasburg. But the velo was so low at times it was difficult to decipher if changeups were fastballs. His mechanics were off and it was clear he wasn’t following through with pitches. As one fan noted, “if you did not know better he looked like a position player pitching.”
Scherzer was better in his second start, and he will get his third start of this young season today. But Corbin has been awful in both of his starts.
Former Nats’ general manager, Jim Bowden, on his Sirius XM radio show said that he would order MRIs on Corbin’s elbow and shoulder just as a precaution to make sure he is physically alright. He said that after Corbin’s first start. Last night’s start was even worse. Yeesh. Where was the biting slider that is supposed to sweep glove-side left to right that darts under the zone? Those would be represented by yellow circles in the illustration below and 3 would be in the desired location. The easiest pitch for any pitcher to command is the 4-seam fastball — only two of those red dots were quality strikes, and a dozen were well out of the zone and five others were meatballs.
Clearly, Corbin is not right. He isn’t locating pitches. He was not right last year when he pitched to a 4.66 ERA which is borderline fifth starter or a DFA for most pitchers who aren’t on a $140 million deal.
The Nats are stuck with Strasburg and Corbin for years to come. They have to get both of them right. The questions legitimately begin with their health. Are they healthy?
“As you guys know, our starting pitching has been the backbone here,” manager Dave Martinez said late last night. “So we’ve got to get these guys right.”
“As long as these guys are healthy, these are two guys that we lean on and we count on, and I think it’s just a matter of time. We’ve been slowed by a lot of different things. One is Strasburg missed a lot of time last year. He’s got to come back, and Corbin started out on the COVID I.L., so we’ve got to get him back. I truly believe these guys will get back to their form here shortly, and we’ll get them rolling again.”
“As long as these guys are healthy” were the words Martinez used. What? Why don’t you know the answer to that. You have to know if your guys are healthy first and foremost, and if they are, then you work on the mechanics.
If Corbin was pulled earlier in the second inning instead of being allowed to finish it, maybe the Nats win that game 6-4. Once Jon Lester returns, the Nats would have Erick Fedde, Austin Voth, and hopefully one other reliever to pitch in long relief. But maybe the simple answer is to put Corbin on the IL now and do those MRIs and at least rule out if he is injured. If he is healthy, then send him to the Alternate Site to work out his issues. Doing that in MLB games that count is never a good idea. Throwing away games and taxing the bullpen is a recipe for disaster.