Opinion: Patrick Corbin should be shutdown for the remainder of 2021

Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

With the Washington Nationals season in evaluation mode for the remainder of this 2021 season, it is the perfect time to shut Patrick Corbin down in my opinion. Let him work on his mechanics away from prying eyes.  With his ERA ballooning to 6.04 in tonight’s game, there is nothing to see right now. His 32-year-old arm can get some rest and a reset, while the lefty tries to figure out things away from the spotlight.

Corbin was acquired by the Nationals before the 2019 season as a free agent, and he was a key part of the World Series championship. But he signed a lucrative six-year deal, not a one-year deal, and his $140 million contract will be halfway completed after this season finishes with $70 million still due.

The Nats were hoping that Corbin figured it out in the month of August, but clearly he has not and Corbin says he really doesn’t have an answer. While his slider has looked better in his last three starts, he still is giving up hard contact on his fastball as well as on his softest deliveries. He just is not missing enough barrels. His reliance on his fastball (2-seam and 4-seam) and his slider have led to his success in his career, and right now they are not enough.

For some reason, he continues to try to mix in a few changeups and curveballs each game. The stats backup that he should not be throwing the current versions of his curveball or changeup. The slugging percentage against the changeup is .692 and 2.333 against the curveball. Why continue to throw those pitches until you can turn them into ‘plus’ pitches?

“I really don’t have an answer,” Corbin said after the game. “I don’t think it is mechanical or physical. I’m just not getting results. … Obviously it’s been frustrating. … I’m just not executing.”

If Corbin cannot figure it out, the team probably would not cut him, but maybe he could reinvent himself. Obviously manager Dave Martinez, pitching coach Jim Hickey, and general manager Mike Rizzo have to put their heads together on a plan.

When you look at Corbin’s stats, it is his worst ERA and FIP of his career, but it is not the worst WHIP of his career which then has you looking at his HR rate which is by far the highest of his career at a 2.0 HR/9.  Corbin’s hard hit rate is at 40.3% and the balls are travelling as they are getting him on a higher launch angle.

In Nationals’ history,  Corbin’s 126.2 innings is the worst in terms of ERA in the team’s history. Next up in the way back machine was the 5.57 over 190.2 innings by Ramon Ortiz in 2006. This is a team principled in the value of winning with starting pitching. We have seen starters with better results get DFA’d for less. But none of them were getting paid Corbin’s salary. Ortiz’s tenure with the Nats was just that one season at about a tenth of what Corbin is earning.

Thinking you can fix Corbin seems to center around the slider. Just this week Devan Fink, a college student at Dartmouth, wrote a fantastic piece for Fangraphs on Corbin. While Fink zeroed in on the slider, my report is on the entire body of work.

Corbin’s pitching success has been built on striking out his opponents. with a K/9 rate of 10.6 in 2019 that has dropped to 7.1 this year. What we also see is that Corbin’s third time through the opposing batting order has not been good as the batter’s are smashing  slashing .356/ .403/ .703/1.106. Corbin said he isn’t tiring towards the end of his starts, but batter’s are clearly seeing him better and capitalizing in their third at-bats against him. In addition,  Corbin’s swing & miss percentage is down to 23.9% this season, and that is his lowest since 2016 and his K% is the lowest of his entire career.

So clearly this is broken. You cannot go into 2022 with Corbin giving up 4 to 5 runs per outing and burning out his bullpen on his pitching days. The Cubs just DFA’d Jake Arrieta yesterday as his ERA is also over 6.00, but his contract was expiring at the end of the season, and the former Cy Young award winner is 35 years old.  With Arrieta not active, Corbin is now the de facto worst starter in baseball. Corbin is 32 years old, and the Washington Nationals braintrust has to figure this out with Corbin in the same room. How do you get him right for 2022, 2023, and 2024?  There must be a meeting of the minds here.

“I think a lot of people forget he was, for lack of a better word, abused in 2019 in the playoff run,” teammate Ryan Zimmerman said. “He did things that he has never done before for us to win that World Series. I think people think that you just recover from that, come back the next year and everything is fine.”

Well, “next year” would have been 2020. This is now two seasons removed from the World Series season. Is Zimmerman saying Corbin is ruined?

If the Nats did shutdown Corbin, which is highly unlikely, who would take his place? There are actually many choices like Sterling Sharp and Josh Rogers who are both pitching in Triple-A. The team also called up Sean Nolin this week for a spot start, and he is still active. None of the alternatives are great, but at this point you have to fix Corbin.

Everyone will have opinions on Corbin, and many will disagree. But continuing on the current path just makes little sense. Corbin must get back to basics and reinvent himself. Again, what he did in 2019 was great, but again, this was not a one-year deal.

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