The Ascension Of Patrick Corbin

By J. Levi Burnfin

I think I was wrong.

During spring training, despite Patrick Corbin outperforming Tyler Skaggs, I thought Skaggs should get the fifth starting spot in the rotation. So far this season, I’ve been proven very, very wrong.

Last season, Corbin had a 4.54 ERA, and despite flashes of effectiveness, he looked to be a pitcher with league-average upside, but that’s about it.

He didn’t have one pitch that looked like a plus pitch. His fastball was decent coming from a left-hander, his slider was looping and his change up was pretty ordinary. All were capable of being thrown with some effectiveness, but nothing was good enough to make Corbin a top-of-the-rotation starter.

But this season, Corbin is different. His fastball is better, above average from the left side, which makes his change up more effective in turn. His average velocity in 2012, according to Brooks Baseball, was 91.49 mph. In three starts this season, it has jumped to 92.88 mph.

That doesn’t seem like much but 1.5 mph is a pretty sizable jump. Corbin is sitting 91-92 now and flashes 94-95 in certain instances.

With the downward movement in his two-seamer, Corbin can now rely on his fastball in any count. Combined with a change up that is now a full 10 mph slower than the fastball, Corbin has an effective two-pitch starting point.

But his out pitch looks like it is now his slider. It looks sharper with a more explosive movement down and away from lefties. The big difference is that Corbin can now also use it against righties by throwing a slider that breaks towards the back foot of the hitter. It’s effective. And it may just be the pitch that turns Corbin from a 4 or 5 to a 2 or 3 in the rotation. It may be the pitch that proves me all wrong. And I’ll be happy to see it happen.