Despite the big-name acquisitions, Patrick Corbin just might be the most important player for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
There is a lot to be excited about for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. The team possess arguably the most dynamic offensive one-two punch in Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. They made two big acquisitions to bolster their biggest weakness from a season ago, signing Zack Greinke and trading for Shelby Miller. The Snakes were the premier defensive team in 2015 and despite the loss of Ender Inciarte, should remain among the top units in baseball. Yet, there is one player who just might be the difference between the D-backs being a World Series contender in 2016 and not playing in October. That player would be Patrick Corbin.
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I like to refer to Arizona as having a “Big Five” for the next three seasons: Goldschmidt, Pollock, Corbin, Greinke and Miller. Fans have every reason to believe that the two hitters will once again post tremendous numbers at the dish and continue to play stellar defense. While Greinke’s ERA may not be below 1.70 again, he gives the D-backs an ace, a prerequisite for any team with playoff aspirations. Miller will surely get more than 58 runs of support next year. Corbin is the guy that is the wild card. Yes, he was an All-Star in 2013. However, he also faded during the second half of that season. He pitched to an ERA of over six from August 1st until the end of the season and allowed 82 hits in 64 innings including ten home runs. Was the fade over those last months a precursor to Tommy John surgery? Or was it a result of the amount of Major League innings he compiled after hurling only 107 the prior year?
After TJ surgery wiped out his 2014 season, Corbin came back to make 16 pretty effective starts last year. He pitched to a 3.60 ERA in 85 innings, striking out 78 while walking only 17. If he can maintain that momentum into 2016, the D-backs will have the makings of a really good staff. However, it should be noted that the dropoff between an effective Corbin and the remainder of the rotation is steep. The contenders for the last two spots are either inconsistent (Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray and Chase Anderson) or unproven (Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and Zack Godley). That is why it is crucial that the Corbin at the end of 2015 maintains that upward trajectory.
While any of the two or even all of those pitchers may turn out to be significant contributors, the fact is a team with title aspirations needs to have stability at the back end of the rotation. The D-backs don’t have that yet. That is why a Patrick Corbin that returns to his All-Star 2013 form will go a long way in helping the Arizona Diamondbacks reach playoff baseball.