A new pitcher on the mound doesn’t necessarily mean a different result. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, that was the case last week against the Rockies.
Patrick Corbin was supposed to right the ship after poor debuts from Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, but allowed four runs in seven innings.
Corbin didn’t make too many pitch location errors, but the three times he did the Rockies– not surprisingly– hit the ball out of the park. Chase Field is a pitcher’s worst nightmare if fastballs and off-speed stuff are middle-middle, middle away, and middle in. This is how the Rockies hit ten home runs in three games including four from Trevor Story, who is beginning to look a lot like Troy Tulowitzki.
Here are three things that Corbin needs to do to bounce back and deliver a quality outing tonight against the Dodgers.
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Improvement #1: Fastball command
Limiting the damage and avoiding the big inning is the key to pitching effectively and efficiently, and going deep into ball games.
It all starts with fastball command for any pitcher. He has to spot this pitch on the corners and keep it down, something he didn’t do in his first start. This resulted in a lot of hard-hit fly balls– some of which turned into homers. Avoiding the middle of the plate is critical as we saw the last two nights. This will allow Corbin to get ahead in the count, and use his off-speed stuff to put guys away and limit the pitch count per inning.
Improvement #2: Utilizing the rest of his repertoire correctly
When Corbin gets in a jam or needs a strikeout he will go to his hard slider, a pitch that former Rockies great Todd Helton called “One of the best I’ve ever seen.”
His slider generates a significant number of swings and misses compared to other pitchers sliders, and as a result it also generates more fly balls than most. Keeping it down is critical to get a strikeout.
He can go back door and front door, but unlike most sliders it has a lot of downward movement and its a pitch he can put in the dirt when he is ahead in the count.
The key for Corbin this season will be the use of his new weapon: a changeup. The pitch should look like a fastball coming out of his hand, and he will use it against righties as expected, but look for him to also utilize that pitch against the lefties in the lineup.
He was throwing that pitch for strikes this spring and it helped him post a 1.71 ERA this spring with 24 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched.
Improvement #3: Make teams swing the bats and keep the ball on the ground
This is ironic to say especially facing an offense like the Rockies, but it’s always better to make the opposing team figure out your stuff than give them a ton of free passes.
Every team is going to have to do that against Corbin this season. In 2013, Corbin walked just 2.33 batters per nine innings, and owns a career 2.16 BB/9 mark. In six starts coming back from Tommy John surgery, Corbin walked just 1.80 batters per nine innings.
Corbin owns a lifetime 2.99 ERA at Chase Field, second in ballpark history to Randy Johnson so another key will be to keep his good home vibes going and pitch well there.
He did allow nine home runs last season in just 85.0 innings pitched. Avoiding the long ball and maintaining his 46.4 ground ball percentage will be critical for Patrick as well.
With a healthy Corbin for the whole season, the Diamondbacks’ rotation has a chance to be one of the best in baseball.