Patrick Corbin and Solo Home Run Situations
Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin had a breakout 2013 campaign, going 14-8 with 3.7 WAR. A UCL injury sustained during Spring Training cost him his 2014 follow-up. After the strong results of the Solo home run situation study with Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey, I was excited to examine the 24-year old Corbin, whose strikeout rate is significantly lower than the two power righties. How did Corbin fare in Solo home run situations? Was he in line with Fernandez and Harvey, or were there other factors in play?
First, the benefit to looking at Patrick Corbin versus Fernandez and Harvey: he is a different kind of pitcher. For the sake of baseline comparisons, 2013 rates will be used since Corbin and Fernandez were healthy all season, and Harvey logged 178 innings pitched.
In 2013, Patrick Corbin had the highest first pitch strike percentage among qualified starters. Half the time, he threw first-pitch sinkers, an offering Corbin used to great effect. Pitchers can use the sinker to induce weaker contact — especially on the ground (Corbin ranked in the top-30 for ground ball rate). A glimpse into Corbin’s approach: get ahead of the batter using the sinker and break out the slider in strikeout counts.
However, strikeouts weren’t a big part of Corbin’s game. He logged a K/9 of 7.69 in 2013, over two full batters less than both Fernandez and Harvey. The two right-handers were strikeout artists with K% rates in the top five in baseball, whereas Corbin was 35th. Corbin had the stuff to get strikeouts, with positive pitch values on his fastball and slider, but it’s clear he set up batters differently than Fernandez and Harvey.
Over the last two weeks, research showed Fernandez and Harvey logged 68.5% and 66.3% of their innings in Solo Home Run situations. The emphasis on a pitcher needing his best pitch, every pitch gained context with the two right-handers, since their clubs’ runs scored were below average. In this respect, Corbin’s Diamondbacks were above average.
2012: 107 IP overall, 55 IP +/- 1 run (51.4%)
2013: 208.1 IP overall, 131.1 IP +/- 1 run (63.0%)
Patrick Corbin threw 59.1% of his innings ahead or behind by one run, or tied. The better offensive output logic is supported by a greater rate of innings thrown with a three-run lead, which was added in each case to provide more context. Here, the career rates for all three pitchers look relevant:
More of Patrick Corbin’s story is revealed. The ability to throw first pitch strikes is aided two-fold, at least in our three-pitcher sample. First, he has more innings logged where one swing of the bat doesn’t affect the game as much, both in terms of more innings with a three-run lead and a lower Solo home run situation rate. Second, his sinker also limits the offensive impact of most swings. Looking into Corbin’s Solo home run rates with more offensive support allows us to see an example of a pitcher throwing to greater contact with lower strikeout rates and is more effective than dominant.
Takeaways from Patrick Corbin and Solo HR Situations
Patrick Corbin’s approach might have made him a better candidate to avoid surgery, but he was one of the first to go under the knife this season. As the initial purpose of the study was to explore the various stresses of being a starting pitcher, there’s always more to complete the picture. Here, velocity might be in play.
When asked about the increased number of pitchers sustaining UCL injuries, Corbin offered this quote:
Guys are throwing harder and harder and maybe that could have something to do with it.
Pitchers throwing with high velocity and pitchers throwing harder are different. Jose Fernandez throws his fastball with greater velocity than Patrick Corbin. Fernandez also threw harder across 2013 and 2014, but Corbin’s jump in velocity was significantly higher. One guy throwing 100% effort at 90mph has to be considered versus another guy throwing 95 mph with 90% effort.
Patrick Corbin’s average velocity on his fastball increased 1.28 mph between 2012 and 2013. The jump might have been higher if not for a late-season decline. Coincidentally, his first half wOBA was .266 in 2013, whereas his second half wOBA was .343. It’s possible that the fastball decline contributed to the lesser performance. It’s also possible that 34.1 consecutive Solo HR innings between July and August contributed, too. Patrick Corbin’s Solo HR situations rate might be as telling as his velocity jump.
4 Jun 2014 / Ben Flajole /
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