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May 21, 2013

What You Need to Know

Corb Your Enthusiasm

by Daniel Rathman


The Monday Takeaway
When members of the Baseball Prospectus staff submitted our breakout-player predictions back in February, only two pitchers, Matt Moore and Mike Minor, made the list. With Moore off to an 8-0 start and Minor sporting a 51-to-12 K:BB, those were fine choices. But if we were to do it over, a third lefty, the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin, would undoubtedly join them.

Corbin took the Coors Field mound yesterday with a 1.52 ERA through eight assignments, a number that was scrutinized by those skeptical of his emergence as a mid-rotation stud. The southpaw’s strikeout rate had increased modestly, from 18.9 percent last year to 19.5 percent in the early going of 2013, but his walk rate had climbed more significantly, from 5.5 percent to 8.1 percent. His opponents’ BABIP was .259. He had stranded 89.2 percent of the runners who reached base. All of those are often indicators of impending regression.

But, despite pitching in a setting known for exposing fluky starts, the 23-year-old actually managed to lower his ERA to 1.44. And he did so by delivering arguably the most impressive outing of his young career.

The mile-high air threatened Corbin’s greatest asset to date—his ability to keep the ball in the yard. But after nine innings of work, his home-runs-allowed total, which stood at two through his first 53 1/3 frames on the mound this year, had not increased. Not only did the Rockies fail to clear a fence against Corbin, but they also notched only three hits, struck out 10 times, and hit into 11 ground-ball outs, looking helpless throughout the contest as the lefty relentlessly pounded the zone.

Corbin threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 31 batters he faced, and in total, a whopping 74 of his 97 offerings resulted in strikes. Thirty-six of those strikes were either foul balls or whiffs, and Corbin’s slider mesmerized the Rockies from the first inning through the ninth.

In his first eight starts, Corbin’s slider elicited a swing and miss on an impressive 25.27 percent of its uses. Last night, it was even more dominant: The Rockies who offered at it hit nothing but air nearly half of the time. Combine that with an effective sinker, a key tool for success at Coors Field and in Corbin’s home park in the desert, and you’ve got an outing that, given the context, is historic.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Skewed Left: The Shift... (05/21)
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Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (05/22)
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Overthinking It: The P... (05/21)

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