By all accounts, the 2021 season has been dreadful for Patrick Corbin.
He has a career-worst 6.26 ERA, a league-leading 14 losses and on Tuesday night, allowed a franchise-record 33rd home run of the season off a hanging curveball to Andrew McCutchen.
Corbin's production this year has been a far cry from his contributions to the team's World Series run in 2019, but entering the last month of the regular season, the Nationals appear confident that Corbin can regain his original form.
"He's pitched poorly, but his stuff is good," General manager Mike Rizzo told the Sports Junkies Wednesday. "His velocity is back to where it should be, where it was in 2017, '18, '19. He's routinely throwing 93-to-96 mph with his fastball and his slider is in the low-to-mid-80s, which is where it's supposed to be.
"He feels great, we talked to him after his start last night and he said he feels really, really good and he's just not locating the baseball. And when things start to get going off the rails, they fall off the rails for him. He needs to get better, he knows it, we know it. He's way better than this."
Manager Davey Martinez echoed a similar sentiment after Tuesday's loss to the Phillies. He saw Corbin executing his pitches and getting outs against a hot Phillies lineup, but then the wheels came off and he couldn't locate his pitches.
"He was throwing the ball well, and then it just looked like he just couldn't find the strike zone for an inning," Martinez said. "He just got the ball up a little bit and he threw through that 65 mph curveball that McCutchen hammered.
"It's tough right now for him. I know he's frustrated, but I got to have all the confidence right now with him and talk to him and talk him up and try to get him. I want him to leave this year on a positive note. You know, it's a must. He's going to be here, he's one of our guys. So I'm going to put him out there, I'm going to keep pushing him."
The Nationals are incentivized to let Corbin figure things out. He's in the third year of a six-year, $140 million contract he signed before the 2019 season and will need to remain a steady force in the rotation. Considering Stephen Strasburg's huge contract and issues staying healthy, Washington can't afford for Corbin to be one of the worst pitchers in baseball.
After a nightmare start to the season in April and March, Corbin leveled off in May and June to give the Nats some stability behind Max Scherzer. But ever since July, his ERA has been over 7.00. At this point, getting midseason Corbin would be leaps and bounds better than what he's been.
"You're talking about when we acquired him, he was as good a pitcher as there was in baseball," Rizzo said. "I am encouraged by the fact that this stuff is still good. That's not translated to performance on the mound, but I think you see a lot of starts like last night where he's cruising through three or cruising through four and then hits a rough patch in one inning and they score multiple runs quickly. That's something that we have to figure out, but we have all the faith in the world in this kid.
"He's a warrior for us. It's not sitting well with him, his performance and it's something that he's going to be aggressively trying to fix as we move forward this year and into the offseason."