Patrick Corbin pitched three scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, making good on the six-year, $140 million deal offered to him by the Washington Nationals a year prior.
Since then, though, Corbin has struggled to regain the form that got him that deal. His plight has been under a microscope this season especially, as he was Washington’s Opening Day starter in April and has posted a 7.05 ERA in his last seven appearances.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was at the forefront of offering Corbin that well-deserved $140 million deal but has noticed the ace’s inability to find the strike zone consistently in 2022.
“I do [feel bad for Corbin] too,” Rizzo said on the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday morning. “Like I said all along, his stuff is solid, he still has velocity and spin rate, he’s got all that stuff. But he’s gotta get out of his own way sometimes. Defense hasn’t helped him recently.”
Rizzo spoke multiple times about the Nats’ lack of infield defensive strength. Looking at the statistics, it must be noted that while Corbin has indeed had trouble finding the strike zone, his infield hasn’t helped much.
Per baseballsavant.com, Washington posts a -14 Outs Above Average mark while Corbin is on the mound which is the worst for any pitcher in baseball. Fellow Nats Aaron Sanchez and Joan Adon also rank in the bottom 21 on that list.
A lack of defensive assistance has to be acknowledged, sure, but Rizzo maintains that Corbin is a consummate professional and that sympathy can only go so far.
“It’s the big leagues. There’s no pity party for him, there’s nobody feeling sorry for him,” Rizzo said. “He’s gotta go out there and attack the strike zone, pitch inside and be aggressive, and be the guy that finished top-10 in Cy Young Awards two years in a row there.
Yes, errors happen. We blame the defense for errors, but those are the same guys that are diving over walls and diving over dugouts to save runs for you, too…like I said, especially with Patrick, we need to play a clean game defensively in the infield because he throws a lot of ground balls and you gotta make the plays. That’s something that we haven’t done for him throughout this season. Hopefully, it starts today.”
Last week, Corbin became the first player in Nationals history to allow 7+ unearned runs in a game. But it seems to be a mutually non-beneficial relationship between Corbin and the players behind him. Juan Soto ranks dead last in the MLB with -7 runs prevented on the season, with three other Nats (all infielders) in the bottom-50 of that stat.
While Washington’s defense has made it harder for pitchers to keep their ERAs down, Corbin has posted career-worst marks in ERA, AVG, and WHIP. He’s also allowed the MLB’s most runs (61) and earned runs (51).
“Sometimes when bad things happen, you gotta pick up your teammates and make pitches and that type of thing. Patrick knows that,” Rizzo said. “He’s a veteran, he’s a pro, he’s done it at the highest level in the most leveraged games that you could be in and been great. He’s got the pedigree to do it.”
He’s making the big bucks — a reflection of his still very real potential, says Rizzo.
“These guys are human and they make what they make because of what they do for a living,” Rizzo said. “You gotta perform. Patrick knows this and the league knows it, but also the league knows—this guy, when he’s right, is pretty tough to handle because he’s shown it in the not-too-distant past. He needs to get back on the horse and compete and be a guy that we can count on moving forward.”