Nationals

Quick Links

Patrick Corbin makes yet another Nationals contract gamble already appear worth it

Patrick Corbin makes yet another Nationals contract gamble already appear worth it

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  -- Patrick Corbin threw 3,299 pitches last year in the regular season. Of those, 1,772 were fastballs, 1,221 were sliders, accounting for 90.7 percent of what he threw toward hitters.

He has a curious trait: Corbin is able to fool those with full knowledge of what he is going to do. He’s either going to throw a fastball or slider -- with a 10 percent deviation to pop a few question marks in there -- nine out of 10 times. The pitches look the same. It’s a fastball until it’s not, then the problems begin when a right-handed hitter realizes too late a slider is biting down toward his back foot.

This was the skill the New York Yankees wanted. They tried to sign Corbin when he became a free agent in 2018. Imagine if they had. Corbin would have faced the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series instead of the World Series. Do the pitching-short Yankees win that series with Corbin? The Nationals almost assuredly do not win the World Series without him. New York didn’t want to pay the sixth year of his contract. Washington did. Everything changed.

The Nationals previously established their preference for starting pitching. They are not alone in the idea. It just doesn’t always work this well.

Max Scherzer’s $210 million contract has become a steal. If he stopped now, it would have been worth it. Stephen Strasburg’s initial extension worked. Now, Corbin, the recipient of a six-year, $140 million contract, has started by delivering a copy of his prior season and becoming a key, versatile weapon which delivered a championship.

Corbin is not in Washington to pitch out of the bullpen. He’s in the rotation as a third starter operating with a level of competence which would make him most teams’ top starter. Last year produced a 3.25 ERA, 33 starts, 202 innings, 238 strikeouts and a 1.18 WHIP. Those numbers almost matched what he did in Arizona the season before in order to earn such a cash haul. Yet, there’s room for him to be better.

Reading through Corbin’s 2019 numbers can feel odd. When his downhill games occurred, they did so with gusto. Six of Corbin’s 33 starts produced four or more runs for the opposition. Four of those delivered six or more runs. Change two of those to a more manageable four-run outing, and Corbin’s ERA drops to 3.07.

His first steps at spring training each season are to be sure his slider and fastball are on-point. This season, Corbin would like to be more consistent with his curveball and perhaps throw more changeups. He’s also rebooting his body after October’s intensity left him, and everyone else, spent.

“That whole month was very stressful, high-leverage games,” Corbin said.

Corbin missed 2014 because of Tommy John surgery. Since then, his workload has increased year after year, topping out with last season’s 202 innings. His flat goal for 2020 is to make all his starts. How does he make it there?

“Being smart,” Corbin said. “Listen to your body, sometimes back off a little bit, sometimes you need to do more.”

Not much changed for Corbin when he returned to his hometown of Syracuse in the offseason. A few more people showed up at charity events he did, but his family and friends treated him the same despite the World Series title. Plus, he was only visiting. Corbin has a house in West Palm Beach.

No signs denoting the World Series title populated the facility in the offseason if he stopped by. They are everywhere now -- at the parking lot entrance, after walking to the end of the parking lot, in the lobby after the parking lot, on the backside of the building -- and cannot be missed. They make Corbin smile.

“I think everyone has the same mindset,” Corbin said. “Same thing coming in last year. We think we’re going to have a competitive team out there that’s going to be there late in the season and we want to do it again. We know we won it last year, and want to talk about it and enjoy that as much as we can, but we can also learn from it and do better, but guys here want to do it just as much. How sweet would back-to-back be?”

If that occurs, Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin will again be the foundation. Washington took a chance by giving big money, and big years, to a trio of starting pitchers. It has one World Series title to show for it. Will there be another?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Sean Doolittle says Nationals players will continue to support minor leaguers

Sean Doolittle says Nationals players will continue to support minor leaguers

Though the Nationals reversed course on their pay cut for minor-league players, Sean Doolittle still plans on lending his support.

Last week, just hours after it was reported that the Nationals would be reducing the pay rate for minor-league players from $400 per week to $300 for the month of June, Sean Doolittle announced that the major leaguers would cover those cuts.

A short time later, the team announced that it would revert back to the weekly $400 salary for the month of June. While that is good news and something that pleased Doolittle, it does not mean he and other players are done helping minor leaguers in the organization.

On Wednesday Doolittle tweeted out a statement sharing his excitement for the increased pay rates. Additionally, he noted that Nationals players will continue to offer financial help for other players in the organization.

"Nationals players are partnering with More Than Baseball to contribute funds that will offer further assistance and financial support to any minor leaguers who were in the Nationals organization as of March 1."

More Than Baseball is a non-profit organization that aims to provide minor-league baseball players across the country and world with resources to succeed both on and off the field. 

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

As the back-and-forth drama plays out regarding the 2020 MLB season, it can be easy to find the negatives in the baseball community at the current moment. However, the gestures by Doolittle and the Nationals players show the good, and once again demonstrate Doolittle's ability to be a powerful voice in a complicated time

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

MLB return: Schedules of other leagues show how much baseball is scrambling

MLB return: Schedules of other leagues show how much baseball is scrambling

The NBA appeared to pull things together Wednesday, following the NHL.

Basketball is expected to return July 31 in Orlando with an inventive, though truncated, format. A quick eight-game wrap to the regular season will be followed by the playoffs, according to ESPN. All in one place. The NHL will not start training camp before July 1. It has not determined when the playoffs may begin. The league shelved the regular season but will use “hub cities” for a playoff tournament when they deem it safe. No date has been set yet.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is trying to launch itself via a much quicker, and earlier, timeline.

Officials want to play at the end of June or start of July. They are currently haggling to get there.

Multiple reports earlier in the week said the league was considering a 50-game schedule. This is not an authentic pursuit of playing just 50 games. Rather, it was a fist clench from league commissioner Rob Manfred against the players’ insistence their prorated salaries will be the lone salary cut. Manfred is suggesting if that is true, then he has the right to dictate scheduling.

The players previously suggested a 114-game schedule. The number between the two proposals -- 82 -- remains the most-likely outcome.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

But, baseball continued its jousting and contorting and time loss Wednesday, jeopardizing the entire process. After rejecting the 114-game proposal, the owners said they would not send a counter, according to The Athletic. Further, the league said it has started talks with owners about playing a shorter season without fans, The Athletic reported. This brings the 50-game scenario back into play.

The calendar is not baseball’s friend in the near-term or around the bend. Pushing the season further into the fall and winter increases risk and logistical problems. It also cuts the offseason down.

Blitzing toward a start time with multiple questions about health and the coronavirus still unanswered delivers another set of problems. Baseball needs to race to a start so it can have a legitimate season and acceptable chance at a finish. Most of the prospective money for the season would be delivered by the playoffs. Playing without a postseason would fall into the “something-is-better-than-nothing” category, but barely. Playing a short season would also only amplify the risk-reward questions for the players. Why put so much on the line for 50 games? Or even 82?

And, don’t think both sides are not currently keeping score for the winter of 2021, after the current collective bargaining agreement expires. A brutish labor fight was already coming. Rule changes, perhaps league realignment, the typical eye-gouging over the splits of cash. The core of mistrust for players remains in place: The owners have not shown their full financial situation. Until that changes, both sides will be shouting from bunkers, no-man’s land in between them, whispering to each other how vile the other side is. Agreements are hard to come by in those circumstances.

Sunday marks the close to the first week of June. Players want three weeks of spring training. They also want to start the season sometime between June 30 and July 4. Which means if they can’t suddenly construct a bridge in the next handful of days, they have a week to pull everything together. The other leagues used creativity, an expanded timetable and risk reduction to present viable ways forward. Baseball has deployed none of that to this point.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: