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Patrick Corbin: A Tale of Two Halves

Posted By Brad Johnson On December 12, 2013 @ 3:15 pm In Starting Pitchers | 8 Comments

Entering the 2013 season, Patrick Corbin was one of my top sleeper targets. I had enjoyed the left-hander’s debut in 2012, when he was an above average stream-starter for my fantasy teams. Last season, I drafted him in all of my leagues, although I sold him before his best – and worst – work in all but one league. According to Zach Sanders, Corbin was worth $12.57 last season.  As we’ll soon discover together, it was a very front-heavy performance. A disappointing finish to the season makes him an uncertain target for the 2014 season.

Since Corbin isn’t the most well-known pitcher, let’s get to know his repertoire. He uses a four pitch mix and his usage varies based on the batter’s handedness. Chart time:

Corbin pitch usage

As you can see, Corbin pitches “forwards,” meaning that he throws fastballs in fastball counts and offspeed pitches in offspeed counts. He could potentially benefit from mixing that up and becoming a little less predictable. His slider is his best pitch and he likes to use it when ahead in the count. His change-up is reserved purely to keep right-handed hitters off balance. His sinker is also used much more frequently against righties.

He posted solid peripherals, with a 7.69 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. He’s shown aptitude for keeping his pitch count down, which should help him pitch deep into ball games. That gives him a chance to record more wins, even if it hurts his strikeout total somewhat.

Corbin figures to be one of the better bets to remain healthy for a full season. He’s young and has been durable thus far. Per Jeff Zimmerman‘s projection, there’s a 30 percent chance that he’ll land on the disabled list, which is one of the lowest rates available.

He rushed out to a quick 9-0 record last season, with excellent rate stats before trailing off. If you split his season into halves, he posted a 2.35 ERA in the first half over 130 innings and a 5.19 ERA in the second half over 78 innings. It was really the months of August and September that he struggled, when he posted a 5.13 and 7.04 ERA respectively. Those marks are probably fluky. While his FIP did decline over those months, he pitched to a 3.83 FIP in August and a 4.91 FIP in September.

Breaking performance into month long chunks is generally only useful as trivia and it’s important not to read too much into the tiny samples involved. What we know is that his peripherals declined as the season wore on, which could indicate an injury or simple fatigue. One proxy test for those issues is to track velocity. If velocity declines, then it’s a sign that the pitcher is not working at full strength.

Corbin velo

As you can see from the chart, his velocity peaked mid-season. He opened the season throwing around 92 mph, peaked between 93 and 94 mph in June and July, and finally declined back to 92 mph in September. The degree of fluctuation seen is typical and is by no means a smoking gun. My best guess is that he was fatigued at the end of the season. Another explanation is that hitters made an adjustment to one or more of his offerings. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that the change is performance is purely noise.

Based on the ADP info over at Fantasy Pros, Corbin went undrafted in most leagues last season. Of tracked pitchers, he was the 174th ranked pitcher, which also happened to make him dead last. There’s no risk of that happening next season. With the amount of uncertainty in his profile, Corbin’s price tag is likely to vary wildly. I estimate costs ranging from $7 to $18, although we will learn more about that later in the offseason.

Your decision on whether or not to target Corbin will depend on your personal expectations. Neither his potent first half nor his poor second half are indicative of his true talent. We should probably expect an ERA in the mid-to-high 3’s (Steamer projects a 3.72 ERA for example). His strikeout rate is a minor concern since it’s neither good nor bad. Owners should aim to pick up an elite strikeout reliever to offset Corbin’s contribution. I don’t expect an improvement on his 2013 season, and I believe that he’s most likely to produce a value of about $8 next season.


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