The Arizona Diamondbacks, despite playing in the same division as the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and one of the hottest hitting teams in the MLB, the Colorado Rockies, currently stand atop the National League West. The Diamondbacks always seem to be a team that no one expects to make much noise, but they do it anyway.
This year, their bats have been led by another fantastic season from the young Paul Goldschmidt, who has been absolutely killing the ball and getting on base at an impressive rate for someone with his power. Their starting pitching has also been quite solid, though the best pitcher on their staff this season, Patrick Corbin, has been a bit of a surprise.
Corbin started 17 games for the D’Backs last season and finished the year with 107 innings pitched and a 6-8 win/loss record. His ERA ended up at a mediocre 4.54 and his WHIP was mediocre as well at 1.33. However, his FIP of 4.00 and xFIP of 3.73 were promising for his future as a big-league pitcher.
Now 23 years old, Corbin has come out of the gate absolutely dominating opponents. Through his first eight starts he has a 6-0 record and a fantastic 1.52 ERA. His WHIP has also dropped to 1.07 over the start of this season. His FIP and xFIP are also impressive over the start of the year at 3.10 and 3.91 respectively.
There are a few of reasons for the improvement of Corbin over the start of this year, one of which is an increase in his groundball rate from 45.7 percent last season to 47.6 percent this year. He’s also dramatically decreased his home run rate. Last season, Corbin was allowing 1.18 homers per nine innings. This season that number has dropped to just 0.34 home runs per nine innings. He has also shown an increase in the velocity on all of his pitches this year, which he has benefitted from.
Though he’s much improved this season, there is still a couple one red flag that shows that Corbin might regress a bit as the season goes on. With his increased velocity on his pitches, Corbin seems to have lost a bit of his control. Last season he threw 1035 pitches for strikes and 562 pitches for balls. So far this year, he has thrown 484 strikes to 289 balls. His walk rate has also increased from 2.10 walks per nine innings last season to 2.87 this season. This shows that he doesn’t have as strong of a command on his pitches, which indicates that his numbers may decline as he logs more starts.
Even if his numbers do decline, though, there’s no denying that Corbin is showing that he’s a very effective starting pitcher at the pro level. Even with some regression, it’s hard to imagine his ERA rising above 4.00 with the way he’s been pitching. Considering that he’s so young and still developing, that’s still an impressive showing. Corbin has a chance to be a special pitcher in this league and he’s starting to put that on display this year.