What Happened To These Pitchers?

Have you ever had a bad day where you just wanted it to end? I know I have. Can you imagine having to go through an entire baseball season that you just wanted to end? A lot can go wrong for a pitcher, it can be anything from a nagging injury to a loss of velocity. The pitchers below took a step back in 2020 hurting fantasy owners around the world. Which begs the question, can they rebound?

Patrick Corbin became the definition of consistency from 2018 to 2019. He averaged 200 innings pitched with a 3.20 ERA and 2.98 FIP. Corbin was mostly known for having one of if not the best pitch in baseball. You see Patrick Corbin was just an average pitcher with one great pitch. He mainly ran with a four-seam/sinker combination while sprinkling in his slider 20% of the time. But by the time 2017 came around he started to throw his slider more and quickly showed improvements foreshadowing what was soon to come. When 2018 hit he bumped his slider usage from 20% to 40% emerging him out of the depths of mediocrity and into becoming an elite starter.

Alright enough with the history lesson.

In 2020 Corbin still threw his slider 40% of the time but it wasn’t nearly as effective. Let’s look at some of his slider stats for the past three years.

Patrick Corbin’s Slider
Year Usage SwStr% O-Swing% Zone% pVAL Overall Movement
2018 41.0% 29.3% 48.6% 32.8% 26.8 2.9
2019 37.1% 27.6% 46.5% 30.4% 21.9 2.8
2020 40.3% 20.0% 45.8% 35.4% 2.3 2.6

Clearly, the usage is still there but everything else regressed. He is throwing it in the zone more which is resulting in fewer chases and he clearly isn’t creating the same amount of whiffs. As you can see the overall movement is down as well and there has to be a reason as to why. Well, let’s check in on his velocity.

This chart should make your eyes pop. His velocity was way down with virtually every pitch in his arsenal. Overall the fastball dropped 1.7 MPH, the slider 1.5 MPH, the sinker 1.6 MPH, and the changeup over 2 MPH.

This could be the result of several reasons including the shortened season or even a minor injury throwing off his mechanics. After scouring the internet I came up empty as to if he knew a reason why his velocity dipped so much. This makes Corbin one of the hardest pitchers to rank and the only option we have is to wait for spring training and see what his velocity readings are.

Robbie Ray has always been a frustrating pitcher for fantasy owners. The reason is that he always had an elite strikeout rate but the ERA never seemed to follow. Between 2018 and 2019 Ray had a 31.4% strikeout rate, but it came with a 4.17 ERA. The crutch that has always held him back was his control. Between 2018 and 2019 he had a walk rate of 12.1% while the league average was 8.5%. Pair that with his tendency to give up home runs and it’s no wonder he couldn’t get his ERA to drop into the low three range.

Coming into 2020 there was a lot of buzz around Ray because he seemed to had made a mechanical change in his delivery.

What Ray tried to do was shorten his arm circle, something significant because a pitcher named Lucas Giolito did the same thing before his breakout. This can help with a pitcher’s command and create more consistency. You can see why the fantasy baseball Twitterverse was so excited. Ray with better command means he would likely become an elite pitcher, especially since he has done it before. Here’s the thing, when you see a tangible change it doesn’t always mean it’s a good thing or that it will impact a player instantly.

That change didn’t help Robbie Ray at all. In fact it made him worse, much worse. He finished 2020 with a 6.62 ERA, 6.50 FIP, and 5.49 SIERA. The worst part of it all is that his walk rate actually set a career-high at 17.9%. This leaves Robbie Ray at being a complete mess and a hard pitcher to judge coming into 2021. The good news is that Ray kept the high strikeout rate and both his slider and changeup were still inducing a ton of whiffs. He currently is going around pick 319 in NFBC drafts which leads one to think with his upside (check out his 2017 season) why not take a shot on him in the 20th round? Maybe the Blue Jays can figure something out that the Diamondbacks couldn’t.





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Maybe Corbin’s velocity dip had to do with the extended 2019 playoff usage?