So yesterday, I got drunk or something and Brooks Baseball wasn't making me any pretty graphs. This made me angry so I decided to take it out on all of you and make you do your own damn research on Patrick Corbin.
Except Michael McDermott had already done his research and everyone already knew about the changeups and stuff. Bah. I can't keep up with all of the quality writing on this site (seriously, we have a great, active staff here) so I'm sad that I missed that. With that in mind, there are a few things I'd like to touch on.
First, in Link 2 and Link 3, I touched on the batted ball and Pitch Info data from Corbin's 7 game "hot" streak. For the batted ball data, there were two good signs I wanted you to see: his GB% ticked up to 53.3% (averaging 50.7% on the season) and his Hard% was down to 27.7% (averaging 32.9% on the season). While both are subject to SSS noise, they were both clear indicators that Corbin had been inducing weaker contact during this time.
However, the big thing I wanted to key you in was on his SwStr% - in Link 3, you can see it was at 13.1% during the 7 game stretch, which is a massive 2.1% higher than his season average (11.0%).
So, essentially, we're looking at two key factors in Patrick Corbin: inducing weaker contact and getting more swinging strikes. Both of these things are very good for a pitcher (and explain why his performance has been good over this stretch), so the next question becomes: can we quantify this change to something besides random variation?
Link 4 should have been a clear indicator that something had changed. What I wanted you to see was a clear change in pitch mix over the last 6 games:
I've narrowed this down to the start of June to help clarify the visual. Essentially, Corbin has pretty much gone from not throwing his changeup to throwing it nearly 20% of the time. Inversely, you can see a rapid drop in his sinker usage. His fastball and slider have variation but there is no noticeable change in usage.
So why is this important? Link 5 was an attempt to point you in the direction of looking how batted ball outcomes. Essentially, his sinker has his highest batting average against as well as the second-highest slugging against (changeup is highest) for the season. However, he was barely getting swinging strikes with it. Batters were swinging and getting hits and extra-base hits with it. His sinker was not a good pitch.
At first glance, it looks like his changeup isn't a great pitch, either. After all, it has a .375 ISO against it this season. But the thing about the changeup is that Corbin gets a hefty amount of swinging strikes with it:
Batters can hit his changeup hard but he can also get swinging strikes with it. This is essentially the same as Robbie Ray and his curveball - batters could no longer sit fastball/slider against him, they had to worry about this new pitch, too.
So, it looks like the change in pitch mix is helping Corbin out tremendously. However, I do want to point out more adjustment that Corbin has made:
Over the last 8 games, Corbin has made a fairly dramatic change to his horizontal release point - it looks to be about a 4" change from his starts in May. His vertical release points are fairly consistent this season, it would likely indicate that he changed where he stands on the rubber.
So far, Corbin has made two adjustments (his pitch mix and his location on the rubber) and they have yielded very positive results. His changeup also looks to be performing a bit better, but it is still too early to determine how much of this success will carry forward. Batters will adjust and I'm certain Corbin will too, but this looks to be a very positive sign that Corbin might be able to get back to being a #3 type of pitcher for the Dbacks going forward. And this will be very important for the team down the stretch.