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Preview #101, 7/23 @ Cubs

Remember when people were worried about Corbin’s loss of velocity? It hasn’t held him back.

San Franciso Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS CHICAGO CUBS
Jon Jay - RF Anthony Rizzo - 1B
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Kris Bryant - 3B
David Peralta - LF Albert Almora - CF
A.J. Pollock - CF Javier Baez - 2B
Jake Lamb - 3B Willson Contreras - C
Ketel Marte - SS Addison Russell - SS
Daniel Descalso - 2B Ben Zobrist - RF
Jeff Mathis - C Ian Happ - LF
Patrick Corbin - LHP Luke Farrell - RHP

A four-game series in Wrigley Field is never going to be easy, but we’re sending up our best starting pitcher by fielding-independent ERA today. Patrick Corbin’s FIP of 2.82 is currently the lowest posted by a Diamondback since the days of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. They’re the only two men to have posted a sub-three FIP as a qualifying pitcher over a full season for Arizona, most recently the Big Unit’s figure of 2.30 in 2004. Since then, the closest was Dan Haren, who came up just short in 2008, with a 3.01 FIP. It’s Corbin’s K-rate which has been key: at 30.4%, it’s actually better than Johnson’s 2004 figure, and is significantly up on Patrick’s rate last season. 21.6%.

Corbin is getting a lot more swinging strikes: 24.3%, compared to 18.6% in 2017. And if he gets strike two, it’s virtually game over. After two strikes, batters have a line against Patrick of .143/.196/.233, a .429 OPS that’s eighty-five points below league average. Interestingly, he has been pitching less in the zone than before, but due to those swinging strikes, Corbin’s overall strike percentage is almost unchanged. This is especially notable since there was concern expressed earlier in the season about his loss of velocity. That hasn’t come back: he was averaging 92.8 mph last year, and it’s only 91.1 mph this. But, just like with Zack Greinke, it appears pure velocity can be over-rated.

Corbin has worked around that drop, simply by throwing his fastball less often than at any point in his career. This year, it’s barely one pitch in five, less than half the percentage it was used in 2016. His slider has become the main weapon, with a sinker and, this season, a newly-discovered curve added to his arsenal and as our colleagues at Beyond the Box Score noted last month, it has become a potent pitch for Corbin. If the D-backs are going to keep up with the Dodgers in the NL West, we’re likely going to need him and Greinke to perform like the front of rotation pitchers they can be. And that goes doubly, if Arizona is to win more than one post-season game this year.