So a common theme this draft season at Razzball is “ADP is a trap.” In fact, I’m gonna lobby for t-shirts and mugs to commemorate. Mi amigo Blair dropped a bomb Monday that turns the idea of drafting pitchers in the 1st or 2nd round on its head, which I’m proud to say I had a part in, and needless to say, it is a form of scientific validation (logos) for the ethos that has been the mantra of Grey here since the great Razzball awakening. You don’t have to draft a pitcher in the first two rounds just because someone that setup the draft platform says you should. It’s the power of suggestion, groupthink, or even FOMO that compels you. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. After this article of course. It’s the 95 theses nailed to the church door of the fantasy baseball establishment.

You need to look at it like negotiations. When you want to make a good deal in your favor, you have got to set the initial parameters to negotiate from. You plant the flag at your starting point so every point conceded or won becomes a function of that starting point. When you are in a platform’s draft lobby, all draft values begin at the starting point of somebody else’s rankings. When you get picks at an ADP value or premium, what is that based on? True value? Your value? or THEIR value? Don’t get pulled into the game of taking someone at a certain cost just because of the number presented before their name and where they sit in the queue. Stop it. You’re getting caught up. What you can do though, is use it to your advantage and capitalize on the sheeple in your draft conforming to the system.

That was a super-long intro to talk about Patrick Corbin, but here we are. Welcome to the desert of the real. Patrick Corbin, along with some others I’ve highlighted this spring, represents a disconnect. What to do with ADPs and not fall into traps? Many of these rankings are overcompensating for what happened in the 2020 hellscape and under-compensating for track records. Years of experience are thrown out for what happened in a 60-game sample, and not even a normal sample but a mutated and grotesque shortened season, where the data sample was tainted. The same routine and environment that players usually go through to start the season was non-existent, so how can you relate it to what has happened before when there’s no constant for comparison.

What am I saying? Yes, those 60 games happened. And if there are underlying things you can point to then the results mean something if they correlate. But also, if we are looking at things honestly the entirety of last season was a clusterf**k. Full stop. The Cardinals and Marlins didn’t play a single game in the middle of the season for what felt like a month. So not only did they stop and start their training camp but also their season. Is that good for pitchers or nah? hitters too? And then with the Nats, 14 of their 60 games were 7-inning doubleheaders shoved into September because most of those were division games against the Marlins. What are we doing here?

Corbin showed up to camp last year with a noticeable drop in velocity. In his last Spring Training outing of 2020, Corbin’s fastball was sitting at 88 mph. That’s easily 3 mph under where it sat in April of 2019 and down from the 92.8 mph average he held that September. Well, once the 2020 season got underway, his velocity improved but only to the extent of a 90.4 average at the end of that season. Not good. That contributed to his worst season since 2016, the first “full” season of work following Tommy John surgery. Let’s take a look at the board.

2016 155.2 7.57 3.82 1.39 0.322 18.3% 5.15 4.38
2017 189.2 8.45 2.89 1.23 0.326 15.3% 4.03 4.12
2018 200 11.07 2.16 0.68 0.302 11.1% 3.15 2.91
2019 202 10.6 3.12 1.07 0.290 14.4% 3.25 3.88
2020 65.2 8.22 2.47 1.37 0.362 15.2% 4.66 4.42

As you see, 2020 was not kind to his dip in velocity. His K-rate dropped to 8.22 and along with a career-worst BABIP his homerun rates jumped up. Well, that’s all pretty horrible. But… that BABIP was crazy high for him and likely a byproduct of his velocity drop. In the 2 years prior, he was a beast to be reckoned with posting back-to-back 200 IP seasons, ERAs below 3.30, and a K-rate above 10. “So what’s with that velo?” …is the question I hear you asking through the screen. Yes, I got you boo.

Season Fastball Sinker Slider Change
2016 92.2 92.4 81.0 85.3
2017 92.3 92.2 80.9 83.5
2018 90.8 90.8 81.7 81 72.5
2019 91.8 91.8 81.7 81.8 67.8
2020 90.2 90.1 79.2 77.7 65.0

So he got hit hard last year, not only because his fastball velocity was down, but also because the rest of his arsenal had a drop in velocity as well. This resulted in him getting blasted into outer space. With his current repertoire and pitch mix, he needs his velocity to be in that 92 range to be effective. You can also see the effects on his slider, his primary weapon for getting whiffs and long time considered one of the best in baseball needs to be in the 81-82 mph range as well. Why that is important is the reaction time. Since his fastball is not a dominant pitch he makes it work by locating it and batters not having time to decide if it’s his wipeout slider. So that Slider huh?

Season MPH K BBE BA SLG Whiff%
2018 81.7 195 145 0.145 0.242 53.1%
2019 81.7 161 141 0.158 0.266 51.4%
2020 79.2 39 62 0.198 0.366 38.1%

So the main takeaway here with his slider is it appears that the reduced velocity across the board, especially on his fastball and slider, resulted in there being significantly fewer whiffs on the pitches, his elite whiff% over 50 percent dropped to under 40 percent in 2020. This resulted in fewer Ks leading to batters making more contact (BBE: batted ball events). And when those did turn into hits (see the SLG above), still a small amount, they were better hits too. Also not good. There’s a light at the end of this tunnel right?

If you look at his average fastball velocity over the last few years, you notice something. With the exception of April 2018, his velocity increases as the season goes on and he strengthens his stamina. So as he’s more stretched out and pitches more innings, he gets better. Even in last year’s stunted season, he ended better than where he started. Well, as of his third game in Grapefruit League play a week ago, Corbin’s average velocity was registering at 91, already 3 mph ahead of where his velocity sat at the end of Spring Training a year ago. Mamma Mia! And if that holds true that would put him right in line with his numbers from 2019. Will it hold at 91? Maybe we see 92+? Is he getting whiffs on sliders? These are things to watch for. And in case you need a reminder of how good his slider is…

Here it is to a righty:

Here it is to a lefty:

For most of his career, Corbin has been a one-trick pony. He throws his fastball/sinker for strikes, mixes in a couple of changeups, and puts guys away with the slider. And it worked until last year. In order to expand his game, Corbin has been working this spring at becoming more comfortable with his changeup. Manager Davey Martinez has already indicated the desire to see him throw more changeups this year as he only threw 5% in his mix last season. So far in camp, he’s already upped it well over 10%, though much of that is him trying to become more comfortable with the feel of it. This has been a strong push by new pitching coach Jim Hickey who is a known changeup apostle. The key is that the pitch breaks opposite of the slider, and versus RHB, that’s just what Corbin needs to keep them on edge with the slider. But that’s not all…

Corbin also spent some of the offseason with Max Scherzer learning his cutter. How much we see of it in the season is yet to be seen, but he’s indicated the goal is for it to be a change of pace that sits in between the fastball and slider, at around 87 and utilized to change the batter’s eye level with different looks and timing to keep them off-balance. If he can get comfortable with it during the season, it could prove to be a weapon allowing his fastball to play up and enhance the effect of the slider as Scherzer has done. Like the changeup changes the horizontal vision of the plate, the cutter in Corbin’s repertoire serves as a vertical vision changer. He can throw it in the upper half of the zone moving the eyes of the batter to keep them off of the slider low. Lastly, it can jam batters for easy grounders.

The purpose of the new cutter and refining the change isn’t specifically to get swinging strikes, though I’m sure he will take them, the purpose is that they are meant to enhance and re-establish his elite slider. The cutter is meant to change the shape and direction of guys watching for the slider, not just speed. Patrick wants to keep batters off the scent of his slider and not solely dependent on his velocity returning to do it.

Right now Patrick Corbin has a “consensus” ranking of 133 and an ADP over the last 2 weeks of about the same. Last year his ADP was easily under 100 because he had thrown back-to-back seasons of 200 IP and 238+ Ks with an ERA below 3.30. But this year he’s suddenly an SP3 because he had rough 11 starts when he wasn’t in normal playing shape. Like I’ve said before, the workouts and access to equipment were not equally available to players in the offseason and into the start-stop-start spring training due to COVID. If someone has a track record I wouldn’t be so quick to expect the same results from 2020. Corbin is one of them. He’s already up to 91 on the fastball which is where he began the 2019 campaign.

I like Patrick Corbin for a strong bounceback season posting an SP2 line at the cost of an SP3 just like Grey who gave him a projection of 184 IP/11 W/3.83 ERA/1.24 WHIP/181 Ks. Although, I kinda see this as his floor with the upside of that 10 K/9 from 2019 and closer to a 3.60 ERA. This is how you can use ADP to your advantage. You can easily draft him as your 3rd SP in the 8th or 9th round (12 teams and maybe 15 too) who will give you top-tier IP in a down year for pitchers increasing his value. This way you can capitalize on the value in your draft with 2 top-tier bats in the first 3 picks, especially if your draft position is in the first 5 of the draft. Soto? Please and thank you. Bo Bichette? Don’t mind if I do. Ooo, Woodruff in the 3rd? *swoon* Yes, that sounds marvelous.