Once the Washington Nationals inked Patrick Corbin to a 6-year/$140M free agent deal in December of 2018, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in the nation’s capital that they targeted the left-handed pitcher from the start.
“As the top free agent pitcher on the market this offseason,” Rizzo explained, “we targeted Patrick from the onset.
“He was one of the top pitchers in the National League in 2018 and at 29 years old, we believe the best is yet to come. We are thrilled to bring him into our organization.”
“Obviously talking to our front office after the season of the areas they wanted to address, obviously they wanted to address starting [pitching]” Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer said last month, when he was asked about his initial thoughts on the pursuit and signing that added the left-hander to the power right-handers at the top of the rotation.
“I didn’t know which facet, where they were going to go after. And obviously the reports were coming out that we were in heavy pursuit of Patrick.”
“He’s one of the elite starting pitchers that are on the free agent market,” Rizzo said when he spoke to reporters at Winterfest last December, days before the deal was announced.
“We have interest in him,” Rizzo added. “We had a nice discussion with him, I had a personal discussion with him.
“He wanted to come down and see what we had down here, and visit the city and the clubhouse, and I thought that was a positive reaction by him.
“I’m not going to read too much into it, but he’s a guy obviously that we’re interested in and that would fit nicely on this team.”
As Corbin prepared for the third postseason start of his big league career, in Game 4 of the World Series, he was asked about the decision to sign with Washington, when rumors all of last winter said he would end up with the Yankees he grew up cheering for in New York.
“I honestly haven’t thought too much about it,” Corbin said of option for a Curly-W over the pinstripes.
“No regrets. I obviously loved every second here. I always tell everybody I feel like I’ve been here longer, just such a great clubhouse, great people to be around every day. Really enjoy it here.
“The big reason was to come here and make it to the World Series and win a World Series.
“I knew the guys in here were capable of doing it. It’s a great team and we’ve just put things together really well.”
Corbin said then that the friendly competition amongst pitchers in the Nationals’ rotation went a long way in helping him grow during his first season in D.C.
“It’s great,” he said. “We all root for each other. I feel like that’s something that’s not always easy. Guys might seem like it, but we really do.
“We try to help each other, when we’re pitching or when we’re not pitching. And I think it’s pretty special to be on a team that does stuff like that.”
“He just has a really, really, really good feel for teasing the zone with his sinker and his slider,” Scherzer said when asked what he’d learned about his rotation-mate in the first season together.
“You can be looking for either and his slider is just so -- just watching it for this whole year, it’s just very, very deceptive. And he knows how to locate it and throw it kind of different ways that makes you chase it, that you just think that it’s a fastball and then you’re just swinging at something that’s a slider.
“So he does a really good job of controlling the edges of the plate, whether it’s a lefty or righty, and that’s what makes him so difficult to hit against.”
“He throws a lot of sliders,” Anthony Rendon said during the NLDS. “But I love his tempo. I didn’t realize that being on the other side of him, playing against him, but actually playing defense behind him, he’s a dog, he goes after you. He’s not going to change up his approach toward anybody, any type of hitter. He has a plan and he goes after it. He’s not going to give in to anybody. So he grabs that ball and he throws it every single time and he’s not waiting for anybody. As a defender, playing behind him, I love that.
“I personally don’t like just sitting there waiting for someone to get the sign or have that slow tempo. So as a pitcher to have that kind of go-hard mentality, it’s awesome.”
Opposing hitters put up a .158 AVG on Corbin’s slider in 2019, though they hit his sinker, with a .270 AVG, had a .259 AVG on his four-seamer, a .370 AVG on his change, and .200 AVG on his curveball, which he used sparingly (just 3.6% of the time).
Corbin finished the regular season with a 3.25 ERA, 70 walks (3.12 BB/9), 238 Ks (10.60 K/9), and a .227/.293/.375 line against in 202 IP.
His first postseason run probably wasn’t what he wanted it to be, with 10 runs (nine earned) allowed in 17 IP (4.76 ERA) in his starts, and his first relief appearance, in Game 3 of the Nats’ NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers was an unmitigated disaster (4 H, 2 BB, 6 ER in 2⁄3 IP), but he gave the Nationals 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings in Game 5 in LA, retired one batter in Game 2 of the NLCS with the St. Louis Cardinals, tossed a scoreless inning in Game 1 of the World Series with Houston’s Astros, then after starting in Game 4, came back with three scoreless in relief in Game 7.
Corbin’s manager, Davey Martinez, said that the lefty and everyone on the Nationals’ roster went above and beyond on the way to the World Series win once they wrapped up Game 7.
“I’ve asked them to do things that they, I’m sure, are not comfortable [with], and they did them, no questions asked. Corbin being one of them. Corbin pitched out of the bullpen.
“Today we were thinking he would get one inning. He went out for one inning, we asked him if he could go out another inning, he said, ‘Yeah.’
“Asked him again if he could go out for a third inning, he says, ‘Whatever you need.’
“After the third inning... I said, “I think we got you covered. Great job.’ That’s what I get with that bunch of guys.”
Corbin finished the postseason with a 5.79 ERA, 12 walks, 36 Ks, and a .230/.330/.333 line against in eight games (three starts), and 23 1⁄3 IP.
His takeaways from the first season of six he’s signed up for in D.C., and the Nationals’ trip to and victory in the World Series?
“Just how close we are as a family,” Corbin told MASN’s Alex Chappell. “It’s still crazy to think we’re World Champions.”