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Washington Nationals’ Patrick Corbin trying to adjust to what he has to work with now...

Patrick Corbin’s slider is still a solid pitch, but it’s not the weapon it was just a few years back...

Washington Nationals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Patrick Corbin isn’t getting the swings and misses on his slider that he has in previous years, and the left-hander isn’t exactly sure why.

In the last two seasons, his Whiff% on the slider has dropped to 38.1% (in 2020), and 36.8% (so far in 2021), which is off a bit from 51.4% in his first season in D.C. in 2019, and 53.1% in 2018, in his final season with the Arizona Diamondbacks before he signed a 6-year/$140M free agent deal in Washington, D.C.

The batting average against on the pitch has remained relatively steady, sitting at .205 so far in 2021, after he finished 2020 with a .198 BAA on the pitch, which was up from .158 in 2019, and .145 in 2018.

Manager Davey Martinez told reporters last week, after Corbin gave up six hits, two walks, and four earned runs in 5 13 IP against the Atlanta Braves, generating just five whiffs on a total of 29 sliders, that he wasn’t particularly concerned about Corbin’s whiff rate.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“When he’s throwing balls like that and he’s getting a lot of ground balls, I think his slider is playing really well,” Martinez said, after Corbin generated 10 ground ball outs in the outing.

“He did that early. He was getting a lot of weak ground balls early, they didn’t get the ball in the air very much today. So, that only indicates that his slider is good. You’re talking about some good hitters on that other side. So, when he’s getting swings like that, starting with the first pitch of the game, check swing to [Ronald] Acuña, [Jr.], I mean, I know his slider is really working and very efficient.”

“Yeah, maybe it’s not as good as it has been,” Corbin said when asked about his whiff rate after that start.

“I thought I located it better today. Got some ground balls on it, threw more strikes with it today.

“I thought I had a better breaking ball early in the counts to get ahead of guys and that was kind of the plan, I wanted to throw some good ones for a strike there, then try to bury them late. But I thought I threw a couple there, but they were coming out swinging.

“Seems like the trend of baseball where that’s happening, so you just got to make pitches early, try to get some quick outs and that was something we did early.”

Asked if, like his manager, he was okay with not getting as many swings and misses if he’s getting ground balls and outs, Corbin said, “obviously I’d like to strike out more guys.”

“Not really sure why that is or what’s different, but just going to continue to work on it and I think at times my slider has been pretty good and maybe at some times not as sharp, but not quite sure why.

“I’m just going to continue to keep throwing it and hopefully start getting more swings and misses on it.”

Corbin’s K% with his slider has dropped too, of course, to 18% this season, down from 20.3% in ‘20, 28.5% in ‘19, and 30.8% in ‘18.

So, what has Martinez seen over their first three seasons together, as far as how Corbin has tried to adjust with his slider, and how opposing hitters are approaching and attacking him?

“It’s still a pretty good pitch for him,” Martinez said. “It’s just, you said it’s been three years, he’s faced pretty much the same hitters a lot, so I mean, they’re getting used to that slider coming down, and the big thing is to utilize other pitches, which he’s been trying to do as well, so, and a lot of it too is the location of the slider. He has to get it down, back foot, with two strikes to get the strikeouts as he did before.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s throwing a lot more backdoor cutters as of late, but it’s still an effective pitch for him, the biggest thing is location of all his pitches, whether he gets ahead or not, when he’s 0-1, 0-2, the slider plays a lot better than 2-0, 2-1.

“So, just working ahead of counts is great for him.”

Which is something Corbin and pitching coach Jim Hickey have been working on together in Hickey’s first year on the job in the nation’s capital.

“Just keeping the ball — same thing we always talk about with all of our pitchers, is location, keeping the ball down, trying to get a little bit more depth on his slider where it used to be, they’ve worked a lot on that.”

Nothing was working for early in his start against the Tampa Bay Rays last night, as he gave up back-to-back-to-back walks and three runs in a long, 35-pitch, bottom of the first inning in Tropicana Field.

Corbin settled in and held the Rays there through four though, and he came back out for the fifth with a 5-3 lead and retired the side in order in a seven-pitch frame that ended his outing.

Patrick Corbin’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 93 P, 50 S, 4/3 GO/FO.

Corbin ended up throwing more sinkers (34) than sliders (30) in the 93-pitch start, in which he generated just seven swings and one swinging strike with his slider.