Really I’m writing this post for just one reason; I don’t understand how this is happening.
In a season where last year’s CY Young award winners David Price and RA Dickey have ERA’s of 6.25 and 5.36 respectively and WHIPs of 1.48 and 1.31, Patrick Corbin and Kevin Slowey are setting the world on fire.
So far Corbin has a mind bottling stat line of 1.80/1.08/32K and 6 quality starts. Slowey on the hand has an even more impressive 1.81/0.94/36K and 5 quality starts. WHAT?!
(No I didn’t accidentally transpose Slowey and Corbin’s names with Price and Dickey.)
So I have to find out how this is happening. So of course I went to the only source I use whenever I want to know anything; baseball reference. I’m being serious, if I need a weather update or anything I just hit up baseball reference, doesn’t always help but now I randomly know that Mike Stanley’s career OPS is .827.
But back to the task at hand, finding out how the hell Corbin and Slowey are doing this.
Corbin is in his second year and following up on a 2012 campaign where he boasted a 4-8 record with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. He averaged a 7.2 K/9 rate, a 2.1 BB/9 rate, a 9.8 Hits/9 rate and a 1.2 HR/9 rate. In case you were wondering that is nowhere near being remotely good. His ERA last year ranked 223 in the National League (that includes players that don’t qualify based on innings pitched but only because Corbin himself didn’t qualify.) His WHIP ranked 117, Hits/9 ranked 254; basically he was awful soaked in horrendous.
In 2013 Corbin so far is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. So how’s he doing it? First the WHIP, his walk rate is up slightly to 2.3 from 2.1 per 9 innings, and his strikeout rate has stayed on par at 7.2 per 9 innings. Where he has improved is in giving up 2.4 hits less per 9 innings at 7.4 Hits/9. The result? Fewer runs being scored on singles and doubles. His HR rate has also dropped drastically from 1.2 to 0.5. The result? Well if I need me to spell it out, it’s less runs scored on HR’s. In 2012 Corbin gave up 14 homeruns, 4 of which had 1 runner of base and 2 of the 14 homeruns had 2 base runners on. Those resulted in 20 runs scored. If we were extrapolate his current HR rate over the same number of innings pitched he’s on pace to only allow 5 HRs. He also averaged 0.5 runs per hit last year and is only averaging 0.24 runs per hit so far this year.
Again if we extrapolate that rate out to match the number of hits he gave up last year it would equal 28 runs, plus the 5 HRs would give me 33 runs allowed over an assumed 107 innings. The result? An ERA of 2.78.
So in case I lost you in the shuffle of all the numbers, Corbin is doing this because he’s on pace to more than halve his HRs and hits given up.
Do I think this start is fluky? Yes and no. He’s only in his second year, so is it possible that last year was just the result of him being a rookie and this is who Corbin really is? Sure it is. I think however, he’s probably something in between the two extremes. He still needs to lower his hit rate and his walk rate even more to truly sustain this level of production.
Phew! Now on to Slowey…I’m writing this in real time, so part of me thinks that I’ll reach the same conclusion for Slowey that I did for Corbin.
Slowey spent the first 5 years of his career in the American League, and was nothing short of awful. His career low in ERA and WHIP before the 2013 season was 3.99/1.20. Slowey is also a pitcher that has given up far too many Hits/9 (11.1, 9.0, 11.2, 9.9, and 11.8). He’s also given up far too many HRs/9 (2.2, 1.2, 1.5, 1.2, and 1.5). Where’s he’s had success in the past (if you can really count anything he’s done in the past as successful) is in his walk rate. While he let the ball leave the park far too often, and he let too many batters get on base through hits, he wasn’t giving away any free passes (although when you’re allowing 11 hits per 9 innings, some might say every time he’s on the mound it counts as a free pass.)
The difference in Slowey this year lies in a few areas, all of which are affected by the fact that he is now pitching in a lesser league, and in a better pitchers park. He’s cut his HR rate by more than half, is now giving up less than 7 hits per 9 innings, and is averaging the second highest strikeout rate of his career at 7.3 per 9 innings.
Will this hold up? Of course not! He’s in the sixth year of his career; unlike Corbin he’s not a young pitcher who doesn’t have an established body of work. I do think, this will be a career year for Slowey, because of the ball park and the league, but don’t be surprised if his ERA/WHIP and peripheral statistics all climb drastically as the year continues. If he ends the year with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, I wouldn’t be shocked, but it would a great season, relative to what he’s produced in his career to date.
Conclusion? Don’t let guys get on base and don’t give up HRs and you’ll put up amazing numbers. Sustain that over an entire year and you’ll be a CY Young Award candidate. Sustain that over the majority of a career and you’ll go down as one of the greats. Do it randomly over an unbelievably small sample size and you’ll help out my fantasy team, and then you’ll get dropped by the All-Star break.
You’re move Corbin, you’re move Slowey.
P.S. If you’re a starting pitcher you probably don’t want your name to be Slow-ey, or Homer Bailey…