It’s hard to tell anymore, so I’ll just come out and ask: Do we still care (even a little bit) about wins and losses when evaluating a Major League starting pitcher? If we did, Arizona second-year lefty Patrick Corbin would be the top arm in baseball considering he improved to 9-0 over the weekend for the National League West-leading Diamondbacks. Obviously his record doesn’t tell the entire story, especially in a world where Felix Hernandez (rightly) won the 2010 AL Cy Young with a 13-12 record.
Corbin’s basic numbers are solid, as he’s pitching got a 2.06 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 11 starts. If you drafted him in fantasy, you’re in heaven, considering he was a late round pick coming off his 6-8 record as a rookie over 107 innings in 2012. Arizona certainly isn’t going to sneer at nine wins before Flag Day from a 23-year-old starting pitcher.
As it stands, despite being 9-0, he likely won’t receive the ceremonial honor of starting the All Star Game next month at Citi Field even if he keeps this up. As strong as Corbin’s pitched in 2013, there’s been many guys better than him in the National League, namely Adam Wainwright, Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw.
If you’re into this sort of thing, Corbin doesn’t rank in the Top 10 in WAR for pitchers. His 2.3 WAR number checks in at 13th, a tenth of a point behind Tampa’s Matt Moore, himself 8-0. Corbin is 13th on Batting Average on Balls in Play at .243. When it comes to DIPS (Defense-independent ERA), which some folks consider an important indicator for pitchers, Corbin isn’t even in the Top 40. (The top five pitchers in terms of WAR at the moment are: Clay Buchholz, Kershaw, Wainwright, Hisashi Iwakuma and Cliff Lee.)
What ends up skewing Corbin’s numbers are his strikeouts. He’s only fanned 61 batters in 74+ innings. He’s also walked 24 batters in 2013, compared to 25 free passes issued in 107 innings as a rookie.
So again it seems if you want to evaluate Corbin’s start to the 2013 season, you’ll have the one camp which is prone to devalue wins and paint him as an above-average pitcher (albeit one with potential) who is off to a very good start. On the other hand you’ll have people who continue to say wins are actually important since that’s what every team strives to do each night out. It’s hard to completely handwave wins, as if they don’t mean anything. They might not be a great tool to evaluate a pitcher’s overall worth, but it also doesn’t render them meaningless. Stat guys might look at wins in the abstract, but managers and players probably don’t.
Corbin, bar a collapse in the next few weeks, will be an All-Star in 2013. If he’s a perennial National League pick for the Midsummer Classic? Time will tell. The Angels certainly would like to have him back in their system after trading him away for Dan Haren, that’s for sure.
[via Getty Images]