New York Yankees: Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel?
After making a trade with the Seattle Mariners for left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton, the Yankees are still in the market to bolster their rotation in an attempt to make another deep run in 2019. Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are two of the biggest starting pitchers on the free agent market this offseason and one of them may be headed to the Big Apple. Corbin is a 29-year-old, left-handed pitcher, coming off his best season yet in his young career. Keuchel is one year older than Corbin and also left-handed. He’s a Cy Young winner and World Series champion, and surely would bring a winning mentality to a team with a long history of success. So, which one would be the best fit?
Diving deeper into Corbin’s data, we can see what type of pitcher he is. Since returning from an elbow injury in 2014, his fastball velocity has dropped each of the past three seasons and averaged a career low 90.4mph in 2018. His groundball rate has dropped from 55% in 2016, down to 49.4% in 2018. Since 2016, his fly ball rate has increased from 15.4% to 20.4%. Not a good trend heading into a ballpark like Yankee Stadium. Debuting in April of 2012, Corbin gave up 14 home runs that season and has increased every season, minus an injury riddled 2015 in which he only pitched 85 innings and gave up 9 home runs. This past season, the Diamondbacks introduced a humidor and in a previous study it was concluded that it has in fact decreased the amount of home runs in Chase Field. As a result, Corbin only allowed 14 home runs which ties his career low. This is great, except for the fact that Yankee Stadium doesn’t have a humidor and is known as one of the best hitter parks in all of Major League Baseball.
His Barrel%, Hard Hit %, and Swing & Miss % were all career bests for Corbin in 2018. He was extremely effective, as shown by his career best 246 strikeouts and 5.7 BB%. This is a result from his severe separation between amount of times he throws his slider compared to his fastball. 2016 was the last season he threw his fastball more often than his slider. Since then, his K% took a massive spike and he hasn’t looked back. It makes sense, as he has been getting 11.9% more swings and misses with his slider than any other pitch this season. Previous to 2018, it was even more significant of a difference. Zeroing in on throwing his most effective pitch more has morphed him into an elite strikeout pitcher. On top of that, his .265 wOBA was .52 better than the MLB average. If he can return to his groundball pitcher form when 55% of the batters he faced would result in grounders, as well as continue his strikeout warpath, then he can see much success in Yankee Stadium. As shown by Sonny Gray, New York is a whole different kind of beast, but couple him with James Paxton at the top of that rotation, it could end up being a lethal one-two punch for the Pinstripes.
As previously mentioned, Keuchel would bring impressive accolades with him to the Bronx Bombers, a franchise already decorated with 27 championships and hungry for a 28th. The 2015 American League Cy Young winner is coming on an average season, striking out only 153 hitters over 204.2 innings pitched. Teams were not hitting him hard however, as is Barrell % has declined each of the last three seasons and finishing at 4.5% in 2018. His strikeouts decreased to the lowest percentage since his rookie campaign, at 17.5% in 2018. The biggest drop off from 2017 to 2018 for Keuchel may be his ground ball percentage. While 54.9% of at bats resulting in ground balls is a respectable number, it is a severe drop from the 67.8% ground balls he forced in 2017 and therefore worth mentioning.
While ground balls fell, his fly ball percentage remained about the same, up only 4.3% from 2017. This is good because as a result, he only gave up 18 home runs in his 204.2 innings pitched last season. Among other pitchers with over 200 innings pitched, Keuchel gave up less homers than Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, James Shields, Gerrit Cole, and Mike Clevinger. That’s some good company. Another impressive stat line has been his success at Yankee Stadium. He owns a 2.45 ERA in the Bronx through 33 innings pitched, while striking out 35 and giving up an astounding 0 home runs. If they're basing their decision off of success at Yankee Stadium alone, Keuchel is their guy. If he can keep his ground ball percentages consistently better than his fly ball percentages and get back to missing bats, he could be taking the ball every 5th day for the Yankees. However, Corbin seems to be the favorite here. He’s got better overall numbers, is a year younger and it’s simply hard to imagine Keuchel without a beard.