When the headline came across my twitter feed, I was speechless. Yet there it was, plain as day — Rockies Sign Manny Corpas to minor league deal. I was mad. I was furious. I called Dan O’Dowd a lot of names and only three of them would I say to his face. Why in the world were my Rockies dipping back into that pot!? This was like that high school girlfriend you just can’t get rid of and keep going back to just because your mom doesn’t like her. I just could not understand.
Needless to say I’ve talked myself back from the edge since that January day and have managed to keep an open mind about the second coming of Corpas. Actually, I have been downright pleased with Corpas’ efforts so far this spring. Which led me to the following statement: Could Manny Corpas be an above average player in 2013??
September 9, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Manny Corpas (60) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Chicago Cubs won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsSome old Rockies fan just keeled over from a heart attack, and for that I apologize. But really, I have to ask it again — Could he actually be a contributor to the Rockies in 2013?!? I think the answer is yes. In three outings so far this spring (as of March 5th) Corpas has given up two runs (one home run) and struck out 5 batters including striking out the side today in the 9th inning. That feels more like the old Manny Corpas that was part of a charge to the 2007 World Series. That feels more like the Corpas who put up a 2.8 WAR in 78 games, posting a 2.08 ERA, compiling 19 saves, and striking out 58 batters. What Rockies fan could forget Corpas in 2007, right? The black jerseys, the race to the wild card, the Matt Holliday slide… and Corpas was right in the middle of all of it.
Since that magical 2007 season, Corpas has been less than spectacular and left many fans calling for his head. But if you take a minute to look at his stats he really hasn’t been as awful as it seems on the surface. Corpas has earned a 3.6 WAR rating over 6 major league seasons, or roughly a 0.5 WAR per season. That is not “good” by any means but it does show that the average player used to replace Corpas probably didn’t help the Rockies at all. In fact, by this logic the average player replacing Manny actually lost that team 0.5 games over a season (i.e. Chatwood, Ottavino, Lindstrom, et al.). Corpas also has shown consistency throughout his in key areas such as BB/SO (walks to strikeout ratio), HR/9IP, and SO/9IP. In BB/SO he averages 2.44 (high of 3.43, low of 1.75). In HR/9 he averages 0.9 (1.4; 0.7). For SO/9 he has been right around his average of 6.3 (5.4; 7.5). Are these Hall of Fame numbers? Get real. But we never have argued he was a HOF pitcher. After that dismal 2012 the Rockies just need average, and with a career 4.01 FIP Corpas can clearly be that.
On top of all of this is the fact that Corpas missed the entire 2011 season while undergoing and rehabbing Tommy John surgery. Those two words used to make even the most optimistic fan shudder — “Well, that pitcher is done!”, was uttered around many coffee pots. But modern medicine has made this surgery highly successful and effective, and many players come back from the procedure good as new. The important take away here is that Corpas, for the first time since ~2009, is truly and completely healthy. His average fastball velocity is slightly down but max fastball velocity is higher — signaling a focus on control. He is throwing his sinker a lot more, and he is throwing his slider with confidence (check out his PitchFX stats here).
Most of all, he is happy to be back in a Rockies uniform. Let’s hope we fans are just as happy by September.