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Indians Rightfully Demote Reliever James Karinchak

Indians Rightfully Demote Reliever James Karinchak

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James Karinchak #99 of the Cleveland Indians reacts against the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning at Progressive Field on June 15, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Orioles 7-2.
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)

 

On Saturday, the Cleveland Indians demoted relief pitcher James Karinchak to Triple-A Columbus after struggling for a sustained period of time.

The assignment to Triple-A was deserved, based on how he had been pitching as of late.

Over his last 15 games, he had allowed 13 earned runs in 12 innings, for a 9.75 ERA.

His full-season ERA doesn’t look so bad, at 4.14 in 54.1 innings, with 77 strikeouts.

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However, a closer look tells a different story, one of a struggling pitcher who needs a reset in a less stressful environment to work on some things.

 

A Closer Look At A Struggling Pitcher

Karinchak had a 2.52 ERA and 68 punchouts in 39.1 innings prior to the All-Star Game.

He was one of the top relievers in the Indians bullpen and was even considered the co-closer of the team alongside Emmanuel Clase.

After the All-Star break, however, he has an 8.40 ERA and nine strikeouts in 15 frames.

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An even closer look at one particular situation may help us get some answers.

MLB started to check pitchers for foreign substances on June 21.

Since that date, Karinchak has a 4.76 ERA and a 5.02 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in 22.2 innings.

Over his last 15 games, he has as many walks as strikeouts, with nine.

Over his last 30 contests, he has 19 walks in 27.1 frames.

For weeks, we have been talking about how sticky substances on the ball, such as spider tack, help pitchers increase the spin rate of their pitchers.

Of course, that is a desirable outcome for them, because increases in spin rate are correlated to more movement on the ball, thus making hurlers harder to hit.

However, one aspect that hasn’t been discussed enough since MLB’s crackdown of foreign substances on the ball is control.

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These substances often help pitchers get a better grip on the ball, thus improving control and command.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow discussed it, and we have seen (without much more evidence other than observation) how pitchers such as Aroldis Chapman and Karinchak struggle to find the zone since the crackdown.

Karinchak’s walks have increased, and his strikeout rate has plummeted.

 

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Can Karinchak Make Adjustments?

It has certainly been a period of adjustments for some pitchers, as many MLB hurlers used substances on the ball for one reason or another.

Gerrit Cole was having an incredible season before the crackdown, and while he vaguely denied using any substances on the ball, his performance dipped considerably after MLB started checking pitchers.

He looks, however, like the perfect example of how a pitcher can adjust back to not using any substances on the ball.

Again, the fact that he used them is purely speculation, but the numbers and the evidence speak for itself.

Cole, and other pitchers, adjusted and are back to pitching well.

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Perhaps Karinchak can adjust back, or if he never used any substances, which seems unlikely, he can work on his control and refine his delivery to go back to the pitcher he was in the first half.

He certainly has the stuff to return to relevance, and the Indians can afford to be patient with him since they are out of contention.

They worked wonders with Triston McKenzie after a few weeks in the minors, why can’t they do the same with Karinchak?



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