Cleveland Indians: James Karinchak’s struggles not from substance crackdown

Aug 8, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher James Karinchak (99) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 8, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher James Karinchak (99) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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With Major League Baseball having cracked down on pitchers doctoring the baseball, it is easy to correlate a pitcher struggling with the use of foreign objects. That would appear to be the case with Cleveland Indians reliever James Karinchak, who has seemingly lost his spot as the co-closer of the team.

Karinchak has not exactly fared well since the ban on foreign substances. Since June 21, when the ban went into place, he has posted a 5.68 ERA and a 1.474 WHiP over his 19 innings, issuing 12 walks while striking out 18 batters. He has no longer been the force he has been in the bullpen.

James Karinchak’s struggles for Cleveland Indians go beyond crackdown

However, his struggles did not begin immediately after that crackdown when into place. From June 21 through July 28, he was still solid, posting a 3-0 record with three saves. His 2.63 ERA and 1.171 WHiP in those 13.2 innings were roughly in line with what should have been expected. Although he only struck out 14 batters and issued eight walks, his command has not always been the best throughout his career.

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Karinchak’s struggles have really begun over the past few weeks. Since his outing on July 30, he has allowed eight runs on eight hits and four walks over 5.1 innings, striking out just four batters. Opponents have hammered him in that time, posting a .333/.448/.583 batting line with four homers.

While the spin rates of his pitches has decreased since that crackdown, that is not the only factor. Karinchak has pitched 50.2 innings this season, the most he has thrown in a season since 2017. After his first season in the Indians’ system, he was converted to the bullpen, and had not thrown more than 48.2 innings in a season.

Given his limited usage over the past few years, and the shortened season in 2020, it is likely that Karinchak is just tired. The Indians have used him almost constantly this season, with those appearances and pitches beginning to pile up. It is starting to affect his performance, as he just is not the weapon he had been at the start of the season.

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James Karinchak has struggled for the Cleveland Indians lately. However, his struggles go beyond the crackdown on foreign substances.