Based on ZiPS projections, James Karinchak is expected to finish 2023 with the following stats:
55 G, 54 IP, 34.8% K%, 13.7% BB%, 3.33 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 0.6 fWAR
Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Covering the Corner Discord.
Blake Ruane’s prediction: OVER
The key to James Karinchak’s success this season will be sustainability.
Karinchak’s worst season came in 2021, when he finished with a 4.07 ERA and 0.2 fWAR. He also logged more innings (55.1) that year than in any other season during his four-year stretch with the Guardians. It was the same year that he struggled with inconsistent command — whether the increased enforcement of Major League Baseball’s ban on foreign substances was a factor in those struggles is open for debate — eventually earning a demotion to Triple-A Columbus.
Last season, Karinchak started to resemble his old self again after returning to the big league club in July. He started throwing his curveball more than his four-seam fastball and throwing it for strikes, preventing opposing hitters from sitting on (and teeing off on) his fastball. He recorded 23 consecutive scoreless relief appearances between July 9 and Sept. 7, ultimately finishing the year with a 2.08 ERA and 1.0 fWAR after logging 39 innings of work.
To me, ZiPS seems to be hedging its bets, believing that Karinchak won’t struggle as much as he did in 2021 but also that he won’t be as dominant as he was in 2020 and 2022. His projected strikeout rate of 34.8% is a lot closer to his 33.2% in 2021 than it is to his 38.8% in 2022, and a 3.33 ERA would be the second-highest single-season mark of his career.
I don’t share ZiPS’s skepticism. I was one of the doubters who thought Karinchak was toast after he flamed out in 2021, and I was one of the first to admit I was wrong when he returned to form in 2022. I think he finds sustained success in 2023.
Will James Karinchak finish with an fWAR over or under 0.6?
This poll is closed