Spinvestigation: Luscious Locks Edition | Baseball FanGraphs

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, referee Ted Barrett approached his personal relationship James Karenshak:

No, Barrett wasn’t looking for hair care tips, or a commercial for Herbal Essences. He was checking for foreign material by order of the twins’ manager, Rocco Baldelli. Although he was cruising around to the best of his ability, Barrett couldn’t find anything definitive. Karenchak returned to dugout by a narrow margin and his shooting ability intact, although his dignity may have been affected.

Baldeley’s accusation was not an unusual act of trifles. Karinchak has been at the center of a sticky controversy since the league cracked down on pine tar mixes, Spider Tack, sunscreen/rosin, and any other cliched options players use to increase spin. A stricter application of the existing rules began at the beginning of June last year; Take a look at Karinchak’s spin ratio and raw fastball spin rate, and you can clearly see when things have changed:

It is no coincidence that Karenchak’s results fell at the same time. He was an unbeatable, fire-spitting beast, a beast that had appeared since arriving in the majors. From June 1, 2021 onwards, he posted 5.40 PM and 5.41 FIP, and was demoted to minors at the end of August. The fall from grace was rapid, and seemed to be clearly related to the change in the application of foreign materials.

Here’s one thing you can say: Karenchak is clearly a talented marksman. Maybe he just needed a little time to figure out how to throw the ball without boosting the spin. Karinchak’s arsenal, after all, isn’t just impressive because of its turnover. Its unique delivery and extreme point of release are an asset. The curved Karinchak ball generally breaks toward right-hand hitters, and it’s one of the only pitches in baseball. His fast ball is almost all vertical, an enviable trait even without improved spin.

In fact, he has been steadily improving. After that disastrous end to the 2021 season and the IL run that began this season, Karinchak returned to the majors at the beginning of July and, after two shaky appearances, racked up 23 goalless streaks, cut only by the Twins and their treacherous hair-accusing manager:

You know what else has been improved? Karenchak’s rotational speed ratio. like rob arthur Hinge in baseball flyershooters are adding a frankly impossible amount of spins across the league this year. They may have suddenly learned hitherto unknown techniques that enhance rotation using only finger pressure and sheer grit, but, uh, I wouldn’t bet on that.

How do you overcome a judgment inspection? There are plenty of places on the baseball field to put something sticky, and it’s not all about the bowler’s belt or hand. The player can sneak something on the ball as it spins around the horn. The catcher could have a tank of syrup hidden somewhere; Who can forget Molina runs‘s chest protector cheated? Or – hear me – a bowler can put something in his hair.

Karenchak plays with his hair a lot. The best I can say is that he touches it before every throw. If it’s like natural hair, it doesn’t look great for its grip. Hair tends to get greasy and sweaty, especially when you’re working hard, which Karenchak does. What Baldele was asking about wasn’t off the field, although after the match, Guardians coach Terry Francona take exception with the timing of the inspection; You could hardly watch Karenchak in recent weeks without noticing the number of times he runs his fingers through his hair. Here is a set of Karinchak touching his hair while Louis ArazOn the bat that led to the inspection:

Whether he’s actually sinking a specific lock into Spider Tack or just hardening himself for good luck, Karinchak’s routine has paid off spinning. Here’s that spindle speed ratio, against 50 fastballs rolling in four stitches, during Karenchak’s major league career:

It’s almost back to where it was before the crackdown, probably 50-100 rpm lower for pitches of similar speed. Perhaps some of that was just a matter of adjustment; Every baseball pitcher has had to learn how to pitch differently, and getting used to a baseball tacked differently in real time undoubtedly has a learning curve. Some of them are difficult to explain without assuming the presence of foreign matter. No matter how he added this spin, the results were impressive. His swing hit rate didn’t bounce back to high, but it was well above average there, despite a recent tip:

Swinging is the name of the game with Karinchak. His fastball isn’t the hardest in baseball, but it’s one of the best lost bats thanks to its unique shape. It drops less than 10 inches from its initial course in its path to the plate; The average fastball thrown with its speed and extension drops over 13. Those extra three inches of ride produce a lot of swings like this:

Its curve ball is intriguing thanks to its launch point, but this year it’s been more of a supporting act than a headline. As you might imagine, it has intermittent trouble locating it – it’s really hard to throw a breaking step (or any step, really) out of that high aperture. The hitters have an easy plan against it: Just try not to swing. Only a quarter of its curves chart this year’s fluctuations. This makes him less reliable as an outside court – he often uses his Fastball in this turn – but it does mean he does some hits when he detects them.

If you’re wondering how much rotation, and therefore movement, matters to shooters, the Karinchak is an extreme but useful example. When you throw a fastball carrying its one trick over the opposing bats, you lose some of those carrier stings. Less spin means less load quite directly, as you can see by splitting Karinchak’s 2021 season into two parts:

James Karenshak 2021 in two parts

spit Pre-SVR Share SVR For VMs (in) After VMov (in) before blowing After blowing
fast bowl 25.6 22.9 20.0 15.7 36.1% 21.5%
Curveball 28.7 26.8 -9.0 -8.4 40.5% 40.8%

I’m not entirely surprised that his curve ball, while also losing spin, hasn’t changed much when it comes to losing bat. This is for two reasons. First, thanks to its grip, about half of the rotation it makes on the ball contributes to its downward movement, so there is less change in movement, which you can clearly see above. Secondly, the smells generated by using the curve ball are mostly not those generated by the mixture Just miss. The hitter swings the court in the dirt, completes his swing before the ball goes home, or generally dashes away. It’s a big mistake while Fastball is a small bug, where every millimeter of movement is critical.

I’m not sure Karenchak will ever return to peak fitness. He hit 48.6% of his hits in 2020, and 46.2% in the first two months of 2021. That number dropped to 24.6% late last year, but is back to nearly 40% this year. The best of times rarely last, but Karenchak made a decent impression of Spider-Tack’s heyday in the new execution system.

Whatever he does, Karinchak provides key roles for a Guardians team that needs every last bit of bullpen juice. The NBA Central Race is tight, and it would be tighter otherwise Emmanuel Class And the group behind him. Bullpen’s 3.18 ERA is the 4th best in baseball, and it’s also the 4th best in adding winning probability. They added nearly five more wins by playing more White Sox and Twins bullpens – pretty cool when the rankings are separated by less than five matches.

I’m curious what the future of foreign substance enforcement looks like. As Arthur’s article explained, bowlers are adapting to the new rules not by learning to play with less spin but by finding a way to add that spin again. Maybe it’s just a part of baseball now; It’s hard to put a genie back in the bottle, and pitchers accustomed to an extra inch of movement will do their best to rediscover it.

I’m also curious about James Karenshak’s future. It’s out of the ordinary even among the league’s major loyalists. More movement, less idea where the ball is going, and more liveliness on the hill. When he’s alright, it’s a fun show to watch. Heck, when it’s bad, it’s fun too, albeit obviously in a different way. There have been more good times than bad times lately, which means the odds are good that we’ll be seeing this kind of high wire in the qualifying phase soon—and it might even include a scalp massage.