Cleveland Guardians reliever James Karinchak desperately needs a third pitch

If James Karinchak wants to continue pitching with the Cleveland Guardians, he's going to need to develop a third pitch.

St. Louis Cardinals v Cleveland Guardians
St. Louis Cardinals v Cleveland Guardians / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
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It's not uncommon for a major-league reliever to only throw a couple pitches - the guy's a reliever after all - but it's pretty quirky to find one who throws just a fastball and a 12-to-6 curve.

That's what James Karinchak throws, and it's become clearer than ever that he desperately needs to develop a third pitch if he wants to remain effective with the Guardians moving forward.

The funny thing is, Karinchak, 27, is throwing his 12-to-6 curve in the zone more this season; it's really his fastball that's letting him down. But a major part of the issue is that opposing hitters certainly know Karinchak only has two pitches in his arsenal. Even if he's getting the curve over for strikes, it behooves a hitter to simply wait on the four-seamer.

It's a big reason why Karinchak has given up six home runs in 32 innings. Sure, he's struck out 43 batters in those innings, but he owns a 3.66 ERA and 5.27 FIP, which was partly why Karinchak was sent down to Triple-A Columbus earlier this season to sort himself out.

Karinchak can still be very useful for the Guardians moving forward. He still possesses excellent strikeout numbers, especially when he's able to throw the curve for strikes. But at the same time, you couldn't ask for a more obvious pitch than a curveball with such a distinct vertical break.

If Karinchak were able to develop any sort of third pitch, it could go a long way to keeping hitters just a little more honest. It's a tremendous weapon to be able to throw a 12-to-6 curve for strikes consistently, but there is little room for error in Karinchak's case.

That being said, Karinchak has been pretty solid since coming back up to the Guardians earlier this month. In four appearances - and 4 1/3 innings - he's given up one run with five strikeouts and two walks. Teams have a robust, somewhat lucky .364 BABIP against him, with opposing teams hitting .250 against Karinchak in that stretch. Still, he's been serviceable out of the bullpen and he's kept the ball in the ballpark.

But moving forward, it makes so much sense for Karinchak to dabble in a third pitch offering. Whatever the pitch is, it doesn't really matter. Anything he could throw in addition to the four-seamer and curveball would make him a much more lethal threat.