On Wednesday, Cleveland Indians closer Brad Hand gave up four runs in the ninth inning and fans like they have in the past clamored on social media that the team make a change in the role.
Much like the names of the past, Jose Mesa, Bob Wickman, Chris Perez, and Cody Allen, Hand has struggled since the All-Star break last season but the hope was especially with the four-month layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic that he would return to the All-Star form he once had.
If you dive into the data which WFNY writer Michael Bode did on Thursday, Hand’s velocity in his fastball and slider have both dropped two miles per hour in the last calendar year. Bode wrote that if Hand doesn’t work on his slider, he won’t ever return to form.
The Indians are clearly recognizing that which is why after Shane Bieber’s magnificent eight inning performance against the Twins on Thursday night, they gave the ball to James Karinchak to close out the game for a 2-0 victory.
Karinchak, who may be the closest to a real life version of the Major League character Rick Vaughn with the #99 jersey and coming out to the song “Wild Thing”, finished off the Twins lineup with six pitches including one strikeout. So far in three appearances this season, the 24-year-old has allowed no hits, one unearned runs and struck out five of the 13 batters faced in four innings of work.
With a 60-game season and little room for error especially in critical games against teams like Minnesota, the Indians can’t afford to wait and see if Hand is going to return to form. It makes all the sense in the world to make the switch to Karinchak as the closer going forward because whether it was now or at some point, he is going to be the long-term closer for the Indians.