Jesse Crain put together a fantastic 2011 out of the White Sox bullpen, posting a 2.62 ERA while averaging over a strikeout per inning in his first year in Chicago. He was incredibly reliable, appearing in 67 games and throwing 65 13 innings. With that in mind, his name has been thrown around in discussions regarding the team's closer in 2012.
But there are a few concerns. Namely, Crain's high walk rate, his abnormally-high rate of stranding runners on base and his low ground ball rate.
Crain issued 4.27 walks per nine innings, a fairly high number that isn't a red flag on its own -- especially given his high strikeout rate. But that strand rate is concerning.
But there are plenty of relievers who have sustained a strand rate over 80 percent (in other words, four out of every five baserunners they allow to reach do not score). Generally, that strand rate is a number that will regress for starters (only Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have a strand rate of 80 percent or above in the last two seasons), but for relievers, it's hardly out of the question for a high strand rate to be sustainable, especially those who are high-strikeout guys like Crain.
The high fly ball rate, though, is a little more worrisome given U.S. Cellular Field's propensity to play like a bandbox. Only one in three balls in play off Crain stayed on the ground last season, while nearly half were fly balls. There certainly exists a chance that a few of those fly balls turn into home runs in 2012 just based on a little bit worse luck.
For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.
Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.
The veteran catcher was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.
If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.
Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news in the coming seasons.
Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition continue for those two pitchers?
SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: