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.