Thus far in 2013, Addison Reed has done an excellent job closing out games for the Sox. In 23 innings, he has recorded 17 saves, blown just one, and holds a 1.96 era. He's been very good, and deserves plenty of credit after an incredibly lackluster 2012. But the guy who has impressed me the most out of the White Sox bullpen is the man who makes way for Reed, Jesse Crain.
Crain was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft, immediately following another excellent reliever, Jonathan Broxton. There was no point to me telling you that, just a fun fact. He was signed by the White Sox in 2010 to a 3-year, $13 million dollar contract. He will become a free agent after this season, and should certainly have earned a nice new contract from the White Sox. In his 3 seasons in Chicago, he has been a staple of consistency out of the pen, holding a 2.24 ERA in 136.1 innings.
In his first 23 innings this season, Crain has been even better. He has pitched to a 0.78 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, striking out 31 along the way. That's a 12.13 K/9 to go along with a 33% strikeout rate, which is the highest among American League relievers. His 15 holds for the Sox this season also leads the American League. His tERA of 2.05 is also a White Sox best, and sits behind only Sean Doolittle (1.89) of the Athletics in the American League. He is also one of 6 American League pitchers with at least 20 IP who has yet to allow a homerun. Addison Reed is another one of these 6.
Crain has excellent stuff; he varies his speeds like a seasoned veteran, and his pitches certainly don't lack movement. He throws his fastball around 95 MPH, mixing in his slider and changeup, both of which come in around 84 MPH, and his curve, which averages around 72 MPH. Although many people are pointing to increased use of his curveball (his percent of curves increased from 6.3% to 15% this season), it is his changeup that is producing the highest percentage of swing and misses at 27.6% (compared to FA 11.2%, SL 11.5%, CU 9.5%). The changeup is also producing the highest percentage of strikeout at 45.5%.
*all stats above according to FanGraphs Pitch F/X
He's an excellent pitcher, and I often feel that late inning relievers don't always get enough shine unless they're closing out ball games. So cheers to you, Jesse Crain, keep doing what you're doing. I leave you, White Sox nation, with a GIF of Alexei Ramirez interacting with a large plush horse.