Fernando Rodney is the closer. Joel Peralta is competent but he's had neutral-reverse splits since he reinventied himself with the splitter in Washington. Jake McGee and Alex Torres are left-handed, and Kyle Farnsworth is failing. Jamey Wright is not meant for high leverage situations. There's clearly something missing from the Rays bullpen, and now, once Jesse Crain comes off the disabled list, that empty space will be filled.
What do you see? I see a four-seam fastball with a ton of jump. At 95 mph, that will blow hitters away. I see a big, vertical breaking ball. With apologies to Cesar Ramos and Jamey Wright, the Rays 'pen hasn't had one of those to get excited about since J.P. Howell left. And I see a two-plane slider.
The slider is the cruelest of pitches. With the velocity of a poor fastball in the mid-80s, a good slider falls down and away from the swing of a same-handed batter. At its most basic level, the slider is the enforcer pitch of the platoon split. Pitchers alternate fastballs and sliders down and away to their same-handed victims, just on the corner, or just off the plate. Those who excel at this are usually rewarded with a strikeout or a weakly slapped groundball.
For the more advanced pitchers with better sliders, it can be a weapon in any count, to either side. Placed on the back foot of an opposite-handed batter, a good slider will draw plenty of hapless whiffs and check-swing strikeouts.
According to Brooks Baseball, Crain throws his slider 30% of the time to lefties, and 40% of the time to righties. That's a pitcher with the tools to blow away the batters he should, and the culture to be more than just a ROOGY (like late-career Dan Wheeler). So far this season, Crain has posted a 2.19 FIP against lefties, and a 0.88 FIP against righties.
We'll dig more into Crain's PITCHf/x data in a bit, but this is a good place to start. He's a good reliever who leans heavily on his slider, and who helps to diversify the Rays bullpen.
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