30 Players in 30 Days: Craig Stammen
Craig Stammen’s season was the definition of erratic–he moved from the Nationals’ starting rotation to the Minors then back to the Majors and finally to the bullpen. His games were nearly as unstable as his place on the pitching staff. At times, he looked commanding, while other times, he lost control. He did throw the ball harder this season, but a mildly faster fastball that averages around 90 mph and a tighter curveball, don’t always translate to immediate success.
Stammen started the season in rocky fashion, managing just 6.1 innings combined in his first two starts while giving up 11 runs and striking out just one. He immediately improved in his next two starts, this time going a combined 15.0 innings while giving up just five total runs and striking out eight.
Stammen was optioned to Triple-A ball to make room on the active roster for Stephen Strasburg on June 7. He went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three solid starts for the Syracuse Chiefs and returned to the Nationals starting rotation later that month. The move would last a little over a month, during which time Stammen went 3-2 in seven inconsistent games–the type that have defined his short career as a starting pitcher. In Stammen’s return on June 29 against the Braves, he pitched 7.1 innings of two-run ball, holding opposing batters to a .192 average to earn the win. But in his very next start on July 4, Stammen lasted only 3.1 innings before giving up seven earned runs, walking three and walking away with the loss.
Stammen was again taken out of the starting rotation on August 8, but this time he was moved to the bullpen, where he would remain, with moderate success, for the rest of the season. Unlike most starting pitchers, Stammen did not publically grumble about the move, saying, “I’m just Craig, a little old 12th rounder. It’ll be alright. Whatever they want me to do is what I’ll do. Start, come out of the bullpen, clean the balls off.” He previously worked as a reliever in the Minors and left the University of Dayton as the all-time saves leader. “It doesn’t really bother me. It’s not like it’s a demotion,” Stammen said of the move.
This is only Stammen’s second season as a Major League pitcher, so it is way too early to give up on him due to his lack of consistency. The Nationals do have use for him, but the question is, where? Will he pan out as a starter next year? Most likely, he will prove more valuable as a long reliever who may get called on to start from time to time if a vacancy in the rotation arises.