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Padres’ reliever Craig Stammen should be on the radar for any contending teams

With Craig Stammen resurging like he never has before, he could be a vital piece to anyone’s bullpen.

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s always nice to see a veteran who has largely been written-off, and cast aside, to prove doubters wrong and to resurge; sometimes such reclamation projects perform at an even higher level than they had previously. The San Diego Padres’ reliever Craig Stammen is one such re-surging veteran.

The Washington Nationals drafted Stammen in 2015, where he worked his up the Nats system until he was granted free agency in 2015. 2016 saw him ink a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians that never bared fruit for either parties. Stammen received his shot at redemption in 2017 when the San Diego Padres signed him to a one year deal. He finished with just over 80 innings and a modest 3.14 ERA and 4.38 FIP. It was a good enough season for the Padres to sign him to a two year deal at $2.25 million per season. Stammen didn’t disappoint the Padres with this signing, he’s been unbelievable good this season given his age and his recent performances before the Padres scooped him up and signed him to a two-year deal.

With Stammen pitching so well and with a week still left on the waiver trade deadline, Stammen could be dealt to contending team, and if the Padres don’t end up doing that before the end of the month, they can still deal him this season to a potential contender next season, if not even in the offseason.

The really surprising thing with Stammen is how well his numbers compare overall to others around the league. He’s really pitching almost as good as any reliever, 8th in FIP- and tied for 6th with Aroldis Chapman in fWAR. If you’re keeping pace with Chapman in fWAR, you have to be doing something right!

His bread-and-butter is his sinker, which hitters don’t seem to be able to square up and see many base hits off of. Only 6.5 percent of the sinkers he’s thrown have been for base hits, none of which have been triples or home runs even though 55.4 percent of his total pitches have been sinkers. Furthermore it seems like no matter where he throws the pitch, it’s equally as difficult to get a hit off of it. His wOBA on the sinker out of the zone, along the edges and inside of the zone is .281, .225 and .260 respectively. The reason the sinker is playing so well is because of a combination of devastating movement on all of his pitches, besides the slider.

Stammen’s Stuff

Pitch Type V-Movement H-Movement Spin Rate Velo
Pitch Type V-Movement H-Movement Spin Rate Velo
2SFB 5.75 -9.46 2,186 91.7
Slider 3.31 0.24 672 86.7
Sinker 5.61 -8.96 2,104 92.0
4SFB 6.87 -8.18 2,101 91.0
Knuckle Curve -6.12 3.86 1,282 80.7

Despite not getting a ton of movement on his slider, which acts more like a cutter, batters are still whiffing on the pitch 25 percent of the time. He doesn’t use his knuckle-curve all that much but when he does it’s receiving a 23 percent whiff rate. Between these two pitches, it’s allowed him to mix them in and then come back with the sinker for strike three which is how he’s racked up 37 strikeouts with the pitch out of his 71 total strikeouts. The slider is his other go-to strikeout pitch, which he likes to throw around 38 percent of the time when there’s two strikes in the count.

Texas Leaguers

Stammen is also elite at tunneling his pitches. Besides the slider, all of his pitches remain in a tight tunnel until 10 feet from the plate. This is making it exceptionally hard for hitters to know what he is delivering. As a result 34 percent of all of the pitches he’s thrown are either called strikes or whiffs. Another aspect that aides the tunneling is the fact that he mixes in his secondary pitches well. The sinker is what he goes to more often than not, but when he needs something else, he’s got it.

Secondary Pitches
Baseball Savant

I know what you’re thinking right about now. It’s the Padres, they’re not even contending. And you’re right, it’s often hard to take a high performing player on a poor preforming team and expect it to carry over if/when he reaches a better team who’s doing everything they can to win and contend. However, I’d counter that Stammen has a top 40 leverage index with 1.53. Some familiar names that are right around where Stammen is in leverage index are Matt Barnes, Kelvin Herrera, Jose Leclerc, Jordan Hicks, and Jeremy Jeffress. All of those pitchers I just mentioned do not have a higher average leverage than 1.6

Between the results and performance Stammen has had this season, plus the cheap $2.25 million dollar amount for next year, he could be a huge pickup for a contending team in the next week. And if the Padres cannot find a suitor it would come as a shock if they’re not shopping him around the rest of the season and into the off season. Even if the Padres decide to hang onto him through spring training next year, he could come up at next year’s deadline. Either way Stammen has proved that he’s returned to a form we haven’t seen in half of a decade. Look for Stammen to be a major role-player if he does end up on a contending team, he can be a vital addition that proves worthwhile down the stretch.

Ron Wolschleger is a pitchaholic and a Contributing Writer for Beyond the Box Score as well as Bless You Boys. You can follow him on Twitter at @FIPmyWHIP.