Welcome to Get To Know A Nat. Thrice a week we will showcase a different Washington National expected to be on the 25 man roster come opening day (as well as a few others that may be on the cusp of making the team). By the end of Spring Training we hope you’ll have a good understanding of just who the guys taking the field at Nationals Park will be, what will be expected of them, and what to be looking for throughout the year.
Name: Craig N. Stammen
Nickname(s): Not that we know of
DOB: March 9, 1984
From: Versailles, Ohio
Position: Relief Pitcher
Bullpen Role: Long Reliever
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2005 by Nationals, Debuted in 2009.
Just Who is this Guy?: Well you could always start with our 2013 preview, but here is some fun stuff about Stammen anyway!
In the 2012 offseason, Stammen volunteered (along with others including teammate Ross Detwiler) to be a part of the USO Holiday Tour deployed to visit American troops overseas in war zones.
Having attended the University of Dayton, Stammen was drafted and left college after his junior year and just 15 credits shy of graduating. In the 2013 off season, Stammen went back to school. Through online courses and a month long stint back at the U. of Dayton, Stammen will complete the remaining requirements of his undergraduate degree while in Spring Training and in the first few months of the regular season. Stammen hopes to complete his bachelors degree in entrepreneurialship in the Spring. His nickname should probably be something like “Professor Smarty-Pants.”
2013 Season: In 81.2 Innings Pitched, Stammen recorded 79 strikeouts and posted a WHIP of 1.286. His ERA and FIP are also pretty darn good as well, which is indicative of why he’s succeeded in his current role. (Go check out fangraphs for more info).
If you compare his average velocity on pitches to last year, they are essentially the same-and they are about 1-2 MPH faster than when he was a starter (which stands to reason since he’s not using his arm as heavily in any one outing).
Stammen’s 2012 and 2013 seasons illustrate some of the problems with ERA and some of the virtues of FIP. Since we’re nominally a learning and stats blog, let’s take a look:
YEAR ERA FIP BABIP
2012 2.34 3.45 .265
2013 2.76 2.82 .326
As you might have read (here), FIP is Fielding Independent Percentage. It’s a pitching stat that only looks at HRs, Ks and BBs. ERA, the Earned Run Average, takes all earned runs and averages them over a nine inning game.
If you look at 2012 vs. 2013’s ERA, you might think that Stammen had a worse year. If you look his FIP, you can see that his pitching with regards to HRs, Ks and BBs. Indeed 3 fewer homers and 9 fewer walks (though 8 fewer strikeouts) in 7 fewer innings.
What could account for a drop in FIP but a bigger ERA? Well, the astute among you will have noticed that third column, BABIP or Batting Average on Balls in Play. On some level this is a measure of luck for pitchers and hitters (.300 is considered around the baseline), a measure of how hard balls are hit, and some measure of defense. It also explains what is going on above. Stammen was getting “hit harder” but not giving up home runs or walks. Those “hard hit” balls might have just taken a bunch of better bounces than the year before, or the fielding might not have been as good as in 2012 (which is certainly true with regards to some of the injuries the team had in 2013).
That is a long way to say that if Stammen pitches like he did last year, and he gets a little better defense or has a little better luck he might not just be good, but approach “lights out” levels of good.
What is Expected in 2014: Stammen is one of a few Nationals that is simply going to be asked to do what he has done in the past few seasons. I don’t see a lot of reason why he wouldn’t, either. Get up and do what he’s done for the last two years-that’s what is expected.
If It All Goes Right: See above. The “lights out” part.
If It All Goes Wrong: The Nats may be in a better spot with regards to long relievers this year, but Craig Stammen is a top notch pitcher. If he were to have a bad year, you’d figure guys like Ohlendorf, maybe Taylor Jordan or a few other names might be able to step in an fill the roll-but none would be expected to be the long man Stammen is. It’s a fact of life that starters don’t go 6+ innings every game. Those games where a starter struggles often come down to bullpen and offense hanging in after a rough start-and over the last two years many of those comebacks have started with Craig Stammen on the mound.