When one thinks of the Washington Nationals bullpen, how many names do they think of before they get to Craig Stammen? Names like Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and now Rafael Soriano probably come to mind, along with others, but that should not be the case.
A few years ago, Stammen was one of Washington’s biggest question marks, going a combined 8-11 with a 5.12 ERA in parts of the 2009-2010 seasons in Washington’s rotation, coincidentally being part of the franchise’s darkest days in Washington. Stammen has come leaps and bounds, much like the team, coming back up in 2011 and going 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA and has not looked back.
In 2012, Stammen was easily Washington’s most consistent reliever in both use and performance, coming into every conceivable game situation and handling it with aplomb. Thanks to Davey Johnson, who believes in an A and B bullpen, Stammen was given a chance as the right handed long man out of the bullpen but quickly proved he was much more than that.
Usually when starters convert to relievers they are able to throw harder and get more life on their pitches, and that’s exactly what happened with Stammen. His sinker and slider became devastatingly filthy pitches, and Stammen was all the more effective.
So, what is Stammen’s future role with Washington and in general?
Personally, I think that Stammen is going to be a closer at some point in his career. He has two pitches — the sinker and slider — that any closer would like to have, and he also has a funky motion that sees him pause slightly after breaking his hands as he gets ready to deliver a pitch. This could certainly throw off opposing batters and is a huge contributor to Stammen’s success.
Washington has two players that have gone through a metamorphosis in Stammen and Ian Desmond. Both should be in the All-Star Game in Flushing. Let’s hope Johnson has some pull with NL Manager Bruce Bochy.