Reliever Buy-Low: Craig Stammen

Any team need a reliever who can pitch multiple-inning stints if you need? I think lots of teams would jump at the chance to acquire such a reliever considering Madison Bumgarner’s legendary five-inning relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. Andrew Miller became a dangerous bullpen weapon in the 2016 postseason with the Indians, which brought them within a game of winning the World Series in three consecutive games. And there’s some guy on the Astros called Chris Devenski, who could also spot start if you need a starter desperately. The Blue Jays acquired Tom Koehler from the Marlins, who I admittedly have some interest in as a starter or multi-inning reliever. Maybe you want someone like Raisel Iglesias or Michael Lorenzen.

Currently, most relievers are used in one-inning stints; some are even used against lefties or righties only. Christian Bethancourt, Chris Gimenez, and Jordan Schafer have been two-way players: a hitter and a reliever to give more bench depth and help keep Rule 5 draft picks. Some top prospects have been billed as two-way players such as Brandon McKay, Hunter Greene and most notably Shohei Otani, who has been fantastic in Japan.

The reliever who should be receiving more attention as a multiple-inning reliever isĀ Craig Stammen, who used to be a part of the Nationals as a starter and was then converted into a reliever when he was called up from AAA in 2011. Stammen was doing pretty well from 2012-2014 as a setup reliever, but then he missed most of 2015 and didn’t make it back to the big leagues until this season. As a result of him previously having been a starter for much longer, he has more stamina than an average reliever, and can be used in multiple-inning relief stints, providing more bench depth for a team like the effect of having a two-way player (even if they aren’t very good).

This year, he has been getting back to what he was doing before in terms of his ERA, strikeout and walk rates, and innings per appearance. His home-runs, however, have gone up quite a bit despite his 52.2% ground-ball rate. This is due to an unsustainable 19.4% HR/FB ratio(!), which has overly inflated his FIP to 4.34, with a much more appealing 3.75 xFIP and a 3.60 SIERA, which suggest a solid middle relief/ setup type of reliever that he has been performing like. This and his ability to pitch multiple-inning stints create a higher value than his $900,000 contract. He has four pitches with positive values according to Pitch Info this year. Despite minute velocity drops for his pitches from his peak years of 2012-2014, he is still very effective with his pitches, with only one registering a slight negative according to Pitch Info.

Admittedly, his BABIP is a bit lower than it should be at .254, but it shouldn’t regress too badly (somewhere around .280 since he does generate quite a few ground balls). He is only getting about 6.7% pop-ups, which is not very good, compared to his peak seasons. Batters are getting more hard contact this year compared to the rest of his career (30.1% this year compared to 28.5% for his career). And his strand rate is at 85.7% this year, compared to just a 71.9% career mark. Additionally, he has allowed a .329 wOBA against lefties this year vs a .256 wOBA vs righties.

Overall, Stammen has been lucky and unlucky this year. Ultimately, he is a solid reliever who should be able to do quite well in almost any park except Coors Field or any extreme hitters park. He should receive a two-year deal worth around $4-5 million per year for how well he can pitch as a solid multiple-inning reliever, and how he can help increase bench depth for a team that wants to keep a Rule 5 talent, an extra bench player, a normal reliever, or maybe a specialized reliever such as a LOOGY (looking at you, Randy Choate, Brian Shouse, and so many more who have made careers out of being LOOGYs). The former two are much more likely than the latter two — particularly a LOOGY, as most aren’t as useful to teams anymore.

All stats and links are owned by FanGraphs, except for the link to Shohei Otani’s player page, which is owned by the NPB.

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I'm an avid baseball fan who is a red sox fan, I wouldn't expect many articles on the red sox as other things should be looked at before looking at them or the Yankees.

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