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Craig Stammen's test

Morning roundup

Craig Stammen fell asleep after his start Tuesday night at 3:30 a.m., which is when he usually does on nights he starts, good or bad. He always thinks about what he could have done better, and Tuesday he had a lot to think about.

Stammen had allowed five runs in five innings, upping his season ERA 5.88 and, perhaps, endangering his chances of sticking in the Nationals rotation once Stephen Strasburg joins it. The same problem continues to oppress Stammen. He allowed thee runs in the first inning, upping his ERA in opening frames to 11.45. "That's horrible," he said.

When he arrived at the park yesterday, Stammen and pitching coach Steve McCatty talked about things. They talked about maybe changing Stammen's pregame routine. The conversation went deeper than that.

"He told me he didn't think I was very competitive [Tuesday] night," Stammen said. "That's a wake-up call when some people say that, about my body language and things like that. Maybe I got a little [upset] when the first two guys got hits, like 'Here we go again' feeling. I've got to be mentally tough to put that behind me and get after them. So we're going to do that against Cincinnati."

The first-inning issues do seem to be a mental block. Take out those 14 earned runs in 11 innings, and Stammen would have a 4.62 ERA. His struggles at the start of games torpedoed his chance at a successful first third of the season.

"It starts to play on your mind," McCatty said. "When it happens, and then you know it happens, and then you start guarding against it, and then it happens. Then you start putting pressure on yourself to not let it happen, and then it just sort of snowballs.

"He's thinking about it. You go out there and waiting for the other shoe to fall. You can't do that. You got to go back to be the guy I saw last year, the guy who attacks. Instead of waiting for things to happen, make things happen. Get back to yourself, which is confident, borderline chip-on-your-shoulder, we're playing hardball."

Stammen and McCatty focused on that idea, about "getting back to who I am," Stammen said. "Last year, I basically threw all fastballs, because it was the only thing I could. Maybe I was a little bit more aggressive last year."

In his maiden major league season last year, Stammen pitched with bone chips in his right elbow. On mornings after he started, he couldn't extend his arm far enough to shut his alarm off because his elbow was so stiff. Sliders force a pitcher to extend more than any pitch, and so Stammen couldn't throw them. He relied on his fastball.

This season, Stammen came into spring feeling 100 percent, with more zip on his fastball, more break on his curve. And, at last, he could throw his slider. And boy, is he throwing them. From data compiled by FanGraphs.com, here's the breakdown of how frequently Stammen threw fastballs, curves and sliders.

2009
Fastball: 70.7 %
Curveball: 18 %
Slider: 1.7 %

2010
Fastball: 55.3 %
Curveball: 15.1 %
Slider: 20.1 %

Stammen's fastball this season, again according to FanGraphs, has been 0.3 "runs" above average this season. His slider, meantime, is 2.2 "runs" below average. In this sense, Stammen's improved health has actually hurt him. The strength in his arm has persuaded him to throw a below-average pitch more than one-fifth of the time, and to throw his best pitch with 15 percent less frequency than last year.

"I'm getting beat on some bad breaking ball pitches, because I'm throwing a ton of them," Stammen said. "That's not who I am."

Stammen may have to figure it out in Class AAA Syracuse or the bullpen. Strasburg is going to knock someone off the team. It could be a reliever, with a start taking his place. Or it could be a starter heading down.

"Anybody on the club," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "Whether you're a reliever and you say, 'He might put one of these guys in the bullpen,' or you're a starter and your name is not Lannan or Hernandez, you're probably, Ooh, I wonder if it's going to be me.' I can't help you there. That's on you when you get the ball. That's life."

Stammen knows he hasn't convinced the Nationals they should keep him no matter what. "It's not my decision to make," Stammen said. "My only control is what I do. My job is to make the decision easy for them about sending me down. But I haven't pitched well enough lately. I can't even worry about. I've just got to go out there and pitch well against Cincinnati. If I give up runs in the first inning, then compete my butt off."

On Wednesday, Stammen was adamant he would start to turn his season around.

"It's just about how you come back out of those things," Stammen said. "We'll see what I'm made of here this next time. I'm tired of it. I want to put a stop to it. The buck stops there."

FROM THE POST

Boz says the Nationals have blown past the Orioles as the favored local team. He also drops a nice Jordan Zimmermann update.

The Nationals couldn't take advantage of their scoring chances or the lowly Astros in a 5-1 loss. Ian Desmond made three errors and the Nats ensured they'll head home with a losing record.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 6, Buffalo 3: Boomer Whiting went 1 for 3 with a triple, a walk and four RBI. Josh Whitesell went 2 for 4. Joel Peralta recorded his 17th save with a scoreless ninth and lowered his ERA to 0.72. Erik Arnesen allowed one earned run in four innings on two hits and a walk.

Harrisburg 5, Richmond 1: Danny Espinosa went 2 for 5 with a home run. Chris Marrero went 4 for 5 with a double, raising his average to .263. Jason Jones allowed run on four hits and a walk in six innings, striking out five.

Potomac 12, Winston-Salem 4 Stephen Lombardozzi went 2 for 3 with a double and three walks. Nicholas Moresi went 3 for 3 with a double and a walk. Derek Norris went 2 for 6. Tyler Moore hit a home run.

Lakewood 5, Hagerstown 3: Lakewood scored four runs in the top of the ninth. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 4 with two doubles. Josh Smoker allowed no runs on four hits and three walks in five innings.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nationals are no longer a laughingstock, writes Bernando Fallas of the Houston Chronicle.

Willie Harris has fond memories of Houston, writes Gene Duffy.

This is a little old, but Ryan Zimmerman sat down with the Batting Stance Guy and drank Gatorade.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 3, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Craig Stammen  
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Next: Collin Balester's new role

Comments

>Get back to who he is?

Puleeze. This is who he is. He stinks. Maybe have him throw 2 innings of practice in the pen before he starts. That's about all you can try. The guy is awful. Get back is right. Get back Joe.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Way to stay postitive, Dove. Now tell us how you really feel about him.

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | June 3, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

You know what, this isn't even Stammen's fault. This is Rizzo's fault for having him in the rotation. For not going out and getting another starting pitcher besides Marquis beofre the season started. Our starting rotation isn't bad, it's absurd. How does Rizzo get away with this. This guy is so smooth he makes Teflon look sticky.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I couldn't agree more with Dove...people listen so much to what Bob Carpenter (Probably the least knowledgable baseball person with a microphone) or a writer on WP. It's great to be a positive fan, but it gets old when we constantly make excuses for guys who shouldnt be in a major league rotation. Can you honestly say there is another team in baseball who would cough up the league minimum to have Craig Stammen in their rotation? Seems like a nice guy, but good teams and players dont make excuses, they execute.

Posted by: TheycallmeThriiiiiiilledge | June 3, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

And speaking of absurdities, where was the contingency plan for having a capable backup catcher who could hit above his weight in case your 100-year old catcher had to spend some time on the DL?
No catcher, no RF, a questionable CF, the worst defense in baseball-- supposedly Rizzo's strength-- Who and what did he bring to the table again?
Zim, Hammer, Guz, Olsen, Clippard, Livo, Dunn (who also is all or nuthin, a HR or a K) were all Bowden. Where are Rizzo's handprints....Marquis, Nyjer.....Gimmie a break.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Last night WE were the Astros. That was dispicable.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Haven't said it for a while, but thanks for the morning readings, particularly the MiLB and out-of-town stuff.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 3, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Somehow I must have missed the "despicable" comments when we were crushing the Astros 14-4 the other night. To me, those comments lack credibility and are simply reactionary - when a loss happens, lash out in all directions!

The contingency plans for all these situations have been exhaustively discussed and vented about. The horse is dead, and your spleen is misplaced. There were plenty of back-up plans for Pudge (who was himself a back-up plan), and the injury situation is what it is.

Posted by: faNATic | June 3, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I blame last night on Nieves... bases loaded, one out, pitcher on deck and you look at strike three which is, oh, right down the middle. Horrible.

And Morgan, how about stop bunting strikes away. For a speedy guy you sure are looking slow.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 3, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

>>when a loss happens

Are you for real? A loss happens every other night. And now we can say it's not because of the tough competition, it's because of the lousy rotation. I don't think the Astros have won back-to-back games all season. Our rotation is absurd. That's on the GM.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

The kid is just not a major league pitcher right now. Nothing personal, strictly business. A 4.62 ERA that excludes the first inning is nothing to brag about.

Perhaps he'll never be a big league pitcher, but he's got time to sort things out in the minors. Perhaps if he performs at AAA/AA he can be a part of a trade package down the road. Perhaps...

Posted by: joemktg1 | June 3, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I think you can safely say that this season (so far) it hasn't been about the Nats having a "lousy rotation" as dovelevine believes. Most of these losses have been because of the lack of hitting, specifically hitting with runners in scoring position. Correct that, and add in a little better defense (yes, I'm talking to you Desmond and Morgan), and the Nats would probably be about 5 games over .500.

Posted by: erocks33 | June 3, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Keep Strassburg's chair warm. No fharting.

Posted by: ihatewalks | June 3, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Last time I saw it, it was here:

http://web-omnibus.com/medicine/images/illu_spleen.jpg

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 3, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Based on where this team was the last 2 years I will take 26-28 at this point. Rizzo filled a number of holes on this swiss cheese roster but, it was nearly impossible to fill them all. RF, backup catcher, another Starter. Yes, they are all lacking but, he made the decision to put Desmond as the starting SS, brought in Pudge, and brought in Kennedy to give a vet in the MI, along with getting Guz's bat in the lineup at different positions.

More importantly, I think Rizzo has changed the mindset of the organization. It is now more professional and it's no longer a joke or a sideshow.

The final hurdle is getting the Lerners and StanK to spend some money in the offseason to add a couple of bats and another starter. My money is on Rizzo to get this done.

Go Nats!

Posted by: Section505203 | June 3, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I say we relieve Robledo out of bullpen catcher duties and play him. Cant be any worse. Probably knows the pitchers better and I'm sure he can hit in the .100's also...

Posted by: TheycallmeThriiiiiiilledge | June 3, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

>>and brought in Kennedy to give a vet

Lets try and keep to the facts here. Kennedy was brought in as a last second signee because they didn't want to spend the bucks for ODog. Yes overall he's been good to have although, and this is big, his three errors this past week cost us 3 games. And that's big.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

So 50% chance of rain tonight in Buffalo

Posted by: geai | June 3, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

>>So 50% chance of rain tonight in Buffalo
Posted by: geai |

What does that mean exactly? Would they then pitch him tomorrow and then Wednesday? Or would they just do a bullpen session and still go Tuesday? Any thoughts?

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Dove,

I remember the ODog, Kennedy situation, trust me. I was not happy with typical cheapness of the Lerners on that one. However, it has worked out because Kennedy has helped and he is a professional.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 3, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Atilano is 5-1 so I don't see how you can take him out of the rotation for Strasburg, that's cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Stammen is the logical choice to be moved simply because he is the least effective starter the team has and doesn't have the toolbox of pitches/overall talent to make it worth the Nats time to continue to develop him at the cost of 4-5 runs in the first inning of each start.

Posted by: leopard09 | June 3, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Anyone else notice last night that just when Knight and Carp were giving a glowing review of Desmond, comparing him to Jeter, he at that moment made the double error on the same play. Unbelieveable. And without missing a beat, Knight then began talking about what Desmond does Wrong. it was classic.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I know this will get lost since Kilgore has sent about half a dozen new posts since, but I thought I should put this here ... Stammen has pitched 165.1 innings in the majors (and a number of those injured!). That's nowhere near enough to determine if he's going to be a decent pitcher or a bust. There have been quite a few pitchers that struggled their first season or so that have gone on and had decent careers. Examples:

Pitcher ................... Years …. G/GS …... IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Craig Stammen ….. ‘09/10 .. 30/30 …165.1 … 5.39 …. 1.36 …. 10.1 … 2.2 …. 4.2
(2009 FIP = 4.68; xFIP = 4.48; WAR = 1.3)
(2010 FIP = 4.64; Xfip = 4.14)

Pitcher ................ Years …. G/GS …. IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Ricky Nolasco ... ‘06/07 .. 40/26 …161.1 … 4.91 …. 1.44 …. 10.2 … 2.8 …. 6.1
(2006 FIP = 4.68; xFIP = 4.58; WAR = 1.1)
(2007 FIP = 5.44; xFIP = 5.73; WAR = 0.1)

Pitcher ................ Years …. G/GS …. IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Mike Pelfrey ...... ‘06/07 .. 19/17 … 94.0 .… 5.55 …. 1.71 …. 10.5 … 4.9 …. 5.6
(2006 FIP = 4.65; xFIP = 5.32; WAR = 0.2)
(2007 FIP = 5.06; xFIP = 5.26; WAR = 0.3)

Pitcher ................ Years …. G/GS …. IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Aaron Harang … ‘02/03 .. 32/30 …154.2 … 5.06 …. 1.49 ….. 9.7 … 3.7 …. 6.2
(2002 FIP = 4.33 xFIP = 5.07; WAR = 1.1)
(2003 FIP = 4.59; xFIP = 4.36; WAR = 0.8)

Pitcher ................ Years …. G/GS …. IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Aaron Cook ….. ‘02/03 .. 52/21 …159.2 … 5.69 …. 1.70 …. 11.3 … 3.9 …. 3.2
(2002 FIP = 4.90; xFIP = 4.51; WAR = 0.4)
(2003 FIP = 4.75; xFIP = 5.03; WAR = 1.5)

Pitcher ................ Years …. G/GS …. IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Bronson Arroyo . ‘02/03 .. 44/25 …160.0 … 5.68 …. 1.61 …. 10.5 … 3.9 …. 5.0
(2000 FIP = 5.23; WAR = 0.5)
(2001 FIP = 5.22; WAR = 0.2)

Pitcher ................ Years …. G/GS …. IP …... ERA .... WHIP .... H/9 ... BB/9 .. SO/9
Ryan Dempster .. ‘98/99 .. 39/36 …201.2 … 5.36 …. 1.73 ….. 9.7 … 5.8 …. 7.2
(1998 FIP = 5.86, WAR = -0.4)
(1999 FIP = 5.30; WAR = 0.6)

I wouldn’t mind having any of these guys in my rotation in the #4 or 5 slot. Stammen may need to spend a little time in the bullpen to help straighten himself out (it seemed to work ok for Nolasco, Cook and Arroyo), but I don’t think the Nats should just throw in the towel on him just yet Stammen’s an OK pitcher, not great (yet), but I do think that given some more time, he’ll be a viable starter for some big league ballclub.

Posted by: erocks33 | June 3, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Blah BLah Blah. Sorry erocks. Watching Stammen pitch (and blow bunts) makes me wanna poke my eyes out (as some1 else so aptly said.)

Posted by: dovelevine | June 3, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

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