Craig Stammen and his less-than-stellar 5.96 ERA enter today's afternoon match up with the San Francisco Giants and Barry Zito. You may think, "oh, Barry Zito, he's not that good anymore." My response: think again.
In his first three years in San Francisco (2007-09), Zito's season ERA was over 4.00, and his record was below .500 all three years. This year, Zito is 6-2 with a cool 2.80 ERA with 37 strikeouts. Zito has pitched at least 5 innings in each game, but he's averaging almost 7 innings a game. As a lefty pitcher, Zito is pitching better against righties (.219) than lefties (.242), and he's only given up one home run all season. This 32 year old, 10-year veteran is having a career season like his early days in Oakland.
Stammen is a bit of a different case. He's struggling immensely. His last 2 decisions have been losses, and the team has lost 4 of his last 6 starts. In those 6 starts, he's averaging just around 5 2/3 innings per game, and he already has two starts this year where he didn't make it 5 innings. His ERA has hovered between 5.00 and 6.00 in his last 4 starts. It's easy to make excuses and call it an anomaly, but if we look at his starts last year, it obviously isn't.
Stammen ended 2009 with a 5.11 ERA in 19 starts and hovered around 5.00 all year. His ERA was never below 4.14 and even that was only for 1 game. Unfortunately, this track record isn't one conducive to a lot of success. Maybe Stammen figures it out, and maybe he doesn't. What is painfully obvious, however, is the Nats can't afford to have too many more starts with Craig Stammen on the rubber. With the Nats still competitive only 4 days from June, it's time for a shakeup. It's becoming clearer and clearer that Stammen should be replaced in the rotation when Strasburg comes up in about about 2 weeks.
Maybe he ends up in the bullpen and poor Justin Maxwell gets optioned to the minors yet again to make the roster space. Maybe he gets sent down to Syracuse or Harrisburg to figure his stuff out. Maybe none of these things happen, because I'm purely speculating. But one thing is for sure, the Nats need to act quickly to stop up this massive hole in the rotation before it's too late.