Stammen is the career strikeout leader for the University of Dayton, where he pitched for three years.
- In 2005, Craig got drafted by the Nationals (see Transactions below).
In 2007, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Stammen as the 21st-best prospect in the Nationals' organization.
Craig didn't make the book in 2008. But in 2009, he was at #20 in the Washington farm system.
Stammen loves baseball. And the pro experience is something he truly enjoys.
Stammen doesn't have to think twice about who gets the credit for his success on and off the baseball field. His father, Jeff, was the one who encouraged and taught him how to play baseball.
"He always had fun just playing with me," Craig said. "Those are just good memories of us having our good times together. He really taught me how to play baseball from the very beginning. He is not one of those guys who knows the ins and outs of baseball. He played it and he knew that if you work hard and practice, you will become good."
Craig followed his father's lead. He worked and practiced hard to get to the big leagues. He (became) a workhorse in the Nationals' bullpen. He was an invaluable piece in leading Washington to its first NL East title. Things are no different this year. Imagine how Jeff feels about having a son in the big leagues.
"My Dad was a very good role model for me my whole entire life," Craig said about Jeff, who owned a hardware store in Ohio during Craig's formative years. "He is one of my best friends. I can count on him in any situation that I need. He is my rock to lean on. We have a very close relationship.
"Whether I played one day in the Major Leagues or a million days, he is very proud of me. He enjoys watching me play in the big leagues just as much as I am. That's probably the coolest part about playing in the Major Leagues—you enjoy it with your family. My Dad tries to come to as many games as he can because he enjoys them so much."
In the middle of the 2010 season, Craig needed to lean on Jeff when the Nationals sent Craig down to Triple-A Syracuse. There was Jeff encouraging his son to do better and work his way back to the Majors. During that period, Craig always had flashbacks of working hard with his father at the hardware store. It also helped that Jeff never tore him town. He was always building him up.
"His best quality is he will tell you how you are supposed to do it," Craig said about Jeff. "He can correct you, reprimand you and stuff, but he is always encouraging you to do better and be the best that you can be. He told me to continue to work hard. He talked about doing your job, keeping your head down, not really looking what's ahead of you, but worry about what's going on right now.
"Even though I was in the Minor Leagues and some people might have thought it was not a very good spot to be, I was enjoying myself and I was thankful I still had a career going. And I knew if I had another opportunity, I was going to make the most of it." And he did. (Ladson - mlb.com-6/13/13)
Craig was raised in North Star, Ohio, which hosts a population of slightly more than 200. Stammen is a bit overshadowed in his hometown. Renowned gunslinger Annie Oakley was born in the area in 1860. Just before the lineup of vibrant red and blue tractors and plows outside of North Star Hardware is a sign commemorating Oakley and welcoming travelers to the tiny town.
When asked about a teammates wedding Craig responded. "It’s nicer than the ones I’m accustomed to,” he continued. “Coming from the middle-of-nowhere Ohio, we’re used to square dancing and having a buffet.”Square dancing?
“Where I’m from, it’s like a big tradition,” Stammen said. “That they have some square-dancing music going on, and everybody knows how to do it, too.”
Stammen went on to say that his moves are “a little rusty,” but scored himself an 8 out of 10. And there’s no need to worry about his lady friend.
“Oh yeah,” he said, when pressed on his skills. “I can do-si-do my partner just fine.”
Craig Stammen is a Catholic. He spoke of his faith in a 2013 interview with the National Catholic Register.
While the mechanics of baseball are a part of everyone’s preparation, Stammen has an added benefit coming into the season: his practice of trusting in God’s providence. The North Star, Ohio, resident learned to entrust everything to God several years ago at the University of Dayton. After a summer of rookie league baseball in 2005, Stammen returned to campus for the fall semester. It was during this time that he first shared his Catholic faith publicly—a turning point that helped to solidify his core beliefs and aim in life.
"I take pride in taking care of my body and being able to pitch every day," said Stammen. "I've been lucky to have a pretty resilient arm. It is a point of pride for me. I like being the workhorse, the bulldog. I think those are good qualities to have in the bullpen."
During the 2013 off-season, before 2014 spring training, Craig finished his college degree. Since he was drafted by the Nationals in 2005, Stammen had wanted to finish the final 15 credits needed to earn his entrepreneurship degree at the University of Dayton. His mother, Connie, a teacher, stressed the importance of completing his education after he left college following his junior season to chase his dream of pitching in the Major Leagues.
May 3, 2014: Stammen received his bachelor's degree from the University of Dayton, but he was not able to attend because he was with the Nationals, who played the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park that afternoon. Stammen majored in entrepreneurship. And he hopes to put that degree into good use after his playing career is over. He had thoughts of working for his father, who sells farm equipment in Ohio. But baseball made him take a different direction.
2014 off-Season: Craig worked out in his hometown in Ohio and playing golf around the country. He has also worked at his father's business selling farm equipment.
"I've been able to spend some time with my dad at the business, trying to learn how to sell farm equipment. So it's been an interesting offseason," he said. "I've tried to help seal the deal with a few signed baseballs and baseball cards, stuff like that." (Chase Hughes)
January 2017: Craig videoed his new wife, Audrey, hitting a hole-in-one when they were playing golf on their honeymoon, in Hawaii.
On April 14, 2015, in Boston, Craig exited his outing with a torn flexor muscle in his pitching arm. He missed the remainder of the season. And he didn't pitch in the Majors in 2016.
"I set a goal, from the day I got injured, that I wanted to pitch again in the Major Leagues—but more specifically on that mound," said Stammen, referring to Nationals Park. "Once I was gone to free agency and other teams, I wanted to pitch back here. I guess it was a goal reached yesterday. Time to set some loftier ones."
Stammen said he earned himself "a lot of bragging rights" with two clean frames against some of his best friends. "It's fun to see a lot of people I built a lot of good relationships with, say hi, thank them for my time when I was here," Stammen said. "It was also fun to pitch in this park. I feel pretty comfortable on that mound."
After a rough start with the Padres, Stammen has settled into a groove. He's been arguably their most effective reliever in May 2017. Stammen effectively found his groove pitching mop-up duty, after his ERA ballooned past 10 on April 25, 2017. On six different occasions that month, he helped preserve the bullpen with at least two innings when the Padres found themselves behind.
Stammen called his recent run of appearances "a blessing in disguise, having to pitch in some of those blowout games." In the process, he's reverted back to his old mechanics and begun to more closely resemble the pitcher he was during his time in D.C.
"On the pursuit of perfect mechanics to protect my elbow, I lost deception and what I was good at," Stammen said. "I've always been able to throw strikes; it's been about whether the hitters can see me good or not. I'm a little goofy, so I needed to keep my goofiness, my herky-jerky motion. That's part of who I am and why I've had success. I just needed to embrace it and not try to be Mariano Rivera."
Stammen began his career as an ineffective starter before transitioning to the bullpen in 2010. After his move to a relief role, he posted a 3.02 ERA in 280 innings. He played a part in two Nationals division titles along the way.
"My favorite memories are when we won the division and got to play in the playoffs," Stammen said. "But I had so many good teammates here and so many good friends. That's going to live with me forever. I made my Major League debut here, too." (Cassavell - mlb.com - 5/28/17)
Growing up in Ohio, Stammen developed the nickname "Trigger," given to him by one of his friend's fathers. Over the years, it was shortened to "Trig."
Few things can be more stressful for a relief pitcher than walking into a bases-loaded situation. But Craig says he welcomes the opportunity. Actually, opportunities. For the seventh time in 2017, Stammen entered a Padres game with the bases loaded.
And that marked the sixth time he walked off the mound with none of the three runners having scored. The one time it didn't happen was due to an error.
"It's one of the best feelings in baseball when you're walking off the field after getting out of one of those jams," Stammen said. "It's a privilege to be called to step into that situation. The best thing going for me, I throw strikes."
Stammen was summoned into that situation on August 30, 2017, when the Giants loaded the bases with one out against starter Travis Wood in the fifth. Stammen's effort became a key moment as the Padres went on to defeat the Giants 5-0 at Petco Park.
First, he struck out Hunter Pence for the second out of the inning. Then he retired Pablo Sandoval on a fly out to center.
"Stammen has done it time and time again," said Padres manager Andy Green. "It's great to have a weapon like that."
Stammen retired all five Giants he faced to pick up his second win of the season. (Center - mlb.com - 8/31/17)
Craig enjoyed his first Father's Day as a dad in June 2018. His first child, Chase, was born March 20.
"Today's a cool day because my hero is my dad, so it's always been a cool day to look up to him," the right-hander said. "And now to realize that I have a son that's probably, hopefully one day looking up to me, it's kind of a fun day to think back and celebrate that and look forward to how I can raise my boy the right way." (Bowman - mlb.com - 6/17/18)
April 17, 2020: For whatever reason, there aren’t many relief-pitchers-turned-managers across MLB. But Craig Stammen might become an exception. A 10-year veteran, Stammen is revered by his teammates and regarded as a tone-setter in the Padres' clubhouse and bullpen. His laid-back demeanor makes him easily approachable, and he has a wealth of knowledge, according to teammates, who regularly congregate at his corner locker.
Said one Padres staffer: “He has a real future after his playing career is over. Maybe manager, but he could do any number of things that would be valuable to any organization.” (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - April 17, 2020)
June 2005: The Nationals chose Stammen in the 12th round, out of the University of Dayton. He signed with scout Ben Jones.
January 18, 2013: Stammen and the Nationals agreed on a two-year, $2.2 million contract, through the 2014 season.
January 16, 2015: The Nationals and Craig avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $2.2 million contract for 2015.
December 2, 2015: Craig elected free agency.
February 8, 2016: The Indians signed free agent Stammen.
December 2016: Stammen signed a minor league contract with the Padres.
Nov 2, 2017: Craig elected free agency.
Jan 6, 2018: The Padres signed free agent Craig.
Oct 31, 2019: Craig chose free agency.
January 4, 2020: Stammen signed a two-year, guaranteed $9 million deal with the Padres. The deal includes a team option for 2022, along with multiple performance bonuses.
2022 Season: The Padres exercised their club option on Stammen for $4 million.
- Nov 6, 2022: Craig chose free agency.
- Jan. 11, 2023: The Padres re-signed Craig to a minor league deal.
|Birth City:||North Star, OH|
|Draft:||Nationals #12 - 2005 - Out of Univ. of Dayton (OH)|
Stammen has a fair 87-94 mph four-seam FASTBALL that has a little bit of late life. His two-seam sinker has decent movement. Craig's fine SLIDER is his best pitch. He can throw it for strikes or get hitters to chase it into the dirt. His 77-78 mph CHANGEUP is pretty good, and he throws it with decent arm speed.
Craig's sinker is underrated. His slider is really impressive, but he uses it off his fine two-seam sinker.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 2.8% of the time; Sinker 64.8%; Change less than 1%; Slider 20.7%; and Curve 11% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.2 mph, Sinker 92.4, Change 87.8, Slider 87.8, and Curve 81.6 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 4.7% of the time; Sinker 67.5%; Change less than 1%; Slider 15.7%; and Curve 12% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.6 mph, Sinker 93.1, Change 89.3, Slider 87.5, and Curve 81.5 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 2.8% of the time; Sinker 59.5%; Change less than 1%; Slider 4.2%; Curve 13.8%; and Cutter 18.9% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.9 mph, Sinker 92.3, Change 86.8, Slider 86.1, Curve 80.7, and Cutter 89.2 mph.
Craig has quick arm action, but tends to throw across his body. He needs to incorporate his lower half more into his delivery to make better use of his leverage. And he needs to finish his delivery better. (Aaron Fitt-Baseball America-Feb. 2009)
- In 2009, Syracuse (IL-Nationals) pitching coach Steve McCatty helped tweak Craig's delivery. Stammen's arm angle is farther from his head than before, which has improved the effectiveness of his sinker.
Stammen has learned to trust his stuff.
Craig's 170 innings pitched over the 2012 and 2013 seasons are the most for any Major League pitcher who did not start a game.
In his rookie year, Stammen relied heavily on a four-seam fastball, with a curveball as his primary breaking pitch. In 2014, he went after hitters primarily with a sinker and slider, with the curve as a third pitch. According to manager Matt Williams, Stammen's ability to throw any of those for a strike and generate quick outs with the sinker allows him to "roll through innings pretty quick."
Stammen, who said he never had prototypical mechanics, also decided to embrace his natural tendency to throw across his body rather than constantly try to stay on a perfect line. The motion adds some deception his delivery without compromising his ability to hit his spots. (3/14/14)
Mr. Consistency: Stammen, who will turn 36 in March 2020, first joined the Padres as a free agent in December 2016. He has averaged 70 appearances a year in his three seasons in San Diego while posting a 3.06 ERA. He is one of seven pitchers who have made at least 70 appearances in each of the past two seasons.
2020 Season: Padres manager Jayce Tingler knew what he was doing when he asked Stammen to make his first start since 2010 in a win-or-go-home Game 3 of the NL Wild Card Series. The numbers on the surface in a COVID-19-shortened season were bad. Stammen’s 5.63 ERA was the worst of his career and nearly two runs above his career ERA (3.69). His 1.29 WHIP was his worst since 2015 and his hit rate (10.1 per nine innings) was his highest since that sophomore season in 2010. But Stammen had also struck out five batters for every walk, his walk rate (1.5 per nine innings) was the lowest of his career and he’d struck out 10 without walking a soul over the final 10 innings of the regular season (1.80 ERA).
An even closer look reveals a pitcher who had far more good days in 2020 than his three worst games (59.40 ERA in those three games vs. 1.61 in the other 21). Stammen wasn’t exactly hit hard in 2020, either, as a bloated .325 batting average on balls in play yielded only a .381 opponent slugging percentage. So with his bullpen depleted when his starting pitchers flamed out in the first two games against the Cardinals (neither Mike Clevinger nor Dinelson Lamet were healthy), Tingler turned to the elder statesmen in his bullpen and was rewarded with Stammen allowing just one hit over 1 2/3 scoreless innings to start an improbable 4-0 win for the bullpen.
Stammen threw another 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers but gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 3 as the Dodgers swept the Padres out of the playoffs. (Jeff Sanders - Jan. 1, 2021)
2021 stats: 6-3, 3.06 ERA, 1 save, 83 strikeouts, 13 walks, 1.04 WHIP, .235 opponent average, 88 1/3 innings, 67 games
STAT TO NOTE - 3.7% — Stammen’s walk rate. In 2021, it was lower than all pitchers who tallied at least 80 innings, except the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (3.4) and the Phillies’ Zach Eflin (3.6). Stammen’s walk rate has steadily declined in a Padres’ uniform, from 8.5 percent in 2017 to 5.4 in 2018, to 4.4 in 2019, to 3.8 in 2020 to last year’s career-best rate.
TRENDING UP — Stammen will always be the answer to an unfortunate piece of San Diego trivia: Who is the only Padres pitcher to give up homers to four straight batters? But the veteran has quietly emerged as one of the most dependable bullpen arms in the game. Since signing a minor league deal to resurrect his career in 2017, Stammen has appeared in more games (300) than every pitcher except Yusmeiro Petit (318). He has a 3.23 ERA over that stretch, seamlessly transitioning from long relief to set-up duties to spot starts as the most versatile arm on the staff. Coming off the pandemic-shortened 2020 season in which innings became a premium, Stammen not only made four starts to save an injury-ravaged rotation, he completed two innings or more in 20 of his 67 appearances, three more than required of him from 2018 to 2020.
Three times, he was called out of the bullpen for at least three innings and he did not allow a run in any of those games (10 IP), which included a three-inning save in April. Of course, Stammen was far from merely an innings eater as his 7.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a reliever, boosted by a career-best walk rate (see stat to note), trailed only Liam Hendriks (16.1) and Raisel Iglesias (8.6) in 2021. Stammen was still prone to the home-run ball in 2021 — only teammate Emilio Pagán (16) allowed more than Stammen (13) among NL relievers. But his 3.06 ERA was more than two runs better than his 2020 ERA (5.63), making it a no-brainer for the Padres to pick up his $4 million club option. (Jeff Sanders - Jan. 6, 2022)
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Craig has a career record of 48-39 with 3.69 ERA, having allowed 73 home runs and 734 hits in 756 innings in the Major Leagues.
- 2022 Season: Stammen ran into some uncharacteristic struggles last year, particularly thanks to the home run ball. He surrendered nearly two homers per nine innings and posted a 4.43 ERA over 40 2/3 frames. He missed a couple months in the second half thanks to inflammation in his throwing shoulder before returning to health in early September.
A ground-ball specialist, Stammen thrives on command and movement rather than overpowering velocity. He leans heavily on a low-90s sinker and upper-80s cutter to keep the ball on the ground. He induced worm-burners a bit more than half the time last year while only walking 5.6% of opponents. His 19.8% strikeout rate was a few points below league average, down more than three percentage points relative to his 2021 mark. (Anthony Franco | January 11, 2023)
2007: Stammen pitched with a knee injury down the stretch, then had surgery to clean out the area after the season.
September 4, 2009: Craig missed his start with the Nationals because of elbow soreness. An MRI was taken. And on September 6, Stammen underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur in the back of his right elbow. Team orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih performed the procedure.
April 15-end of 2015 season: Stammen went on the D.L. with right forearm stiffness. An MRI revealed Craig had a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm. He needed surgery and missed the rest of the season.
March-July 7, 2016: Stammen was still recovering from the elbow surgery from the year before.
July 9, 2022: The San Diego Padres placed reliever Craig Stammen on the 15-day injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder.
Sept 28-30, 2021: Craig was on the IL.
July 6-Sept 11, 2022: Craig was on the IL with right shoulder inflammation.
March 10, 2023: Stammen was removed from the game against the Royals, leaving with a trainer after throwing a 1-1 pitch with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth inning. He retired the first two batters on a strikeout and a flyout.
“Shoulder,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t sound great, but he’s been through some stuff before. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
March 30, 2023: Stammen began the season on the 60-day IL.