SweetSpot: Tim Stauffer

Eric Karabell and Keith Law are joined by yours truly on Wednesday's Baseball Today podcast . Topics include:
  • Red Sox lose another game, which isn't a big worry, but Josh Beckett's conditioning may be.
  • Kudos to Yovani Gallardo.
  • Anything to read into Chris Young's performance with the Mets.
  • Michael Pineda and Alexi Ogando both look good in the Mariners-Rangers game.
  • Thoughts on Jordan Walden taking over as Angels closer.
  • A sad situation in Cleveland with a lack of fan support.
  • Use of stats analysis in MLB, Phil Hughes, Elvis Andrus, Mike Minor, Tim Stauffer and more.

Saturday's starters have much to prove

October, 2, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- We won't call it The Battle of the Busts, because that would be disrespectful.

Let's just say that if Barry Zito or Tim Stauffer wins Saturday afternoon, in the biggest game of the year (so far) for both teams, it should feel particular sweet. To them, to the men who signed them, and to the men who have been signing their checks.

Seven years ago, the Padres had the fourth pick in the draft and used it to select Stauffer, who had just turned 21 while starring for the University of Richmond.

Now, pitchers are unpredicable and There is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect" and all that, but Tim Stauffer has been particularly unpredictable and went from prospect to suspect with great skill.

Stauffer reached Triple-A in his first professional season, and pitched well. But in between occasionial trips to the majors -- as much for the morale of the front office as anything, I suspect -- Stauffer stalled out in Triple-A. He spent most of four seasons in Portland, which is at least three seasons too many for a No. 4 draft pick.

In 2008, the good news was that Stauffer didn't pitch in Triple-A. The bad news was that he didn't pitch at all, because he was sidelined all season with a shoulder injury.

And them, somehow, he came back in 2009 and was the pitcher the Padres had drafted six years earlier. He pitched better than he'd ever pitched for Portland, and then he pitched better than he'd ever pitched for San Diego.

Still, the Padres didn't trust him. Stauffer opened the season in the bullpen, and pitched brilliantly. The Padres let him start a game. He pitched five shutout innings, and immediately afterward hit the DL for two months. When he came back the Padres were understandably cautious. Stauffer kept pitching brilliantly.

Finally, on the 6th of September there was an emergency and Stauffer started again. He gave up one run in four innings. He's been in the Padres' rotation ever since; in five September starts, he's got a 2.25 ERA and hasn't allowed a single home run.

And that's really the story of Tim Stauffer's season. He doesn't throw all that hard, doesn't strikeout all that many hitters. But he's pitched 76 innings for the Padres this season, and he's given up exactly two home runs. If he beats the Giants in Game 161, that draft pick seven years ago is suddenly going to look pretty, pretty, pretty good. And if Stauffer keeps the ball in the yard, he can beat the Giants.

Now, Barry Zito ... Well, you probably know all about him already. This season began with such promise, but Zito enters his Biggest Game as a Giant with a 9-13 record and a 4.08 ERA ... almost exactly the same as his 2009 numbers. All told, Zito's now 29-43 as a Giant, which is somewhat less than they expected for their $43 million (so far).

Beating the Padres won't make everything go away. At the very least, that would require a few more wins this month. But it would be one hell of a start.

No. 5 (and 4) starter watch: Padres

March, 28, 2010
Looking for a sleeper starter in your fantasy draft next weekend? Spend a moment or two with the Padres' fifth starter ... or, to be precise, their presumed fifth starter ...

    The Padres announced their starting rotation Sunday -- well, most of it anyway.

    Manager Bud Black said that Jon Garland, a free-agent acquisition in the offseason, will start Opening Day in Arizona on April 5. He will be followed by Chris Young and Kevin Correia, who will also pitch in the season-opening series at Chase Field.


    Black wouldn't name the Nos. 4 and 5 starters for the rotation just yet. That information will come sometime this week as the organization continues to sort through what it will do about three pitchers in camp who are out of Minor League options.

    It's believed that left-handed pitcher Clayton Richard will be the No. 4 starter. Mat Latos, whom several scouts have said this spring is the Padres' best pitcher, figures to earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation.


    If Joe Thatcher does start the season on the disabled list, the Padres then could keep all three of the pitchers in camp who are out of Minor League options -- Sean Gallagher, Edward Mujica and Tim Stauffer.

    Gallagher and Mujica have likely already earned spots on the team. Stauffer is a player who has attracted interest from other teams looking to add starting pitching in the final week of Spring Training. He's been good this spring, posting a 2.57 ERA in five games with an 11:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    Stauffer said Saturday that he's comfortable coming out of the bullpen, which might be the likely case if the Padres don't deal him.

I'm not wild about Clayton Richard. In 176 innings as a starter in the majors, he's got a 1.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and it's really hard to win that way. He did better in the minors, but was rushed by the White Sox and has just 128 innings in Double- and Triple-A combined (and was actually pretty unimpressive in Class A). Richard is 26 and doesn't need to be babied anymore. I just don't quite see the track record to make me think he's going to hold down a rotation slot for six months.

Stauffer's an odd one. The fourth pick in the draft seven years ago, he's been suffering from injuries and inconsistency ever since, in the process racking up 463 innings and a 4.62 ERA with Triple-A Portland. But he's become a somewhat different pitcher -- fewer low-90s fastballs, more curveballs and changeups -- and the results have been pretty good. At this late date, it's exceptionally unlikely that Stauffer will ever be the pitcher the Padres thought they were drafting, but I'm not sure he's less deserving than Richard of a place in the rotation.

Meanwhile, Latos is the real stuff. He throws hard, has impeccable minor-league credentials ... all he's missing is experience: just turned 22, 47 Double-A innings and zero Triple-A innings. He may take some lumps and the Padres probably won't let him throw 200 innings. But while he might not be the Padres' best pitcher right now, he's probably one of the four best and might as well take his place in the rotation.