Stauffer’s Struggles

I’m a little concerned about Tim Stauffer’s workload this season. The obvious reason for this, which I mention in my latest at Baseball Prospectus ($) — it’s about that bizarre walkoff walk/protest game between the Padres and Diamondbacks this past Saturday — is that Stauffer has been a completely different pitcher down the stretch than he was earlier in the year.

For much of the season, Stauffer has been one of the few bright spots on this team, showing that his 2010 performance was no fluke, while also helping to remove any lingering doubts about his ability to pitch at this level and stay healthy. Then he started getting pounded:

Dates    GS  BF    IP  ERA H/9 HR/9 BB/9 K/9
3/31-8/3 23 597 143.0 2.96 8.7  0.5  2.5 6.5
8/8-9/10  7 157  36.0 7.50 9.5  3.0  3.5 4.5

Opponents were hitting .258/.316/.376 against Stauffer through his August 6 start against the Dodgers. Since then, they have hit .271/.340/.579. That is roughly the difference between Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Gonzalez.

Stauffer says he feels fine, and after all he’s been through, he should know. At the same time, these numbers tell the tale of a guy missing badly with location, which is not Stauffer’s game. His stuff is good, certainly better than it was when he first arrived in 2005, but not good enough that he can get away with substandard command.

Stauffer has set career highs in games started, batters faced, and innings pitched this year. In fact, he has made as many starts in 2011 as he did from 2008 to 2010 combined. Here’s a look at his complete yearly workload numbers, including minor leagues:

Year Age GS  BF    IP
2004  22 28 694 168.0
2005  23 27 687 136.1
2006  24 27 724 159.0
2007  25 22 617 138.1
2008  26  0   0   0.0
2009  27 18 490 115.0
2010  28 12 411 100.1
2011  29 30 754 179.0

I don’t happen to believe in a certain “effect” named for a certain sportswriter who has a theory about such things, but I do wonder if maybe Stauffer has run out of gas. Between his usage pattern over the past few years and his complete loss of effectiveness in recent weeks, it’s difficult to reach any other conclusion.

If it were my call, I’d thank Stauffer for his efforts, explain that he’s done nothing wrong, and sit him down for the rest of the year. He isn’t helping the team, nor is he helping himself. Sitting Stauffer has the added benefit of giving Anthony Bass, who should be a legitimate contender for a spot in next year’s rotation, a chance to show what he can do in that role.

But it isn’t my call, so like you, I watch and wait… and hope the Padres do the right thing.

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