Entering this year, Padres righthander Tim Stauffer had appeared in 32 major league games since 2005. 31 were starts.
Stauffer hadn’t been a very good pitcher in that stretch. He was about a 4.80 ERA-quality pitcher in 2005, got rocked in two starts in 2007, and deserved about a 4.60 ERA last year.
Stauffer was a fringy fifth starter statistically, and his stuff backed that up. Once a low-90′s pitcher, Stauffer’s velocity regressed into the 87-91 mph range. His slider and changeup were solid offspeed pitches, but nothing particularly special, and his curveball was exposed as a poor pitch.
Out of options, Stauffer pretty much had to stick in the majors, but the Padres didn’t have a rotation spot for him, so the longtime starter has been relegated to the bullpen.
He should never leave.
Stauffer has thrown five innings in relief, allowing three hits, no runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.
Sure, it’s a small sample, but in relief, Stauffer has been a different pitcher stuff-wise as well.
All of his pitches have picked up 1-2 miles per hour in relief, pushing his fastball into the 89-93 range and his slider to 84-87. Stauffer can also rely more heavily on the slider as a reliever than a starter, and he’s thrown it almost half the time–the Padres might have a mini-Michael Wuertz.
The increased velocity on Stauffer’s curve has pushed it into the average realm, and it’s been tighter and more effective this season than in years past.
In short, Stauffer’s stuff has gone from fringy to average-plus in the move, and with lots of other young guys around to start, the Padres should leave Stauffer in relief permanently. With this skillset, he could evolve into a nice setup man.