Eric Stults provided the Padres in 2013 with veteran consistency and an every fifth day start mentality. His season totals for his year of labor was an 11-13 record with 3.93 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 203 2/3 IP. Anytime a pitcher pitches well enough to go for over 200 innings in a season, you know he put in a lot of hours into the year and craft. Hitting the 200 IP benchmark for a pitcher is huge. It is a nice little mark on the season and a sign that a lot of quality hours were put in. First, a pitcher needs to physically complete the innings load, and second that pitcher needs to produce enough quality starts to keep starting.
Speaking of quality starts, ESPN tracks a stat on pitchers defined as
- Any start in which a pitcher works six or more innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs.
For Eric Stults, ESPN has him leading the Padres pitching staff in QS with 20, which is just another measure and dimension of what he brings to the team. Stults is a pitcher that has been for a lot of his career, at the edge and cusp between the minors and majors. He also pitched a year in Japan to earn for his family. This all demonstrates a feel for the drive of his character. Eric Stults knows what his tools bring physically to the table – an 87 mph FB, as per fangraphs. Now the reason that works in the majors is that Eric can add on top of that, his craft and skill level as a pitcher, and yield weapons like his 66 mph curve and his comfort with mixing his pitches. Eric finished the year throwing 49.1% fastballs, 23% change ups, 16.5% sliders and 11.4% curveballs. Just think about it, basically in 2013, every other pitch that came out of Eric’s hand was something other than a fastball. To me, this shows me just how comfortable Stults is throwing his secondary pitches, and how comfortable his is at changing location, and changing speeds, and changing pitches to keep his hitters uncomfortable.
I like the effect he has on his peers, including Andrew Cashner who is clearly gifted in the tools department. Cashner’s change up competes with the velocity of Stults’ fastball. Yet Stults uses his other tools to help him win. Cashner should very much rely on his velocity and his fastball as his primary weapon, but can also hone secondary pitches like Stults. For the first time this year, Cashner started throwing the curveball in games and it is evident that he learned this from Stults and was motivated by watching how Stults used the pitch in games and counts. This year’s Cashner also threw fewer fastballs then ever and some credit is due here to Stults as a veteran mentor and role model. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
I like Eric a lot, and I would be thrilled to see him return in some capacity next year, preferable as a 4th or fifth starter. Frankly, if he is our Opening Day starter then we’re in trouble, but then my issue would be with the management and not with the pitcher. I do think that right now at this point in time that Eric could contribute and be part of this young pitching staff. Great work Eric and here’s to the next battle of next year.