Washington Nationals Analysis: Tanner Roark’s Value To The Nats

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While many people will be talking about the Washington Nationals crazy comeback win over the Atlanta Braves last night, one of the talking issues from this game was easily avoided because of that win. That was the decision manager Matt Williams made before last night’s game to call up A.J. Cole from triple-A Syracuse to make his debut instead of giving Tanner Roark the spot start.

For two innings, that situation backfired as Cole looked nervous throughout his outing. He threw hardly any offspeed pitches and left plenty of fastballs up in the zone for Braves hitters to mash. Not many people gave the Nats a chance to come back and snap their six game losing streak after the second inning, but give credit to Tanner Roark for keeping the team in the game and eating as many innings as he could.

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Roark, who won 15 games for the Nationals last season as a starter, went three innings, gave up two runs on six hits, and walked one batter on 52 pitches. He got out of key jams in the fourth and fifth innings to keep Atlanta from getting past the ten run mark, which included inducing a double play in the fourth inning when the Braves had a 10-2 lead.

Fans will question whether Roark should have made the start last night, but manager Matt Williams made it clear he was going to allow Roark to throw only 50-60 pitches and even that was a stretch. That being said, the transition to the bullpen has been okay for the 28-year old.

Last night, he threw 50+ pitches in a game for the first time since April 14 against the Red Sox (61 pitches), which is a span of three appearances. In seven games this season (12.1 innings), he has given up five earned runs. Before last night, he had given up one earned run in those prior three appearances combined.

If you look at his pitch repertoire, according to Fangraphs, Roark is throwing his slider more often out of the ‘pen. He has thrown that pitch 20% of the time, which is up by six percent for last season. Plus, his fastball is averaging out at 92 miles per hour.

Right now, you have to make the case that with the struggles of Blake Treinen (five outings of one run or more allowed this season), Roark is definitely one of those relievers that Williams can trust in a late inning spot along with the likes of Aaron Barrett and Matt Thornton.

While the Nats offense bailed out the decision by Williams to go with Cole last night, there is something to that decision as the Nats, who did not stretch out Roark in about two weeks, seem to like that he can give them some innings in late relief. With Casey Janssen still not back with the team yet, the ‘pen needs all the help it can get.

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