Washington Nationals: It’s Time to Take Notice of Tanner Roark
By Matt Weyrich
The Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 9-1 Sunday afternoon behind yet another strong start from Tanner Roark. Is he the most underrated pitcher in baseball?
What do Aaron Sanchez, Johnny Cueto, and Steven Wright all have in common? Aside from being at the forefront of Cy Young conversations, each of these brilliant starters have a higher ERA than the Washington Nationals’ Tanner Roark.
Roark (13-6, 2.81 ERA) may be the number three starter in his ball club’s rotation, but the former 25th round draft pick has pitched as well as anyone in 2016. Despite having a strong season in 2014 as full-time starter, Roark was relegated to the bullpen last year to make room for free agent acquisition Max Scherzer. Roark struggled in the role, but was given another shot at starting again once Jordan Zimmermann bolted via free agency.
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Needless to say, the 29-year old Illinois native has more than taken advantage of the role. On the season, Roark has gone at least six innings in 20 of his 24 starts. He leads the league in starts of at least seven innings allowing one earned run or fewer with 10. Lately, Roark has been especially dominant as he has posted a 6-1 record to go with a sparkling 1.22 ERA over his last seven starts.
While he doesn’t have crazy strikeout numbers, Roark has been one of the best pitchers in baseball when it comes to keeping the ball down. His ground ball rate of 50.3 percent ranks 11th in the National League (according to Fangraphs). Even more impressive is his 25.3 weak contact percentage, the second highest mark in all of baseball.
Overshadowed by the likes of Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, it’s easy to see how Roark can get lost in the mix. Despite his lack of media attention, however, Roark has been just as good as the formidable duo. The three of them would be a nightmare for opposing teams in the playoffs, capable of matching up with any top three in the league.
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Roark has been one of the most consistent starters in the league this season, and it’s about time the country start to take notice. He wasn’t a No. 1 overall pick like Stephen Strasburg.
While Scherzer was putting together his Cy Young campaign in Detroit, Roark was just breaking into the big leagues. Regardless, Tanner has proven again and again that he can hang around with the top arms in the game. Only time will tell when people actually start paying attention.