Washington Nationals starter Tanner Roark excelled this season. His poise turned him into one of the top pitchers in the National League.
As he earned a Game 2 start in the Nationals National League Divisional Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Roark’s nervous 4.1 innings helped tie the series and capped a tremendous campaign.
A swing pitcher in 2015, working more out of the pen than as a starter, Roark started a full slate of 33 this year. He logged a career-high 210 innings and had the best ERA on the staff, topping Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, with a 2.83 mark. His 1.171 WHIP and 172 strikeouts pushed him into the top 10 in the Cy voting for the first time.
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Roark’s ERA landed him sixth in the NL while his Adjusted ERA+ of 148 is fifth. In a year where you can make a case of five pitchers winning the Cy Young, his season belonged in the conversation. So durable this year, his 855 batters faced is fourth in the league.
With Stephen Strasburg sidelined for the stretch drive, Roark ramped up his game. In September, as the Nats sealed off the rest of the NL East, he dropped his BABIP it an outstanding .233. His August number was .250, a great number for a contact pitcher. He raised his K-per-9 rate from 6.1 in August to 8.6 the last month.
How stingy was he? Consider his Adjusted OPS+ for the year was 73 or 27 percent above league average. Eleven times he received two runs or less in run support. Forget his 4-6 record. A scant .281 on-base percentage allowed and an ERA of 2.41 came with those starts. When Roark had to deliver, he did.
In five starts against the Philadelphia Phillies, the ERA was 0.79. Against the San Francisco Giants in two starts, 0.64. Teams with winning record saw him have a losing 3-4 record but an ERA of 2.07. Roark pitched to the level of his competition. Often, doing his best to keep the Nationals in games.
Roark will be 30 in 2017. Washington will get his peak seasons under team control as this is his first arbitration-eligible season.
If Strasburg comes back healthy and as dominant as before, then Roark is one of the best third starters in the game. With his confidence and durability, Roark can be a great second starter, capable of winning 18-19 games while giving the Nats a solid, playoff starter.