Tanner Roark was the X-Factor in the Washington Nationals rotation last year and the club will expect more of the same from the right-hander in 2017.
A staple for the Washington Nationals during the 2016 campaign was the performance they received from their starting rotation.
The staff compiled a 3.60 ERA, which was second-best in the Senior Circuit, per MLB.com.
A contributing factor to their success was the results from starting pitcher Tanner Roark. Roark posted a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings with 172 strikeouts, 73 walks issued, 17 home runs surrendered, a 3.79 FIP, a 1.71 WHIP and a 7.4 SO/9.
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The right-hander limited opposing teams to a .228 batting average.
The following two graphs illustrates how Roark fared against left-handed and right-handed batters last season and his results pitching at home and on the road, thanks to Graphiq for the amazing illustration.
He was a reliable pitcher on the road as he accumulated a 2.96 ERA and held the opposition to a .207 average in 16 starts away from home.
Roark remained impressive when the pressure intensified as other clubs only mustered a .232 average with runners in scoring position. He was second on the Nationals with 16 wins and joined Max Scherzer as the only other starter to toss more than 200 innings.
The value for Roark became greater during in the season when Stephen Strasburg went on the disabled list. Strasburg was the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation before the injury but Roark took over this role and he flourished.
Roark made four starts from the middle of June until early July and yielded just nine runs over that stretch.
The Nationals will be leaning on Roark once again when the regular season begins.
Scherzer has been hampered during spring training with a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Scherzer won’t be the Opening Day starter, but is set to be their No. 3 starter in the rotation, per Mark Zuckerman of MASN.
The Nationals will be in good shape as Roark proved in 2016 he could be a solid pitcher over the course of a season.
He also came up huge for Team USA during their semifinal game against Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic in Tuesday’s contest.
Roark fired four scoreless innings, allowed two hits and walked one batter on 48 pitches (30 strikes) in the 2-1 victory against Team Japan.
ZiPS projects Roark will toss 170.7 innings, post a 3.85 ERA, win 12 games and have a 2.64 BB/9 for the 2017 season, per FanGraphs.
The positive aspect of this projection is his walk ratio will decrease as it was 3.13 in 2016. It’s surprising that ZiPS projects his victories and innings pitched will drop, while his ERA will increase by one full run.
Roark has won at least 15 games, amassed a sub-three ERA and thrown no fewer than 198 innings in two of the last three seasons.
Roark will probably regress next season but not to the extent that he becomes a liability for the Nats. I expect him to win 14 games, post an ERA over three and throw 190 innings.
The Nationals have high expectations entering the upcoming season, and Roark will play a significant role in the team meeting and exceeding those expectations.