Washington Nationals: Tanner Roark will bounce back in 2018

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Washington Nationals starting pitcher Tanner Roark is coming off of a down season, but he will return to form in 2018. Here is why.

The Washington Nationals have boasted one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the league for several years now, and Tanner Roark has always been an enormous contributor. However, he struggled a bit in 2017. It was not a bad season by any means, as he pitched to a 4.67 ERA in 32 games (30 starts), but it did not live up to the high standards he has set.

2017 was an unconventional season from start to finish for Roark, which possibly caused his struggles. Instead of progressing through his normal Spring Training routine in March, he was pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

While Roark pitched well for Team USA, leading them to a win over Japan in the tournament semi-final, it may have interfered with his preparation for the regular season. Several WBC participants went on to struggle or battle injuries in the regular season, so it is not out of the question that the WBC was detrimental to Roark’s regular season.

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In addition to beginning unconventionally, Roark’s 2017 season also ended in odd fashion. The Nats once again made the postseason, but Roark never threw a single pitch throughout the NLDS. He was scheduled to get the nod in game four, but a postponement allowed the Nats to start Stephen Strasburg instead, leaving Roark in the dust.

Being the team player that he is, Roark stuck by the team’s decision and never voiced his complaints. However, when asked about it at Nats WinterFest, he admitted that he was disappointed about not pitching against his hometown Cubs in the postseason.

Now, Roark can use his disappointment and frustration to pitch with a chip on his shoulder in 2018. He was in a similar situation in 2016, upon returning to the rotation after being moved to the bullpen the year before, and he pitched wonderfully. He has never been an overpowering ace, so pitching with a chip on his shoulder could be beneficial.

Although 2017 was the worst season of Roark’s career, there is reason to believe he can return to form in 2018. His 4.67 ERA was by far the worst of his career, but that was mostly attributed to a horrendous first half.

After the All-Star Break, Roark pitched to a 3.90 ERA. His monthly ERA got worse each month from the beginning of the season until the break, but then he turned things around. This leads us to believe that everything spiraled out of control after a rough start to the season, but the break allowed him to reset.

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Now that Roark is able to progress through his normal off-season and Spring Training preparation heading into 2018, he should be able to return to form. Max Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez all finished in the top six for the Cy Young Award last year, proving the Nats had one of the most dominant rotations in the league. If Roark is able to right the ship, the league is in for a world of trouble.

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