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Strasburg? Gonzalez? Zimmermann? Fister? Nope, the Nationals’ leader in wins is … Tanner Roark

Jul 21, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals - Game Two Getty Images

For all the big-money, big-name starters in the Nationals’ rotation–Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister–the team leader in both wins and ERA is a little-known 27-year-old sophomore named Tanner Roark.

Roark was drafted in the 25th round by the Rangers in 2008 and came to the Nationals in the mid-2010 trade for Cristian Guzman. He never cracked anyone’s top-100 prospect list and didn’t even debut in the majors until age 26 last season after posting an underwhelming 4.04 ERA in the minors.

And then he went 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA as a rookie and has followed it up by winning a team-high nine games with a 2.91 ERA in 19 starts this season.

Roark doesn’t have overpowering raw stuff with a fastball that averages 91 miles per hour and he’s managed just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but among the 149 pitchers with at least 150 innings since the beginning of last season he ranks 19th in walk rate at 1.9 per nine innings and fifth in home run rate at 0.46 per nine innings. Throwing strikes, keeping the ball in the ballpark, and letting the defense do its job can definitely be a recipe for success.

Chase Hughes of has a good article about how Roark went from non-prospect to standout starter, with lots of quotes from his Nationals teammates. It’s a helluva story.

  1. captainzapp - Jul 21, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    He really seems to be getting less fluky. A .282 BABIP and 6.1% HR/fly ball are still pretty low, but not “regression alarms blaring” low.
    I guess it just shows you what good command, okay movement, and a pair of balls can get a pitcher.

  2. karlkolchak - Jul 21, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Right now, Roark is my favorite story on the Nats (It could also be mentioned that his ERA is second amond Nats’ starters at 2.91, compared to Fister’s 2.90). He gives hope to all those later round, non-bonus babies that if they work hard enough they might just make it someday.

    Can he keep this up? It’s a question we Nats fans have been asking for almost a year now. So far, the answer has been yes, repeatedly.

    • natstowngreg - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      Is an ERA under 3 sustainable? Unlikely. Not saying Tanner will turn into a pumpkin, but performance that good is only sustainable for the handful of very best pitchers. His ERA could rise to the mid-3.00s, and he would still be a valuable member of an MLB rotation for years to come.

      Considering all the touted young arms the Nats have, or had (but were traded), it’s just nice to see one of the un-touted arms be the one to make an impact.

  3. cupquest - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Anyone named Tanner is all right in my book.

    • bolweevils2 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      A big Full House fan I assume?

  4. Joe - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    A guy with a 91 mph fastball and 6.7K/9 IP would have been a power pitcher not all that long ago.

    (Not all that long ago if you’re my age, anyway.)

  5. scatterbrian - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Wins! And second in losses!

    • natstowngreg - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      Indeed. Roark (like other Nats’ starters) doesn’t always get the run support.

      Mark Zuckerman of CSN tweeted another interesting factoid yesterday. Since his debut in August 2013, Roark’s 2.49 ERA is 3rd-best in MLB, behind Greinke and Wainwright.

  6. hoopmatch - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Wasn’t Tanner the name of the kid in “The Bad News Bears” who told the Yankees to take their trophy and stick it up their asses?

  7. someguyinva - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    It feels like the Nats starters have fewer no decisions than a normal staff, but I have no comparison numbers to back this up with. I do know that the seven guys who’ve started for them this season have a combined record of 37-31, against the team’s overall record of 53-43 as of this morning.

  8. Uncle Charlie - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    He also has the second most losses.
    So he’s really good and the second worse pitcher on the team? Thanks for showing us how meaningless pitching win/loss records are.

  9. tcostant - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    :For all the big-money, big-name starters in the Nationals’ rotation”.

    Big money. If I’m not mistaken, all five Nationals make less than Cole Hamels makes this year.

    • tcostant - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      Gio Gonzalez 8,600,000
      Jordan Zimmermann 7,500,000
      Doug Fister 7,200,000
      Stephen Strasburg 3,975,000
      Tanner Roark 506,100

      5 Starters = $27.8M vs. $23.5M for Hamels.

      Guess I was wrong…

      • bigbenh8tr - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:51 PM

        That still speaks volumes about the Nats. And they still have a stud playing AA who could fit in 50% of MLB rotations

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