Tanner Roark wants to pitch better.

Tanner Roark made his MLB debut on August 7 of 2013 as a bullpen arm and eventually got some starts.  He dazzled us with pinpoint location on his fastball and good late movement on his slider.  Roark had 5 starts in 2013 and looked like the Nats found a diamond in the rough that they polished up and had a star. He finished 2013 with a 1.51 ERA and earned a spot in the Nats “ace” 2014 starting rotation.

In 2014, Roark would pitch 198 1/3 innings and finish with an “Ace” ERA of 2.85.  He would finish 10th in the league in adjusted ERA+ at 130 and was 6th in pitcher’s WAR at 5.1 and was on many other leader boards.  Normally those types of stats get you some 6th to 10th place votes on the Cy Young ballot but baseball sometimes won’t take a pitcher who was once in Independent baseball and lacked the pedigree to get that type of recognition without repeating it again.

The Nats signed Max Scherzer in the winter of this season meaning unless there was a trade of Strasburg, JZim, Fister or Gio, it would be Roark who was the odd man out and that is what happened.  Roark was moved to the bullpen and would move back into the 2013 role he held with the Nats which would be the “jack of all trades” and take on that Craig Stammen role of long relief, middle relief, set-up, stopper, spot starter, and why not, close a game too.  Roark accepted the role as a team first guy and said all the right things when asked if he was disappointed, he would just say “I’m happy to do whatever Matt asks of me”.

Roark got mop-up 2 inning work in his 1st appearance. In his 2nd appearance in a tie game in Philly, he gave up the walk-off win. His 2nd appearance was a mop-up type of middle relief, 4th appearance he earned his 1st hold.  In his 6th appearance he took his 2nd loss in a tie game gave up the winning run in the 8th inning.  In his 9th appearance with a tired Drew Storen, Roark got a Save. A couple of mistake pitches didn’t doom him on that night and he finished the Save with a K of Stanton with Gordon on the basepaths.  On May 25th, Roark would join the starting due to Strasburg going to the DL.  Roark just has not looked like his 2013 or 2014 version.

He has struggled through almost the entire season.  The pinpoint fastball command has not been there, and at times the slider doesn’t slide and gets hit far and deep as we’ve seen. By the stats, it’s not hard to see that Tanner’s ERA, WHIP and HR/9 are all bad and while some pitchers like Gio are high WHIP with respectable ERA, Tanner Roark isn’t that type.

Here’s the Prado pitch location from last night that became a 2 run HR in the 1st inning:

And the eventual game ender in the 5th inning was this hanging slider to Bour for a 3 run HR:

Bour doesn’t miss those pitches when you get into a 3-2 count and Tanner was lucky Bour didn’t hit pitch #1 out which was also a location mistake.

Roark by the numbers this year is a 5.66 starters ERA, an ERA+ of 84, a WHIP of 1.371 and a HR/9 of 1.40. iThose types of stats are usually a calling for an early retirement from baseball, but let’s be fair, Roark is better than this and a full season of 2.85 baseball in 2014 says Roark can compete in this league.

Too many times this year Tanner has had to face the post-game media, and he gets that nervous smile on and almost says the same thing.  Here was last night’s excerpts:

“It’s been a crazy year.  I’m not gonna lie, but you can’t put blame on anybody but myself.  It’s my job whenever my name is called to go out there and get outs. You can’t make excuses, and I’m not one for making excuses and I never will.”

“Ultimately it is me out there on the mound, and I have control of the game. For me, since bouncing back and forth,  ‘spot’ starting here and there, you get into a rhythm.  You have a couple starts, and you learn from the previous start. You work your butt off to the next start, and then you just build off each start, keep getting higher and higher and higher. Even though that’s the best I felt tonight, the results weren’t what I’d like, but you can build off that. Most of the times, balls that are up at the waist, these are big-league hitters. they know how to hit these balls. They go far.”

Sounds like what we have heard before, but those are an honest assessment.  The bigger question is the honest assessment management will have on Tanner’s future with the Nationals.

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