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Roark continues to impress

Jul 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

About three weeks away from the one year anniversary of Tanner Roark’s MLB debut, it’s still hard to comprehend what he’s done so far in his professional career.

A former 25th round pick who came to Washington in a 2010 trade involving Christian Guzman, never did you see Roark’s name on top prospects lists. His 4.04 ERA in six minor league seasons didn’t raise any eyebrows. The guy went 6-17 in Triple-A in 2012.

Now, nearly a year into his MLB career, Roark holds a 2.47 ERA in the majors. He’s 19 starts into his first full MLB season and he leads the Nats in wins with nine and holds a 2.91 ERA. Where, exactly, did this come from?

“One of the coolest things about baseball is the stories that you see develop. Tanner’s one of the best stories,” Ryan Zimmerman said.

“It just shows you: keep working hard and keep doing what you’re supposed to do like he does and it will pay off. He’s been great. He’s fun to play behind, he goes right at the hitters. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

Roark is evolving before our eyes. In late June he adjusted his slider grip, now using more of his middle finger and more seam. It’s the grip Jordan Zimmermann uses for his slider, and Roark likes it.

The new grip allows Roark to throw his slider faster and so far the results have been good.

“I actually changed my grip on it, that helped out a lot,” Roark said. “I went to the Jordan Zimmermann slider and it’s gone up velocity-wise. It’s been a lot sharper and I’ve been able to throw it a lot harder.”

Roark says throwing his slider harder is the key. He averages about 83 miles per hour on the pitch throughout his career, but on Saturday was consistently topping 84 and touched 85 on one in the fifth inning.

“Jordan told me that you can’t baby it or else it’s going to be a backup slider and just get crushed. You just gotta throw it, man.”

Roark pitched seven innings in the Nationals’ 8-3 win over the Brewers on Saturday night. He gave up just one run on six hits and a walk, throwing 112 total pitches.

Nats manager Matt Williams sent Roark back out for the seventh after throwing 100 through six, a gesture Roark appreciated.

“I loved it, actually. It lets us starters know that he has confidence in us and it makes you feel good about yourself. You go out there and you know it’s going to be your last inning, give it everything you got and go out there and leave your heart out on the field.”

Catcher Wilson Ramos said he saw something in Roark’s slider during their pregame bullpen warmup. Roark was keeping it down and had zip on it. Ramos called more sliders than usual and said he loves how Roark rarely shakes him off, how he just goes out and throws the ball.

“I like when the pitcher goes out there and feels confident to throw every pitch, Ramos said. “When they feel like that, we don’t need to do too much.”

As for Roark’s development over the last year?

“He’s a really good pitcher. That’s only what I have to say,” Ramos said. “He’s got really good stuff every time he goes out there. He’s my guy.”

  1. nats128 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    The last time I said real nicey nice things about Tanner he started to stink and not going to say anything real nice except I now expect him to do it each time out and enjoy watching him pitch like one of the best pitchers in the National League.

    • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Take it back! Then go knock on wood!

      • nats128 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        I knocked on wood. Just wont say anything nice until after the season.

  2. natsguy - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Roark is the real deal. Strasburg could learn a lot from him, just pitch.

    Peric has another 4A player of the year. Bruce Laird is now his choice to play 2B in D.C to solve all our problems.

    • natsjackinfl - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      Man, that’s hilarious.

    • mauimo22 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Can’t happen soon enough.
      +1

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    The Roark slider last night had that late movement like the good ones have. His connection with Ramos and the quotes Mark included about how a good catcher knows his pitcher made everything work. Roark was on cruise control and made the Brewers look like a bunch of hacks. Roark dropped his ERA down to 2.91 and again joins the best in the game.

    Now if someone can figure out who the Jekyll and Hyde on Roark in his Home and Road, let McCatty know. The disparity is huge at 1.94 to 4.04 and it’s not WHIP as Tanner puts fewer men on base on the road, it’s the HRs and XBH and meltdown innings. Here’s the other crazy stat, on the road Tanner’s K/BB is twice as good as it is at home. Is it that he tries to power pitch on the road and gets away from his plan and leaves too many over the plate?

    Like I said a few days ago, you want to get Tanner to start at home and take advantage of his results which is undeniable.

    • Doc - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      Crazy stuff, Ghost. Thanks!

      I go for your ‘wild-in-the-zone’ theory on the road, and the power pitching mentality.

      Easy to correct, particularly with his new slider coming at the hitter.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      When the Cubs lit him up in successive starts I thought Roark was starting to turn back into a pumpkin. But, he has certainly turned that around. Home vs. Road is a legitimate issue, though. Your theory sounds plausible. He doesn’t have the heater to muscle people. He depends on that two-seamer running. When it doesn’t he’s throwing meatballs. To keep progressing, though, he has to figure out how to pitch on the road like he does at home.

      RZ is right. This is a great story. If Roark isn’t the best fifth-starter in baseball I don’t know who is.

      • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        I think most his bad outings came when he simply couldn’t keep the ball Down. It happens.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Great analogy to the pumpkin because it felt like that could have been the direction. It was a concern that it was all that small sample size thing but he has once again shown that he can learn and adapt and improve.

    • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      His slider is faster now…hence the movement. Seems he has been working on it and chose to use it after seeing the crew hits fastballs and curves well. That prep. Wish our hitters consistently had a plan. Maybe they do…

    • NatsLady - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:49 PM

      Roark did fine in Philly last Sunday. So maybe it was just small sample size? Most pitchers do better at home where the mound (and perhaps other conditions) are set up exactly to their liking.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:57 PM

        The sample size is smaller when you break it down to home/away and it can be skewed more easily. The WHIP and K/BB trend is strange plus the slugging %

  4. Doc - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    i’m with Zimmerman on the Roark story bit.

    Man, to come from where he came from in his minor league career—Holy Cow!!!

    Also nice to hear how Ramos and Roark work together, like a catcher and pitcher should. Nice to see two guys, one from Illinois, and another from Venezuela, coming together on a baseball field.

  5. micksback1 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Joe Seamhead – Jul 19, 2014 at 7:24 PM
    So, if many of us look at the Nats through rose colored glasses, what color lenses does mick look through, as I’m pretty sure that they are not clear?

    really a crap ass post, do you only read what you want?? what part of my post did you miss??

    I posted please look at ALR’s RISP and his overall average over the past 6 weeks, it has declined dramatically. this indicates a trend, not a slump
    and last night it continued as we head into week 7 and ALR historically struggles early in the season (April-May). and then he warms up. It appears to be the opposite this season and that is why I think age just caught up with him. he also seems slower with his swing

    • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      ALRs trend is to s,ump. He always has. I don’t like overly consistent streaky hitters. It usually leads to trouble when it matters.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    I’m not a golf fanatic but if you want to watch a fantastic finish this British Open is now a game. McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

    Now back to baseball.

  7. adcwonk - Jul 20, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    Earlier, Mark wrote about needing a real stopper.

    I think we have two of them — it’s just that nobody thought of these two:

    Roark and Fister.

  8. secretwasianman - Jul 20, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    That’s justice. Lobo shoul of had a HR anyway.

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