by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
If you simply look at the surface numbers it was a disappointing season for the Nationals’ Tanner Roark, as both his ERA and WHIP were unimpressive. We never want to reach a conclusion without digging a bit deeper though, do we? First let’s take a look at last season’s numbers:
166 Strikeouts (8.24 K/9)
64 Walks (3.18 BB/9)
48.2% Groundball Rate
It’s interesting, as he showed ability in all three skills we generally look for from a pitcher. Is there enough there to believe in a rebound? He showed it in the second half (3.90 ERA, 1.19 WHIP over 80.2 IP) so you have to think that there is. How big of a rebound may be a different story, so let’s dive in and take a look.
His overall mark was a jump, as he posted a 7.37 K/9 in ’16 and owns a career 6.99 mark in the Majors. When we look at his split we get further questions instead of answers:
- First Half – 7.15
- Second Half – 9.60
His SwStr% overall saw a big jump, going from 8.9% to 10.1% (11.2% in the second half). So what changed? He was using his sinker less last season (44.70% to 36.11%), instead using his curveball (15.05%) and changeup (12.19%). Over the final three months of the season he saw an even greater shift on all of those pitches:
- Sinker – 29.23%
- Curveball – 17.34%
- Changeup – 13.05%
It makes sense, with his curveball (17.12% Whiff%) and changeup (20.62% Whiff%) representing his best swing and miss pitches. Maybe he’s not quite as good as he was in the second half, but the change in approach should lead to more strikeouts (think in the 8.25 – 8.75 range). Of course that could come at a price…
While his overall groundball rate was the same, utilizing his sinker less should lead to fewer groundballs overall. Interestingly the number jumped in the second half (46.2% to 51.1%), though that’s not something we’d be willing to bank on. Overall his home run rate rose (1.14 HR/9), and while that’s not an unreasonable mark it does give his stock a small hit.
His control was similar to that in ’16 and consistent throughout ’17 (3.22 in the first half, 3.12 in the second). Maybe it’s not an elite number, but it’s solid and usable.
The rise in home runs is a small issue, but we can see the improved strikeout rate continuing and he also should improve on his luck (66.3% strand rate). That’s the real key, and it should lead to at least solid numbers across the board (and pitching for the Nationals, that should lead to wins). While others are going to be down on him, look towards Roark as a solid late round selection to fill out your rotation.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: