Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Is There Any Reason To Believe In Tanner Roark… Not Really

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Tanner Roark appeared to be breaking out in 2017, despite a rather unsightly 4.67 ERA, as his strikeout rate was on the rise (8.24 K/9) to go along with modest control (3.18 BB/9) and groundball abilities (48.2%).  However, instead of taking a step forward in 2018 he stagnated, at best, and generally should be viewed as a disappointment:

180.1 IP
9 Wins
4.34 ERA
1.28 WHIP
146 Strikeouts (7.29 K/9)
50 Walks (2.50 BB/9)
40.7% Groundball Rate
.296 BABIP

Outside of the control, which is a bit deceiving, the underlying metrics regressed and helped lead to the disappointing season.  The fact is that last season may unfortunately be closer to the truth, as opposed to thinking that the upside is still there.  Let’s take a look:

 

Strikeouts

While there was hope after 2017, Roark took a big step backwards last season though it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Look at his splits over the past two seasons:

  • First Half (’17) – 7.15
  • Second Half (’17) – 9.60
  • First Half (’18) – 7.69
  • Second Half (’18) – 6.58

Which number sticks out as being unsustainable?  Roark’s strikeout pitch had been his changeup, though his Whiff% plummeted from 20.62% in ’17 to 11.98% last season.  Maybe there’s a little bit of upside, but expecting him to get back to that 2017 mark would be misguided.

 

Control

It appears that his control took a step forward last season, but the split tells a significantly different story:

  • First Half – 3.38
  • Second Half – 0.96

Over the previous two seasons he had posted BB/9 of 3.13 and 3.18, so which do you see as being the realistic split?

 

Groundballs

While Roark had shown consistent groundball abilities before (48.7% and 48.2% the previous two seasons), he’s not a sinker-centric option and that leads you to believe that the regression is for real.  Maybe he sees a little bit of an uptick, and even if he gets back towards the 48% range it’s not a given that he doesn’t struggle with home runs.  Even in 2017 he posted a 1.14 HR/9.  Last season the issues came at home (1.67 HR/9, compared to a 0.81 on the road), and while he could improve in that regard he’s still likely going to allow a HR/9 above 1.00.

 

Conclusion

So what exactly are we hanging our hats on?  Sure he’s proven capable of limiting the hard contact (28.7% in ’18, 25.8% for his career), but is that enough?  Just consider:

  • The strikeout rate is a hindrance
  • The walk rate is pedestrian, and likely to take a step backwards
  • The groundball rate was never elite, so even a rebound doesn’t mean success

The entire package just isn’t there, meaning there are better upside options to target.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections:

Player
Date Posted
Dylan Bundy10/22/18
Foltynewicz, Mike10/09/18
Gibson, Kyle10/29/18
Hoskins, Rhys10/16/18
Hosmer, Eric11/05/18
Wheeler, Zack10/02/18

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