Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

First Look: Tanner Roark


Tanner Roark living the dream.  Photo via

Tanner Roark living the dream. Photo via

A few days ago I was playing amateur GM and ended up predicting the 8/6/13 roster moves, where Ross Detwiler was transfered to the 60-day DL and Tanner Roark was called up to provide some bullpen cover while Ross Ohlendorf is on the mend.  Roark’s body of work both this season and over the past few warranted his call-up, and his mixture of success both in the starter role and in a long-relief role in AAA make him the perfect candidate to replace Ohlendorf for the time being.

A quick side note: whenever I see someone, after years and years of toiling in the minors, finally get the call-up I’m reminded of the storytelling of Dirk Hayhurst in his 2nd book Out of My League, where he described all the logistics and feelings of getting his first callup.  Of particular interest; the pay.  I’m sure Roark was compensated like a typical minor league veteran in AAA; probably making $1,500 a month or so (which was about what Hayhurst said he made).  Upon signing a MLB contract, you immediately start getting paid a pro-rated amount of a minimum MLB salary, which is $490,000 a season.  Well, you can quickly see that a guy getting called up immediately starts making significantly more money.   30-40 TIMES more money.  More money per day in the majors than he was making in a month in the minors.   So I say good for Roark and good for every guy who finally gets a shot at the bigs.

Lets take a look at Roark’s first appearance… which came last night on 8/7/13 in relief of a curiously ineffective Jordan Zimmermann, who needed 88 pitches to complete 4 innings as the Nats officially waved the white flag on the season, getting swept at home by the team they’re chasing for the division lead and falling to 15 1/2 games out of first.

Roark had a great MLB debut.  He came in to face Atlanta’s 4-5-6 hitters and pitched a 1-2-3 inning.  He got a Brian McCann to fly out on a relatively well struck ball, then badly jammed Chris Johnson to get a simple grounder to short, and then got Dan Uggla to reach for a first pitch fastball for an equally weak grounder to second.  Coming back out to face the bottom of the order he effectively jammed BJ Upton, who flared a flyball into shallow center field that Denard Span couldn’t quite come up with in a sliding catch attempt, then  he jammed Andrelton Simmons to get a simple pop-up to first.  Lastly for his coup-de-gras, he induced a popped-up bunt attempt from his opposite number Kris Medlen, made a diving catch and then doubled off Upton, who was (I guess) running on the play.

Not a bad debut, at all.

The scouting reports on Roark said that he’d work mid 90s in relief, low 90s as a starter, and that’s exactly what we saw.  Per the pitch f/x data, He threw 12 fastballs on the night which averaged 94.46, peaking at 95.52.  He only threw three sliders, bouncing the first and probably ruining his confidence in the pitch.  10 of 15 pitches were for strikes, and that ratio should have been higher; his first batter he didn’t get a borderline call on the outside corner and the ump flat out missed a low strike.  He seemed to have pretty good movement on the 4-seamer (-7.10″ average horizontal movement, which for comparison purposes almost as much as Medlen, a guy who relies almost exclusively on his movement, got on his 2-seamer last night).  He certainly worked the corners effectively, only really giving up one well hit ball (that to McCann, who benefitted from being way ahead in the count thanks to the ump’s missed strike calls).  You don’t have to throw 100mph if you can effectively work the ball inside and out.

He was almost too effective; 15 pitches to get through 2 innings meant he didn’t really work much of his repertoire.  I’m sure he has at least a third pitch, but we never got to see it.  Roark’s spot in the order was up, and he was out (as he was being pinch hit for, I wondered internally when the last time Roark got an at-bat was.  Turns out he has 18PAs for Syracuse this summer; I didn’t realize the minor league pitchers got any at-bats).

It was hard not to like what we saw from him last night.  Is he going to continue to be effective, can he stick in the majors?  Hard to tell.  Ian Krol giving up two hits and a walk in a third of an inning didn’t help his cause much, a similiarly ineffective appearance to his 7/31 outing.  Fernando Abad has basically blown the last two games in which he’s appeared.  But these two guys are blessed as being left-handers, so they possess value that a righty does not, and may not really be candidates to make way once Ohlendorf comes off the D/L.  So we’ll see.

Meanwhile Tanner, use some of that MLB meal money to go get a haircut!  🙂

PS.  One more thought on this series since i’ve got nowhere else to put it; I’m disappointed we didn’t see retaliation of some sort last night for the BS of the night before.  I’m sorry; you HAVE to protect your best player out there, and i’m not surprised to hear reports and see evidence that Bryce Harper was on edge last night with his own manager.  As J.P. Santangelo succinctly pointed out; not protecting one of your own players can and does blow up clubhouses.  I think somebody on Atlanta needed to get hit last night (likely McCann).  I’m more than a little worried right now about the state of the clubhouse, given this lack of reaction.

17 Responses to 'First Look: Tanner Roark'

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  1. I think it’s pretty obvious that this clubhouse blew up a long time ago, Back in late May and early June there were already signs of serious lack of communication between the manager and the players and dysfunction has been rife all season with this club. They just rolled over and played dead against Atlanta and not backing up Harper was merely par for the course. We better hope next year’s manager completely changes the dynamic because this group of lifeless zombies is as about as unfun to watch as any collection of players I’ve ever seen.


    8 Aug 13 at 8:47 am

  2. Yup. Exactly why i wrote that “we need to fire Davey Johnson” piece.

    I’m pretty pissed about the lack of retaliation. I can’t imagine what Harper feels, being the guy who was hit. Didn’t we have a situation like this a few years back, where someone on our team clearly was plunked and we didn’t react? I can’t put my finger on it.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 13 at 8:56 am

  3. And Harper has already been hit 3 times in 2 years based on his reputation. He’s clearly a target and if they don’t retaliate it will continue to happen and he could get injured. Hopefully Rizzo can hire a tougher manager who sticks up for his players and doesn’t let the ovepaid, underperforming vets(Zim and Laroche) run the clubhouse.

    Put Davey out to Pasture

    8 Aug 13 at 9:21 am

  4. Preaching to the choir Mr Pasture!

    Davey Johnson is a player’s manager who seems for whatever reason to have lost the clubhouse. They need to bring in a bit more of a disciplinarian next time. Dunno who makes sense out there, but that’s what htey need.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 13 at 12:28 pm

  5. If my memory serves me, I think it was an incident involving Jose Guillen getting hit and Ramon Ortiz was the Nats pitcher who didn’t retaliate.

    By not protecting him, Harper’s teammates are clearly sending him a message that this is still Ryan Zimmerman’s team.

    John N.

    8 Aug 13 at 12:33 pm

  6. Yeah, agree with the disappointment over the lack of retaliation, and more importantly, it does seem like Harper is pissed about it. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, it looks like Davey has packed it in. It is starting to remind me of the Manny Acta days. Acta seemed like a nice guy, but I despised him as a manager, primarily for his refusal to ever go on the field to argue with an ump. He made a big point of saying how he looked at stats, and it never helped to get a call in your favor by arguing so he wouldn’t do it, blah blah blah. But he totally ignored that the main reason is to support your players and take the onus or the embarrassment factor off them. Davey’s refusal to retaliate here just feels the same, especially when Upton took longer to round the bases twice.

    My only solace is that when we get to the offseason, I think that Rizzo is going to realize that he has Harper for 5 more years, and he is the guy to build around, and will bring in players and a manager that supports his style. So while I think that the clubhouse may be lost this year, I think they can get it back this offseason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Knorr get the job, and I liked the way he yanked Soriano out of there and then kind of slammed him in the press conference afterwards. They’ll never fire Davey, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Knorr over the last two months to see how they respond to him.


    8 Aug 13 at 1:35 pm

  7. John, that does sound familiar. I thought the incident was more recent than Guillen, but i’ll freely admit my memory is shot.

    I’m not sure I entirely agree with your statement about whose “team” it is. I think the Nats lack of retaliation is on Davey. And I think you saw proof of that with the rather edgy conversation the two of them had last night.

    Let me ask a hypothetical; lets say the Nats were winning the division right now. Who on our team is getting MVP votes? I don’t think its Zimmerman or Werth or Laroche, the 3 highest paid guys. I think its Harper.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 13 at 2:08 pm

  8. Mike Harris just posted a “Fire Davey” post, and it got picked up on Hardball talk.

    If you don’t try to make a manager move, right now, then the team’s ownership and GM are tacitly giving up on the season. It is as simple as that. This is a performance based business; nobody really shed a tear when underperforming guys like Moore, Storen, Espinosa were sent down right? Nobody questioned Duke or H-Rod getting released. So why the hesitancy for the hallowed Davey Johnson? Even when it seems clear that he’s either lost the clubhouse or has come close to it.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 13 at 2:11 pm


    Matt Williams a candidate to manage? He’d be a great fit, a great contrast to the clearly lackadasical/passionless managing we’ve gotten out of Johnson this year.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 13 at 2:13 pm

  10. This has the aroma of a leaked story.

    The season is over and Davey has lost the team. I expect Davey to step down, not to be fired. Getting Williams in the middle of the season pe-empts anyone else who would take a run at him. And it enables him to get a closer look at the prospects the team runs out onto the field in September.

    I don;t think this jumps the gun. The collapse post-All Star break, the deflating week this week is bound to have an impact on the team going forward this year but into the off season.

    Davey is leaving anyway, why not simply cut bai at a time that he has nothing to manage for and no doubt, at his age, does not have to torture himself with controversies (like the Harper controversy) that wil only grow more toxic and further tarnish his legacy?

    I’m calling Davey to resign, and soon.


    8 Aug 13 at 2:31 pm

  11. I think MLB makes you interview minority candidates before a full time hire, so even if Davey resigns, I think the best you get is a Knorr or somebody on an interim basis for the rest of the season, not Williams.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing it though.


    8 Aug 13 at 10:23 pm

  12. The pitcher in 2005 that didn’t retaliate was Esteban Loaiza. Pedro Martinez plunked Guillen, but it was a close game and the Nats won after a typical heart stopping Chad Cordero save. There was no need to retaliate and the game situation never made it possible. The Nats were in first place at the time and responded by winning. Guillen became a selfish jerk, or already was, the rest of the year.

    This was different. The Nats season is effectively over and Atlanta’s Upton’s styling was worse. The Nats were chicken shoot not to respond. Davey is more asleep at the wheel then Frank was in 2006. Knorr would be a great kick butt manager for this club. They need a size 12 up the rear, but not until next year, let Davey play this out. He has earned the courtesy and changing skippers will change nothing this season.


    8 Aug 13 at 11:24 pm

  13. I’m no fan of retaliation (I believe that you use your anger to beat the other team; losers that retaliate just come off as whiny and pathetic to me). That said, after the game Davey pretty much said that there would be retaliation, but that they couldn’t retaliate in the game because the team can’t afford to have key players suspended right now.

    John C.

    9 Aug 13 at 12:16 am

  14. Loaiza: that’s right! That’s the situation I was thinking of. Thanks Steve.

    Otherwise, completely agree with your analysis.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 13 at 9:05 am

  15. Is that what Davey said, really? “We can’t have key players suspended right now?” What, so that this team won’t be 17.5 games out of first instead of 15.5?? That’s the worst quote from him yet.

    Baseball is baseball; the proper response from the Nats would have been to similarly hit Juston Upton his next at bat. It didn’t happen. If it didn’t happen b/c the game was still close or because it would have loaded the bases, so be it. But Harper’s got a very legitimate point right now with both his teammates and his manager. Some other guy has purposely thrown at him, hit him in the leg, hurt him. When Hamels hit Harper on purpose, Zimmermann threw right back at him. That’s appropriate. NO response is inappropriate. If i’m Harper, i’m having a very specific talk with Johnson … and if i don’t get the answer I expect, i’m losing a whole lot of respect for Johnson. In fact, that sounds exactly like what has happened. A bad clubhouse goes worse.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 13 at 9:10 am

  16. Todd Boss

    9 Aug 13 at 12:14 pm

  17. Someone (I wonder who) asked about firing Davey Johnson in Jayson Stark’s ESPN chat today. 2nd or 3rd question in.

    His response kind of depressing actually, but true.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 13 at 1:12 pm

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