Nationals Arm Race

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

Tanner Roark where have you been all my life?


Tanner Roark living the dream.  Photo via

Tanner Roark is making a case to stick with the big club. Photo via

So, after yet another excellent outing Friday night in Kansas City, Tanner Roark now has 4 wins, a miniscule 1.10 ERA, a ridiculous 349 ERA+ and has pitched 16 innings and only given up 10 hits.  By way of comparison, in 12 MLB innings Nathan Karns gave up 17 hits, 6 walks and 10 earned runs.  On Friday night he stranded two runners he inherited from the wholly ineffective Gio Gonzalez and then pitched through the 8th inning giving up just one hit against a hot offense who had pounded our 2012 Cy Young candidate.

Tanner Roark, where have you been all my life??

Small sample sizes, yes.  But Roark has been effective in 5 of his 6 of his appearances thus far (his worst outing was in his hometown; understandable as his family looked on).  He hits corners, he doesn’t walk guys, he works inside, he gets a ton of jams and flairs.  He has decent enough velocity and stuff, which is less important than being able to command your pitches.  90mph at the knees on the black is better than 96mph over the middle of the plate (ask Greg Maddux what he thinks of command versus velocity).

Are we looking at a potential 5th starter for 2014?  At some point in the off-season we’re going to have this discussion.  Clearly the team has more than one viable candidate for a 5th starter.  The days of paying Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren tens of millions of dollars to be mediocre-to-ineffective 4th starters looks like it may be over.   Ross Detwiler‘s up and down career may put him in jeopardy of losing his rotation spot next spring.  At the very least Roark seems to have an inside track on the long-man/spot starter role that just a few weeks ago we thought was Ross Ohlendorf‘s to lose.

Stay tuned; with the Nats out of it September is going to be a great time to feature Roark in a starting role (along with perhaps Karns and maybe even someone like Danny Rosenbaum or even the surprising Caleb Clay) as an audition for 2014.

By way of comparison, in 12 MLB innings Nathan Karns gave up 17 hits, 6 walks and 10 earned runs.

5 Responses to 'Tanner Roark where have you been all my life?'

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  1. Okay, maybe in the wake of the giddy enthusiasm of Roark coming out of nowhere and pitching so well and the improbable Ohlendorf pitching better than he ever has in his long sub-mediocre career I will forgive your continued Rosenbaum boosterism. When I look at that guy I still see a pitcher with a putrid 1.507 WHIP and 4.0 BB/9 at AAA, but the Nats seem to be having a charmed life this year with seemingly crappy pitchers who suddenly look like world beaters when called up to the big club.

    Clay, on the other hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing in September as he has certainly pitched well enough to deserve the call up.


    24 Aug 13 at 6:04 pm

  2. How quickly we forget Taylor Jordan! 🙂

    It will be interesting to see whether Rizzo is willing to let Detwiler, Jordan, Roark and Karns fight it out for the #$ and #5 rotation slots. I’d guess he’s going to bring in at least one veteran to the mix as well, because with starting pitching it’s nice to be able to go at least eight deep. It helps that, of the four internal candidates, only Detwiler is out of options.

    John C.

    24 Aug 13 at 7:43 pm

  3. Rosenbaum: fair enough bdrube. At this point in his career I just want to see if he’s a tradeable asset. I think the fact that he got kicked back post rule-5 draft from a very poor Colorado rotation tells us a lot … but then again two Septembers ago Rizzo calls up the likes of Peacock and Milone, they pitched amazingly well and he turned them into Gio.

    I think the bigger problem looming with Detwiler is his salary. 2.33M this year in first arb year; his cost is going to go up ($4m my guess?) I think you tender him and keep him in the system, but yeah no options so he may be odd man out if he loses a rotation spot. More likely is he gets one last shot in the rotation in 2014 and if he doesn’t work out we look to trade him to a team that needs him while we let the next generation matriculate up. Karns/Jordan option status mean they’re the insurance in 2014, not Young/Ohlendorf/bag of balls we dealt with this year.

    An even bigger looming question; what happens when Ray/Cole/Solis maybe are ready to go in the majors. Then do we make a tough decision on someone like Zimmermann?

    Todd Boss

    25 Aug 13 at 8:29 am

  4. Roark has had a terrific run, and I am happy for him, but I am not sold on him for a rotation spot. Ohlendorf either. To me, when a guy outperforms his previous levels, you have to ask honestly if something is new (delivery, pitch, etc). In neither case can I see anything to conclude that they have actually changed something that could cause a reasonable belief that they will perform differently from their past. Ok, Ohlendorf has some increased velocity, so maybe. So I think that each are enjoying a small sample boost, and they will revert to the mean of their previous performance (and in Roark’s case, a little worse as you project his minor league stats at the major league level). So I wouldn’t seriously consider them for a rotation spot, but one of them as the long man out of the pen (bumping Stammen a little higher in the queue?), sure. Bring them to ST and see who performs but only 1 stays.

    I would give Jordan a shot at the 5th spot in the rotation. He has the stuff and minor league stats to give him a shot. But he is still a gamble, and they need a few back up options if he doesn’t pan out. And then we are still left with the 4th spot. If not Detwiler, they need to go out and get someone on the market again, is my opinion.

    Detwiler should stay, though, regardless of whether he makes the rotation again. He has always been great in the pen, and I would pay him his arb rate for the next two years with that as his floor.


    25 Aug 13 at 1:14 pm

  5. Fair enough; it seems to me that we all got this same level of excitement over frigging Zach Duke last September. I will say this about Roark though (in contrast to veteran failed starters like Duke, Ohlendorf, Young, etc): he’s never had a chance in the majors before. You can see a body of evidence for why Ohlendorf was a MLFA, as was Duke. ERAs in the 7s. Lack of long term effectiveness as a MLB starter year after year. Meanwhile Roark could very well be a guy who “comes out of nowhere” to a certain extent. Hitters in AAA aren’t the same as MLB; they’re impatient, they swing away, they look to make things happen. Umpires aren’t the same either. If you hit your spot in the majors, even if its a little off the plate you get the call; is that the case in AAA? I think Strasburg saw this pretty plainly when he was in the minors. I dunno; some of this paragraph is speculation, some is drawn from

    The reality of the pending rotation battle is this: Jordan DID get an extended look and did very well, even as he reached an innings limit. He’s the 5th starter next year until otherwise noted (by FA/trade acquisition or injury). Karns can start in AAA and make his case to move up. I have a feeling Ohlendorf will parlay this year’s performance into one more shot as a MLB starter and move on, leaving Roark as the default long-man heading into next season anyway.

    I think Stammen has already been moved up in the bullpen pecking order; he’s clearly been used as at least a 7th inning guy most of the time the last couple of months. I mean yes he can go in and throw 3 innings when a game hits the 11th inning … that’s just part of his flexibility. But he has shown how dominant he can be in short stints and a lot of his usage seems to be 7th inning variety.

    Todd Boss

    26 Aug 13 at 7:09 am

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