I’ll admit it; I’m a fan of Tanner Roark. I’m a fan of the underdog. I’m a fan of the 25th round draft pick working his way up and making an impression at the MLB level.
I never could understand how his decent numbers in Texas’ AA hitters league AA didn’t translate once he got to the Eastern league (after he was included in a trade for Cristian Guzman back in 2010). I figured that he was bound for the dreaded “org guy” title after his 2011 season; a middling .500 record with a 4.69 ERA while repeating AA in his fourth pro year. I figured he was just playing out the string when he passed through Rule-5 drafts and posted a 6-17 record in AAA.
Nobody thought he could suddenly be dominant. And around August of this year, it seemed like calling him up to cover for a suddenly open “long man/spot-starter” role in the bullpen made complete sense. And so far, he’s done nothing to disappoint.
Is he putting his name into the lead for the 5th starter spot on this club in 2014?
After Ross Ohlendorf failed to make a case to stay in the rotation, Roark was given a start over the weekend and threw 6 incredibly efficient innings of 4-hit ball. 71 pitches, 46 for strikes, giving up 4 hits and zero walks to earn his 5th victory of the season and first by way of being a starter. Since this was Roark’s first start of the season, his pitch f/x data is telling (in shorter stints pitchers can throw harder knowing they’re done after 20 pitches). Roark threw his 49 fastballs at an average of 93.07mph with a max of 94.81mph, had great success with his change and curve (throwing 5 of each and getting 8/10 for strikes). He maintained the same velocity he was showing in shorter stints before his start. Roark got excellent movement on his fastball, hit corners well (as he has shown he can do), and controlled the Marlins for 6 innings.
Now, this is the Marlins we’re talking about. So we’re not talking about the 1927 Yankees. And one telling stat about Roark was this: he only got 2 swinging strikes the entire game (he had 4 punchouts for the night, mostly called). He does not have swing-and-miss stuff. But he does seem to really have “weak contact” stuff; there were only 2-3 really well hit fair balls on the night. But, like I’ve pointed out in the past, Roark works the corners, throws a heavy ball, gets a lot of weak contact, and doesn’t need to have 8.5 k/9 stuff to succeed. And it isn’t like this Marlins team is a little league team; they pounded Dan Haren the night before (you know, Dan Haren, the guy who’s making 26 times what Roark is and the guy who, when he’s on the mound his team is now 9-18 on the year. Great signing he’s turned out to be…).
Taylor Jordan, Nathan Karns: attention; Roark’s making a name for himself. Spring Training could be fun.