He stumbled, but he got back up again. Many lost faith in him, but he proved them wrong. Tanner Roark is back and better than ever, and it appears he’s re-finding the form he had in 2016, the year in which he came in 10th place in National League Cy Young Award voting. Whether or not he’s that good again has yet to be seen, but nevertheless, Roark has found brand-new second-half life.
Throughout his career, Roark has always been a second-half pitcher. His career first-half ERA is 4.05, while his career second-half ERA is 2.85; admittedly, the second half is a little shorter than the first, but that is a drastic enough difference to be worth pointing out. But this year is something else. This year, Roark pitched to a rather unsightly 4.87 ERA. In three games thus far in the second half, his ERA is a mere 0.82. He has given up practically nothing.
In those three games, Roark has won them all, pitched 22 innings, given up just two runs, allowed only 14 hits (only two for extra bases, one double and one homer), has walked one and has struck out 20. Opposing hitters are batting .177, as opposed to .268 in the first half. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is a crisp 20.00. His WHIP is 0.68. Everything’s working for him right now.
Let’s break down his starts game by game since the All-Star break. On July 25 against the Brewers, he settled down the rotation and set the tone by going eight shutout innings, giving up a mere three hits, walking one and striking out 11. On July 31 against the Mets, Roark stood tall in the 25-4 thrashing and went seven innings, gave up one run on four hits and struck out seven, while contributing two hits and three RBIs on the other side of the plate. On Aug. 5 against the Reds, Roark went seven innings, gave up one run on seven hits and walked none; while he only struck out two hitters, strikeouts aren’t necessarily his forte, and he’s at his best when he’s getting outs on the ground, of which he got seven that game.
What’s to account for Roark’s huge turnaround the last couple weeks? Of course, it’s unclear if there’s a single something, but a break does help. Cooling down and spending time with family away from the ballpark can help reset the mind. Roark has always been a really mental pitcher, and a break or any mental improvement can really turn things around. Roark also did a lot of work refining his pitches with now-Cub Brandon Kintzler, which really appeared to jumpstart him and give him what he needed to dominate opposing clubs.
Regardless of why or how, Roark appears to have found himself, and the impact he’s making is showing up in the results. Since that start in Milwaukee, Roark has lowered his ERA from 4.87 to 4.21 (a 0.66 difference), and the Nationals have a 9-4 record in that span. It seems he started a very good trend. Roark will likely make his next start this weekend against the Cubs in his home state of Illinois, so we’ll have to wait and see if the good times continue for Roark.
Liz Barr blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @RaiseTheBarr1. Her opinions on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.