Reflecting on Roark's stellar 2014

In 2012, Tanner Roark lost 17 games at Triple-A Syracuse.

In 2013, Roark pitched well at Syracuse, made his way to the big leagues for the first time in his career and posted a stellar 1.51 ERA in 14 games, split between the bullpen and rotation.

In 2014, Roark became arguably the best fifth starter in the majors.

Roark's rise from frustrated minor leaguer to legitimate major league starter has been one of the more interesting stories we've seen on the Nationals roster over the last couple of seasons, and the 28-year-old right-hander went a long way toward solidifying himself as a big leaguer in 2014, when he won 15 games and worked nearly 200 innings.

That's why he makes my list of the five Nats who really impressed this season.

Roark posted a 2.85 ERA in his 31 starts this season, with a 1.092 WHIP. He allowed just 0.7 home runs per nine innings, 1.8 walks per nine innings and did it all while handling a much heavier workload than he previously had in a season.

roark-gatorade-shower-sidebar.pngHe threw 198 2/3 innings in 2014, up from 159 1/3 in 2013, which had previously been his career high. And Roark didn't appear to tire down the stretch; his last four regular season outings were all quality starts.

In 18 of Roark's 31 starts this year, he worked at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer. Essentially, almost 60 percent of the time, he was handing over the game to the Nats' late-inning relievers having given the team an excellent chance to win.

The numbers are one thing. The poise is another.

Roark never appeared fazed by a big moment, by a crucial start. Much like Anthony Rendon on the offensive side of the ball, he never seemed to let his heart rate get affected by the situation he was in.

If Roark got the ball for a big game, he was going to take the same approach as he did his previous time out - throw strikes, attack hitters and get early contact.

The results in Roark's two postseason outings - both in relief - weren't quite what he would have wanted (he allowed one run on three hits in 2 2/3 innings), but Roark's impact on the Nats in 2014 can't be ignored. You rarely see a fifth starter win 15 games and become a legitimate threat.

Roark was this season, and helped give the Nats a dangerous rotation from top to bottom.

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