Tanner Roark

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Tanner Burnell Roark

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Biographical Information[edit]

Tanner Roark made the majors in 2013, one year after leading the minors in losses.

Roark was three-time All-State in high school and also was an All-State quarterback in football. As a college freshman, he went 4-0 with a 4.99 ERA. His sophomore year, 2007, he had a 8-2, 4.55 record. He tied Zach Putnam for second in the Big Ten Conference in wins, one behind Cory Luebke, though his 102 hits allowed were also second (behind Tyler Tufts). He left school in January 2008 and struggled with the independent Southern Illinois Miners (23 H, 25 R, 9 BB in 9 2/3 IP, 0-2). Despite not pitching in college that year, the Texas Rangers took him in the 25th round of the 2008 amateur draft. The scout was Derek Lee.

Tanner pitched for the AZL Rangers (2-1, 2 R, 1 ER in 12 1/3 IP) and Bakersfield Blaze (1-3, Sv, 3.60 in 12 G, 37 K in 30 IP) in the summer of 2008, doing much better than he had for Southern Illinois. He was sharp in 2009 for Bakersfield (10-0, 2.70) and the Frisco RoughRiders (1-1, 4.58), striking out 100 in 104 1/3 IP. He tied Omar Poveda for the most wins by a Rangers farmhand and tied for 9th in the California League. He opened 2010 with the RoughRiders and was 10-5 with a 4.20 ERA right before the trading deadline. He was shipped at that point to the Washington Nationals with Ryan Tatsuko in exchange for Cristian Guzman.

After the deal, Roark made six starts for the Harrisburg Senators, going 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA. Despite not pitching there for the final month, he tied Blake Beavan, Ryan Edell and Keith Weiser for 6th in the Texas League in victories. He had an undistinguished 2010 for Harrisburg (9-9, 4.69). In 2012, he had an okay ERA for the Syracuse Chiefs (4.39) but went 6-17 for an otherwise 64-57 team. One sign of his poor luck is that teammate John Lannan was 9-11 with a nearly identical 4.30 ERA. He easily led the 2012 International League in losses (5 more than Pat Misch or Pedro Villarreal, who tied for second), was second to Scott Elarton with 89 runs allowed and 5th with 130 strikeouts (between Jeff Locke and Jeurys Familia). He was third in the Nats chain in whiffs behind Nate Karns and Alex Meyer while leading in losses (again by 5). He also led all of minor league baseball in losses, two more than Seth McClung and Deck McGuire.

Roark was better back with Syracuse in 2013, starting off 9-3 with two saves, a 3.15 ERA and a WHIP just under 1. He was called up to the majors at that point; Washington optioned Xavier Cedeno to open a roster spot. He made his debut in relief of Jordan Zimmermann, entering with a 2-2 tie in the 5th against the Atlanta Braves on August 7th. He retired Brian McCann, Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla in order in the 5th. B.J. Upton got the first hit off Roark, a 6th-inning single, but Roark turned a double play on a bunt attempt by Kris Medlen for another 1-2-3 ending. Roger Bernadina batted for Roark in the bottom of the 6th. Roark then won his next two outings, also in relief. He ended the year with an excellent record of 7-1 and a 1.51 ERA in 14 appearances, including 5 starts.

Roark made the Nats' pitching staff out of spring training in 2014. His first appearance of the year was an emergency start on April 3rd against the New York Mets when scheduled starter Jordan Zimmermann woke up feeling sick. He struggled early, giving up a pair of 1st-inning runs but did not allow anything else in the next 5 innings to gain credit for his team's 8-2 win. On April 26th, however, he pitched the best game of his career, when he retired the first 16 San Diego Padres batters he faced on his way to a complete game, three-hit shutout during which he struck out a personal best 8; the Nats won that game, 4-0. He made 31 starts for the Nats and had a very good season, finishing with a record of 15-10 and a 2.85 ERA. He pitched 198 2/3 innings and had a K/W ratio of 138/39. However, he was used out of the bullpen in the postseason, pitching twice in Washington's loss to the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series. he gave up one run in 2 2/3 innings, but that run was a solo homer by Brandon Belt in the 18th inning of Game 2 on October 4th that gave the Giants a 2-1 win that broke the Nats' spirit.

It looked like Roark would be a member of the team's starting rotation for years to come, but Washington went out and signed free agent Max Scherzer before the 2015 season. With Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister still around, Roark was the odd man out. There was speculation he would be traded, but the Nats preferred to keep him around as insurance while using him out of the bullpen. After making his first 13 appearances of the season out of the bullpen, he finally got a first opportunity to start on May 25th, filling in for an injured Fister. He made the most of it, picking up his first win of the year in defeating the Chicago Cubs, 2-1. All he gave up in five innings of work was a solo homer to rookie phenom Kris Bryant. Overall, he went 4-7 with one save in 40 games, including 12 starts, logging 111 innings. Following the departure of Doug Fister, he was back as a full-time starter in 2016 and on April 23rd he set a personal best with 15 strikeouts in a 2-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. He pitched seven scoreless inning in the game, and three relievers completed the two-hit shutout. He had his best year that season, going 16-10, 2.83 in 34 starts, pitching 210 innings and striking out 170 opponents. He made one appearance in the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 9th. He ended up with a no-decision after giving up 2 runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Tanner did not has as good a year in 2017, but still managed to put up a record of 13-11, 4.67, pitching in front of a very solid team. Like his ERA, most of his numbers declined from the previous season, including his total innings and strikeouts and his WHIP. As a result, he was not given a starting assignment in the postseason as the Nats once again bowed out at the NLDS stage. He pitched somewhat better in 2018, but now it was his teammates who had a tough year, and as a result he posted a losing record, going 9-15, 4.34. He led the National League in losses. After the season, he became expendable when the Nationals signed Patrick Corbin as a free agent and on December 12th, he was involved in the first all-Tanner trade in major league history, being sent to the Cincinnati Reds in return for Tanner Rainey.

In 21 starts for Cincinnati in 2019, Tanner went 6-7, 4.24. When the Reds made the surprising acquisition of Trevor Bauer in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on July 30th, it suddenly made him redundant, however, and the next day, he was traded again, this time to the Oakland Athletics in return for minor leaguer Jameson Hannah. He made 10 more starts with Oakland, going 4-3, 4.58, for a combined line of 10-10, 4.35 in 31 starts and 165 1/3 innings; he did not pitch in the Wild Card Game, which Oakland lost to the Tampa Bay Rays. His stat line made him almost the perfect example of a league average starting pitcher, and given his durability, an interesting free agent for a team looking for someone to eat some innings. That team was the Toronto Blue Jays, who on December 18th signed him to a two-year contract worth $24 million.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (2014 & 2016)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2016)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Jamal Collier: "Roark not taking anything for granted in '17: Righty established himself last season, but will go to camp with mentality that he doesn't have 'free spot'", mlb.com, January 5, 2017. [1]

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