Heading into their 2014 campaign the Washington Nationals were projected to have one of the best, if not the best, starting rotation in Major League Baseball. However, up until about two weeks ago the rotation as a whole had failed to meet expectations, with the exception of fifth starter Tanner Roark.
In spring training Washington was confident in their dominant first four starters, but the final spot in the rotation remained a question mark. Roark and Taylor Jordan battled throughout the spring to earn a spot on the twenty-five man roster, with Roark coming out victorious. Though overshadowed by the star power of other Nationals pitchers, what Roark has been able to accomplish this year has not only shocked the Nats but the entire league.
Currently, Roark leads the Nationals with a 2.92 ERA. Though he usually does not rack up an inordinate amount of strikeouts, his precision with his four pitches allows him to get hitters out. Thought to be the one concern in a rotation full of all-stars, Roark has become Mr. Reliable for Washington during a time of injuries and inconsistency.
Judging solely based on Roark’s 7-1 record and 1.51 ERA in 2013 a strong 2014 should have been expected. However, he is also only two years removed from a seventeen loss season in the minor leagues. Roark credits much of his recent success to the development of his mental fortitude, and the pitching coaches of the Nationals’ organization who helped Roark with his approach on the mound.
A quality start from Roark no longer comes as a shock to Washington or their opponent. To have a 2012 caliber season as a team, the Nationals will need Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann to reach their potential and numbers of years past, while continuing to get similar starts from Roark. If the Nationals rotation was going to fail, most believed it would be due to an unproven fifth starter. Now that both the organization and the league know this is not the case, the rotation should only get better as the season progresses.