Nationals Baseball: All eyes on Roark

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

All eyes on Roark

No real post today because sometimes you gotta put seeded rye on the table. But I wanted to note that today Roark is starting and that is more interesting than nearly any other start at this point. Max, Stras, and Gio are all pitching like I would expect them to. The 5th spot needs to be cleared up but you can't really tell much from one or two starts. Although I'll admit Joe Ross came pretty close to it last night.

So I'll guess I'll segway segue into that first. The Nats don't really NEED the 5th starter spot to clear up. We went over earlier how a pitching to expectations Max, Stras, and Roark could nearly get the Nats to the playoffs on their own. Once in the playoffs the 5th starter is somewhat of an vestigial appendage.*  But a decent 5th helps. It helps keep the bullpen rested (although as we've seen the IP of the bullpen isn't all that high), More importantly it gives you cover in case of injury. Up until now, the Nats were praying another arm didn't go down because they didn't have a good option. If Ross can be a decent but reliable 5th then in case of another injury they could fill in behind him with the same barely working mess they were doing before he came back. We don't want to see what's after that.

Even if you understand Seattle is a middling team who's best bat is thrown off in an NL park by having to actually play D he still shut them down solidly for 8 innings. You can be impressed by the efficiency but Ross actually was pretty efficient per batter before going out. It was getting hit that was the problem.  The home run is a continuation of issues he had before but if you don't give up a lot of hits and walks you'll be good enough for 5th.  That's the bar I'm looking at now. Yesterday he cleared it with ease. Let's see the next game.

Back to Roark, Roark hasn't been efficent all year and has been downright bad about how many pitches he's thrown in his last 5 starts. He's averaging over 4.7 pitches per batter. Even his 6IP with 0ER start against the hapless Phillies he threw 100 pitches to only 22 batters. In his last two games the combination of hits and inefficiency got to the point that it meant an early exit. Once is whatever. Twice is "hey look at this". Three times is a problem. These haven't been great offensive teams he's facing either.

It's not necessarily as simple as "pound the zone". Last year he was at 62% strikes. This year he's at 60% and even in the last five games he's at 59%.  Over the course of a game that's 3-4 pitches. I guessed earlier that he's having issue missing like he'd like to, especially to lefties so I'm going to pay particular attention to how he does the first time through against Gamel, Seager, and Cano who are all decent hitters. Can he get them to chase? Can he hit the corners? Are they getting hard hits on pitches out over the plate?

Let's hope those answers are yes, yes and no. Because if not another bad outing in a row and you have to start to wonder if something greater is wrong.

*Would a great 5th starter start in the playoffs, if circumstances called for a 4th starter instead of Gio? Sure. Would a a good one a step better than Gio? My guess is no. Gio presents a different match-up which managers like to think helps keep opposing line-ups off-balance. He in undeniably lefty which can take advantage of things the others can't. And I'm not feeling Gio in the pen, are you?


G Cracka X said...

Thanks Harper. Any thoughts about doing a MAT post? If he sticks at CF, then does it help them re-sign Bryce? If he pans out this year, he could stay in CF and Eaton could move to LF and they wouldn't need to pay for a FA left fielder. Gives them more budget room to work with

Keith said...

Since I've read this article:, I've had a greater appreciation for Roark's mentality and how hard he tries. As long as this isn't age related decline, I have at least some confidence in Roark to fix any mechanical or location issues.

Bjd1207 said...

Didn't get a chance to chime in on the pitch number stuff from last post so I'll do it here.

Most in response to Bx - I agree with a large part of your post, and I agree that there's probably a confluence of factors that's causing the Nats to shoot up in the pitch count rankings. Certainly all 4 of them in there cannot be written off as coincidence as you say.

But the upshot of all the articles decrying the pitch count is basically "are we just asking for injury?" And for that, the comparison to last year is especially important. Because Max, Roark, and Gio all DIDN'T get hurt in any meaningful fashion (leaving Stras out because, ya kno, Stras). So if their pitch count is roughly the same as it was last year (to this point in the season), why is there any increased expectation of injury? Definitely all the other stuff you said is true (bullpen usage increasing, Dusty being old school, our bullpen sucking). But apples to apples, their pitch counts match up closely enough to last year, so injury expectation should be roughly equal.

Bjd1207 said...

Also Harper I plugged you in the comments on the Eddie Matz ESPN article

Anonymous said...

OK, gotta re-focus, because like you Harp, I'm having trouble taking my eyes off that gem Joe Ross threw last night!

Anonymous said...

I second G Cracka's request for a detailed take on MAT, because a quick gander at non-fancy stats confirms at least one of my 'eyeballed/feeling it' feelings, which is he only has 3 more SO than Trea Turner, and yet is abobe Turner below:

1 Taylor, M WSH CF .276 .308 .429 .736
2 Turner, T WSH SS .241 .270 .414 .684

The real difference, and these are a real big differences, are that Turner has 21 RBIs and 25 runs scored, compared to MAT's measly 9 RBIs and 1 runs scored, and Turner has 145 ABs and Taylor 98.

Still wonder what a real stathead has to say while looking at fancy stats.

BxJaycobb said...

@Anon: Turner's K rate is 23% (mediocre). MAT's is 37% (totally unsustainable for anybody to remain in major leagues if they don't hit 30 homers a year). The SO totals are comparable because MAT has way way fewer ABs. MAT has marginally better slash line because he's hitting .424 in BABIP, which is hilariously lucky (think in particular about all those ground balls that have been magically finding the hole between 3rd and SS). MAT has been acceptable filling in. Let's not confuse that with him turning some kind of corner to be a solid hitter.

@Bjd. Absolutely I don't think we should freak out and Harper is basically correct. I guess what I would say is starting pitchers are always injury risks--the Nats more so than other teams because of lack of depth--so why increase the injury risk at all by ratcheting up pitch count. I agree 3 of the guys the increase is so far not drastic enough to be truly worrying. But I disagree Gio's increase isn't worth watching. A 10% increase in pitch count is actually quite large. I doubt there are many starters who have had a larger jump from 2016. So I would pump breaks a bit with gio.

Robot said...

Well done, Tanner!

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